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4/8/2017 12:57:00 PM
Indiana high schools would be required to offer ethnic studies

Scott L. Miley, Herald Bulletin CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — High schools would be required to offer an elective course in the study of ethnic and racial groups under a bill that received unanimous support in the Indiana House on Thursday.

The course has been presented to the General Assembly in years past but was heard in committee this session and received support for passage.

The bill is “another good tool in addressing the achievement gap,” said Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis.

The course could inspire minority students, supporters said.

“Studies show that kids of color, minorities, when they see more people like them being represented in books, it gives them the ability to aspire to be successful,” said Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, House sponsor of the bill.

Schools currently have the option to offer the course. The bill would affect 384 of the state’s 401 high schools. In 2016, 17 high schools reported a total enrollment of 311 students in ethnic studies.

An initial report suggested that, due to lower enrollment in ethnic studies, some history teachers could be used to teach the course.

Senate Bill 337 passed the Senate in February.

Earlier in the session, the Legislature passed a similar bill requiring an elective course in Indiana history in high schools. In 2016, 11 high schools had 159 students enrolled in Indiana studies.

One legislator, however, questioned the amount of bills requiring elective courses be added to school curriculum.

“I’m not against the subject matter at all but what I’m just struggling with is how far do we continue to go,” said Rep. Jack Jordan, R-Bremen. He voted in support of the bill Thursday.

Both bills face signing into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

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