Education bill gets a revamp, still not supported by many teachers

If you are familiar with House Bill 1134, a controversial education bill that requires teachers to publish their curricula and allow parents to drop social emotion lessons, you might not recognize it as it is in the Senate committee.

Senator Linda Rogers, R-District 11, proposed a series of amendments to the bill to reassure many teachers, parents and high school students who spoke out against the bill. On February 16, more than 200 members of the public signed a speech before the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development. Despite changes to Rogers’ amendments that removed verbosity that would allow parents to exclude children from certain lessons and sue school districts for possible violations, many teachers continued to urge committee members to repeal the bill.

Christian Bibi, a primary school teacher in Braunsburg, testified before the General Assembly earlier in the Senate Bill 167, a bill similar to HB 1134, which was never removed from the committee – said she appreciated Roger’s amendments, but not yet can support the bill.

“When teachers spend hours reviewing curriculum materials … we don’t just look at the materials through an academic prism,” Bibi said in her testimony. “Teachers are members of the communities in which we work. We live, work, worship, raise our own children in these communities, and we ensure that the materials we approve are in the interests of the community. ”

In addition, while the amended version removes languages ​​that potentially prohibit teachers from discussing issues such as racial violence and slavery, Bibi is concerned that the mere existence of this law will not allow teachers to discuss “difficult truths” in their classrooms. that complaint from parents.

The original bill, authored by MP Anthony Cook, R-District 32, banned schools from teaching certain concepts about race and ethnicity and would discourage teachers from discussing topics that could make students feel “uncomfortable or guilty.” Cook, a former Noblesville High School principal and former head of the Hamilton Heights School Corporation, said he wants parents to be entitled to what their children are learning.

One of the speakers, Dr. Gwen Kelly, said the bill was unnecessary because of the rights parents already have. Kelly is vice chair of the Indiana Children’s Policy and Law Initiative and works with the local branch of the NAACP and the Indianapolis Alliance of Black School Educators, among other groups, although she only introduced herself during a Feb. 16 speech.

“The African-American community does not understand this bill and does not want it to be passed,” said Kelly, who is Black. “I am still embarrassed by the need for Bill 1134 of the House of Representatives. As a 50-year veteran of education, I know that parents already have the right to be on commissions and meet with teachers in schools … and there are procedures for dealing with complaints. ”

Kelly called the bill “complex and chaotic” and said that as an independent education consultant, she was concerned about how the bill could affect African-American students, who statistically see less educational achievement compared to their white peers in Indiana.

Despite the fact that last week about 200 members of the public signed to testify on the bill, only a few dozen people were given the opportunity to speak, and the public comment section on HB1134 closed the last two hours of committee hearings discussing several bills. . Senator Jeff Raatz, chairman of the committee, said he randomly selected people to speak, but said he was convinced that both sides were represented in the debate. More than 90% of people signed, he said, against the bill.

The Senate Committee on Education and Career Development will vote on an amended version of House of Representatives Bill 1134 on Feb. 23. If approved, the bill will be heard before the entire State Senate.

Contact full-time writer Breana Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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