Controversial House education bill is watered down, re-introduced in Senate committee | Politics







Senator Linda Rogers, R-Granger, presents her amendment to House Bill 1134. The amendment was passed in committee, moving away from the original version of the House of Representatives.



INDIANOPOLIS – The bill, which aimed to create greater parental control and limit the teaching of “topics that cause disagreement,” has met with much criticism from Indiana educators. The Senate amendment now repeals some of the original provisions of the bill.

House of Representatives Bill 1134 faced a backlash from educators throughout the 2022 session, including a recent six-day effort by the Indiana Teachers Association to pack the Statehouse to protest the bill. A substantial amendment has now been made to the Senate Committee on Education and Careers

The amendment, authored by Senator Linda Rogers, R-Granger, will address the concerns of educators that have recurred throughout the testimony. The legislature has faced a consistent denial regarding HB 1134, and education stakeholders argue that it could limit teachers ’speech and classroom materials and increase the burden on teachers, further creating a shortage of teachers in the state.

Senate Committee on Education and Career Development Sen. Jeff Raatz, Richmond, said the amendment deprives the bill and that essentially one paragraph remains.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Rogers said her amendment arose from hearing concerns from parents and teachers. She said she wants the amendment to give parents the opportunity to participate in their children’s education, tame teachers who may be violating the “separation concepts” clause, and ensure local oversight of Indiana schools.

The Rogers Amendment removes the original requirement that all teachers post materials online, and instead requires that parents have access to the school’s learning management system and have the right to view materials upon request. Instead of requiring schools to set up an advisory committee on materials, the new version will allow parents to ask the school board to set it up.

The main concern of educators was the possibility of lawsuits for violating the law. The amendment removes the lawsuit, instead requiring school districts to adopt their own procedures for reviewing breaches of bills, and allowing parents to contact the Indiana Department of Education if the county’s grievance process is inadequate.

The amendment removes any reference to “material harmful to minors” and “sexual material”, as well as the requirement for teachers to be biased towards historical events, and reduces the list of “concepts that separate”.

With the amendment, schools will not be able to teach that a group is by nature higher or lower, should be treated for its superiority or unpleasant, or that people are responsible for their group’s historical actions based on their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, color and national origin.

According to the amendment, nothing in the bill precludes the teaching of factual history or historical injustice.

The other part of the bill concerns mental health services for students. The amendment will give parents seven days to waive the continuous mental health service, and require schools to send two notices in advance. The amendment also adds wording stating that daily interaction with students does not require parental warning. It also clarifies that notifying parents is not necessary in a crisis situation where a student is at risk of harming himself or others, or is at risk of abuse or neglect.

The amendment was passed in committee, and only Senator Dennis Cruz, R-Auburn, voted against.

The author of the bill, MP Anthony Cook, R-Cicero, gave a statement to testify, explaining what the bill did and what it did not do when it was passed by the House of Representatives. In a panegyric of the original version, Cook said it does not interfere with the teaching of history and does not prevent students from receiving mental health services or socio-emotional learning.

Cook said he did not agree with all the amendments.

“We have about 10 things here. I can agree with about six of them, ”Cook said. “More than likely because it moves him to a better position.”

Despite the change, the Indiana Teachers Association has said it opposes the bill. Gail Zecheralis, a specialist in the group’s public policy and political affairs, said the group appreciates the changes, but the bill is still flawed.

“I’m just asking you to reconsider the premise of the bill and instead revise it in a way that honors the hard work of teachers and reflects the high respect that parents have for Indiana’s teachers,” Zecheralis said.

At the start of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, Raatz asked nearly 200 witnesses on HB 1134 to compress their testimony as best they could, giving the audience two hours. Raatz also asked to testify only on the revised bill.

There was no vote Wednesday so testimony could be considered in possible amendments, Raatz said.

Testimony continued during the press. Look for updated coverage on Thursday at The Statehouse File.

Taylor Wooten is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website run by Franklin College student-journalists.

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