Legislature passes education, health bills

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana General Assembly did have a productive short session, legislators said.

“For short session, things went really well,” State Rep. Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, said. “It was a tight session, and there were so many big bills that some of the smaller bills did not get heard. But that’s just part of the process.”

Bartels and State Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, mentioned the education legislation that passed.

Houchin was especially pleased with the enactment of a bill that requires the Indiana Department of Education to provide students in grades 6 to 12 the same accommodations for standardized tests if those accommodations are included in the student’s Individualized Education Program, or 504 plan. The bill also creates a task force to study how students in third through fifth grades can have their accommodations in a way that doesn’t violate federal law.

“I filed this bill after learning that students with certain disabilities were prohibited by the Department of Education from using specific accommodations on some sections of our state’s standardized tests,” Houchin said in a prepared statement. “These accommodations are available to them in the classroom as part of their individualized education plans, or 504s, yet they were denied for standardized tests. This only serves to highlight these students’ disabilities instead of letting them demonstrate what they know.”

Legislators also passed legislation that keeps last year’s ILEARN scores from negatively impacting school accountability grades and teacher evaluations.

“Like many parents and educators, I support accountability,” Houchin said, “however, it must be done fairly and consistently. It would not achieve either to hold schools and teachers accountable for a new test that also didn’t provide special education students with needed testing accommodations.”

Legislation Bartels co-authored allows school corporations to have more control over how to conduct trainings for school teachers and staff.

“There’s so many mandates that we’ve put on them as far as training and all, and it’s beyond just educational stuff,” he said. “We wanted to pull that back some and say let’s let school corporations figure out how they want to train.”

So the state has provided suggestions and materials for the trainings, he said. “We just want to let the school system do what they need,” Bartels said.

The General Assembly also directed that an all-payer claims database be created. People will be able to use the database to compare health care costs and providers, which Houchin said provides people greater transparency.

“This legislation also allows employers to better access information about the cost of covered services when negotiating contracts for employees,” she said, “and requires hospitals to post average pricing for commonly provided services online for patient review. These are just a small part of our ongoing efforts aimed at driving down healthcare costs for Hoosiers.”

The session concluded Wednesday.




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