Behning: An update on the legislative session

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, March 10, 2017 8:31 am

The General Assembly recently passed the halfway point in the 2017 legislative session. The House of Representatives passed 164 bills that are now being considered by the Senate, while the House is considering 199 Senate bills. I want to keep our community updated on some of the bills making their way through the legislative process.

This year, the only bill we are required to pass is the state’s biennial budget. House Republicans crafted and supported an honest and fiscally responsible budget, which keeps Indiana operating within its means and fosters an economy that continues to bring business to our state. I’m proud to say that the budget we drafted provides a funding increase for K-12 education. While only 57 percent of K-12 education spending in Indiana makes its way to the classroom, hopefully this increase will drive more resources toward providing direct instructional support to Hoosier students.

Additionally, the House passed a long-term and sustainable road funding plan. This data-driven plan is a well-researched solution for our current and future road funding needs. We want to ensure that Hoosiers have well-maintained roads and bridges throughout the state.

As the chair of the House Committee on Education, I have focused a lot of effort on bills concerning our students and educators. I authored legislation that would establish a replacement for the troubled ISTEP exam, called I-LEARN or Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network. If enacted, this testing system would consider the needs of Hoosier students, parents and educators. The new test would be more user-friendly and taken during a single testing window toward the end of the school year. I-LEARN would address and remedy the problems that were present in ISTEP. It would provide faster grading turn around and a better measurement of individual growth toward our college- and career-ready standards. Hoosier educators would also have the opportunity to grade portions of the exams.

A responsible expansion of our pre-K pilot program advanced out of the House as well. Our current On My Way Pre-K pilot program provides pre-K to low-income children in five Indiana counties. With this legislation, I hope to bring high-quality early childhood education opportunities to five more counties. This program, available to low-income children, would help bridge the achievement gap and better prepare these students to enter kindergarten.

The House also supported improving workforce development throughout the state. By 2022, there will be nearly 1 million additional jobs that need to be filled in Indiana. In order to compete globally and be prepared to fill these jobs, our state must continue to grow a highly skilled workforce. We passed legislation which would establish Workforce Ready Grants for Hoosiers pursuing high-value certificates. These grants would cover any remaining costs after state and federal financial aid for students pursuing a job in a high-demand, high-wage field. Additionally, this proposal would encourage non-traditional students to return to school and finish their degrees with the Adult Student Grant. Together, these measures will help keep Indiana competitive in the global job market. The more skilled Hoosiers are, the more likely businesses will come to Indiana, stay and expand.

Moving forward, there is still a lot of action taking place at the Statehouse, and there are still many decisions to be made. We anticipate session will end by April 22. Bills can be followed through the legislative process online by visiting iga.in.gov. I encourage anyone in our community to sign-up for my e-newsletters to receive updates on what lawmakers are working on at the Statehouse at www.in.gov/h91. You can also contact me with any questions at 317-232-9643 or h91@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

Behning serves as the chair of the House Committee on Education.

A high-resolution photo of Behning can be downloaded by clicking here