New legislation at the statehouse could soon require Indiana schools to obtain fingerprints for employee background checks. Critics said it won’t improve safety, but it will cost more, and hurt Indiana small businesses.
More than half of the schools in Indiana currently use a small Danville company called Safe Hiring Solutions for their employee background checks. The small company of roughly 20 employees, searches a variety of local and national databases using names and personal information.
After nine years in business, CEO and founder Mike McCarty said his company has gained the trust of the state’s biggest school corporations, but now he says a bill pending in the state legislature could put an end to everything.
“It’s going to kill our business,” McCarty said. “I mean schools in Indiana are our primary business. I have 20 employees and they’re well aware of how this is going to impact them. It’s going to kill jobs. That’s an absolute. There’s no way around it.”
“I’m not trying to put them out of business,” said Senator Tom Wyss, R-District 15.
What Senator Wyss is trying to do is pass a bill that hold schools to the same standards of several state and federal agencies by using the FBI’s national fingerprint search. It’s a service that is only offered through Indiana State Police.
“The only way that you can be 100 percent sure is to have a fingerprint,” Wyss said.
But after lengthy testimony at the Capitol, which included input from State Police, some of Wyss’ fellow Republicans disagree.
“I’d be highly in favor of that finger print check if it was better, but there’s nothing at all, no research at all, to show that’s the better type of check,” said Representative Jeff Thompson, R-District 28.
Representative Thompson supports an amended bill that would give schools the option to go throughout the state or use private companies that meet a set of standards.
“If we would only allow the State Police to do it, it’s about 100 jobs statewide that are at stake,” Thompson said. “The question becomes, should government be doing something that the private sector can do with just as good as results, I’d argue maybe even better results, maybe more extensive results that are better for school corporations?”
“I certainly can tell you that we’re not inferior in how we do this, and so our argument is that if we’ve been doing this for a long time, we’ve done more than 300,000 background checks, there’s been no issues that are driving this,” McCarty said. “Why are we being excluded from this process?”
A number of schools have asked the same question, and aired concerns about the bill in letters to their legislators.
“House Bill 1160 will make protecting our children more difficult and eliminate a very trusted partner,” wrote Dr. Jim Snapp, Superintendent of Brownsburg Community School Corp.
“A state managed and mandated system, which does not meet our stated standards, is ineffective, redundant, and cost prohibitive,” wrote Margaret Hoernemann, Ph.D. Superintendent of Avon Community School Corp.
“If a school system wants to do all of the other things more power to them but they have to do a fingerprint. That’s my minimum,” said Wyss.
But that minimum will cost schools more. A fingerprint check costs roughly $45 while private companies charge between $28-33. Schools usually pass the cost on to employees, but as Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. Superintendent Brett Boggs wrote, “The increased fee for the state background checks would also place an added burden on many of our classified employees.”
“Schools are not going to do anything on top of what they’re required to do because the cost is going to be prohibitive,” McCarty said.
“If a school wants to argue that this is too much money, I’d like them to tell that to a parent who’s child was, something happened to one of their children because they did not have exactly who that individual was,” said Senator Wyss.
About 90 percent of Indiana schools currently use private companies instead of the state for their background checks.
The Senate could soon take up the bill requiring the fingerprint checks, while the House could take up the amended version, which gives schools an option.