by Randy Hudgins
(All opinions and errors are the author’s)
Periodically we will take a look at what’s happening in the Indiana legislature with insights from social studies educator Randy Hudgins. Here’s his first installment for the 2023 session.
Bills That Will Get People’s Attention
Legalization of Marijuana: There are multiple bills proposed to address inching toward some form of legalization: four bills introduced in the Senate and five in the House. None were heard in committee this week. One was introduced by Sen. Kyle Walker (Senate Bill 308). Several of the bills are bipartisan.
This Week in Culture Wars
Trans Rights for Teens: Three House bills address or openly go after a medical professional’s ability to provide information and treatment involving transition procedures and many of the treatments that come with them. Senate Bill 354 is also discussed later. See the ACLU Indiana website for more information
Bills to Focus On
Senate Bill 354 (Author: Republican Senator Jeff Raatz): This bill would require teachers and educational professionals to report to parents and school officials if a student is showing signs of gender identity confusion, including a change in dress and a request to use different pronouns or names. Teachers are not trained to do this and should not be put in the position to out a student, and in the process open them up to additional social scrutiny and family issues. It criminalizes being a transgender or gender-fluid teen and makes the teacher the equivalent of a court-mandated reporter in the same way they are in reporting child abuse.
Senate Bill 305 (Author: Republican Senator Brian Buchanan): This bill was heard in committee this week. It is part of a nationwide school choice agenda that has been aggressively pursued by our state through the voucher program. This extreme bill would take the concept of the Educational Scholarship Account (ESA) from a small program of roughly 100 students with special needs, and expand it to every student across the state. This would be up to $7,000 per student. If this were applied only to the students in non-public schools that currently do not get vouchers for tuition assistance in this state, it would cost the state at least $300 million dollars. In the 2021 Budget, $240 million out of over $1 billion in K–12 funding went to vouchers, even though over 90% of Hoosier students attend public schools. Additionally, there is almost NO OVERSIGHT or ACCOUNTABILITY for the money once it is sent to the family. There are no requirements for how quickly it needs to be used or proving that it is being used for educational costs. Theoretically, a family can just pocket the money.
House Bill 1002 (Author: Republican Representative Chuck Goodrich): This bill would create Career Scholarship Accounts with the intent of giving students more options for training toward skilled trades while in high school. There is a lot of language about who can and cannot access these accounts, what types of training they can go toward, and what organizations they can be applied to. Vocational education is often handled in school districts or by partnering with a vocational school tied to a neighboring school district. Again, there is very little oversight to how the money is used and why it needs to be taken away from the school districts that provide wonderful opportunities for certifications in a wide variety of in-demand skilled trades. At Warren Central High School, for instance, we offer certification in cosmetology, dental hygiene, a wide variety of automotive certifications, and welding, just to name a few.
Outside the Indiana General Assembly
- Arguments were heard this week in the Indiana Supreme Court over the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1 from the Summer Special Session that outlawed most abortions in Indiana. The court gave no timetable as to when they will reach a decision. Reports indicate the justices asked tough questions about the arguments of both sides and did not give a clear indication whether they supported the arguments of one side or another (which often happens in the US Supreme Court).
- The lawsuit blocking the Trans-Athlete Bill from last session was vacated last week because the young person who filed the lawsuit against IPS has switched schools to a charter school and thus no longer has standing to continue pursuing the lawsuit. This means the bill is now in force as passed in the 2022 session.
Tell Me Something Good
- Senate Bill 77, Recreational Use of Throwing Stars for Hoosiers over the Age of 12 on Certain Business Premises, did not get heard in committee this week. It is scheduled to be part of a committee hearing this week.
- Senate Bill 322, Designation of the Pork Tenderloin as the State Sandwich, also did not get heard in committee this week. Its future may be in the deep fryer.
For More Information
Niki Kelly: @nkellyIN
Brandon J. Smith: @brandonjsmith5
Rep. Blake Johnson: @IndyBlakeJ
Casey Smith: @SmithCaseyA
Kaitlin Lange: @kaitlin_lange
Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA): @ISTAmembers
ACLU Indiana: @ACLUIndiana
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