Dear Friends,

House Bill 1134 now threatens to make teachers fear inviting guest speakers to their classroom.

This is the damaging curriculum bill that educators, the PTA and community groups have denounced vigorously.

Last Wednesday it got worse: it now threatens to undercut the use of guest speakers in the classroom. Both career days and community speakers may soon disappear from our public schools.

This is the last straw. The Senate Education Committee claimed to be making the bill better than the House version, but after thinking about the impassioned testimony from teachers for a week, the Senators made it worse.

What changed last Wednesday?

In the committee vote on February 23, the curriculum bill that has earned strong opposition from teachers across the state was amended and passed by the Senate Education Committee. New language could pull the plug on school career days and speakers from the community.

The new words added to the already controversial bill would allow “a parent of a student who is enrolled in the school” to “request that the” curriculum advisory committee review the “presentation content of guest speakers.”

This simple addition would stop teachers in their tracks when they consider bringing in guest speakers for career day or for any number of guest presentations to bring the community into the classroom to broaden the knowledge of students. Teachers would have to ask guest speakers to prepare and bring with them a copy of their presentation, which seldom happens, and submit it in advance for the parent committee review. This bill would throw cold water on the whole idea of guest speakers.

Teachers simply wouldn’t go to the trouble of arranging outside speakers. Rather than risk a string of parent complaints, presentations that connect the course to the community and bring content to life would be lost as teachers just stick to the textbook and the learning materials already under scrutiny.

It’s a bad bill made worse by this provision in the latest amendment.

What other problems remain?

The list is long:

  • 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.
  • 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. This section should be deleted entirely.
  • While the bill has a chapter 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. Now it attacks their trustworthiness in arranging guest speakers. 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 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.
  • It is an unfunded mandate to require every school, except private schools, to have a Learning Management system in place by July 1, 2023. Senator Rogers rejected this concern, saying that most schools have Learning Management systems. The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency writes in the fiscal note for this bill that 2% of the schools do not have such systems, and that the cost per student is as much as $10. Based on 1 million students in Indiana’s public schools, 2% would be around 20,000 and the cost would be $200,000. This is indeed an unfunded mandate.

Send a Message to Senators Before Tuesday March 1

HB 1134 should still die in the Senate. That was the conclusion spoken by the majority of those who were lucky enough to testify on February 16. That should be the conclusion of the Senators who will vote on the amended version on Tuesday after second reading amendments are considered on Monday, February 28 beginning at 1:30 p.m.

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 your Senator and the Senate leadership listed below and any or all other Senators know how you feel about inhibiting guest speakers or any other problems in this bill.

Tell them to vote NO!
Senate leaders:;;;

Thank you for your messages and your active support of public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,
Vic Smith

 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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