INDIANAPOLIS — A controversial Indiana House bill that would require school districts to allow students to take specialized courses online at the district’s expense is on the Gov.l Eric Holcomb's desk awaiting his signature.
Although many Madison County educators are against it, state Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, said House Bill 1007 will level the playing field for students — especially those in more rural areas — who want to take courses such as advanced physics and calculus or seek industry certifications without leaving their districts.
“Students shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to experience quality and specialty classes because of their geographical setting or lack of teacher access,” he said in a prepared statement. “I want to give students and their families more choices that would benefit students in pursuing their dreams and ambitions.”
He said it’s a win-win for the students, who are able to get the courses they want and need, and for districts who don’t risk losing their own students to others with wider offerings.
The program also would help those between the ages of 23 and 36 who hope to enter the military but have not yet earned a high school diploma or GED. They would be able to take the courses they need at their own expense.
The bill also grants the Indiana Department of Education the power to create a Course Action Program that will catalog the specialty classes. The department also will be responsible for negotiating fees with providers and overseeing the success of the programs.
However, Madison County superintendents, district administrators and union officials have spoken against the bill. Among their concerns are whether the coursework will meet district standards, which in some instances exceeds those of the state; the need for controls to ensure that students enrolling in courses are actually the people completing it; and existing contractual obligations between districts and third-party vendors.
Local superintendents said their districts already provide courses for students who fall behind in their credits. Students also often are allowed to take online courses on a case-by-case basis if they are parenting or pregnant, they said.