Education issues looming in Indiana legislative session

The 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly is under way, and that means debates on education policy are coming soon – though they won’t be anything like the fights over vouchers, charter schools, collective bargaining and teacher evaluations that lit up the 2011 session.

Terry Spradlin, education policy director with the Center on Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University, listed several topics that lawmakers may tackle in the 10-week short session:

Appointed state superintendent – This is an issue that’s been kicked around for at least two decades: Should the state superintendent of public instruction be appointed by the governor? Or should voters continue to select Indiana’s chief state school officer?

Appointment advocates say the governor and superintendent should be on the same team. Opponents say it’s better to have an elected superintendent who can act as an independent advocate for education. (A CEEP policy brief from 2008 explores the pros and cons and compares Indiana’s governance system with those of other states).

Multiple count days – Indiana currently sets funding for schools on the basis of student enrollment on a single “count day” in early fall. If students leave a school district after that day, the district doesn’t lose any money. If students enroll after count day, the district doesn’t get any money to pay for them.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White has advocated for multiple counts. He has accused charter schools of “dumping” students Continue reading

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Catching up with the legislature (or trying to, anyway)

Several of the bills to implement Gov. Mitch Daniels’ education agenda are moving through the Indiana General Assembly — some faster than others.

Up next: House Bill 1003, the school vouchers bill, is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday before the House Education Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. in the House Chambers. The bill, supported by Daniels and state Superintendent Tony Bennett, would provide taxpayer-funded vouchers to help pay tuition for parents who transfer their children from public to private schools.

It’s hard to keep track of legislation from a distance – ideally, you’d want to attend every meeting of the House Education Committee and the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, then follow the debates on the floor of the House and Senate. But we’ll make a stab at it anyway.

Bills that have passed either the House or Senate

House Bill 1002, which seeks to expand the number of charter schools and gives charters access to unused public-school property, was approved by the House last week, 59-37. Lots of amendments were added, and the bill is clearly a work in progress. Next step: a committee hearing in the Senate.

Bills in committee this week

Senate Bill 1, which creates new procedures for teacher evaluations and mandates merit pay for teachers, was subject to three hours of committee testimony last week. The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to consider amendments and vote on the bill this Wednesday Continue reading