Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Brandon Smith

  • Email: bsmith@ipbs.org

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.

Continue Reading

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.”

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.

Brandon Smith / StateImpact Indiana

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.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

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.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

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.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

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

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