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Three education issues to watch in Indiana’s 2023 legislative session

Spending more on schools and making high school more relevant are a priority for Indiana lawmakers heading into the 2023 session, legislative leaders said Monday.

Speaking at a preview event with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Democratic and Republican caucus leaders highlighted proposals for graduate students who are prepared for the job market and eager to stay in Indiana as the state grapples with declining college enrollment and academic impact. of the pandemic.

However, GOP leaders have essentially remained silent on whether they will make another decision on last year’s unsuccessful curriculum bill that sought to restrict what teachers could say about race and racism.

Republicans, who hold supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, will seek more work-based learning in high school. Democrats, meanwhile, have stressed the need for the state to improve its educational attainment, starting with early learning.

The legislative session begins at the beginning of January. The ceremonial start of the session — known as Organizing Day — takes place on Nov. 22, when representatives can begin tabling bills. Here are the education issues to watch out for at the start of the semester.

Rethinking what high school looks like

Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said a top priority for House Republicans is to “reinvent” high school, so students can work and use professional opportunities to receive college credit. graduation.

“We have to adapt to a new economy,” Huston said. The current structure of secondary schools prioritizes higher education over other post-secondary pathways, he added.

Huston said details of the plan would be released later, but hinted it could involve replacing classes like numeracy with workplace learning.

Indiana is already in the midst of a major overhaul of its K-12 standards after a law passed last year instructed the state Department of Education to rationalize what students need to know in order to succeed. The ministry is supposed to seek input from industries, employers and higher education institutions to create these new standards.

Increase funding for K-12 schools

Heading into a budget year, Huston also said he expects the legislature to approve increased funding for K-12, “while expanding options for children to attend school.” school of their choice.

“I am happy with the amount we are investing in education,” he said.

In 2021, lawmakers approved a $1.9 billion increase for schools, allowing many to raise the salaries of teachers, who had rallied en masse to the state house. (Indiana adopts budgets for two-year periods.)

Calls have already been made this year by school districts to invest more in the funds schools receive to educate students living in poverty — sometimes referred to as complexity funding.

Indiana Education Secretary Katie Jenner also told a recent state Board of Education meeting that increasing funding for students learning English is a priority, after the state reported a double-digit drop in test scores for this group this year.

Expand child care services by reducing regulation

The Chamber of Commerce has listed improving access to child care and early learning in Indiana as one of its top legislative priorities.

“Indiana’s lack of affordable, high-quality child care is one of the external factors that has the greatest negative impact on worker attraction and retention,” a statement from the company said. bedroom.

To do this, the chamber suggests streamlining existing national regulations not related to health and safety, as well as offering incentives to providers to improve the quality of their programs.

Huston said revisiting licensing requirements could be a step toward creating more child care providers in the state.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said lawmakers resisted other ideas that could improve access to early education, such as offering a childcare tax credit children or lower the age of compulsory school attendance in Indiana from seven to five.

No “specifics” on another bill on the program

Some education watchers expect to see another version of last year’s curriculum bill regarding how teachers deal with racial issues. But Huston told the news conference he hadn’t “heard any details” about another trial.

He added that his caucus “supports the right of families to choose” the schools their children attend.

However, Huston told reporters he would support another idea from the last legislative session: a bill to make school board elections partisan. Last year’s bill on the issue, which would have required ballots to include the partisan affiliations of school board candidates, drew significant criticism and died in committee.

At the preview, House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said he hopes lawmakers will “give social issues a rest this session,” after addressing controversial topics such as the right to abortion in 2022.

“It does our state no good to be in the national news on these issues,” GiaQuinta said.

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at [email protected]

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