Herald Anderson’s Bulletin
The so-called “divisive concepts” bill may finally be dead.
Indiana Senate leaders faced a deadline Monday to introduce House Bill 1134 for amendments, and they failed to do so, killing the measure for the current legislative session.
The Indiana House and Senate now have two weeks to resolve disagreements in various conference committees over bills that have been passed by the two houses in different forms. Because the language of “divisive concepts” passed in the House 60-37, it could possibly find new life in another education bill before the end of the session.
News of the bill’s possible demise came after hours of closed-door Senate Republicans meeting.
Even though the party has a supermajority in both houses of the General Assembly, Senate Pro Tempore President Rodric Bray said the measure did not have enough support to pass.
Senate Republicans were broadly divided into two camps. One camp believed that the watered down version of the bill approved by a Senate committee did not go far enough. The other side thought it had gone too far.
Bill limiting what teachers can say in the classroom about race, gender and religion had drawn heavy criticism from teachers, administrators, civil rights groups, black community organizations and religious community leaders.
The bill had emerged from a nationwide movement of mostly white suburban parents angry at what they thought their children were learning in school. In its original form, the bill was intended to give parents greater access to teachers’ lesson plans and more power to object to material they found disturbing.
The measure passed the House last month mostly by party, but it had changed significantly in the Senate. The list of “dividing concepts” banned in classrooms was reduced from eight to three, and provisions allowing parents to sue schools for what teachers said in class were removed.
Critics called the bill a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, and they warned it would make the state’s teacher shortage worse by driving qualified people out of the profession.
It was actually the second time such a bill was killed in the Senate this session.
A similar bill died after one of its sponsors, Senator Scott Baldwin of Noblesville, sparked national outrage when he said the measure would require teachers to be neutral in their teaching on all subjects, including Nazism, Marxism and Fascism. Later, he went back on his remarks, but the damage was done. The bill never left the committee.
Monday’s news is worth celebrating, but it’s too early to relax. It was a bad bill that should never have been so close to being passed. It will not be truly dead until the last blow of the gavel which will close this session of the General Assembly.
Opponents must remain vigilant.
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