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 →
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 →
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 →
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.
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.
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 →
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 →
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