CEEP report gives perspective on a dozen new education laws in Indiana

Monday, July 22, 2013

A new report from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University offers viewpoints for 12 new state laws that have a direct effect on the delivery of elementary and secondary education in Indiana.

"Perspectives on the Key PK-12 Education Legislation of 2013" runs down legislation that CEEP staff determined were the most significant bills regarding education to come out of the last session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Among the laws are measures aimed at school funding, school safety, bullying and gang activities. In the report, multiple statewide education and advocacy organizations offer commentary on the laws. Other analysis comes from Russ Skiba, director of the Equity Project at IU and professor of counseling and educational psychology at the IU School of Education, as well as Terry Spradlin, CEEP director for education policy.

All of the laws covered in the report took effect with the start of the fiscal year July 1, 2013.

One of the more notable measures passed was the School Resource Officers and School Safety law, which establishes duties and responsibilities for school resource officers. It establishes the Indiana secured school fund to help schools hire officers, conduct threat assessments for school buildings, and purchase safety equipment and technology. The bill's authors removed a controversial provision requiring at least one staff member be trained in using and carrying a weapon on school grounds.

"Some local schools and police departments have expressed skepticism about whether the funds available will be sufficient to support school resource officers in local communities," Skiba said in his commentary. "The bill in its final form was intended to focus solely on external threats to school safety, such as the incident at Sandy Hook (Elementary School in Connecticut, where a school shooter killed 20 children and six adults in December). It is encouraging that the bill also calls for an interim study committee studying the improvement of safety in schools in Indiana."

Senate Enrolled Act 338 addresses Indiana's school absenteeism problems, changes definitions of "chronic absenteeism" and "habitual truant," and requires the Indiana Department of Education to provide schools with resources and guidance. Spradlin noted extensive CEEP research on the problem of absenteeism published last year and said the measure is a step in the right direction.

"Overall, SEA 338 achieves the objectives of properly defining 'chronic absence' and 'habitual truancy' in statute, having the chronic absence rate reported and monitored via the Annual School Corporation Performance Reports, and including chronic absence reduction plans in the school improvement plans," Spradlin wrote. "If we more accurately report and monitor attendance and absenteeism, schools can be proactive with intervention and evidence-based strategies to support students (especially in early grades) before they fall too far behind."

Other laws considered in the CEEP report are:

  • Senate Enrolled Act 352, funding educational outreach and training to school personnel on identifying, preventing and intervening in criminal gang activity.
  • SEA 422, establishing the "Indiana Family Friendly School" designation program, offering resources to schools for encouraging family engagement and parental involvement.
  • SEA 517, which permits school corporations to transfer funds from the general fund to the transportation fund or school bus replacement fund.
  • House Enrolled Act 1001, the state budget bill, increasing school funding by 2 percent in fiscal year 2014 and 1 percent in fiscal year 2015.
  • HEA1003, the "Nonpublic School Scholarships" bill that expands eligibility for school vouchers.
  • HEA 1005, which adds several new provisions for schools to carry out remediation programs to enable students to graduate.
  • HEA 1012, requiring a school corporation to make available a vacant or unused school building for sale or lease to a charter school for two years before selling the property.
  • HEA 1357, dropping the requirement that a superintendent of schools hold a teacher's or superintendent's license.
  • HEA 1423, requiring the state department of education to develop guidelines to assist schools in establishing anti-bullying programs.
  • House Bill 1427, titled "Various Education Matters," which most significantly paused implementation of Common Core Standards and established A to F designations for reporting the performance of schools.

The full report is available on the CEEP website.

The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, one of the country's leading nonpartisan education policy and program evaluation centers, promotes and supports rigorous evaluation and research primarily, but not exclusively, for educational, human services and nonprofit organizations. Center projects address state, national and international education questions. CEEP is part of the IU School of Education.