By Jasmine Otam
ISTEP could be headed for the history books.
House Bill 1395, authored by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, passed both the House and Senate Thursday.
The legislation would eliminate the ISTEP test and instead create a panel of 23 people to study the issue, including educators and legislators.
Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, addresses the House ahead of the vote on the bill that would provide funding to improve Indiana’s roads. Photo by Aubrey Helms, TheStatehouseFile.com
The panel would be tasked with studying how schools measure the accountability system and teacher evaluations. They would also be asked to recommend alternatives to ISTEP.
Rep. Terri Austin, a Democrat from Anderson and a co-author of HB 1395, choked back tears as she explained her frustrations with the Senate’s changes to the legislation. The minority caucus, in both the House and Senate, are not allowed to appoint panel members.
“The changes that were made are substantial, but more importantly it is a slap in the face to the minority caucus,” said Austin.
“I’d much rather have the opportunity to work alongside Rep. Behning than to have to play a game of catch up in the next legislative session because our input’s not valued,” Austin said while addressing the full House.
She wasn’t the only one that spoke against the exclusion of the minority caucus.
“The truth is you’ve got this committee stacked where three-quarters of the appointed come from the people who contributed to creating the train wreck that we’re trying to clean up,” said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Indianapolis.
Behning said Senate members were unwilling to negotiate the changes made.
“Don’t hide behind the ‘Senate made me do it’ argument,” said Pierce. “If you really wanted a balanced committee that had input from representatives of all the people—minority or majority—you would’ve told those people across the hall you’re not going to put up with it.”
Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, made a public commitment, after Pierce’s comments, and said he would consult with House Minority Leader, Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, before making his appointments.
The bill no longer includes the task of hiring a third party vendor to rescore the 2015 ISTEP tests, which some members worried would be too costly for taxpayers.
HB 1395 is now headed to the governor for consideration. If this bill becomes law, the 2016-2017 school year would be the last year Hoosier students would take ISTEP.
Jasmine Otam is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.