Senate committee debates new technical high school degree

By John Sittler

INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosier high school students could gain a new type of technical degree under legislation the Senate Education Committee debated Wednesday.

Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, authored House Bill 1213, which would require the Indiana Works Council to develop a career and technical education diploma – called the CTE.

She said students don’t learn the needed technical reading, writing, math and communication skills under the current Core 40 curriculum, which is the baseis for the all current diplomas.

McNamara said this is the “perfect opportunity” to teach the skill sets “students want to learn, and need to learn.”

She said a CTE diploma would make Indiana an innovator in education and “once you have an educated workforce, there’s no stopping us.”

Jarred Howard, an assistant principal at Forest Park High School, said the enormous change in the workforce calls for an enormous change in how Hoosiers view education.

“CEOs have said they don’t care if a student has algebra 2 or chemistry,” he said. “They want skilled workers.”

McNamara called her proposal “the biggest job creation bill in the state.”

Sam Snideman, a senior policy analyst at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, said any new diploma should “have a level of rigor that meets Core 40,” but that the agency neither supports nor opposes the idea at this point.

Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said he supports the bill not only as a legislator, but as a classroom teacher.

“Core 40 was a wonderful concept, but it doesn’t fit every kid’s needs,” he said.

Battles said the CTE diploma will only be as good as the study committee makes it, but he said “we have to start looking at multiple diploma tracks that will fit their needs.”

Derek Redelman, vice president of Education and Workforce Development at the Indiana Chamber, opposed the bill because he said “students who go through this path will not have the skills to succeed” without Core 40.

John Barnes, a spokesman for Superintendent Glenda Ritz, said the issue needs “ a whole lot of dialogue.”

Barnes said a “lower” diploma would move Indiana in the wrong direction, and not allow students to later choose to go to a 4 year university.

In the bill’s current state, “we don’t see it solving the problem,” he said.

That infuriated McNamara who said calling a CTE diploma a lower track is insulting to kids, educators and our workforce.

She said she has a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and is working on her doctorate but that she can’t fix her car, her air conditioner or her computer.

“In no way, shape or form are these skills lower,” McNamara said.

McNamara said, as an educator, she knows Core 40 and it doesn’t work.

“I’m not dumbing down the curriculum,” McNamara said. “In fact, I’m bringing it up.”

The bill will be available for amendment and vote next week.

John Sittler is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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