Governor Holcomb signs several education bills into law

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed several education bills from this session into law Friday, including legislation allowing the state to take over the Muncie and Gary school districts and a bill setting parameters for an ISTEP replacement exam after June 2018.

The state takeover law will allow Indiana officials to appoint an emergency manager to assume broad control over the Gary and Muncie school districts, both of which have financial troubles. Holcomb said in a news conference earlier this week that the bill will “more than encourage” people to come together to get schools back on track.

“We have to get this right,” the Republican said Tuesday. “The kids ultimately are the ones that are caught in this crossfire.”

The ISTEP replacement bill, meanwhile, provides a framework for a future exam called ILEARN that is to make its debut after the upcoming school year. Much of the new test’s development is being left to the state Department of Education.

The law gives some added flexibility to school districts, which will be able to revise their plans and change how much ISTEP results factor into teacher evaluations.

Holcomb also signed an education omnibus bill Friday with two provisions that critics had argued would loosen accountability of voucher-accepting private schools.

Under the legislation, voucher-accepting private schools could appeal to the state school board for a delay in consequences after receiving D or F school grades for two years in a row under Indiana’s school grading system. Supporters point out that public and charter schools are able to make appeals.

That legislation also authorizes the board to consider allowing a private school in its first year to begin accepting voucher students, bypassing the previous time constraint. Opponents warn it could lead to a rapid expansion of schools that haven’t proven themselves.

There are 13 bills on the governor’s desk that he has yet to sign or veto, following Friday’s spate of signatures.

Those left include an alcohol measure that, among other things, would close a loophole found by Ricker’s convenience stores that enabled them to sell cold beer at two locations and a solar bill that would lower the current financial benefit to installing solar panels.

Holcomb has declined to comment on both.

So far he has vetoed one bill, which would have allowed government agencies to charge an hourly fee for public records requests that took more than two hours to complete. The Indiana Legislature can override a veto with a simple majority.