[r79] Education Reform and Statewide Smoking Ban Examined (1/26/2011)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Start Date: 1/26/2011 All Day
End Date: 1/26/2011
Education Reform
What a difference nineteen new legislators can make.  I have mentioned before that over the last two years as a freshman minority house member, there was not ample opportunity to be a part of legislation. As we near the end of the first month, already some major legislation is moving through the house. I have had several of my bills heard in committee, and this week I had my first bill passed.  It is an insurance related bill that corrects some technical errors and creates some streamlines in the market but as to prevent me from lulling you to sleep, I'll stop there. The House moved forward on two important pieces of legislation this week as that will be my focus: charter schools and a statewide smoking ban.

I have had many people e-mail me or come up to me to express their opposition to charter schools, but on most occasions when I ask them why they oppose charter schools their response is, "Well, first tell me what a charter school is!"  In a nutshell, a charter school is a public school that operates under a contract or charter.  In Indiana, there are roughly 60 charter schools with a large portion chartered by Ball State University or the mayor of Indianapolis, Gregory Ballard.  These schools offer parents and students an alternative to their local public school and are generally subject specific.

Currently, charter schools receive public funding for educational operations but do not receive funding for transportation or capital projects. Charter schools operate under the supervision of the Indiana Department of Education but are not subject to all the rules and administrative regulations that public schools must follow. Charter schools are providing many Hoosier students with an excellent alternative to the traditional public school.  I know District 79 has many excellent schools and superb teachers. My support for charter schools, in particular House Bill 1002, is not driven by an aversion to public schools.  The charters that I have toured offered a wonderful alternative for their geographical area of the state.  For more information regarding charter schools I encourage you to visit www.doe.in.gov.

House Bill 1002 makes some significant changes to charter schools:
1. It expands who can charter a school, enabling other universities to become sponsors,
2. Creates uniform and consistent transfer of credits for a student entering or leaving a charter school,
3. Allows for charters to lease or purchase unused school buildings,
4. Increases the accountability in the areas of academic growth, financial performance, board performance and stewardship to their charters, and
5. Establishes a statewide sponsor of charter schools - the Charter School Board (CSB).
Those are the major components of the bill, but I would strongly encourage you to click the icon below to read more about House Bill 1002.

Statewide Smoking Ban
The statewide smoking ban is a  misnomer because after the bill withstands the legislative process there will be 'necessary' exemptions for various establishments. I am not a smoker, but as long as tobacco is a legal product, a business owner has a right to allow it in his or her establishment. My family and I enjoy an occasional night out, but we seldom, if ever, eat at an establishment that permits smoking.  This is a personal preference that is shared by 80% of Hoosiers. This accounts for an overwhelming majority of people deciding where to hang out with friends, where to eat, what event to attend, etc. based on the facility's smoking policy.  This is a significant population of Hoosiers that control a considerable amount of buying power.

I would encourage all of you to voice your opinion to your local establishments so they can better serve their consumer base. If the owner wants to cater to 20% of the public, they should have that right.  I will keep you updated on the bill's progress as it will be voted on later this week.