Compromise Reform Measure Approved in Indiana

By Deborah L. Cohen — May 17, 1989 3 min read

The Indiana legislature has adopted a package of education measures that strikes a balance between proposals favored by the Democratic governor and the Republican state school superintendent.

The education bill, approved in a special legislative session this month and signed by Gov. B. Evan Bayh last week, was approved by votes of 100 to 0 in the House and 49 to 1 in the Senate.

Funding levels for the initiatives were included in a budget measure that also passed this month.

The package includes a boost in funding for “at risk” children, the establishment of new grants to foster innovation and academic excellence, and authorization for studies of a new teacher-standards board and “readiness” tests to help assess the developmental level of K-2 pupils.

Although both sides maintained that some programs they supported were “underfunded,” spokesmen for Governor Bayh and Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans both claimed last week that the bill contained many of the elements each had sought.

“In a lot of ways, the final product really contained input from both sides,” said Joseph DiLaura, a spokesman for Mr. Evans. Many of the superintendent’s concerns with the initial “Project Excel” bill proposed by the Governor, he said, “were addressed to our satisfaction.’'

“We feel very positive about the legislation,” said Representative Stanley Jones, the Governor’s executive assistant for education."Virtually everything that was in the initial ‘Excel’ bill passed.”

Compromises Struck

The legislature approved $42 million in funding for at-risk pupils for the 1990-91 biennium, with a requirement that $2 million of the $22 million authorized for 1991 be used for preschool programs.

The Governor had proposed earmarking $8 million of the aid for such programs; the superintendent had not favored requiring districts to use their funds for preschool.

The legislature retained two separate grant programs that Mr. Bayh had sought to combine, but approved a blanket funding level of $10.1 million per year for both programs.

The “challenge incentive” grants sought by the Governor are aimed at helping districts launch innovative education, parent-involvement, staff-development, and after-school programs. The “performance-based awards” backed by Mr. Evans reward districts with high attendance rates and test scores.

The legislature adopted Mr. Evans’s recommendation that the passing criteria on the Indiana Statewide Test of Educational Progress be altered to allow more pupils to qualify for summer remediation. But legislators backed Mr. Bayh’s proposal to give teachers and local school officials more leeway to weigh additional criteria in making remediation and retention decisions.

Standards Board Studied

One of the more controversial proposals of the session--to create a new teacher-licensing board to set standards for the profession--was put on hold pending further study.

Mr. Bayh had backed a proposal to create an autonomous board with a teacher majority, while Mr. Evans had favored an advisory board that would remain under the authority of the education department.

The legislature directed the department to study the creation of an ''Indiana Certification and Licensing Commission,” complete an interim report by Nov. 1, and submit final recomel10lmendations by Nov. 1, 1990.

The two-year, $30,000 study will be conducted by a task force appointed by the Governor with recommendations by the superintendent.

The legislature also authorized the department to conduct a series of studies and pilot programs to develop a plan to fund “readiness” tests for pupils in kindergarten to 2nd grade.

Linda A. Bond, a policy analyst for the department, said the plan would provide school districts with several assessment options that they could use on a voluntary basis. She stressed that the tests would not be used in promotion decisions or to replace istep, but to “give teachers additional information” on children’s developmental level for planning and instruction.

Other provisions in the legislation include:

A scholarship program proposed by the Governor to provide aid to mathematically talented students;

A requirement that school districts publish annual financial and performance “report cards";

A measure allowing teachers whose age and years of service total 85 to retire with full benefits at 55.

The legislature did not approve a proposal to count noninstructional time for parent-teacher conferences and other purposes toward the 180-day school calendar--or to change the criteria for calculating class size under Project Primetime, which provides grants to school systems to reduce class sizes in the early grades.

Both measures were included in a version of the bill that was passed by the House but had been opposed by the superintendent.

A version of this article appeared in the May 17, 1989 edition of Education Week as Compromise Reform Measure Approved in Indiana