This week marks the middle of a long legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly. The session runs to the end of April.
Education Savings Accounts
SB 534 (Jeff Raatz R-Richmond)
HB 1591 (Jim Lucas R-Seymour)
Two Education Savings Account (ESA) bills were introduced this session. One was typical and one was atypical. First, Senate bill SB 534 was an ESA for special needs. IAHE Action worked with the author to modify language prior to bill introduction so we would no longer oppose the bill. This bill followed the normal pattern for IAHE Action in the legislature. You may listen to the hearing at this link. Interestingly, Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) noted in the hearing that Bill Gates and Jeb Bush fund the advocacy for ESAs. SB 534 received a hearing, but not a vote, so the bill is dead at this time.
February 15, ESA testimony begins at 46:38.
The second ESA bill, HB 1591 (Education Options Account), we learned about last summer. We spoke to the author about it on August 5, 2016, and from our initial conversation, we had hoped to have input into the language of this bill. Unfortunately, after multiple unsuccessful attempts at follow-up, we were forced to oppose the House bill when we saw the language at introduction.
This bill allowed the State to have oversight of approving providers, which would have included homeschool parents and the list of approved vendors. It’s like Henry Ford said about the Model T. You can have any color you like as long as it’s black. You can choose any curriculum you like as long as it’s on the government pre-approved list. Parents would have to agree with rules and requirements of the program. Strangely enough, few requirements were included in the text of the legislation. However, according to the author on his public Facebook page he announced there would be accompanying assessments to “make sure parents are giving taxpayers their monies worth.” What happens if the State decides they are not “getting their monies worth?” We can only guess because that language is yet to be written. Not including basic expectations and requirements demonstrates the bill was a “bait and switch” lying in wait. Rather, the bill punted such decisions to the unelected State Board of Education and approval through the State Treasurer’s office, not the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
HB 1591 includes the same protective language as the voucher bill. We will not be fooled. We know voucher-accepting schools used to take a norm-referenced test of their choice, but after vouchers they must administer ISTEP and have their data collected. Even though the law does not mandate it, many voucher-accepting schools feel compelled to use Common Core curriculum in order to score well on ISTEP in order to protect their A-F accountability grade. HB 1591 would bring the camel into the homeschool community tent. Although there was a push by the author near the end to have this bill receive a hearing, it did not receive one. HB 1591 is now dead.
SB 27 Grandparent and Great-grandparent Visitation
(Lonnie Randolph D-East Chicago)
IAHE Action testified against this bill. SB 27 would allow a grandparent or great-grandparent to petition a court for child visitation simply because there is an “estrangement” within the family and the parent is preventing their child from seeing the grandparent/great-grandparent. This new provision will apply to any family, even intact, two-parent families. It is very troubling to have the State of Indiana via the courts insert itself into an intact family’s decision making.
In some ways, this could create a disincentive for parents and grandparents to come together. An adversarial proceeding can cause more tension and actually may disincentivize these families coming together in an amicable manner to try to resolve their disputes. Bringing it to court may ramp up emotions. The Supreme Court has given great deference to the fact that parents are deemed fit and know what is best for their children. We believe this proposed statute is basically questioning the judgment of fit, intact families. This bill received a hearing but not a vote. SB 27 is dead.
SB 175 Health Care Consent
(Jean Leising R-Rushville)
IAHE Action testified to amend the bill. We believed the language in this bill needed to be tightened. We suggested that SB 175 add a requirement that the health care provider must ask whether the minor has a parent, guardian or adult sibling before accepting a grandparent’s consent for medical service. As a grandparent, we would want to be able to give consent to medical treatment for a minor grandchild if needed. However, that as a parent we would like the health care provider to first look for a parent, individual in loco parentis, or an adult sibling before turning to the grandparent for consent. (Senator Koch R-Bedford) carried our amendment, which passed as a floor motion in second reading. SB 175 is headed to the House.
HB 1384 Various Education Matters
(Bob Behning R-Indianapolis)
HB 1384 contains language that addresses the public school push out problem by focusing on the mobility rate of schools. Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) was asked to testify regarding observations from phone calls they have received from families for whom the public school reported their enrollment as a homeschooler. They were then given IAHE’s number and decided not to homeschool after consultation and receiving more information as to what home education entails with IAHE. HB 1384 is headed to the Senate.
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