Legislation intended to stop the influence of Critical Race Theory in Indiana schools faltered in the Legislature, but Senate President Rodric Bray is vowing to get some of its ideas into other bills that are signed into law.
House Bill 1134 had been significantly amended in committee last week to remove language that prohibited schools from teaching that anyone is inherently racist or sexist based on their race or sex and no longer would have required that teachers post their curriculum online or required schools to form curriculum advisory committees that included parents.
It was passed over by the state Senate on Monday rather than being amended. Monday was the last day of the session for bills to go through the amendment process.
Bray, R-Martinsville, said Monday night. there wasn’t enough support for the legislation that failed to be brought to a vote. It still contained language that said schools could not teach that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is superior or inferior to any other or that any person should be treated adversely or preferentially because of them or made to feel “inherently responsible” for actions committed in the past by members of the same group.
The Senate’s changes won over the Indiana Principals Association, the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and the Indiana School Boards Association, whose representatives testified in favor of the bill in committee. But the Indiana State Teachers Association remained opposed.
On Monday, after the bill was declared “dead” – the union’s vice present, Jennifer Smith-Margraf, tweeted to members: “Your advocacy did this!”
Micah Clark, head of the Indiana Family Association, said he was tipped off the bill might be allowed to die, rather than getting a vote in the Senate.
“The Senate is gutless. They’re out of touch with their base, or Hoosier parents,” he said Monday night.
The Indiana Family Association supported the bill, even after it was significantly changed in the Senate. Clark says he still thinks it would have given parents something.
“The funny thing is that ISTA isn’t going to vote for them anyway,” he said. “There’s no upside for the senators on this. It’s just the cowardly way out.”
Other conservative groups had opposed the bill, saying it didn’t go far enough, and some individual conservatives thought it failed to address the main issues with the politicization of the school curriculum, while increasing the burden on all teachers.
“I’m happy,” candidate for State Representative Lorissa Sweet said on hearing that the bill was dead. “The way they were going about it was not the right way.”
Sweet, a conservative who’s challenging Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, in the Republican primary in May, said she'd supported S.B. 17, a bill introduced by Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville.
“I would have rather seen that go through and address these specific issues, rather than all that junk that went into 1134,” she said. “I don’t think it  was going to do what it was intending to do without bad consequences to teachers.”
Clark questioned that explanation, asking: “What good is a supermajority?”
Republicans hold 39 seats in the Indiana Senate, compared to 11 for Democrats.
“They could say they couldn’t pass this but put it up on the board to see who votes for it,” he said. “Are there really 14 Republicans who are going to side with the Democrats on this?”
HB 1134, as it passed out of the Senate education committee, said that upon request, parents must be able to view any learning material; that schools must be using a web-based learning management system by July 1, 2023 – a system to which parents have access in order to see class lessons; that parents can opt out of surveys done by outside companies that ask students questions about their attitudes, habits and behavior; and that parents be notified in writing and by phone before psychological or mental health services are administered to their children.
The bill was authored in the House by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, a former teacher, principal and superintendent from Hamilton County who said his goal was to try to find a “middle ground” where parents in the state can have more involvement in their children’s education.
The bill passed the House in late January, 60-37.
There were 25 amendments filed that were to be heard in the Senate on Monday if the bill had been considered – 23 of which were filed by Democrats.
The other two were filed by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger. One of them would have changed a section of the bill on surveys, saying instead of schools being required to have written permission from parents before administering surveys from an outside company about students' attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs or feelings, they would have only have to have offered parents the chance to opt out.