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Representative Harris, IBLC prioritize closing the achievement gap in 2023 legislative agenda

MEMBERS OF THE Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, chaired by State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago), gathered to announce their 2023 Legislative Agenda.

State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago), chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC), announced the IBLC’s 2023 Legislative Agenda on January 23, which centers on Closing the Achievement Gap. Harris, alongside other members of the IBLC, highlighted several bills filed by the IBLC that would enhance education in the state of Indiana.

“The achievement gap between African American students and their non-Black peers has been a problem in Indiana for generations, but was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we are challenged to not just bring African American students and students of color back to the level they were academically pre-pandemic, but to help elevate them to the same level as their white peers,” Harris said. “Emphasizing the importance of educational achievement will not just help our kids in the classroom, but will open doors for them professionally, as well. When Indiana’s workforce is more educated and highly trained, all Hoosiers benefit.”

During the press conference, members of the IBLC discussed House Bill 1499, authored by Harris, which would allow qualifying students to be automatically enrolled in the 21st Century Scholars program. House Bills 1571 and 1153, authored by Reps. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) and Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), respectively, were also highlighted. House Bill 1571 creates the reading specialist certification fund, which allows eligible teachers to apply for a grant to obtain certification to help students enhance their reading and writing abilities. House Bill 1153 establishes the Division of Educational Opportunity and Academic Success to assess cultural competency in public schools. Every year, colleges and universities would be assessed to determine how they are preparing future educators to be able to effectively teach and communicate children from various cultural backgrounds.

“Not only does closing the achievement gap require us to emphasize the needs of students in the classroom, but it requires us to work with educators and administrators to determine what they need to be able to do their jobs to the best of their ability,” Harris said. “These bills – along with others filed by the IBLC – prioritize the needs of students, their families and their teachers to ensure everyone has the tools they need to be successful.

“Everyone always talks about wanting to leave behind a better community, a better state, a better nation for their children,” Harris said. “The IBLC’s 2023 Legislative Agenda is our chance to do just that. By enhancing education in our state and working to close the achievement gap that prevents so many students from achieving their full potential, we will ultimately boost the Indiana workforce and create a better quality of life for everyone who calls Indiana home.”

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