Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Brandon Smith

Indiana Lifeline Law Includes Text To 911

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Indiana’s Lifeline Law provides immunity from underage drinking charges to minors who seek help for themselves or others. (photo credit: Gretchen Frazee/WTIU News)

Educating young people about Indiana’s Lifeline Law this year has a new focus – Text to 911. It’s the latest edition of what’s become a back-to-school tradition.

The Lifeline Law provides immunity from underage drinking charges to minors who seek help for themselves or others. And it applies not just to those who call 911, but those who text it as well.

State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell – who chairs the Statewide 911 Board – says texting allows dispatchers to more easily follow up on 911 hang-ups, citing a recent example.

“The caller who hung up ended up being a student who thought they had alcohol poisoning and they were worried about getting in trouble if they called for help,” Mitchell says.

Text to 911 services have been offered in some areas since 2014 and reached all counties last month. Still, far less than one percent of 911 communications are via text – which Mitchell says should go up as awareness campaigns roll out.

“Especially to inform out of state students of the Text to 911 capabilities because while we have this in Indiana, as you heard most other states don’t,” she says.

Mitchell says calling 911 is still preferred, but if texting, students should include their location first, then as much detail about the incident as possible.

Fewer Students On Track For Indiana Scholarship

More than 800 accredited colleges and universities nationwide do not require students to submit standardized test scores to be considered for admission. (Photo Credit: James Martin/Flickr)

About 80 percent of Indiana’s incoming high school seniors aren’t meeting requirements for a state-funded scholarship. (James Martin/Flickr)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — About 80 percent of Indiana’s incoming high school seniors aren’t meeting requirements for a state-funded scholarship program created for low income students. This is the first group of incoming seniors who are face tougher qualification requirements for the state’s 21st Century Scholars program.

The legislature created the new requirements in 2011.  At the time, only about 10 percent of students who earned the scholarships were graduating college in four years.

Senate budget architect Luke Kenley helped craft the new requirements and says the state needs to ensure its scholars are as well-prepared as possible to finish college on-time.

“When you look at the requirements objectively, they don’t seem to be all that strenuous,” Kenley said. “And so I’m puzzled why the rates are kind of low – and I’m concerned, obviously.”

The new requirements include a graduation plan, a grade point average of at least 2.5, a career interest assessment and a visit to a college campus.

Sen. Kenley says reexamining the requirements might be in order during next year’s budget-writing session, but he adds that he doesn’t want to sacrifice their rigor.

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Pence Funnels Money Back Into School Safety Grant Program

Gov. Mike Pence is increasing school safety grant funding by more than $3 million in the wake of a shooting at an Oregon community college that left ten people dead, including the shooter.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

But it also comes after the new state budget cut that funding by more than half.

The legislature created the School Safety Grant Fund in 2013 in response to the Newtown, Conn. school shooting. Lawmakers appropriated $10 million per year for schools to hire resource officers and make safety improvements.

But the budget approved earlier this year cut that to $3.5 million a year.

Gov. Pence is now helping restore that cut, funneling $3.5 million for school safety. There’s also unspent money from previous years still in the fund. Pence says the state has no higher priority than the safety of students and faculty at its schools.

Democrats counter that if that were true, the governor and lawmakers wouldn’t have made cuts in the first place.

The new money flowing into the program is excess Department of Homeland Security dollars – essentially, unused funding that carried over from previous years.

Commission Addressing Teacher Retention Meets For First Time

The first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission looking at teacher retention met Friday.(Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

The first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission looking at teacher retention met Friday. (Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

A 50-member commission created by State Superintendent Glenda Ritz met for the first time Friday to begin developing strategies to address Indiana’s teacher shortage, and this initial meeting examined teacher retention.

Superintendent Ritz made it very clear from the outset of the meeting: the so-called “Blue Ribbon Commission” she assembled is no mere study committee.

“Its purpose is to provide action,” Ritz said. “It is to provide strategies toward action so that we can retain the best teachers that we have and we can recruit the best teachers that we need.”

About 80 percent of Hoosier teachers remained with their school corporation between the 2012-2013 school year and the 2013-2014 school year. That number gets significantly worse when you look at teachers in schools with a high percentage of minority students, or schools with a high level of poverty.

As the commission explored potential root causes, Indiana Department of Education specialist Caitlin Beatson provided examples of what is causing teachers to leave.

“Lack of teacher mentoring and support, nonexistent or non-responsive professional development, inadequate educator preparation,” Beatson said.

But those examples were based on exit interviews and surveys some schools provided – with several commission members questioning whether they reflected actual conditions and causes. The panel will only have a few more meetings – likely three or four – to develop its own answers.

Ritz Drops Bid For Governor, Seeks Reelection As Superintendent

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz announced Friday she is dropping out of the race for governor just a couple of months after kicking off her campaign.

Ritz says she’ll instead focus on seeking reelection to her current post.

The school chief’s gubernatorial campaign has been beset by problems since its start only two months ago, from an apparent lack of campaign staff to extremely poor fundraising totals, as well as questions about the legality of some campaign contributions.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Ritz says while the state needs a new governor, now isn’t the time for her to run.  She says her work as superintendent isn’t finished and pledges to dedicate herself to students, educators and families.

“Under my leadership, I have brought the discussion of public education into the public discourse and have started to fundamentally change how we support schools,” Ritz said in a statement. “My work is not finished, and my passion is stronger than ever. I must continue to be 110 percent engaged in supporting public education.”

“I will continue to advocate for what is right to educate our children to improve our economy for all Hoosiers,” Ritz continues. “With the help of all of you, we will keep education the focal point of the gubernatorial race.”

“Glenda Ritz has always put the best interests of our school children first and this decision is another example of that,” said former House Speaker John Gregg, one of Ritz’s former opponents in the Democratic race, in a statement. “I look forward to supporting her re-election to the office of Superintendent and to working with her as Governor to further strengthen public education in our state.”

Ritz’s move leaves Gregg and just one other Democrat, State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Portage, in the gubernatorial primary.

“Superintendent Ritz has been a champion for students, parents, and educators and I know that she will continue her outstanding work to ensure all Hoosier students have access to a high-quality education in our state,” Tallian said in a statement.

Experts say a potential new challenger, former Evan Bayh aide Tom Sugar, could also join the race.

State Democratic Party Chair John Zody says he understands and respects Ritz’s decision, noting Hoosier families can still have confidence in her leadership at the Statehouse.

Ritz: Campaign Made Clerical Error, Did Not Violate Election Laws

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 in early June. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Updated 4:05 p.m.: 
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says her gubernatorial campaign did not accept any financial contributions during the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Campaign finance laws state that the legislative session constitutes a “blackout” period, during which a candidate is not allowed to collect or solicit donations.

Documents submitted on behalf of Ritz’s campaign showed multiple donations received during session. The superintendent says this was a clerical error and that her team is working to correct it and submit an amended form.

“The contributions that were given were before the period, but I think what we have here may be a deposit date was given, instead of the actual date of when the checks were actually issued,” Ritz told the press Friday morning.

Tony Cook at the Indianapolis Star reports that, should election officials discover Ritz is in fact in violation of campaign laws, she could face a hefty penalty:

An Indianapolis Star review of Ritz’s campaign finance filings also found that her campaign for superintendent of public instruction received more than $82,000 in contributions during the 2013 legislative session, mostly from the Indiana Democratic Party and PACs affiliated with the Indiana State Teachers Association.

The penalty for violating the law is a civil fine of up to twice the amount of any contributions received, plus any costs incurred by the state’s election division. In Ritz’s case, that could be up to $180,000 — more than the $112,220 her campaign currently has in its bank account.

The Indiana Election Commission generally requires a formal complaint to be filed before it will take enforcement action. No complaints had been filed as of Friday afternoon. [...]

Ritz campaign spokesman Pat Terrell said the 2015 contributions in question were actually received before the legislative session, but weren’t deposited until after the session began. He said he didn’t have enough information to immediately address questions about the 2013 contributions.

Ritz’s explanation may not be enough to satisfy the law’s requirements.

The documents show that Ritz raised significantly less than Democratic challenger John Gregg and incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

Original Post:

Democrat Glenda Ritz’s campaign only managed to raise $30,000 in the first half of 2015, and more than a quarter of those donations may have been collected in violation of state election law.

According to financial documents submitted to the state earlier this week, the state superintendent accepted 28 campaign donations between January 6th and February 23rd, totaling more than $8,000.

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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.

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