Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Brandon Smith

  • Email: bsmith@ipbs.org

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.

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.

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.”

Continue Reading

Pence Signs Pre-K Legislation, Committing State Funds To Early Childhood Education

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Gov. Mike Pence says legislation to create a preschool pilot program is the beginning of a new chapter of hope and opportunity for Indiana’s disadvantaged children.

The pilot program will provide anywhere between $2,500 and $6,800 per child so low-income Hoosier kids in five counties can attend a high quality preschool program. Pence signed the bill Thursday at DayStar Childcare Ministries in Indianapolis, which is run by Englewood Christian Church.

“In a neighborhood like this one that has some economic challenges, it means that children won’t be sitting in front of the television set; they won’t be playing unattended out in yards,” says pastor Mike Bowling. “They’re going to be with other children and they’re going to be learning and they’re going to ready for kindergarten when the time comes.”

Pence says his administration is already working to get the program up and running as soon as possible. Continue Reading

Legislative Leaders Tout Pre-K Pilot, But Say Issue Needs Study Before Expanding

Students play an alligator game with their teacher at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind.

Students play an alligator game with their teacher at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are praising creation of a preschool pilot program as an historic achievement for Indiana.

The approved legislation uses existing Family and Social Services Administration money and private contributions to fund a pilot program in five counties that could provide up to 4,500 low-income children with money to attend a high quality preschool.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says that’s a fine first step, but it needs to be kept in perspective.

“That is planting a sapling when the state of Indiana needs an entirely new landscape,” says Pelath. “And while it’s a positive thing, it’s not something that we can say is going to transform Indiana’s children yet.” Continue Reading

Preschool Pilot Revived, Now Heads To Governor’s Desk

An aide helps a student count at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

An aide helps a student count at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

State lawmakers have approved a preschool pilot program today after it was seemingly left for dead just two weeks ago. It now heads to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says creation of the pre-K pilot wouldn’t have been possible without a funding mechanism crafted by the Senate.

The program can use up to $10 million in existing funds from the Family and Social Services Administration. At least 10 percent — and up to 50 percent — of that in matching funds must come from private sources or the federal government.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, says that could provide high quality preschool opportunities for anywhere from 2,000 to 4,500 low-income children. Continue Reading

Q&A: Why Indiana Lawmakers Aren’t Ready To Fund Preschool

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, sits on the Indiana Senate Education Committee and chairs the Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, sits on the Indiana Senate Education Committee and chairs the Appropriations Committee.

“This,” says Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, referring to a proposed preschool program, “is almost a potential budget buster.”

Gov. Mike Pence asked state lawmakers this year to approve a small-scale preschool pilot program for low-income 4-year-olds. But Kenley, who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, says he’s not ready to commit to state-funded pre-K.

That’s why the Senate Education Committee said the governor’s preferred proposal was too expensive and elected instead to study the issue this summer.

Though there’s a chance lawmakers could still approve some funding for a pilot program, budget hawks remain skeptical of the plan. Continue Reading

Small-Scale Pilot Program Could Still End Up In Indiana Preschool Proposal

A student plays during an activity period at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

A student plays during an activity period at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long says lawmakers are considering a compromise on pre-K legislation that could move the issue beyond just a summer study committee.

The House passed a bill earlier this session creating a pilot program that would provide vouchers for low-income Hoosier children to attend preschool. But the Senate eliminated the program, creating instead a comprehensive summer study on pre-K.

As House and Senate leaders negotiate over the pre-K bill’s final product, Long says a smaller version of the pilot could be in the works.

“There’s an argument that we need to have something out there to see what is or isn’t working, so you have an opportunity, then, to implement some evidence-based programs out there that we can look towards as we talk about implementing a much larger program in the state,” says Long. Continue Reading

Governor Pence Urges State Lawmakers To Restore Preschool Pilot

Gov. Mike Pence advocates for a state-funded preschool pilot program at an Indianapolis preschool.

Gov. Mike Pence advocates for state-funded preschool at a pre-K classroom at the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis. State lawmakers have scaled back a pilot proposal Pence backed.

Gov. Mike Pence emphasized the urgent need for Indiana to begin providing preschool opportunities for low-income Hoosiers at an Indianapolis pre-K Wednesday morning.

Pence says “the time is now” for the legislature to reinstate a pre-k pilot program after the Senate Education Committee gutted a bill last week that would have provided vouchers for 1,000 4-year-olds in five counties to attend preschool.

Instead, lawmakers replaced it with a study committee on the issue. But Pence says the pilot program can be used to help inform the study committee.

“The legislative process, more importantly, is about persuasion and we are on a daily basis engaging with members of the General Assembly in both parties to make the case that the time has come for expanding access to quality pre-k programs to some of our most disadvantaged kids,” says Pence. Continue Reading

GOP Lawmakers Voice Support For Indiana-Specific Education Standards

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, left, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, co-chaired the interim study committee on the Common Core.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, left, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, co-chaired the interim study committee on the Common Core.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma said this week said they would be keeping a close eye on the State Board and Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

They say they’re pleased at the recent progress state education officials have made to improve their working relationship. But that doesn’t mean they won’t still wade in on key education issues.

Bosma says after Wednesday’s State Board meeting, he’s happy with their progress.

“We’ve been chatting with everyone – the governor’s office, the State Board of Education members and the superintendent and her team – and it looks like everybody’s playing nice and moving in the same direction,” he says. “So that’s welcome news, I think, for all of us.” Continue Reading

Democrats Say Lawmakers’ Early Learning Initiatives Should Include Attendance Age

Gov. Mike Pence would like to see more public-private partnerships like the one in Columbus fund pre-K programs.

Senate Democrats want to make lowering Indiana's compulsory attendance one of state lawmakers' early childhood education initiatives this session.

The state’s legislative leaders say an increased emphasis on providing early childhood education will be a key focus of the upcoming session — and Senate Democrats say that focus should include requiring Hoosier children to attend school at a younger age.

Under Indiana law, Hoosier kids don’t have to attend school until they’re 7 years old.  That’s one of the latest mandatory school ages in the country. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, says he was surprised to learn that the age had never been lowered.

“By the time kids reach the age of seven, there’s so much development that should have occurred already,” says Lanane. “It’s crucial that we get the mandatory start age down.” Continue Reading

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