The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 04, 2021 1:00 am

General Assembly

Education bills get OK by panels

Would grow school choice, tweak board appointments

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Legislative panels gave initial approval Wednesday to two significant education bills – one expanding school choice and another revamping the makeup of the State Board of Education.

In the House Education Committee, the panel amended House Bill 1005 significantly to reduce the cost from around $100 million a year to about $30 million annually.

The legislation both expands the current Choice Scholarship program in which the state pays vouchers for private education and creates new Education Scholarship Accounts.

In the latter, parents can ask for the state to put 90% of the state funding that otherwise would pay for a student in public school into an account for a parent to control their child's education. It is limited for special education students, foster children and children of active-duty military.

About 50 people testified on the bill Wednesday.

The bill passed 8-4 along party lines. 

Fort Wayne GOP Rep. Martin Carbaugh said he “emphatically” supports the bill and called out opponents for offensive hyperbole. Democratic Rep. Ed Delaney said he can't support creating another entitlement program that will be detrimental to public schools. 

Earlier in the day, the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 333, which will reduce the number of appointments the governor has to the state Board of Education.

Under current law, the governor appoints eight; the General Assembly has two; and then the superintendent of public instruction is the 11th member.

But with the move to an appointed secretary of education, the amended bill would reduce the governor's appointments to six with no more than four from one political party. Instead of representing specific congressional districts, those six appointments would have to include one each from northern, southern and central Indiana and one each from urban, suburban and rural communities.

At least four of the governor's appointments must have experience in education; one must be a licensed special education teacher or director; and one must be from the higher education community.

The Senate and House leaders would get two appointments each, with an equal split on parties.

At least two of these four members have to be a business owner or CEO. The other two would be from the education field.

The governor-appointed secretary of education would be the 11th member.

The bill passed 13-0 and now moves to the full Senate.

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