By Erika Brock
INDIANAPOLIS – A Senate committee on Wednesday debated freedom-to-teach legislation that is meant to give teachers more leadership opportunities while keeping them in the classroom.
House Bill 1009, authored by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, aims to put the best educators in front of more students by eliminating some rules for teachers who come up with innovative programs.
That could mean having larger class sizes or training other educators or any of a number of innovative programs.
Chad Timmerman, director of education policy for the governor, said the bill has three parts. It works at making schools more innovative at the local level, removing barriers to teachers, and retaining and attracting the best teachers.
“The governor believes that the best ideas come from teachers, principals and school counselors and other school leaders that live the profession, see the potential for improvement and develop plans for action,” said Timmerman.
The bill would also introduce a career pathway program that would allow teachers to take on more responsibility without taking on full administrative roles, ultimately keeping them in classrooms.
“Career Pathways would advance teacher leadership capitalizing on their achievement and increase student performance,” said Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee.
However, John Barnes, director of legislative affairs for the Department of Education, said the bill should be referred to as the “freedom from rules” and “freedom from collective bargaining” acts.
Barnes said that the bill would be impossible to administer and schools can already do most of the things in the bill.
He also said that if the bill passes, then a whole new legal entity would have to be created to hold these types of schools accountable for teacher evaluations, school grading and other issues.
But Timmerman said that the bill provides local schools and educators the opportunity to innovate and create the best possible learning environment available for students. It’s limitless potential, he said.
“Great teachers are the difference between a student falling through the cracks and achieving greatness,” said Justin Ohlemiller, the executive director for Stand for Children Indiana, a group that advocates for education reform.
The Senate Education and Career Development Committee could hear amendments and vote on the bill next week.
Erika Brock is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.