Vic’s Statehouse Notes #365
WTHR, Channel 13, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, reported that more than 200 people signed up to testify at the Wednesday February 16 hearing on the most contentious education bill this session, House Bill 1134. Senator Raatz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, announced that 90% of those signed up were opposed to the bill. Then after leading committee action on six other bills which he had scheduled first and which took three hours, he announced at 4:30 that the testimony on HB 1134 would be limited to a total of two hours. He then called on, by my count, 36 speakers to testify and ended the hearing at 6:37 with over 160 not called on who were properly signed up to speak.
Those out in the hall started chanting to let them speak. Some had driven from Fort Wayne and beyond to testify, taking the whole day to have their say on a bill they totally disagreed with and a bill whose outcome some said would determine whether they continue teaching in Indiana.
For those who support the procedures of our democracy and the public’s chance to speak on bills, this was a sad and extremely disappointing day.
Amendment 20 Offered by Senator Linda Rogers
Senator Rogers prepared a major amendment to HB 1134. It removed many of the provisions that opponents were so adamantly against, but it still has areas of concern. The majority of the 36 who testified said they appreciated the amendment but they are still opposed to passing the bill.
What are the remaining concerns?
- The definition of schools impacted by this bill deletes private schools. Only public school teachers will be impacted. If the purpose of the bill is to promote parent involvement and non-discrimination, any school receiving taxpayer funds should be included whether public or private.
- Counselors and many of those testifying strongly opposed the provisions requiring the school to withhold any action to help students while seeking parental consent, which must be sought for as many as 10 days before assistance to students in need can be offered. Those testifying made a strong case that the delay would harm students in need.
- The bill makes information collected by a third-party vendor surveys the property of the State. There is no need or justification for this information to be the property of the State. It should remain solely the property of the school.
- The list of eight tenets which must be avoided by teachers has been reduced to three, but none of the three are concepts that have been documented at any school. Saying that any of these remaining tenets is needed is saying that teachers can’t be trusted. Who in today’s world ever documented that a teacher has taught in a lesson that any group is “inferior or superior” to other groups? Teachers are offended that such proposals are being made. Section 10 should be deleted entirely.
- While the bill’s new chapter is called “Dignity and Nondiscrimination”, it actually opens the door to discrimination by not including disability and sexual orientation in the list which begins “sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin.”
- One person testifying made the point that perception is everything. This bill is perceived by teachers as an attack on their trustworthiness to handle historic concepts related to race and ethnic groups. It is a solution in search of a problem. Passing it would be a dog whistle signal that teachers need to self-censor to avoid complaints. As Dr. Gwen Kelly said in testimony, this bill is simply unnecessary.
- The complaint process in Section 10 does not require the Indiana Department of Education to investigate the complaint or even to contact the school that a complaint has been filed before the IDOE issues a finding within 30 days. Fairness should allow the school at least 30 days to respond in writing to the IDOE before the department issues any final order on the complaint.
- The sole remaining portion of the original bill is problematic. It says results of surveys can’t be used to identify which students need emotional help and support. Counselors use these surveys to identify students that need help. This bill would prevent counselors from doing their job and would prevent students from getting needed help to maintain positive relationships with others and to keep emotions in check. This section of the bill should be deleted.
- It is an unfunded mandate to require every school, except private schools, to have a Learning Management system in place by July 1, 2023.
HB 1134, while clearly improved by Senator Rogers’ amendment, should still die in the Senate. That was the conclusion spoken by the majority of those who were lucky enough to testify on Wednesday. That should be the conclusion of the Senate Education Committee who will vote on the amended version on Wednesday.
If the bill does survive the Senate in its watered-down form, then it must go back to the House for passage, a process that could lead to a compromise between the House and Senate in a conference committee which could resurrect some of the damaging ideas in the House version which the Senate took out.
Let the members of the committee along with Senate leaders know of your continued opposition before Wednesday, February 23.
Members of the Senate Education Committee and their email addresses:
Senator.Raatz@iga.in.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org, Senator.Baldwin@iga.in.gov, Senator.Buchanan@iga.in.gov, Senator.Donato@iga.in.gov, Senator.Kruse@iga.in.gov, Senator.Leising@iga.in.gov, Senator.Rogers@iga.in.gov, Senator.Kyle.Walker@iga.in.gov, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Also send to Senate leaders: Senator.Bray@iga.in.gov; Senator.Holdman@iga.in.gov;Senator.Messmer@iga.in.gov; Senator.Mishler@iga.in.gov
If you have testimony you were unable to give please send it to email@example.com
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us for the ICPE Day of Action Monday, Feb. 21 Indiana Statehouse
The program starts at 2 p.m. in the North Atrium, but arrive early if you can to visit with or leave messages for legislators.
Vic’s Statehouse Notes and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!
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