H.B. 1315 signed into law with secrecy language during special session

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As expected, H.B. 1315(ss) was passed and signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in the one-day special session Monday (May 14). The Republican super-majorities moved the legislation through both Houses in one-day with no testimony and no amendments. 

The bill contains language that HSPA testified against during the bill’s presentation to the Legislative Council, led by Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. 

H.B. 1315(ss) contains changes to how the Gary and Muncie school districts are operated by the state, which took over control of both districts. 

It also sets out guidelines for the Distressed Unit Advisory Board (DUAB) in determining what school districts are placed on a Watch List (in danger of state takeover) and steps that can be taken by DUAB to turn school districts around to avoid the Watch List – primarily through a corrective action plan created by the school board and DUAB. 

The bill’s author was Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville. The bill’s sponsor was Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen. 

For HSPA, it was disappointing that leadership moved forward with language that keeps it secret when: 

• DUAB reaches out to a school corporation to determine whether a corrective action plan is necessary; 

• DUAB determines a corrective action is necessary; 

• The corrective action plan is created and actions are taken to implement it; 

• DUAB modifies a district’s proposed corrective action plan; and 

• Requests are made by a school superintendent of DUAB to modify a corrective action plan. 

H.B. 1315(ss) makes public records concerning the process confidential and calls for DUAB and school boards to meet in secret during this process. 

While HSPA can understand how leadership may have felt its hands were tied to H.B. 1315 language based on the unusual one-day session, there has been no indication that leadership disagrees with a policy that the public should be denied the knowledge that DUAB has reached out or is working with its school district leadership. There’s been no indication that the level of secrecy found in H.B. 1315 is excessive and will be addressed in the 2019 session. 

The only rationale given for the secrecy is a stated fear that parents who learn their school district may have financial concerns that need to be addressed will simply move their students to another school district – exacerbating the financial situation and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

HSPA believes this policy sells Hoosier communities short – saying they can’t be trusted to act appropriately if given the knowledge that their school district is facing financial concerns. It doesn’t believe a community will rally around its school district to turn the financial picture around.