Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Brandon Smith

  • Email: bsmith@ipbs.org

Counseling Conference Encourages College Alternatives

The Indiana Youth Institute is working with counselors on promoting all options after high school. 

The Indiana Youth Institute is working with counselors on promoting all options after high school. (photo credit: Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana)

The Indiana Youth Institute wants to help school counselors focus more on non-traditional postsecondary routes – essentially, options beyond a four-year college. That’s one of the goals of the Institute’s counseling conference being held this week.

Indiana Youth Institute Program Director Kate Coffman says universities don’t need much help pitching the traditional four-year route…and that’s why she says the Institute wants to help counselors promote alternatives, such as apprenticeships, the military, and industry certifications.

“So if you find a student who is kind of that hands on, enjoys building things, then getting them connected to classes that are taught at their career and technical education center, or classes that might be in their high school that involve STEM or robotics,” Coffman says.

A 2014 Indiana Chamber of Commerce study says 90 percent of counselors report spending less than half their time on college and career readiness activities. But Coffman says simply adding more counselors is expensive and, frankly, not realistic.

“We can help counselors work smarter,” she says, “and bring in teachers and things who are seeing every kid in the high school and maybe use staff in a way that they’re taking some of those administrative duties off the counselors.”

Indiana’s student to counselor ratio is 541 to one, the ninth-highest in the country.

The Indiana Youth Institute wants to help school counselors focus more on non-traditional postsecondary routes – essentially, options beyond a four-year college. That’s one of the goals of the Institute’s counseling conference being held this week.

Indiana Youth Institute Program Director Kate Coffman says universities don’t need much help pitching the traditional four-year route…and that’s why she says the Institute wants to help counselors promote alternatives, such as apprenticeships, the military, and industry certifications.

“So if you find a student who is kind of that hands on, enjoys building things, then getting them connected to classes that are taught at their career and technical education center, or classes that might be in their high school that involve STEM or robotics,” Coffman says.

A 2014 Indiana Chamber of Commerce study says 90 percent of counselors report spending less than half their time on college and career readiness activities. But Coffman says simply adding more counselors is expensive and, frankly, not realistic.

“We can help counselors work smarter,” she says, “and bring in teachers and things who are seeing every kid in the high school and maybe use staff in a way that they’re taking some of those administrative duties off the counselors.”

Indiana’s student to counselor ratio is 541 to one, the ninth-highest in the country.

Career Council Meets To Discuss Core 40 Requirements

The amount of classes Indiana high schoolers must take to graduate could be changing as the state explores more rigorous requirements to earn a diploma.

The Indiana Career Council met Monday to discuss proposed changes to the default diploma option, known as Core 40.

As we reported last week, there are four types of diplomas for Hoosier high schoolers:

  • the general diploma (the most basic)
  • the Core 40
  • Academic Honors
  • Technical Honors

The proposed changes would offer three, combining the two honors diplomas.

The new default, referred to as the College and Career Ready Diploma, would require at least 44 credits, up from 40.  Students would be required to take more math, science, and social studies classes and two new classes will become mandatory – a career prep class and a financial literacy course.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says a major focus will be new college and career readiness sequences – pathways students can follow in a variety of areas, including career and technical education and fine arts.

“Making sure that we really have good, robust plans going forward for students and they really can map out where it is that they think they’re going to be headed,” Ritz explains,

Ritz says the proposed changes should be finalized by December and presented to the General Assembly, which would have to adopt them into law.

The changes wouldn’t take effect until the 2018-2019 school year.

Ritz: ‘I’m The Best Candidate For Governor’

Despite constant clashes with Gov. Mike Pence over the last two years, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says her decision to run for governor isn’t personal; it’s because of significant differences with Pence over how to move Indiana forward.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz announced her gubernatorial campaign at an event at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz announced her gubernatorial campaign at an event at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Ritz Thursday officially became the third person to enter the Democratic primary, calling herself the “best candidate” to beat the governor.

She says she made the decision to challenge Pence after this past legislative session, pointing to efforts to strip power from the Department of Education and shift it to the GOP-controlled State Board of Education. She also cited what she calls the “disaster” created by Republican leadership over the religious freedom restoration act.

“We must respect the personal and civil rights of all of Indiana’s citizens and bring forward legislation that respects the rights of all Hoosiers,” Ritz said.

The current state superintendent will face off in the primary against former House speaker John Gregg and longtime state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage. And the State Superintendent says, despite spending most of her career in the education arena, she has quite a bit of knowledge in a variety of areas.

“As my campaign unfolds, you’ll see a great many topics…policy pieces written,” Ritz says. “I plan to talk to Hoosiers all over the state of Indiana to gather input.”

In a statement, state Republican Party Chair Jeff Cardwell roundly criticized Ritz, saying she “doesn’t have a successful track record of leading those in her own department, let alone managing contracts or implementing effective policies.”

New Campaign Aims To Give College Students Intern Experience

A national survey of college students and hiring managers shows 80 percent of employers want new hires to have completed an internship – but only eight percent of students say they’ve invested time in those opportunities.

The Commission for Higher Education launched an initiative Monday aimed at improving Indiana’s talent pipeline.

Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

In the new campaign – dubbed Career Ready Indiana – the Commission will act as a link between businesses, schools and students looking to establish or boost internship and so-called “work-and-learn experiences.”  Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers says ensuring more high school and college students get time in the workplace can help stem a growing problem.

“We know – and recent surveys show – that about 50 percent of college graduates would actually have a different degree if they were going back to college now,” Lubbers says.

Nick Hoagland is the Chief Operating Officer of the Indianapolis logistics firm Backhaul Direct. His company has spent the last three years investing in an internship program and he says it helps the business as much as the student.

“We not only get to view their skills in action but we also get to immerse them in our culture, which is key to fitting the person with the business,” Hoagland says.

Lubbers says the state also helps financial aid students by giving companies money to provide paid internships.

Senate State Board Legislation Goes Deeper Than House Version

Not all General Assembly lawmakers are sold yet on the Senate’s plan to overhaul Indiana’s State Board of Education.

The Senate’s state board legislation, SB1, goes much further than its House counterpart, which only removes State Superintendent Glenda Ritz as automatic board chair. While allowing the board to elect its own chair, the Senate bill gives legislative leaders the power to appoint four members of the board.  It also eliminates two members of the board, reducing it to nine.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Brandon Smith/IPBS)

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Brandon Smith/IPBS)

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, says he hasn’t decided whether to back that plan.

“Still a little curious as to the elimination of the representation from congressional districts, the geographic dispersal, and whether it should just be the governor’s appointments or the legislature should be involved as well,” Bosma says.

Senate Republican leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, says he thinks his chamber’s plan is more balanced than the House bill.

“It shows that we really are looking at the functioning of the board itself and how can we get maybe a better operating board without pointing fingers at any one person and saying, ‘If we make this one change, that changes everything,’” Long says.

The House bill would keep current state board members in place, while the Senate version would require members be reappointed, should they wish to continue serving.

Amendment To Expand Size Of State Board Of Education Fails

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as chair of the State Board of Education. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as chair of the State Board of Education. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Senate Democrats Thursday made an unsuccessful attempt to change the makeup of the State Board of Education.

In addition to removing Ritz as automatic chair, the Senate bill changes how members of the State Board are appointed.

Rather than the governor appointing all members, four would be appointed by the governor, two by the Speaker of the House, and two by the Senate President Pro Tem.  Continue Reading

House Advances Bill To Remove Ritz As State Board Chair

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting.

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting. photo credit: Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

House Republicans Thursday blocked Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to ensure State Superintendent Glenda Ritz can’t lose her position as chair of the State Board of Education.

The proposed bill would allow the gubernatorially-appointed members of the State Board to elect their chair, a position that’s been automatically held by the state Superintendent for more than a century.

One amendment offered by House Democrats would have kept Ritz as automatic chair; another would have allowed the public to elect all members of the board, and a third amendment would have made local school boards part of the process of appointing State Board members. House Republicans rejected all three.

Floor debate became a little heated…so much so that House Speaker Brian Bosma had to rein in Minority Leader Scott Pelath. Continue Reading

Pence’s Budget Asks For More Funding To Public And Charter Schools

Governor Pence unveiled his budget recommendations for this session, with education being the main priority. “I can’t tell you how excited I am about what I sense is a real common purpose that has developed in the months leading up to this session," Pence said.

Governor Pence unveiled his budget recommendations for this session, with education as the main priority.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about what I sense is a real common purpose that has developed in the months leading up to this session,” Pence says. (Photo Credit: House GOP)

Updated 2:57 p.m.: 

Governor Mike Pence revealed his recommended budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 Thursday, with education priorities demanding most of the funds.

But, Statehouse Democrats say the governor’s budget proposal doesn’t tell a true story when it comes to increasing education funding.

Pence wants to increase K-12 funding by two percent in 2016 and one percent in 2017, which adds up to a $200 million increase over the two years. Pence’s plan would fund charter schools more than in the past, allocating an additional $1,500 per pupil for students in charter schools. Right now, each Indiana district receives a minimum of $4,280 per pupil, regardless of school type.

“In the category of funding, the first priority of this budget will be expanding opportunities for our youth in Indiana, from pre-k education to higher education,” Pence said Tuesday.

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Indiana Supreme Court Takes On Franklin Township Busing Fee

Does the Indiana Constitution require public schools to offer free transportation to their students? That’s the question being considered by the State Supreme Court.

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A case over whether or not families should pay busing fees in Franklin Township has made its way to the state Supreme Court.

The Franklin Township school system eliminated its busing service three years ago, saying property tax caps had squeezed the school corporation’s finances. The system hired a private firm to run its buses and the firm required parents to pay a fee.

One of those parents sued the township school corporation, and while a trial court sided with the schools, the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with the parent, landing the case before the state Supreme Court.

Attorney Ian Thompson, representing the parent, says the Indiana Constitution mandates that the state must provide a uniform school system available for all, and that depriving children of a way to get to school violates that mandate.

“Transportation has become and has evolved into a fundamental part of a free and public education,” Thompson says.

But attorney Sam Laurin, arguing on behalf of the school corporation, says the legislature gets to decide what public school systems must include.

“In this case, the legislature – through clear statutory language at the time that this dispute arose – made it clear that school corporations may, but are not required to bus all students,” Laurin says.

The Supreme Court justices did not announce a timetable for their ruling.

County Leaders, State Officials Meet To Plan Pre-K Pilot

Representatives of the five counties in Indiana’s preschool pilot program met in person with state officials for the first time Wednesday as they prepare to begin implementation.

Gov. Mike Pence met with officials Wednesday from each of the five counties selected for the state's pre-k pilot program.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Gov. Mike Pence met with officials Wednesday from each of the five counties selected for the state's pre-k pilot program.

In July, the state chose Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion, and Vanderburgh counties to implement a state-funded pre-k pilot.  There are more than 15,000 children in the five counties eligible for the program, and more than 10,000 of those are considered unserved, meaning they’re not receiving federally funded early childhood education.

Governor Mike Pence says four of the five counties are prepared to begin at least partial implementation January 1st, while Jackson County – the only rural county chosen for the pilot – will need more time.

Pence says there’s a great deal of urgency to help these children, for their sake as well as the sake of the state.

“I want to get this program moving so that we can begin to learn from these programs, learn what will be the most effective way to go forward,” Pence says. “Indiana’s going to be studying these programs, studying the impact these programs are having on our kids, on their educational outcomes and then we’ll be making policy decisions about any additional programs in the future on that basis.”

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