Rep. Davisson has introduced HB 1126 mandating training of school board members. It requires the Department of Education to develop or compile a school board training course in conjunction with the Department of Local Government Finance and the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB). The course is required to cover legal and financial issues that affect schools, personnel issues including teacher licensing and collective bargaining, student discipline issues, “how to access academic and financial information related to school corporations that is maintained by the department,” and sources of funding available to school corporations.
I will not dispute that new school board members could use training on these issues. When I joined our local school board, my background made me a bit of a freak – legislative junkie & legal adviser to municipal government. But even with that background I had some pretty significant blind spots – I had no idea that IEERB was even a thing. As a practical matter, my primary concern is what this training will look like and what sorts of biases will be built in. My experience with state government is that usually the front line people who would compile this sort of training aren’t going to get ideological. If anything, they’ll err on the side of quoting Indiana Code cites and the like without providing the kind of simplified narrative that – while helpful to understanding – also lends itself to more editorializing. But, education policy has been so hotly contested over the last 10 – 20 years that I’m reflexively skeptical of just about any education proposal. This one might be o.k.
As a legal matter, I think this legislation does have a significant omission: it does not say what happens to the school board members if they don’t complete the training. It doesn’t say whether they’re off the board, whether they’re unable to vote, whether measures that pass with their vote are void, or what the consequence of not taking the training might be. This was an occasional source of frustration when I was drafting legislation – sometimes it was tough to get policymakers to commit to an enforcement mechanism.