What are your state legislators doing on your behalf? The Indiana House Republicans host a podcast each week to answer this question and talk about what’s happening in your state government. The podcast features one-on-one interviews with lawmakers who highlight new laws, events and other issues impacting Hoosiers.
Teachers are vital to the success of our students, and local schools are often the cornerstone of our communities. House Republicans continue to value the hard work and dedication of Hoosier educators. This session, several bills are a result of listening to our teachers and schools about how we can better support them:
Hold teachers and schools harmless from ILEARN results
As Indiana transitions to the new ILEARN exam, which is the state’s standardized testing program required by federal law, legislation would ensure the state’s school accountability grades and teachers’ evaluations are not negatively impacted by test scores for two years. The annual ILEARN exam is taken on a computer by students in grades 3 through 8 in order to gauge student achievement in various subjects. When schools made the switch to this new test last year, lower test scores were expected. To give students, educators and schools time to adapt to the new exam, proposed legislation would hold teachers and schools harmless for test results in 2019 and 2020.
Decouple teacher performance evaluations from student test scores
Because student learning can be measured in a number of different ways, proposed legislation would remove the requirement that standardized test scores significantly inform teacher evaluations and pay. Local school districts best understand the strengths of their teaching staff and how to accurately assess their effectiveness in the classroom. With this legislation, local school districts would have a choice in how to use test results when evaluating teacher performance.
Provide flexibility in teacher training and licensure requirements
The needs of young Hoosiers are constantly growing and changing, making it important for schools to have flexibility in determining which state education requirements best serve their students. Proposed legislation would empower local schools to determine which education laws and requirements are unnecessarily burdensome and apply for a waiver with the State Board of Education to bypass certain regulations. The bill would also task the State Board of Education with evaluating and streamlining Indiana’s current teacher training requirements. In addition, this legislation would revise a 2019 law regarding 1 of 4 teacher licensure renewal options. Under one of the options, teachers can develop a Professional Growth Plan and earn 90 points or hours over five years. With this bill, it would no longer be required that 15 of those points be obtained through professional development related to their community’s workforce needs.
All three of these bills are moving through the legislative process. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more and follow their progress.
We owe a great debt to our military service members of past and present. However, some veterans today struggle to meet their most basic needs like having a safe place to call home. In fact, Indiana has seen a 6 percent increase in the number of homeless veterans in the last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In order to give back to those who have served and protected our country, House Speaker Brian C. Bosma and House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta announced a partnership between the Indiana House of Representatives and the American Legion Department of Indiana during the 2020 legislative session. As part of the collaboration, lawmakers and House staff are collecting much-needed hygiene and food items. In February, legislators will assemble hygiene and emergency food kits at the Statehouse, which the Indiana Legion will distribute to veterans in need across the state.
To help spread awareness for the number of Indiana veterans without a place to call home, legislators and the Indiana Legion also launched a social media campaign using #HelpHoosierHeroes.
Hoosiers who wish to make a donation can find a list of most-needed items at IndianaHouseRepublicans.com/HelpHoosierHeroes. Donations can be dropped off outside the House Chamber on the third floor of the Statehouse in Indianapolis.
The Indiana Legion is committed to providing continued service to fellow veterans, their families and communities. For more information about the programs and services available for Hoosier veterans, visit IndianaLegion.org.
Although Indiana’s temperatures have dropped, we can still stay active outdoors this winter. Follow Visit Indiana’s guide to outdoor recreation to experience Indiana’s beautiful winter, whether planning an adventure near home or making a weekend getaway at the opposite end of the state.
Spend time outdoors at one of several Indiana outdoor ice skating rinks, many of which are in the heart of some Hoosier downtowns. Ice skaters can go shopping or stop by a local coffee shop for some hot chocolate to help stay warm between skating sessions.
Hilly southern Indiana makes for some great downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing, with locations in Lawrenceburg and Paoli, while northern Indiana is home to cross-country skiing on the 6.4-mile Ly-co-ki-we Trail at Indiana Dunes National Park.
Also in southern Indiana, Hoosiers can hit the throttle on a snowmobile with more than 60 miles of trails in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, or try out the famous sledding experience at Pokagon State Park’s Toboggan Run, the only refrigerated toboggan run in the Midwest.
For those looking for an experience without the snow, consider a trip to Turkey Run State Park to see the habitats of bald eagles, go horseback riding in Hendricks County, or explore the Indiana Cave Trail where the temperature never changes.
Check out VisitIndiana.com to plan one of these adventures or find others close to home. As you plan for the outdoors, dress appropriately for the weather by bringing boots, mittens and winter coats, and don’t forget the camera for capturing the scenery and memories. Most important, have fun!
Students interested in learning more about state government are encouraged to participate in the Indiana House Page Program during the upcoming 2020 legislative session.
Hoosiers ages 13 to 18 can spend a day at the Statehouse in Indianapolis assisting House legislators and staff and touring government offices. Pages experience how the Indiana legislature works, including discussions on various proposals for new laws.
Indiana’s 2020 legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 6, and must conclude by mid-March. Pages can pick available dates during that timeframe. Openings fill quickly, so students are encouraged to apply soon. Participants receive an excused absence from school, and groups can participate together. Please note that students are responsible for their own transportation.
For more information and to apply for the Indiana House Page Program, visit IndianaHouseRepublicans.com/PageProgram2020 or call 800-382-9841.
With the temperatures dropping, the cost of heating and electric bills tend to rise. This increased cost can be overwhelming for some families throughout the state. Low-income Hoosiers who need help paying their heating bills this winter can apply for benefits through the Energy Assistance Program.
This federally funded program is a one-time benefit that can help with the high cost of home energy, and offers support to those about to be disconnected. The benefit does not cover all heating and electric costs, so those planning to take advantage of this assistance should continue paying their bills regularly. Some Hoosiers may even qualify for an additional benefit if all utility bills are paid on time.
Applications for heating benefits are being accepted now through May. Click here for eligibility requirements and more information.
Many utility companies around Indiana also offer resources to assist low-income customers. Click here to learn more about these companies and other organizations assisting Hoosiers with their heating bills.
Those not sure who to contact about heating assistance or in need of other resources should call 2-1-1, a free and confidential service available 24/7 that helps Hoosiers find local resources.
Hoosiers can also try cost-saving energy tips like letting natural light in to help heat the house, covering drafty windows and keeping the fireplace damper closed when a fire is not burning.
Online shopping is more popular than ever for its convenience, but comes with inherent pitfalls. Fortunately, most can be avoided. That’s why it is so important to make sure you are taking precautions when buying this holiday season.
Always protect personal information like your name, address and credit/debit card numbers by ensuring you are on a secure website. The easiest way to do that is to make sure the letter “S” appears at the end of HTTP in the URL code, and avoid using public Wi-Fi when making online purchases.
Be sure to look at the fine print to ensure you’re purchasing exactly what you want. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers use email to convince you they are from a reputable retailer, but always check the store’s official site to confirm it is the real deal. If purchasing gift cards, know the terms and the expiration date.
After buying online, it is likely those purchases will be delivered to your home. Most companies now offer notifications as to when your package arrives, and you can track the process for an approximate delivery time and date. But if you are unable to be at home, see if the retailer has an in-store pick up to ensure your items are not stolen. Work with a trusted neighbor or family member to watch each other’s properties and pick up delivered packages as soon as possible
When shopping at traditional retail stores, do not be an easy target for theft. Conceal your purchases in the trunk of a car or bring a blanket to cover them up if stored inside your vehicle.
Secure your wallet and cash at all times while out shopping, and make sure to check bank and credit card statements in a timely fashion to ensure there are no surprise or unnecessary charges. Use a credit card where possible as it is easier to dispute a charge than with a debit card.
Despite our finest efforts, bad actors are sometimes able to get the best of us. If you believe you are a victim of a scam, please file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. A consumer complaint can be filed at IndianaConsumer.com or call 1-800-382-5516.
The holiday season is a time for family, friends and rejoicing. When you make your shopping list and prepare for the holidays, please consider supporting the small businesses in your local community, especially on Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday is on Nov. 30 and is the perfect occasion to support the employers and entrepreneurs who make our communities unique. Local stores and businesses offer a wide variety of high-quality products and services. Additionally, when you support a small business, your money stays in the community. In fact, for every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., approximately 67 cents stays in the area. So when you shop small, it makes a big impact.
There are over 500,000 small businesses in Indiana employing over 1.2 million Hoosiers. It cannot be overstated how important these entrepreneurs are to the state and their community. Chances are, family members, friends and neighbors work for or own a small business, and they deserve our support.
It’s been 10 years since the launch of Small Business Saturday, which was created during the Great Recession to drive awareness of small brick-and-mortar stores and their communities, especially around the holiday season. With the retail landscape evolving, it’s more important than ever to shop locally.
For many of these small businesses, Small Business Saturday is their biggest sales day of the year. Please show them your support on Saturday, Nov. 30, and beyond.
Each year on Thanksgiving, we count the many blessings in our lives. As we prepare for next week’s turkey feast and quality time with loved ones, let us also remember those less fortunate and consider how we can help others.
There are numerous ways to give back during the holiday season, especially on and after the Thanksgiving holiday. From putting together food baskets to volunteering at your local soup kitchen, there is no shortage of opportunities to lend a helping hand.
The United Way and the Salvation Army are great organizations hosting and facilitating a wide variety of ways and events for Hoosiers to donate their time and resources year round. Feeding America is another organization connecting Hoosiers with local food banks. For more ideas on how you and your family can give back this holiday season, click here.
Be it your time or a monetary donation, your contribution – no matter how small – can make a big difference in the life of a fellow Hoosier in need. Please consider how you can help others this holiday and beyond. We wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings, and may God bless you and your family.
November is recognized as National Adoption Month, and this year’s focus is on adopting a child through the foster care system. There are currently more than 9,000 Hoosier children in foster care, and many of them are waiting to be adopted.
If you are able, consider welcoming one of Indiana’s most vulnerable into your life. A safe place to call home and a loving family can have a big impact on a child.
Many may think becoming an adoptive parent is difficult and costly, but most adults qualify after meeting these few requirements, including a background check, home study and 16 hours of training. There is no requirement for owning your home, being married or having children of your own. In fact, some children do better as an only child or in a single-parent household.
Throughout the month of November, the Department of Child Services is hosting events through the state. Click here to find a nearby event. Visit adoptachild.in.gov or call 888-25-ADOPT to learn about children eligible for adoption and how you can change a child’s life.