Agriculture

Student Attendance At State Fair Bill’s Future In Doubt

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January 16, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS- Students could be able to miss up to three days of school in order to participate in the State Fair if the Education and Career Development Committee can agree on the bill. But given the confusion among lawmakers on what the word “participates” truly entails, that might not happen.

Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, authored Senate Bill 114, which originally stated that absences would apply only to students participating in the State Fair. But committee members quickly noted that participating could vary from showing livestock to simply riding the Ferris wheel.

Leising agreed there’s too much grey area surrounding the word “participates,” and said she would better define the wording of the bill. However, the committee didn’t stop at just criticizing the wording, also questioning whether or not the State Fair is educational enough to warrant missing school.

Doug Huntsinger, director of the State Fair Board, said he believes it is.

“We take education very seriously at the State Fair. We’re not just about corn dogs and the Ferris wheel. We’re also about educating the youth of Indiana,” Huntsinger said.

Sen. Gregory Taylor, D-Indianapolis, agreed.

“It’s not just about the rides and everything, those young people put a lot of time in raising those pigs and keeping them clean, and then the dog shows,” Taylor said. “We’ll have to get Senator Rogers there soon. This is a very time consuming – some of those kids sleep in the stalls with their animals to make sure they’re healthy the next morning, it takes a ton of commitment.”

The confusion in the room was reiterated by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who questioned which entity would ultimately have to deal with the issue – the state, the State Fair Board, or school superintendents.

John Barnes, director of Legislative Affairs for the Department of Education, said they believe the bill is inadequate because there’s already a statute in place that states students can miss class in order to participate in programs that are educational. Barnes noted this could apply to the State Fair, even though it isn’t specifically stated.

Taylor asked for clarification.

“So let me get this right then, under current law they can do it for any educational activity which would include coming to the Statehouse and actually paging for us right? That’s a specific,” Taylor said. “Would you consider coming to the Statehouse educational? I mean I would, but that’s a specific law, just for clarification.”

Opponents sided with Barnes, pointing out there’s no evidence yet there’s an adequate need for the bill, since it hasn’t been a problem in the past.

“Do we have to wait on a problem to create a solution though?” Taylor asked.

The committee decided to table further discussion until next week so the bill could be reworded.

Ally Marlow is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news we

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