Chesterton Tribune



Lawmakers considering changes in school tax referendum laws

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With the current Duneland Schools referendum set to expire in 2019, the Duneland School Board is watching what state lawmakers are proposing this year that would affect future referendums.

There are about 75 pieces of legislation moving through the Indiana Statehouse and Senate related to public school education, according to Duneland School Board member John Marshall who discussed six specific bills at Monday’s school board meeting.

Marshall is the board’s legislative liaison and delegate to the Indiana School Boards Association. Each meeting, he reports on proposed laws or actions by lawmakers that could affect Duneland Schools.

Two of the bills Marshall mentioned are aimed at school referendums, mainly about their time frame and when school districts can hold elections for them.

House Bill 1038, if passed as is, would decree that any referendum passed after June 30 this year may not impose a levy for more than eight years. The current limit is seven years like the one Duneland has now.

Marshall said an eight year limit would prevent school corporations from holding special elections in non-election years. One other thing the bill would do is allow schools to use their facilities to promote supporting a referendum, he said.

The other bill, HB 1043, deals with the referendum and remonstrance process.

Marshall said that if a referendum for a schools district should fail, the bill states that the district would have to wait 700 days, roughly two years, before it can be tried again instead of the current law which requires at least 350 days. However, HB 1043 says that if 500 residents or five percent of the voting population within the school district sign a petition within 15 days after the failed referendum, the 700-day limit would be shortened to 350 days.

In HB 1043 School Corporations would have to conduct at least two public hearings on a resolution for a referendum instead of one as under current law.

Marshall mentioned that the ISBA is in support of the bill.

Voters in the Duneland School Corporation passed a referendum in favor of increasing their property tax levy rate by 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2012. The referendum fund supplements the general fund and tax-levied funds impacted by the state tax caps and supports a variety of school programs.

Teacher evaluations

Marshall talked about four senate bills. SB 35, authored by Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, and Sen. Dennis Krause, R-Auburn, passed on first reading and deals with teacher evaluations. Marshall said that school corporations would be able to use “objective measures of student achievement” as part of their teacher evaluations. School corporations would be able to decide if student standardized test scores should be included in evaluations. Currently, test scores must be included in evaluations.

Marshall said the new Every Student Succeeds Act passed by the U.S. Congress allows states to decouple student performance matrices from teacher evaluations.

Cursive writing, report cards

SB 86 would require that school corporations and accredited non-public elementary schools include cursive handwriting in the teaching curriculum. Marshall said that ISBA believes that adding a cursive writing curriculum should be left up to individual school corporations.

Next, SB 87 would add that it be a requirement that each public school and accredited non-public school issue letter grades on report cards for grades 3 through 12. Some schools use the Likert Scale, some use teacher narratives and some use letter grades, Marshall said, and the ISBA believes it is better left to local schools to decide what kinds of report cards are used.

Marshall mentioned one last bill, SB 108, which would eliminate the need for the Indiana Department of Education to publish model compensation plans as well as eliminating the need for each school corporation to submit their local compensation plans to the department or publish local compensation plans on the DOE’s website.


All bills mentioned passed out of first reading but they can still be changed, even substantially, before they even get to the full floor in the House of Representatives or the Senate for a vote.

After they pass their respective houses, the other can make changes before their members vote on it.

“These bills as they go through different readings are going to have things added to them and stricken from them. I have never seen one of these bills come out exactly as it went in,” Marshall said. “And so, I will try to stay on top with at least these six.”

The deadline to file bills in the House was Jan. 10 and Jan. 12 in the Senate. The 2017 Legislative session is scheduled to conclude on April 27.



Posted 2/8/2017





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