At the half-way point

Did you feel the collective sigh last week?  It was every legislator, every staff member, and every citizen who cares about public education and has been following bills before the Indiana General Assembly. The session is at the half-way point. 

Bills approved by the Senate now go to the House. Bills approved by the House now go to the Senate. 

What was more than 1,000 bills to follow is now down to a significantly smaller number. Two thirds of Senate Bills are now dead. 

What is always the most important duty for legislators during odd-numbered years is crafting the state’s next two-year budget. House Bill 1001 is the budget bill, although the Senate will prepare its own version, and then the real bargaining begins. Never take your eyes off the budget bill between now and late April, although that becomes a huge challenge when the final version of the budget usually comes out on the last minute of the last hour of the last day of the session. By then, it’s hard for anyone to know exactly what survived, and what did not. 

We had wins in the first half of the session:  

Win #1:  House Bill 1428, which would have made school board elections partisan, is dead. Could it come back? Possibly, but it’s not very likely. However, as we have said many times, never take your eyes off the budget bill. It is where strange and unpopular ideas sometimes get resurrected at the last minute, because legislative leaders know it is hard to vote against the final version of the budget bill.     

Win #2:  In mid-February Senator Ryan Mishler, a top Republican lawmaker threatened to hold up new state spending for Indiana’s voucher school program — and advised parents to “beware” of non-public schools — after he claimed to have witnessed “disgusting” behavior at a private Catholic school in northern Indiana.

Mishler said, “I would advise families looking at voucher schools to be aware that they are on their own at this point and time. They should strongly consider an alternative to the blemished and blatantly flawed procedures of accountability when choosing a school for their child,” Sen. Ryan Mishler said in a letter “We need to hold the schools to the same high level of accountability they expect from the students and their parents.”

This is a huge win to see a member of the General Assembly’s super majority admit he has reservations about expanding vouchers, and that he wants to see more accountability.  Drop him a note or call to thank him for having the courage to speak out.

Win #3: We finally have a bill to cover textbooks, but (sigh) it’s not what we hoped for. Instead of having the state budget allocate a line item with new money to pay for textbooks, the current version requires schools to cover it. Despite the promised increase in funding, schools will have to use part of their increase to cover the expense. 

Moving into the second half 

We don’t yet know what bills will be heard (nor when they will hear them) for the second half of the session. But we have an idea of what they will be. 

Be assured that we will continue to use our action alerts to let you know when action is needed, provide you with talking points, and inform you about who needs to hear from you.  

Please make an effort to attend any “cracker barrel sessions” or community meetings to hear what your legislators are saying and to give them your feedback. Ask them in person to support your public schools. 

HB1001 (the House budget bill)

When members of the General Assembly promote how much they are increasing school funding, ask questions about what kind of schools are getting the increase: 

  • In the current version of the bill traditional public school funding, where 90% of Hoosier students attend, would be increased by only 5%.
  • More than $1 billion would be spent for wealthy families making up to $220,000 annually to attend private school for free, while neighborhood public schools continue to struggle to provide enough resources for students and pay hard-working educators a competitive salary,
  • Spending on private school vouchers would increase by 70%
  • In Fiscal Year 2025, 74% of school corporations will receive an increase of only 2% or less in tuition support funding; 81 school corporations will actually LOSE funding.

Contact: Sen. Mishler, Senate Appropriations Committee and your own Senator (see info below).

Other bills we’re following

HB 1608 —  Indiana’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Among other things, it requires school personnel to inform parents if a child requests to be called by a different name, gender pronoun, etc. Forbids discipline of school staff if they refuse to call kids by requested pronouns or names. All kids should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of how they identify. School is the safest place for many children and schools should not be in the business of outing kids. These are some of the most vulnerable kids, with high suicide rates.

Contact: Senate Career Development & Education Committee and your own Senator (see info below).

SB12: We call this the “Put your librarian or teacher in jail” bill. This is a bill that is a “solution” searching for a problem. Schools already have processes in place to deal with books that are deemed inappropriate by parents. Parents do not have the right to decide for OTHER parents which books are read. Putting a chill over instruction and reading will create a stressful atmosphere for teachers and schools. Sending the message that we don’t trust teachers will exacerbate our teacher shortage. 

Contact: House Education Committe and your our own legislators in House and Senate (see info below).

SB 260 – Would give a state tax credit for contributions made to a public school foundation. We support tax credits to public school foundations, but why is the annual cap for private schools (“scholarship” granting organizations) $18.5 million while the cap for all public schools foundations statewide is $100,000?

Contact: House Ways & Means Committee and your own legislators in House and Senate (see info below).

SB  327 –  Requires the Secretary of Education to appoint seven members to the governing body of the Gary Community School Corporation. We support local control and elected school boards (democracy) for all Indiana’s public school communities. 

SB 391 – Would make it easier for charter schools to take over public school buildings. Goes from a takeover of “closed”  buildings to include “underutilized buildings.” Public buildings are paid for with public tax dollars and belong in public hands. This bill would make it easier for private interests to capitalize off of our public institutions.

Contact: House Education Committee and your own legislators in House and Senate (see info below).

SB 486: Needs to be fixed. Currently the bill removes the mandate for discussion with teachers regarding working conditions and class sizes, etc.– making it optional. Teachers deserve a voice at the table. Removing the requirement for discussion creates an atmosphere where it will be easier to disregard teachers’ voices in the school environment. ICPE supports the deregulation parts of the bill, but the loss of discussion is demeaning and will likely exacerbate Indiana’s current teacher shortage.

Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) said, “…required discussion has been the law in Indiana for over 50 years…We should respect that. We shouldn’t be up here denigrating teachers.”

Contact: House Education Committee and your own legislators in House and Senate (see info below).

Thanks for all you do to support our public schools!

HOW TO CONTACT (note: some email programs prefer commas to semicolons)

Senator Mishler:

Senate Appropriations Committee emails:;;;;;;;;;;;; 

Senate Education & Career Development Committee emails:;;;;; Senator;;;;;;;; 

House Ways & Means Committee:

Members’ Names:

Rep. Mike Andrade, Rep. Beau Baird, Rep. Chris Campbell, Rep. Robert W. Cherry, Rep. Edward Clere, Rep. Ed DeLaney, Rep. Chuck Goodrich, Rep. Earl Harris, Rep. Robert W. Heaton, Rep. Dave Heine, Rep. Jack Jordan, Rep. Chris Judy, Rep. Sheila Klinker, Rep. Peggy Mayfield, Rep. Timothy O’Brien, Rep. Tonya Pfaff, Rep. Greg Porter, Rep. J.D. Prescott, Rep. Cherish Pryor, Rep. Elizabeth Rowray, Rep. Harold (Hal) Slager, Rep. Ben Smaltz, Rep. Craig Snow, Rep. Jeff Thompson


House Education Committee

Members’ names:

Rep. Robert Behning, Rep. Michelle Davis, Rep. Martin Carbaugh, Rep. Becky Cash, Rep. Chuck Goodrich, Rep. Jack Jordan, Rep. Julie McGuire, Rep. Zach Payne, Rep. Jake Teshka, Rep. Vernon Smith, Rep. Edward DeLaney, Rep. Sheila Klinker, Rep. Tonya Pfaff



House of Representatives

(317) 232-9600
(800) 382-9842 – House Democrats
(800) 382-9841 – House Republicans

Indiana State Senate

(317) 232-9400
(800) 382-9467

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