Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Brandon Smith

  • Email: bsmith@ipbs.org

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

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.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

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.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

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.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

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.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

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

In Email From Pence’s Education Agency, Ritz Sees Plan To Reduce Her Power

State Supt. Glenda Ritz takes questions from reporters after the July 19, 2013, State Board of Education meeting.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

State Supt. Glenda Ritz takes questions from reporters after the July 19 State Board of Education meeting.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says emails from Governor Pence’s new education agency reveal an attempt to oust her as chairwoman of the State Board of Education. But Pence administration officials say that attempt is going nowhere.

Ritz’s office found the document in an email by an attorney for the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a new government agency created by Governor Mike Pence earlier this year.

The policy document floats the possibility of removing Ritz as head of the State Board. But the document also warns such a move “may have substantial political fallout,” and clarifying the chair’s role might serve the same end.

Ritz says she is committed to maintaining her role on the Board and preserving her authority to, in her words, “protect the voice of the voters” in the face of a plan to “take away authority statutorily given to the Department of Education.”

But the governor’s office says Pence has been very clear that he will not support an attempt to remove Ritz as chairwoman, a point they say Pence made in a private discussion with Ritz last week. Continue Reading

New Session, Same Question: Where’s The Money For Pre-K In Indiana?

Students sing songs with their teacher at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Students sing songs with their teacher at Busy Bees Academy, a preschool in Columbus.

Here’s one you’ve heard before: Lawmakers of both political parties at the statehouse are pushing to put state dollars behind an early childhood education program.

Yes, pre-K’s back — potentially in the form of legislation that’s “similar to what we had last year,” says House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

It’s not clear what form their plans will take this session, but as proposed last January, lawmakers would’ve created a $7 million pilot preschool program for 1,000 low-income students statewide.

But the members of the Senate Education Committee scaled back that proposal significantly, passing legislation instead that focused on rating child care programs. The hangup on a pre-K bill this year could potentially be the same: cost.

“Everybody just keeps saying, ‘We want pre-K,’ and I’ve never even had an explanation of what services they want or what their objectives would be,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told StateImpact last week. Continue Reading

Despite GOP Assurances, Dems Predict Move To Curb Superintendent Ritz’s Power

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City

Brandon Smith / IPBS (File)

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.

Indiana Democratic leaders fear lawmakers may push to strip Superintendent Glenda Ritz of some authority in the upcoming legislative session.

Though statehouse Republicans have said such a move is not likely, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath’s prediction comes in the midst of an ongoing conflict between Ritz, the State Board of Education and a new agency created by Governor Pence.

Ritz has criticized what she perceives as a push by the State Board and the newly-created Center for Education and Career Innovation to wrest control over education policy from her department. Continue Reading

Statehouse Republicans Want Indiana Alternative To Common Core Standards

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

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, left, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, say statehouse Republicans will send a letter to the State Board of Education recommending Indiana write its own expectations for students.

Indiana’s top Republican lawmakers say it’s time to move on from the Common Core standards initiative and write state-level expectations for students.

House Speaker Brian Bosma called the fight over nationally-crafted education standards known as the Common Core a “distraction” and says it’s time for Indiana to develop its own expectations for students.

“They need to incorporate, be compatible with the ACT and the SAT,” says Bosma. “We can’t ignore those tests despite, no kidding, some legislators telling me, ‘Why do we care?’  And we need to have a test that tests those standards…and it may not be off the shelf.”

Hoosiers have been debating whether to stay the course with the Common Core since state lawmakers voted to pause rollout in the spring. But a legislative panel reviewing the standards couldn’t muster the votes last week to recommend to the State Board that Indiana leave the initiative. Continue Reading

House Speaker Says Lawmakers Will Wade Into Ritz, State Board Spat If Necessary

From left: State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, House Speaker Brian Bosma & State Board Secretary Dan Elsener.

StateImpact / Indiana Public Broadcasting

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, left, House Speaker Brian Bosma & State Board Secretary Dan Elsener.

State lawmakers could wade into what Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma called a “civil war” between Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and the State Board of Education.

Bosma says he’s hopeful the ongoing conflict can be resolved before the legislature has to act but that the General Assembly is willing to step in if necessary. He says he isn’t ruling out legislation that would strip Ritz of her responsibility as chairwoman of State Board.

But he says it’s less likely state lawmakers would try to make her job an appointed position.

“Because it just adds to the appearance that someone is trying to take someone away from an elected official due to political results and that is not the goal,” says Bosma. Continue Reading

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