Legislative Update: Eyes on the Prize: Black History Month Edition

This week marked the start of Black History Month, so we’re taking our cue from some of the most memorable pearls of wisdom Black Americans gave through the ages—words to live—and, perhaps, to legislate—by. Read on for this week’s Indy Chamber legislative update: Black History Month edition. 

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”—Tim Notke via Kevin Durant 

NBA phenom Kevin Durant popularized this saying, allegedly coined by American high school basketball coach Tim Notke. We heartily agree with the notion of a symbiotic relationship between talent and hard work. Attracting and developing talent remains the Indy Chamber’s top economic development priority for the Indy Region. Thankfully, some of our partners at the Indiana General Assembly have joined in the hard work of that endeavor.  

Most notable this past week was Senator Linda Rogers, lead author of SB1 and SB6, both of which are aimed at shoring up the state’s dismal reading scores. While SB1 has garnered attention for retaining third graders who don’t pass IREAD, it’s been substantially amended to ensure a positive impact on students’ progress. For starters, SB1 requires schools to administer IREAD to second graders beginning this fall to detect students who are at risk of not being reading proficient by third grade. It requires schools to offer summer school courses for those students and expands funding eligibility for summer school courses to be taught by a teacher trained in the science of reading pedagogy. 

New this week was an amendment proposed by Senator J.D. Ford and supported by Rogers, to have in place an appeals process for students tapped for retention if the parents believe one of the state’s exemptions should apply. Another successful amendment offered by Ford’s fellow Democrat Senator Shelli Yoder ensures Hoosier parents and guardians are part of any process mandating a student’s retention in the third grade. Rogers herself authored a third successful amendment to SB1 requiring schools to provide individual reading plans based upon the science of reading to students who do not pass IREAD in second or third grade and who don’t attend summer school.  

As evidenced by testimony before the committee this week, a strict student retention policy is not without potential harms. That being said, Indiana must do something to address the state’s dismal reading scores, and we believe the amendments adopted by the committee this week will result in more students getting the help they need before retention becomes necessary. SB1 passed out of the Senate yesterday, and we will continue tracking its progress as it moves to the House.  

Also passing out of the Senate this week was Rogers’ other reading-related bill, SB6. SB6 tasks Indiana’s Department of Education with developing a methodology for schools to identify students in grades four through eight who haven’t passed the state’s reading exams and are at risk of not becoming proficient readers and develops guidance for schools in supporting students at risk of not being proficient in reading. Given its unanimous passage out of the Senate, we expect SB6 to move smoothly through the House in the second half of Session. 

“I've heard of nothing coming from nothing, but I've never heard of absolutely nothing coming from hard work.”—Uzo Aduba 

Before she won an Emmy for her 2020 portrayal in Mrs. America, actress Uzo Aduba’s work on Orange is the New Black had already made her one of only two actors ever to win an Emmy Award in both the comedy and drama categories for the same role. Key takeaway: the woman knows about hard work.  

Like Aduba, Hoosiers are hardworking people—if that is, they can access the childcare they need to be able to participate in our workforce. Accessible, high-quality childcare for Hoosiers is key to keeping Indiana’s talent in the talent pool, which is why the Indy Chamber team has been supporting SB2 since the 2024 session began. Senator Charbonneau’s bill requires the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to create a dashboard, updated monthly, on childcare subsidies available to Indiana residents and lowers age requirements for certain childcare jobs. We believe SB2 is a common-sense approach to filling the precipitous gap in childcare experienced by many of our state’s parents, and we were glad to see the bill pass out of the Senate on a near-unanimous vote this week. We expect SB2 to continue rolling as it moves to the House for the second half. 

“It isn’t where you come from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”—Ella Fitzgerald

We’re pretty sure Ella Fitzgerald wasn’t referencing work-based learning when she uttered these memorable words, but we think they apply. After all, the learning that comes through work is how many of us figure out where we’re going. That’s one reason the Indy Chamber continues to support a raft of work-based learning bills being considered by members of the Indiana General Assembly this session, including HB1001 and HB1380

As we’ve noted in the update before, HB 1001 proposes allowing recipients of a higher education award, freedom of choice grant, or 21st Century Scholarship to apply them to the cost of training by an approved intermediary, employer, or labor organization. HB1380 requires the state’s secretary of education to develop a plan for a pilot program concerning student transportation to off-site jobs, as well as other provisions helping to enhance collaboration for innovation network schools across the state.   

Both bills passed out of the House this week. While we continue to have revisions on a handful of provisions they contain, work-based learning remains one of our highest priorities, and we applaud legislators for considering options to make it a reality in our state. The Indy Chamber team views college and work-based learning as compatible, complementary, and permeable paths and looks forward to additional dialogue on these bills as they move to the Senate. 

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

If this quote doesn’t seem to relate to recent happenings at the Statehouse, substitute “bus” for “boat” and see if it strikes you differently. 

Planes, trains, buses, boats—Dr. King’s point, which we’re echoing here—is that we’re all in this together. The sooner one comes to that realization, the sooner one realizes that life, like governing, is not and should not be a zero-sum game. Laws and policies that negatively affect some of us will, in fact, negatively impact all of us in the end.   

We’re referring, of course, to this past week’s vote by the Indiana House to repeal the authorizing legislation for the Mile Square Economic Enhancement District (EED) and by the Senate to block the construction of IndyGo’s Blue Line. Both efforts have long been priorities for the Indy Chamber because they’re good for the business community in the Indy Region and, by extension, for the entire state of Indiana. The case for both initiatives has been laid out in previous legislative updates, so we won’t ask for your time to relitigate the issues here.  

What we will ask you to do is continue to make your voices heard at the Statehouse. We’ve been impressed and proud of the show of unity from the Indy Region during hearings on the EED and IndyGo Blue Line this Session; as the bills in question move to the other legislative chamber, it’s not time to take our collective foot off the gas. Contact your legislators individually, sign our EED letter of support, and keep your eyes peeled for announcements of committee hearings on HB1199 and SB52 so you can plan to be there to show support for our region—no matter what form of transportation you prefer. 

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