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It’s back-to-school—with a few legislative changes

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With students back in their classrooms here in House District 32, it's a great time to review the new education policies passed by the General Assembly this year.

This session, the legislature implemented the “science of reading” into schools’ curriculum. This method of teaching literacy is based on 50 years of neurological research and gives students the skills necessary to figure out essentially any unrecognized word. In this method, reading is broken down into five main categories: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The policy makes this strategy universal across Indiana schools, requires higher education to teach future educators how to use this method and provides current teachers resources to begin teaching this way. If we want our students to be successful in and out of the classroom, it is crucial that we provide them with the best methods possible for early reading skills. 

Throughout the pandemic, we were reminded that school offers children more than a standard education; it is also a space where children learn social skills and build relationships. Unfortunately, bullying occurs far too often in school and can pose serious risks to our children. Now, schools have narrower discipline and reporting requirements for instances of bullying. This helps protect the mental health of our children and reduces the risk of suicide. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among school-aged youth. Therefore, school administrators, staff and faculty should be key players in carrying out suicide prevention strategies for school-aged youth. 

Part of the newly passed budget allows families to not be charged for their child’s textbooks and other curricular materials, including iPads and laptops. While this policy is a big help to families with school-aged youth, public schools are still on the hook and expected to dip into their already dwindling base funding to cover the costs since a per-student dollar amount has not been determined. This is a budgetary shortcoming I was vocal about and voted against this past legislative session.

Speaking of budgetary shortcomings, the latest biennium budget and education policies are undermining the success of our prized public education system moving forward. This school year, Carmel Clay Schools and Hamilton Southeastern Schools are not receiving the historic amounts of funding they’re accustomed to receiving and are at risk for competing against charter schools, many of which were brought into our community from national interest groups. Both CCS and HSE have a storied history of student successes and deserve adequate funding that will allow teachers and school staff to help guide their students to academic achievement.

I voted against the final budget because these policies will chip away at our great schools’ ability to build positive futures for our kids. In the wee hours of the final night of the legislative session, several new versions of the budget were introduced to account for charters and vouchers draining our public schools,  and I listened to our local superintendents when they told me that this funding wasn’t enough to deliver for our children.

I hope all of the children and families in our district have a great start to the new school year, and I look forward to continuing my work to strengthen our public schools and give our children the best academic opportunities we can provide. I’m eager to hear from families and educators about their needs, concerns and goals moving forward.

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