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Education Bills We Might Not Know About

We all know that this legislative session in Indiana is addressing education reform. An important bill to increase the number of Charter Schools in Indiana has already been passed out of committee and will reach second reading on the house floor soon. We also know that Mitch and Tony have been touting their ideas of merit based pay, collective bargaining changes, and increased school choice, just to name a few. However, some members of the General Assembly have authored bills that deserve some consideration, or at least some recognition by the public that these bills exist.

Representative Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven) doesn’t typically make headlines, but the former kindergarten teacher has introduced a bill that some know as the “Little Red Schoolhouse” bill. House Bill 1118 that would require school corporations to follow specific standards for the construction and repairs of school buildings and athletic facilities. We can all agree that school buildings have become an extravagant, who can out do who, affair, all while spending millions of taxpayer dollars. If we want to increase the money spent in the classroom, then we need to control the money spent out of the classroom, like on buildings that go beyond what is needed to foster a good environment for learning.

Representative Don Lehe (R-Monticello) has a bill (House Bill 1195) that would require no school to begin classes before Labor Day.  Schools would still be required to have at least 180 days of instruction a year. The aim of the bill would be to assist Indiana’s tourism industry by making sure Indiana’s summer vacation last through August. This could increase revenue and attendance for the State Fair, or Indiana amusement parks like Holiday World and Indiana Beach. (State Senators Delph, Kruse, Schneider, and Mrvan have Senate Bill 171, which is very similar except that it also addresses when the school year ends)

On the flip side Representative Pond, again, has a bill (House Bill 1508) that changes the requirement from 180 days to 920 hours for grades 1-6, and 1,100 hours for grades 7-12.  The purpose of this bill is to allow more discretion and control by the local school districts in determining the school year schedule. Schools could add to the length of the school day (which some parents who work might appreciate) in order to shorten the school year, or lengthen breaks. They could also shorten the day and shorten the breaks or lengthen the year. Every district is different; this bill recognizes that and gives school administrators a little power (while other bills may be taking that away).

Representative Phil Hinkle (R-Indianapolis) and Representative Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) have introduced a bill requiring school corporations include in their discipline rules require parents provide at least three hours of service each semester to their students school. While this bill may look like a long-shot and nearly as unenforceable as say a texting while driving ban, it is a step forward to getting parents more involved. If teachers want to argue against a merit pay system stating that they can’t do anything to help students improve their test scores when the parents at home don’t care, maybe we need to look at increasing parental involvement.

At the end of each legislative session there will be bills that never see the light of day. However, some of those bills need to see some light. We should at least consider and discuss these bills, if not in the statehouse, at PTO meetings, or with friends. Great ideas and meaningful reform don’t just drop out of the sky. The gears should always be turning in how we can improve something like the education of our children…

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