Cook: Supporting Hoosier students, teachers and schools with your help

Posted by: Andi Sommers  | Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Lawmakers rely on input from constituents to best serve their communities and ensure Indiana remains a place where Hoosiers want to live, work and play. Many times when someone reaches out to me with an issue, we can work together to find a solution. Sometimes a constituent issue leads me to craft a bill for the General Assembly to consider for a potential new law. This session, I worked on multiple education-related bills, which would not have been possible without input from community members and local school leaders.

Education continues to be a top priority for Hoosier families, educators and lawmakers. To help Hoosier parents remain informed about their student's academics, I authored House Enrolled Act 1514 requiring schools to publish performance success data on the Indiana Department of Education's website. Whether it's AP exam results, ILEARN scores or information on other yearly student assessments, posting this school-wide data online can help better pinpoint areas needing improvement, and highlight strengths of the school and its students. Because we took steps to increase transparency, consequences for schools that do not meet expectations under the state's accountability system will be eliminated, and costly state takeovers of schools that receive failing accountability grades from the Indiana Department of Education will also end under this new law. Due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and schools are also being held harmless from ILEARN test results for this school year. This new law came out of in-depth discussions with local school leaders who expressed a desire to revisit our state's school accountability system and provide them with the tools they need to continue preparing young Hoosiers for the future.

Another way Indiana is molding students for the workforce is by empowering families to customize their child's educational experience by enrolling them in courses that may not be offered in their local school district. For example, if a student wanted to take AP chemistry, but it was not offered at their assigned school, they could turn to a nearby school to to take that single class. A bill I authored in 2017 established the Indiana Course Access Program, but after talking with our rural school leaders, very few students and schools were taking advantage of this opportunity. To help promote this program, I authored House Enrolled Act 1438 this session, directing the Indiana Department of Education to administer the program to help incentivize more young Hoosiers to consider this option. Our hope is that this change will give more families the opportunity to tailor their students' education to their children's needs no matter their zip code.

I believe it's critical for more young Hoosiers to learn how to be civically engaged in their communities. I authored House Enrolled Act 1384 to require students to take a semester-long civics education course in middle school. While students typically take a government class during their senior year, it is never too soon to start educating students about this important topic. It's alarming that roughly 23% of adults in the United States cannot name a single branch of government, and we need to do more to ensure our young Hoosiers have a basic understanding of government and how it functions before they move on from their K-12 education. This legislation came from a recommendation from the Civics Education Task Force that I served on alongside other lawmakers, educators, state and business leaders, and was led by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.

These are just a few of the legislative proposals I authored or sponsored from this past session that became law. Many of these new laws came out of direct consultation with community leaders and constituents. The General Assembly is now in recess for the summer, but lawmakers are always looking for ideas on how we can better serve Hoosiers across our great state. If you have any input to offer, please do not hesitate to contact my office at H32@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County

and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.