DFER Indiana Releases DFER-INtake Wrap-up Report

Dear Friends,

Heading into early April, DFER Indiana (DFER-IN) produced an initial assessment of the education bills making their way through the Indiana General Assembly’s 2013 session. We called this analysis of legislation our Midterm DFER-INtake since it was our “take” on the bills we found to be most relevant to our principles and policy priorities. At the time of its release, we indicated the legislature was facing some very important decisions that had to be made relative to education policy and reform: (1) They could enact legislation benefitting the state’s students that would strengthen rigor, empower families and teachers, and emphasize smarter investments in teacher preparation and support; or, (2) They could pass legislation that retreats on the very policies that brought our state’s education system to the top in the first place. Now that the legislature has adjourned for the year, it is time to see exactly what course the General Assembly took, by presenting the “DFER-INtake Wrap-up” report.

The choices made by legislators played out in some very visible ways during the 2013 session, at least with respect to a few bills that passed and issues that were presented. Indiana, like a growing number of states is very much at a crossroads in education policy as the state moves from policy development to implementation of several major reforms to our system. That has lead to increased political pressure from organizations with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo to reverse course on certain reforms such as the Common Core and teacher evaluations. Although by most accounts the General Assembly stayed true to their promises to improve our education system this session by strengthening charter school authorization, increasing the attention paid to parental and family engagement, and reducing chronic absenteeism, there were plenty of bumps in the road.

Some of the more perplexing developments this legislative session were: the attempts to dial back on the state’s participation in the Common Core; diluting elements of flexibility from overly rigid rules and regulations; and, considering lowered accountability measures for schools with different student populations. It was also bitterly disappointing that the legislature failed to establish an early childhood education program. Yet, there was legislation worth celebrating, including provisions to: improve charter school authorization; reduce the number of graduation waivers being issued; and, raise the quality of teacher recruitment, compensation, and retention.

DFER-IN is a policy and political advocacy organization, and analyzing legislation definitely speaks to the policy-side of our work. From that perspective, it is important for us to determine if the policies now becoming law support or detract from our ultimate goal of ensuring every Hoosier student has a quality education.

In this INtake Wrap-up we analyze ten education bills, plus the state budget. In June, we also plan to release our first ever legislator evaluation based on their votes on the bills we are highlighting. Our bill summaries depict the good, bad, and otherwise in the pieces of legislation the General Assembly passed.

You can read the assessments along with our Executive Summary here, and stay tuned for our legislator report cards to be issued this summer.

All the Best,
Larry Grau
DFER-IN State Director

Read the press release here.

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