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Indiana Black Legislative Caucus says closing achievement gap is their focus in 2023 session

Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Chair Earl Harris, Junior speaks to reporters. Harris is at right. Next to him are, from left, Senator Andrea Hunley and Representative Robin Shackleford.

Harris is a Black man, with dark hair and goatee, wearing a suit. Hunley and Shackleford are Black women, with dark hair, both wearing suits.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Chair Earl Harris (D-East Chicago) discusses the IBLC agenda in a press conference on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Beside Harris are fellow caucus members, from left, Sen. Andrea Hunley (D-Indianapolis) and Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis.)

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus said its focus in 2023 is closing the achievement gap – helping reduce inequities in education, housing and health care.

One of the IBLC’s bills – a longtime priority – is also on the governor’s agenda this year: automatically enrolling students in the state’s 21st Century Scholars program, SB 435 and HB 1449. The program provides full tuition to Indiana colleges and universities for middle- and low-income students.

But IBLC Chair Earl Harris (D-East Chicago) said the problem is you have to enroll in seventh or eighth grade.

“A lot of times, the parent doesn’t know about it, the child doesn’t know about it and by the time we have the conversation, it’s too late,” Harris said.

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Harris said while the caucus helps represent Black Hoosiers, their agenda isn’t meant to serve only one group.

“Teacher support, financial support, public health – all of this helps everyone," Harris said. "Doesn’t matter if you’re Black, White, Latino, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian.”

Other caucus priorities include scholarships for Black or Hispanic students pursuing health care careers – SB 453 – and ending discrimination in housing appraisals.

The housing appraisal issue, HB 1151, is one that came up during last year's housing task force. Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) said she wants it to be part of the larger, legislative focus this session on affordable housing access.

"We know that there is discrimination in appraisals, either being appraised extremely low or being appraised too high, making a person even ineligible to get a loan," Pryor said.

READ MORE: Task force recommends more than a dozen policies aimed at addressing Indiana housing crisis

Other IBLC measures include a bill to provide universal free school breakfast and lunches – SB 231 – and legislation to require implicit bias training for first-year medical students – HB 1285.

Contact reporter Brandon at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.