Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath (D-9) outlined his agenda for the 2016 legislative session Tuesday. Pelath said the party’s main focus will be on roads, education and civil rights.
He called for an end to the "mind-numbing" school debates, saying they bring more confusion for children, parents and educators. He also called for an end to ISTEP exams.
"We know a brand hit when see one, and ‘ISTEP’ is joining the words Edsel, ValuJet, and Enron in the annals of soured products," said Pelath. "It’s time to pull the plug in favor of something less sensational and more functional. Let’s return these tests to being the boring diversions that they are, so our teachers again can dedicate their energies toward the joy of science, reading, and critical thinking."
Pelath also brought up what is likely to be the most talked-about issue of the session: extending civil rights laws to include LGBT protections. "Protect Hoosiers for their sexual orientation and gender identity — period. Fully treat our LGBT citizens as the friends, neighbors, family members, and coworkers that they are."
Senate Republicans also outlined their agenda Tuesday, which includes providing $418 million to local governments for road and bridge improvements, property tax relief for farmers and stricter penalties for convicted drug dealers.
The removal of the ISTEP test and extending civil rights laws were not on the agendas of Governor Mike Pence or Senate Republicans. However, both are supporting legislation to keep schools and teacher pay from being affected by last year’s ISTEP scores.