Recent Legislative Developments Affecting Indiana Schools + Educational Entities

Séamus P. Boyce

Author: Séamus P. Boyce

POST DATE: 7.5.16
Ccha  Education Law

There have been many legislative developments affecting Indiana school and educational entities. The most significant is that Congress enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  

The major theme that has been branded for ESSA is the promotion of local governance. States and local districts have more flexibility in key areas such as testing and accountability. ESSA discourages federal intrusion into school administration, including the development and expenditures of school budgets. It addresses potential federal overreach and requires local stakeholder input prior to issuing federal guidance.

While ESSA does promote local governance, it is also not simple. It is over 1,000 pages long with many provisions. The United States Department of Education (USDOE) is required to develop and publish implementing regulation by the end of 2016. They have to go through what is called negotiated rulemaking to adopt those regulations.

One of the highlights of ESSA is teacher training and professional development. The concept of “highly qualified teachers” has been eliminated. There are no mandated teacher evaluation requirements but states and districts may use federal funds to design and implement teacher and principal evaluation systems.

In regard to testing, ESSA encourages the development of richer, performance-based assessments through the use of multiple measures. States could choose to include “portfolios and projects” in the assessment process.

To address concerns about over-testing, ESSA permits states to cap total time spent on testing. States may use federal funds to audit testing systems and eliminate redundant or unnecessary tests. ESSA requires school districts to post a list of the tests that are required and how much time they take.

While ESSA is a major federal development, there were also several highlights from the 2016 Indiana General Assembly session.

HEA 1395 addresses various issues regarding mandated testing. ISTEP is set to expire on July 1, 2017. There is also an establishment of a 23-member panel to study school accountability metrics, teacher evaluations, and alternatives to the ISTEP program tests. The panel must submit its final report by December 1, 2016 (in time for the General Assembly to take action in the 2017 session). Ironically, however, the deadline for this report is before the ESSA regulations deadline. 1395 also has some provisions relating to high ability students applying to performance qualified school districts. Student scores under an ISTEP test must be reported to the State Board of Education no later than July 1 of the year of the test.

SEA 93 and HEA 1005 are categorized as various education laws and have a lot of miscellaneous subparts. One 93 highlight is that it replaces “expenditures per pupil, average teacher salary, and remediation funding” reporting requirements with the “percentage of spending on (1) Student academic achievement, (2) Student instructional support, (3) Overhead and operational, and (4) Nonoperational.”

1005 requires schools to conduct background checks on whether applicants have substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect or had a teacher’s license suspended or revoked in another state. 1005 also provides that a nonpublic school with employees is required to adopt and implement a policy for applicants to obtain a background check.

1005 modifies the voucher program as well. It states that IDOE must accept applications for choice scholarships students from September 2 through January 15 of each school term. The eligible choice scholarship student (or the parent) and the eligible school providing educational services now must annually sign a form to endorse distributions. IDOE must make random visits to at least 5% of choice scholarship schools each year (instead of 5% of charter + choice schools).

There were many other changes made in the 2016 session. From the Senate, SEA 327 requires political subdivisions (including public schools) to scan and upload contracts under which the public school will pay more than $50,000 in a calendar year.

SEA 335 specifies that a school corporation may assign wages and pay premiums for collectively bargained health insurance and is not required to make the collectively bargained health insurance available to all school corporation employees.

From the House, HEA 1109 extends through 2018 the protected taxes waiver that allows eligible school corporations to allocate circuit breaker credits proportionately.

Pursuant to HEA 1209, a student who successfully completes Spanish language courses that include certain elements is eligible to receive a functional and practicable workplace Spanish designation on the student’s transcript. 

HEA 1219 requires a high school to offer students the opportunity to earn any type of state diploma. A student with a disability now cannot be required to complete local requirements that exceed state requirements to receive a diploma unless otherwise required as part of the student’s individualized education program.

HEA 1330 exempts charter schools from accreditation by IDOE. It charges IDOE with ensuring that charter schools have access to certain federal funding streams. It also expands the size of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board to five (5).

HEA 1394 states that an entity hired to conduct a feasibility or cost study to assist the school corporations in determining the cost of a controlled project may not enter into an agreement as the design professional on the controlled project unless the entity is awarded a contract as the design professional for the completion of the project.

A law that did not come out of the General Assembly but certainly got a lot of attention and will continue to get attention is heightened LGBT protection. With recent federal guidance and litigation trends, the topic of particular interest going forward will be transgender rights of both students and employees. We continue to closely monitor this area.

Please contact a member of the CCHA school section team if you have a question about recent or anticipated legislation. If you do not know who to contact, start with Jennifer Wareham - wareham@cchalaw.com.

For more information about Séamus and his practice, please visit his profile.