Pence signs board bill, other education legislation

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed education bills Thursday that will revamp the State Board of Education, speed up state intervention into failing schools and give teachers more flexibility to experiment in the classroom.

“The achievements of this legislative session highlight our commitment to high-quality education, and by passing bills that offer local options to innovate and improve, Indiana ensures that our focus remains on improving student outcomes,” Pence said in a written statement.

Three of the bills were on Pence’s legislative agenda, although he didn’t get the state board changes he was seeking.

Pence wanted to remove state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, from serving as the automatic chair of the state board immediately. But lawmakers put off that change until after her current term ends in 2016.

They also took two of the board’s 10 appointments away from Pence and gave them to legislative leaders instead.

Still, Pence declared the legislation a victory.

“This law represents a good-faith effort to reform the Indiana State Board of Education so it can better serve our students, parents, teachers, and administrators, and I am pleased to sign it into law,” Pence said.

He said the changes will “give our State Board of Education an opportunity for a fresh start as they serve our kids, our families, our teachers, and our schools.”

Pence also signed bills on his agenda that would:

— Provide school corporations with options to make improvements before the state intervenes.

— Accelerates the state intervention timeline for failing schools from six years to four years.

— Give teachers, principals, and superintendents more flexibility to create plans that would let them be free from state rules.

Pence also signed several education-related bills that weren’t on his agenda, including measures to create a dual-language immersion pilot program, require teachers to receive training related to dyslexia, and provide students with $500 if they are graduating with a post-secondary degree that is in a priority economic sector as defined by the state’s Department of Workforce Development.

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