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Indiana lawmakers approve looser superintendent rules

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 8:03 am

INDIANAPOLIS — School district superintendents would no longer have to hold an Indiana superintendent's or teacher's license under a proposal that won final legislative approval on Monday.

The House voted 55-40 to approve the bill that cleared the Senate this month only after Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of it.

The bill requires the district superintendent have a master's degree, a change from the current state requirements that superintendents have a teaching license and complete graduate school work in education administration.

Supporters say the change would give the state's nearly 300 local school boards more flexibility to hire a business leader or someone else they believe would best fill their needs for a top administrator. Opponents worry that the state would be lowering standards by allowing superintendents without any classroom experience.

Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said the bill he sponsored would still allow districts to require applicants for superintendent positions to have a state license.

"This just allows school corporations to determine what they think are the best candidates based on their job descriptions," said Huston, who was a chief of staff to former Republican state schools superintendent Tony Bennett.

Some legislators maintained that an effective school superintendent needed to understand what teachers face in their classrooms, along with an understanding of tasks as varied as staff and curriculum development, textbook selection and analysis of test results.

"The best thing is to ensure is that the people who are at the very, very top of our school corporations have been in the trenches daily and know what it takes," said Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point.

The new proposal follows steps backed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in the past couple years that make it easier for teachers to switch subject areas and to obtain teaching licenses without a college degree in education.

The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.