Indiana’s plan to ‘reinvent high school’ moves forward

A proposal to bring more job training to Indiana high school students moved forward Wednesday over the objections of Democratic lawmakers who said the bill still had too many unanswered questions about its scope and funding.

The bill, which House Republicans have said will “reinvent high school” by allowing students to meet graduation requirements through career experience, gives students state-funded scholarship accounts to spend on workforce training outside their schools.

The voucher-like proposal saw a few tweaks Wednesday as author Rep. Chuck Goodrich, R-Noblesville, added a price range of $2,500 to $5,000 to the accounts, to be determined by the Department of Education and the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.

New language also specifies that schools can host joint career fairs to meet the provisions of the bill, and requires all schools to offer a career awareness class for all students, regardless of whether they use the scholarship accounts, by July 2024.

The bill passed the House Education Committee by a vote of 8-4 and now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee, which will determine the cost of the program. If passed, accounts would be available for the 2023-24 school year, and the education department would be tasked with creating new diploma requirements by December 2024.

Though there was no testimony Wednesday, community organizations in past hearings have expressed support for more career development for students, along with reservations about the additional work the bill might create for schools.

Democrats on the education committee said the bill was moving forward with too many unanswered questions, including how the funding would be doled out between schools, students, career training providers, and any intermediaries between those entities.

They proposed a number of amendments to limit the scope of the bill—including one to make the proposal a pilot program in only a few schools around the state, and another to study the idea further in a summer committee—but most were shot down on party lines.

They also questioned whether the bill’s proposal to allow students to use funds from the 21st Century Scholarship Grant, which are currently earmarked for college tuition, for postsecondary career training would lead to fewer students from low-income families earning college degrees. Republicans on the committee denied this suggestion.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat, added that the scope of the bill was enormous, and would affect private schools and state agencies while creating a parallel education system.

“They talk about not being ready for prime time; this bill isn’t ready for soap opera time,” DeLaney said in the committee hearing.

The committee also rejected an amendment to provide more funding to school counseling departments, which DeLaney argued would be burdened with implementing the program.

The committee did accept an amendment from Democratic Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary to offer schools funding for career fairs.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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6 thoughts on “Indiana’s plan to ‘reinvent high school’ moves forward

    1. You sure it’s served us well the past 10 years? We can’t ignore that kids are changing. Doing the same thing as 30 years ago just doesn’t make sense. They need marketable skills, and that’s not always a college degree.

    2. Traditional high school does not fit every student. There are many students with technical aptitudes, challenges with traditional learning, and career interests that simply don’t fit into the traditional high school model. Forcing them into a one size fits all approach leads to dropouts, underperformance, and is a failure to the students that do not have the capability, interest or means to go to college.

      I have a son with a learning disability, and he would have thrived in workforce training program. Instead, he was forced through a curriculum that did not meet his needs and his self-esteem and general outlook on life suffered. I’ve met many students through youth groups that were left out because of the current one size fits all approach. Fortunately, my son went to Ivy Tech and flourished in a welding program. He now has a good paying job doing something that he enjoys and succeeds.

      Big employers are needed without question, but we also need the small employers that ultimately employ great numbers. A balanced economy needs skilled tradesmen like welders, electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs, carpenters, and a multitude of other skilled professions. It is narrow minded and lacks a realistic understanding of macroeconomics to assert that a college degree is required for all.

  1. Leave it to Indiana to focus on the final years of secondary education (when frankly a student who is still in school may not yet know what he or she wants to do when they grow up) instead of providing our kids with a program that is proven to make a huge difference in the education: Universal Pre-K.

    Why do our legislators keep ignoring this obvious route to a better ROI in education?

  2. 1. I have not read the proposal. 2. I’m sure it’s far from perfect. 3. When potential employers speak about Indiana, they talk about a ‘qualified workforce’ – these are skilled jobs but not necessarily college educated jobs – if the plan is to create a more skilled workforce at the high school level then I don’t think that is a bad thing – why pay for college if you don’t need it? 4. Ed Delaney should not go into stand-up comedy but he deserves a medal for living with Ann.