Vic’s Statehouse Notes #360
Dear Friends on MLK Day,
HB 1134 and SB 167 are nearly identical bills. In actions last week, HB 1134 has advanced out of committee by a vote of 8-5 and now goes to the House floor. SB 167 was removed from Wednesday’s Senate Education Committee agenda after sparking a huge controversy described below. It was then declared dead for the session by Senator Bray on Friday.
It’s time to focus your ire and opposition on HB 1134. Please contact House members by Wednesday, January 19.
HB 1134 and SB 167 were supposed to allow more parent reviews of curriculum, but the stunning level of micromanagement to put teaching materials in advance on the web only applies to public schools.
Bill sponsors apparently distrust only public school teachers. They want to supervise in advance the materials of every public school teacher. But since Indiana tax dollars are now supporting private schools to the tune of over $1 billion since 2011, shouldn’t private schools be subject to the same level of supervision?
An amendment to HB 1134 made sure the Muncie schools run by Ball State would be covered by this over-the-shoulder supervision. Why not add private schools to the plan?
Unless the bills are changed to equalize the burden on public school and private school teachers, these bills provide one more recruiting tool for private schools to attract teachers who are currently teaching in public schools. In other words, these bills would make the public school teacher shortage worse.
This is one more way many in the General Assembly are trying to dismantle public education. Making it hard for public school teachers to teach without burdensome rules and regulations is part of their plan in their generational effort to privatize our public schools.
What level of micromanagement will be required by HB 1134?
Brief summaries don’t convey the full impact of HB 1134 on teachers, so please pardon the undue length while I give you direct quotes from the bill describing what public schools will have to do:
- An advisory committee composed of parents, teachers and community members “shall review and evaluate the school corporation’s curricular materials and educational activities to ensure that the materials and activities are representative of the community’s interests and aligned with Indiana’s standards.”
- “each qualified school shall post on the qualified school’s Internet web site, in a manner accessible to parents of students who are attending the school, all electronic curricular materials and a summary of educational activities.”
- “In addition, the Internet web site shall list all nonelectronic curricular materials and provide instruction for a parent to review the nonelectronic curricular materials.”
- “Each qualified school shall allow a parent to visit a school during normal business hours in a manner prescribed by the qualified school to inspect nonelectronic curricular materials.“
- “The curricular materials and educational activities must, at a minimum, be disaggregated by grade level, teacher, and subject area.“
- Materials must be posted “as far in advance of the use of the curricular materials in the classroom as is practicable.”
- “Curricular materials that are not posted to the qualified school’s Internet web site in advance of the use of the materials in the classroom must be either posted on the Internet web site or made available for inspection at the qualified school not later than five (5) business days after the use of the materials in the classroom.“
What teacher in their right mind would put up with this over-the-shoulder supervision when they could go teach in a private school that was not burdened by these requirements? Or maybe they would prefer going to Ohio or Illinois or Kentucky or Michigan to teach?
The Demise of SB 167: Must teachers be impartial on Nazism, Marxism and fascism?
Amazingly, Senator Scott Baldwin, the author of SB 167, asked Fishers teacher Matt Bockenfeld during the January 5 testimony on the bill to be impartial on Nazism, Marxism and fascism.
Here’s how the exchange went as reported by Arika Herron in a front page story in the January 14, 2022 edition of the Indianapolis Star (p. 10A):
“Baldwin, R-Noblesville, became the target of national outrage and late night television ridicule earlier this week after an exchange he had with a teacher over the bill went viral. ‘Of course, we’re neutral on political issues of the day,’ Matt Bockenfeld, a history teacher in Fishers, said at a committee hearing Jan. 5. ‘We don’t stand up and say who we voted for or anything like that. But we’re not neutral on Nazism. We take a stand in the classroom against it, and it matters that we do.’
Baldwin responded at the hearing that may be going too far and that teachers need to be impartial and stick to the facts in their teaching of concepts such as Marxism, Nazism and fascism. He later walked back the comments in a statement to Indystar and condemned those ideologies.”
Are we to conclude from this exchange that public school teachers, and only public school teachers, under HB 1134 must be impartial about supporting democracy as they teach students? Public schools are a foundation of democracy. Is HB 1134 trying to undermine that foundation?
HB 1134 is a bad bill. In addition to the concerns above:
- It provides the possibility of never-ending parental opt-outs of lessons.
- In any course that awards a grade, it prohibits requiring a “student to adopt, affirm, affiliate, or take any action that would result in favoring any particular position on the issue or issues involved.” If learning to debate is prohibited, our democracy is dead.
- It ambiguously requires teachers “to remain impartial in teaching curricular materials or conducting educational activities.” While teachers do that now, they are not impartial about concepts that damage democracy, illustrated by the concern of Fishers teacher Matt Bockenfelt.
Contact any or all members of the House of Representatives about your strong opposition to HB 1134 as soon as possible. It could come to the House floor for action as soon as Wednesday, January 19. Legislator contact information is available in the Legislative Action Center tab of the ICPE website.
Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
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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