Claire McInerny is a reporter/producer for WFIU/WTIU news. She comes to WFIU/WTIU from KCUR in Kansas City. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas where she discovered her passion for public media and the stories it tells. You can follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.
When it comes to education policy in Indiana, the last few years have been a bit of a soap opera. A few years ago we saw massive changes to teacher evaluations and school accountability. We adopted Common Core standards. We ditched Common Core standards. We saw an upset in the state superintendent election and the conflict between the State Board of Education. All of these changes came fast, and this school year it’s coming to a head.
StateImpact wants to know how these changes affect your job as an educator and how you’ve spent your summer preparing to teach to the new standards and prepare students for the new assessment. There’s also some questions for parents and how you’re guiding your student through these changes.
This ANONYMOUS questionnaire takes only a few minutes, and it helps us tailor our reporting to what is happening in classrooms.
State superintendent Glenda Ritz sued the State Board of Education last October, but the suit was thrown out. Now four private citizens who filed the same suit on her behalf are getting traction with the lawsuit.
At question is whether board members violated Indiana’s open meetings laws by circulating a letter seeking changes in who calculates the state’s “A-F” school grades.
The suit mirrors a challenge state Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz filed last year against board members. A Marion County judge dismissed that challenge on the grounds that she could not file a challenge without the approval of the state attorney general’s office.
Children at Emerson Elementary School in Seymour participate in the Kindergarten prep program.
Lately, we’ve been writing a lot about little kids – how the new pre-k pilot will enroll more of them into a quality education early on, why encouraging their education from birth helps them down the road, and now, the high cost of putting a child in day care.
According to a report released this month by the Hamilton Project, single mothers in Indiana spend 27 percent of their earnings on childcare, the second highest in the country. And the first report from the state’s Early Learning Advisory Committee, a group of early education stakeholders appointed by Governor Pence according to legislation passed in 2013, echoes these sentiments. According to the report released June 30, 67 percent of children in the state require child care, yet for many families one-third of their income is used to pay for the care.
Helping low-income families and single parents pay for childcare is one of ELAC’s goals going into the next year, but the state of child care in Indiana is not all negative. Continue Reading →
Most of the state will not participate in the new pre-k pilot program, but that isn't stopping them from increasing access to preschool.
Indiana is selecting five counties –Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh—to test its pre-k pilot program and see whether it should be expanded to the rest of the state. Only parents in those five counties will be eligible to receive state dollars to pay for preschool, but local leaders in counties that didn’t qualify for the program are still seeking ways to make early childhood education a priority.
What is the pilot program?
First off, we need to understand what the program is and how it works.
The pre-k pilot program is a result of legislation the General Assembly passed this year. The program provides money to low-income families in the five counties selected to enroll their four-year-olds in a high quality preschools. In terms of this legislation, low-income is defined as making less than 127 percent of the federal poverty level. A high quality program is defined as meeting Level 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths To Quality ranking system.
Children will enroll in these programs, and the Family and Social Services Administration will conduct a longitudal study to see how preschool for these students affects their education in the long run. This is why the program is only available in limited areas right now.
Former state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks with media on his last day in office.
After the state ethics committee found Tony Bennett not guilty of adjusting A-F letter grades two years ago in an unethical way, Bennett admits Indiana’s accountability system is confusing and contributed to the skepticism around those allegations.
The accusation against Bennett regarding the A-F system was that he changed the letter grade for Christel House Academy, a school he championed for, from a C to an A.
The five selected counties will spend the next year recruiting families to the pilot program and helping providers expand their programs.
Governor Pence announced Tuesday the five counties selected to participate in the state’s new pre-k pilot program, so over the next year Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh Counties will recruit families, create capacity in existing preschool providers and secure private funding for the voucher-like program.
These five counties, as well as the 13 other finalists, submitted statements of readiness which outlined the need for state-funded pre-k in their area, as well as available resources and support if chosen for the program. These documents outlined the number of students who would qualify for the program, community engagement in early education, family engagement, provider capacity and a timeline of how they will make the program a reality.
Here at StateImpact we read documents so you don’t have to, so let’s take a look at each county’s plan to implement the program and what qualified them to be part of the pilot.
The group cites Wednesday’s state board meeting as the final straw leading them to draft this petition. During the meeting, the board proposed and passed two resolutions that took away Ritz’s complete authority in planning meetings and overseeing the continuance of the No Child Left behind waiver. Continue Reading →
Tony Bennett will pay a $5,000 fine after the Inspector General ruled he did violated one ethics code during his time in office.
The State Ethics Commission Thursday approved a settlement regarding former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s ethics violation of using state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign. Bennett agreed to pay a $5,000 fine as a consequence of the violation.
Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July's meeting.
Conflict between state superintendent Glenda Ritz and members of the State Board of Education could be its own agenda item at board meetings, after almost two years of conflict between them.
Wednesday’s meeting, which included three resolutions many say aimed to strip Ritz of her power as chair of the board, was no different.
The three resolutions looked at different issues, but all centered around who can do what during meetings.
Disputes over the NCLB waiver process
The most explosive argument came during the discussion around one resolution that involved the board more in future decisions around the No Child Left Behind waiver. This has been a point of contention between many board members, most vocally Brad Oliver, who say Ritz and the Department of Education did not include the board in all aspects of writing the waiver extension.
Ritz said it is not the board’s responsibility to have an active role in things like the waiver since they are supposed to plan education policy. In a long statement where she addressed every point on the resolution, Ritz said the board was aware of the IDOE’s steps to keep the waiver all along the way. Continue Reading →
A settlement regarding Tony Bennett's ethics violation will be released Thursday.
Indiana Inspector General David Thomas concluded in a report obtained by Politico that former state superintendent Tony Bennett is guilty of an ethics violation regarding the use of government resources during his 2012 re-election campaign.
But Thomas cleared Bennett of allegations that he engaged in misconduct when he ordered staff to rework a school grading formula after a charter school founded by a major Republican donor received an unexpectedly low grade.
Bennett has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for the ethics violation. The Ethics Commission will consider the proposed settlement tomorrow.
The official hearing regarding the settlement begins Thursday at 10 a.m.
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