Over the past year there have been many discussions and debates, both statewide and nationally, on two major issues affecting children and our schools: bullying and the cost of higher education. This session we were able to take steps toward studying these issues more closely and how we can improve our education systems for all Hoosier children.
The first issue, bullying, has come into the national spotlight over the last several years. It is an issue that affects many children daily and one that all schools, as well as parents, must address and continue to work to improve.
With the creation of new social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, and technology ever-changing, cyber bullying instances have increased. With that in mind, it is unclear in our current laws if schools can step in and punish students for using technology to bully another. Especially if the situation happens outside of school and not using school property.
The General Assembly has taken action by creating a 14 member study commission that will include eight state legislators, five lay members and an individual designated by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Studying this issue will help our state legislature determine how we can proceed on this issue while also balancing the concerns that have been raised by civil rights groups. Bullying of any kind cannot be tolerated in our schools, and we want to ensure our children are protected.
The second major issue, the increasing cost of higher education, was also addressed this year by the General Assembly. In the past, the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) has only had the authority to approve new programs at our state colleges and universities. However, as of July 1, they will also have the authority to terminate programs at state educational institutions.
All state colleges and universities will now have to review their degree programs if they take more than 60 credit hours to receive an associate degree or more than 120 credit hours to receive a bachelor’s degree. The schools will be required to provide a report of the results and then provide justifications for any additional credit requirements to the CHE.
By giving CHE the authority to terminate unjustified credit hours we can cut costs for taxpayers and students alike. Also, staying away from ‘credit creep’ will help Indiana’s college completion rates to improve.
Both of these issues play a major role in our children’s education and future. Children that feel safe will be in a better learning environment. In addition, our older children will be more likely to go to college if they feel it is affordable. There is still work to be done, but both of these pieces of legislation are major steps in the right direction and I look forward to the positive effect it will have on Hoosier children and our state in the future.