General Assembly Receives Mixed Report Card From Indiana’s Schools Chief


By Quinn Fitzgerald

INDIANAPOLIS ­–Indiana’s state superintendent of public instruction on Monday gave the General Assembly mixed reviews over what was accomplished for education in the 2018 legislative session.

Dr. Jennifer McCormick said she was excited to see the success of Senate Enrolled Act 177, which establishes one Indiana diploma, and Senate Enrolled Act 135, which requires the Department of Child Services to notify schools if a child is removed from the home. SEA 135 was signed into law Friday.

One bill McCormick said she wished more had been done with the school safety bill, House Bill 1230, which was on the agenda when the clock ran out on the session.

McCormick said HB 1230 was a complicated bill for the department and had parts they didn’t like, such a provision to increase audits of safety plans for every school. The state was planning to give IDOE $1 million to conduct the audits. McCormick said this would be a waste of money because the system is already working.

“We do about 60 audits a year because of our capacity but it’s going in and making sure we’re pretty much-doing spot checks,” she said. “We think that audit would be a huge lift, and we’re not sure there would be a big benefit to that.”

Instead, she would like to see the money spent on vetted resources and equipment for schools that need it. She did, however, like the idea to give schools an additional $5 million and was disappointed the bill died in session. That might be revived in the special session that Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Monday.

“That would have been big,” she said. “This year was the first year that we had several districts that were denied, or schools that were denied, funding. Those are typically matching grants up to $50,000, but that’s your max amount depending on the size of the school that’s applying.”

“We were hoping to get some of that money to help offset some of the costs that our schools are telling they need for safety.”

In reaction to the February shooting in Parkland, Fla., McCormick released a statement urging the General Assembly to address school safety.

House Bill 1315 was another bill that died on the last day of the session. If passed, the bill would have allowed the state to appoint emergency managers and replace elected school boards with appointed advisory committees in districts in financial distress. Muncie and Gary’s schools were targeted for falling into financial difficulty.

“There were parts of 1315 that we supported,” McCormick said. “I’m worried about the $10 million that was in the bill that now, obviously, didn’t get through. I’m very concerned about that fiscal piece. They needed that. Even if they stay under an emergency manager, they’re going to have to have fiscal help.”

Monday, Holcomb outlined five points he wants lawmakers to cover during a special session in May which includes working on a $12 million loan for Muncie schools.

In his 2018 agenda, Holcomb wanted every Indiana school to offer at least one computer science course by 2021. Senate Enrolled Act 172, which is waiting for Holcomb’s signature, meets that goal.

At the beginning of the session, McCormick said while she supports computer science, she did not want it to be a requirement for graduation. The bill requires grades K-8 schools to incorporate it into their curriculum but for grades 9-12 to make it an elective.

Despite the number of changes schools will have to undergo with all of the school-related legislation that has passed, McCormick said she has faith in them and IDOE will be helping them as they adjust.

“There are a lot of unknowns, but I go back to our districts have typically in the past just get it done. We’ve stayed focused on kids. That’s the charge of Indiana educators,” McCormick said.

FOOTNOTE: Quinn Fitzgerald is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The City-County Observer is a media partner of THE STATEhouseFile .com

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