Lawmakers Weigh New School Coalition Pilot Program

Feb 19, 2018

Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) speaks in the Indiana House.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

School coalitions could become a new feature of the state's education system, as lawmakers consider another pilot program to better prepare students for life after high school.

The bill making its way through the general assembly would allow some school corporations to form a sort of mega think-tank, or coalition. A big focus would be on offering more, better workplace learning programs, but would also include paths for students to earn higher education credits.

A key piece of the bill says coalition school corporations would be allowed to waive some state requirements – including things like the amount of time students spend in certain classes – to make that happen.

Batesville Community Schools is credited as the model for the bill; it already has a program in place for students to get manufacturing experience and earn higher education credits.

Superintendent Paul Ketcham says more flexibility with state mandates would allow even more schools to find what works, and apply it in other schools.

"So that's the concept: it's a think-tank that becomes a do-tank," Ketcham says.

House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning authored the bill, and shares a similar vision for how the coalition would function. Ideally, he says, it would include a range of different schools: big, small, rural and urban.

"The goal is to provide the flexibility and they come together once a month to try to talk about best practices and see how they can take best practices from one and modify it."

Up to eight school corporations would be able to participate in the coalition pilot program, and proposals from the coalition to waive any state requirements would need approval from the State Board of Education. Behning also says schools would still be responsible for meeting accountability standards, and preparing students for required testing.

The Senate Education and Career Development Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill this week.