top of page
Gradient Line - New Teal.png

State Bills of Interest: Education and Libraries

The following is legislative analyst and social studies educator Randy Hudgins’ take on education and library–related bills in the Indiana House and Senate as they relate to Hamilton County. Proceedings are scheduled for only Monday this week. This is the midway point of the short legislative session. For a bill to survive to the next step, it must pass the chamber in which it was proposed by the start of this week. As such, a large number of bills, including many of those most controversial ones, no longer exist.


House

HB 1221: Material That Is Obscene or Harmful to Minors

Author: David Abbott (R-Rome City); coauthors Carbaugh, J. McGuire

Summary: HB 1221 seeks to clarify what is considered obscene material harmful to minors in school libraries and provide avenues to remove that content by parent request. The bill also suggests that teachers must provide a full list of noncurricular materials in their classroom library, in addition to the school library providing a full accounting of materials for public scrutiny.

The Bottom Line: While the school library already provides such a list, a teacher should not be forced to make an account of all books and materials in their classroom for parent review. It is an unnecessary burden that wastes teacher time and allows a parent with a vendetta to go after a teacher for no good reason.

Current Status

  • 2/2/24: Bill still has not been heard by Education committee. If it is not heard and passed by February 9, it will die.

  • 1/9/24: Referred to Education committee.

Relevant News Articles

HB 1137: Civics Education and Religious Instruction

Author: Kendell Kulp (R-Rensselaer); coauthors Teshka, Manning, Wesco

Summary: HB 1137 sets forth certain requirements concerning civics education. Requires the department, in consultation with the civic education commission and the Indiana Bar Foundation, to report certain information and recommendations related to civics education to the general assembly. Requires a principal to allow a student to attend religious instruction conducted by certain entities following the principal's receipt of written notice from the student's parent. Provides that a student must not be habitually truant and be in academic good standing to be released. 

The Bottom Line: It is already legal for students to leave school for up to 120 minutes per week for religious instruction. This bill will force principals to approve these requests.

Current Status

  • 1/31/24: Referred to Senate.

  • 1/30/24: Passed by House, 92 to 4. Senate sponsors appointed: Raatz and T. Johnson

  • 1/25/24: Passed by Election committee.

  • 1/8/24: Referred to Education committee.

Relevant News Articles

 

Senate

SB 185: Student use of wireless communication device

Author: Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond); coauthor Crane

Summary: Testimony on SB 185 was given in committee this week at the end of a marathon four-hour session. The text of the bill is one paragraph long and mentions that schools must make a policy to restrict, not ban, use of cell phones during instructional time. The chair of the committee indicated that the bill would be updated with amendments. Discussion in testimony indicated that many intend for this to take the form of students placing their cell phones in a central location during class time, then using them during passing periods and lunch.

The Bottom Line: Concerns have been brought up for students with 504 and IEPs who use apps on their phone as accommodations, and those who use phones as part of daily medical needs. Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis, Zionsville, and parts of Carmel) was able to pass an amendment exempting students who use phones as part of their IEPs or 504s. There is not a lot of clarity on how students could have access to phones if there is an emergency at the school that occurs during class time (for example, a lockdown). The language is still pretty vague and I am skeptical that it will have much of an impact on Hoosier classrooms.

Current Status

  • 1/31/24: Referred to House.

  • 1/30/24: Passed by Senate, 49 to 0. Rep McGuire added as House sponsor.

  • 1/25/24: Passed by Education and Career Development committee.

Relevant News Articles

SB 191: Transparency and Freedom of Expression

Author: Tyler Johnson (R-Leo)

Summary: SB191 targets curriculum and instruction at Indiana colleges and universities. It seeks to put stringent requirements on any type of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training, instruction, and any position in the institution responsible for those programs on campus. It also brings back the “Divisive Concepts” language of the Critical Race Theory bills of a couple of years ago. Without saying it, this is an effort to severely limit or chill the instruction or discussion of many race-related topics that some in our country don’t like to talk about. A portion of this bill demands that a syllabus for all courses be posted online for public inspection with all materials and assignments, along with grades from the last three semesters for public scrutiny.

The Bottom Line: This is an unnecessary intrusion into the academic freedom of instructors in our colleges and universities and would do significant damage to the sterling reputation of those institutions. It will also encourage the best scholars in their field to leave or steer clear of the state and our institutions.

Current Status

  • 2/2/24: Still not heard by committee.

  • 1/9/24: Referred to Committee on Education and Career Development

 

SB 1: Reading Skills

Authors: Linda Rogers (R-Michigan City), Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), Brian Buchanan (R-Ft. Wayne); long list of coauthors includes Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville)

Summary: SB 1 is the major reactionary bill of the session. A report recently came out revealing that a large number of third graders are not passing the IREAD Reading Proficiency test, and a sizable chunk of those students are passed on to fourth grade despite the low score. The bill calls for early IREAD testing in second grade, extensive remediation, and multiple chances to take the test before a student finishes third grade. If they still do not pass, they will be held back.

The Bottom Line: While Democrats advocate for lowering the mandatory school attendance age in Indiana from 7 to 5, and using this report as evidence of the need for a decent pre-K education system in our state, Republicans insist on half-measures. The retention part of this bill drew the most criticism, with many testifying against that provision. Others asked for a delay in the provisions of this bill in order to give a chance to the bill passed last session demanding teacher retraining and change of reading curriculum to the so-called “Science of Reading” model. The bill passed committee with all Democratic members voting against it. It went on to the full Senate, where it was amended three times: Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis, Zionsville, and parts of Carmel) added an amendment that allows for an appeals process. Senator Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) passed an amendment that requires parents of kindergartners to be informed of the new requirement.

Current Status

  • 2/2/24: Referred to House.

  • 2/1/24: Passed by Senate, 36 to 13. Rep. Teshka added as House sponsor.

  • 1/25/24: Passed by Education and Career Development committee.

  • 1/16/24: Referred to Education and Career Development committee.

Relevant News Articles

 

SB 50: Chaplains in Public Schools

Authors: Stacey Donato (R-Logansport), Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette)

Summary: Allows a principal or superintendent of a public school, including a charter school, to employ, or approve as a volunteer, a school chaplain if certain requirements are met. Provides that a school chaplain may only provide secular support to a student or an employee of the school unless permission is given by: (1) the student receiving services; (2) the employee of the school receiving services; or (3) a parent or guardian of the student receiving services; to provide nonsecular support. Provides that a school chaplain is not required to divulge privileged or confidential communications with a student under certain circumstances. 

The Bottom Line: Panelists Nikki Kelly and Ann Delaney on the 1/28/24 episode of Indiana Week in Review objected to this bill because they think it would be impossible for a person with a religious background to not weave their own philosophy into their advice, and that paying someone to provide religious counseling in public schools violates the Establishment clause of the US Constitution. They also pointed to the hypocrisy of not telling parents when their child seeks this counseling, when bills passed last year mandate reporting of students’ name and gender preferences to parents. They said that the counselor shortage would be better addressed by paying school counselors a decent salary. The bill was amended by Rep. Donato to require chaplains to disclose any student communications related to self-harm or harming others.

Current Status

  • 2/2/24: Referred to House.

  • 2/1/24: Passed by Senate, 34 to 15. Rep. King added as House sponsor.

  • 1/25/24: Passed by Education and Career Development Committee.

  • 1/8/24: Referred to Education and Career Development Committee.

Relevant News Articles

Faith-based school chaplains would test First Amendment (Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, 1/25/24)

 

SB 32: Tax and Fiscal Control Over Libraries

Authors: Gary Byrne (R-Palmyra) and Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville)

Summary: SB 32 is authored by the same Senator who authored SB 17 last year, aiming to define obscene content in library collections in very broad terms and remove large numbers of books they did not agree with from those libraries, often involving authors or characters of different races or gender identities. The crux of the bill is changing the way that libraries are funded, making them subject to city and county council budgets and oversight. As such, it would significantly limit funding for libraries. It also would restrict the services and programs libraries would provide to bare-bones functions.

The Bottom Line: This bill can be fairly called the Defund the Libraries Bill.

Current Status

  • 2/2/24: Still not heard in committee.

  • 1/8/24: Referred to Tax and Fiscal Policy committee.

Relevant News Articles

18 views0 comments

Comentários


bottom of page