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Indiana lawmakers get pushback on partisan school board bill

The bill's author said the bill stemmed from voter demands for more transparency from school board members.
Credit: AP
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, speaks during the annual Organization Day at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS — School board members from across Indiana are voicing opposition to a Republican-backed proposal that would add political party identifications to what are now nonpartisan school board elections throughout the state. 

The bill's author, Republican Rep. J.D. Prescott of Union City, said during a bill hearing at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday the impetus of the bill stemmed from voter demands for more transparency from school board members. 

If passed, House Bill 1182 would require candidates running for school boards to identify as Republican, Democrat or Independent on the ballot. 

More than a dozen school board members from districts across Indiana pushed back on the plan, however, arguing that such steps would needlessly further insert politics into local school decisions. 

Another bill that would affect Indiana schools was debated in the House Education Committee on Monday. The committee heard nearly four hours of testimony about a school bill aimed at providing more parental say and limiting what's taught in class.

House Bill 1134 is one of several bills written in response to debates over Critical Race Theory and the inclusion of diversity, equity and inclusion programs and social-emotional learning.

Part of the bill states educators can't "present any form of racial or sex-stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation."

RELATED: Read House Bill 1134

The bill would also allow parents to opt out of social-emotional learning activities, including surveys about their home life. The Indiana State Teachers Association warned that could prevent schools from identifying kids in need of help due to abuse at home or if they're experiencing thoughts of suicide.

Teachers also spoke out, arguing it may worsen the teacher shortage. The bill would require the online posting of all "educational activities and curricular materials." Current teachers said that will lead to hours of additional work. They said the same will happen if the bill makes it easier for parents to opt-out of certain activities, like reading some books.

The Education Committee will hear additional testimony about the bill on Wednesday. Lawmakers are also looking at Senate Bill 167 and House Bill 1040, which also cover curriculum transparency.

 

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