Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

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Claire McInerny

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.

  • Email: clmciner@indiana.edu

How Education Could Factor Into A Pence Presidential Bid

Governor Mike Pence is often mentioned on the list of potential Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential election.

Governor Mike Pence is often mentioned on the list of potential Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential election. (House GOP)

We’re almost two years away from the 2016 presidential election, but speculation, rumors and announcements are already in full swing. Many potential candidates are focusing on issues that took a backseat during the financial crisis, including education.

Gov. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, is often mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election, and over the past year he has made a slew of education decisions many people say are proof he wants to be relevant on the national stage. Pence avoids directly answering the question of whether he’ll run, but if education is going to be a cornerstone of a political campaign, there’s a lot to look at in Indiana.

For starters, earlier this month Pence explained his legislative plan for the upcoming session, saying he wants it to be a session focused on education policy. But before the governor gives any more specifics on his plan, let’s examine his education policy decisions up until now, and what the could mean for a potential campaign.

Backing Out of the Common Core

Removing Indiana from the Common Core was one of Pence’s biggest education moves over the past year. The standards are not well liked by conservatives, who view them as a tool for too much federal oversight in local school districts, so earlier this year Pence signed legislation making Indiana the first state to make an exit. Continue Reading

Show Me The Money: Fundraising Efforts For On My Way Pre-K

The Pre-K pilot will begin in January, and fundraising efforts have proven to be a challenge for some of the counties.

The Pre-K pilot will begin in January, and fundraising efforts have proven to be a challenge for some of the counties.

The state’s new preschool pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, launches in January in four of the five pilot counties. Creating an education program from scratch takes time, creativity and a lot of money, regardless of the $10 million allocated to the program from the Family and Social Services Administration. $10 million doesn’t go as far as one might think when divided by the five counties and split between the two thousand eligible children.

That’s why as part of the law that created the program, selected counties are required to raise at least 10 percent in matching funds to put toward student scholarships. These funds can be from private donations or federal grants.

Governor Pence announced the five counties in July, leaving those in charge of fundraising a few months to find hundreds of thousands of dollars before the January launch in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.

‘It’s frustrating because it’s a moving target’

Lake County, home to Gary, East Chicago and Crown Point, has more than 1,000 children on the waiting list for Head Start, the current option for low-income preschool. The need is there, but an abundance of donors is not, according to Dennis Rittenmeyer who is in charge of fundraising for Lake County’s program.

Rittenmeyer says the county will meet the 10 percent match, but he has received some pushback from potential donors.

“Several donors that I have talked to, even though in some cases they still are agreeing to support this effort, have said they don’t like it because it really is the state’s responsibility,” Rittenmeyer says. “It’s not private foundations’ responsibility to run ongoing public education.”

Another obstacle to Rittenmeyer’s fundraising efforts is the future of the program. Continue Reading

Out Of State Student Enrollment Could Affect Higher Ed Funding

The campus of Indiana University East / Ivy Tech Community College / Purdue University College of Technology in Richmond.

The campus of Indiana University East / Ivy Tech Community College / Purdue University College of Technology in Richmond.

The number of out of state students at large Indiana universities, mainly Purdue and Indiana University, are increasing, causing concern for some in the legislature.

Forty-three percent of IU-Bloomington’s freshman class are out of state or international students, and 44 percent of the undergraduate population at Purdue are not Indiana residents.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairs the Senate Appropriations committee and told the Associated Press of his disappointment in these increases, saying it hurts the mission of state-run universities and could affect funding the legislature allocated for higher education institutions this session.

“I’m concerned,” said Kenley. “Both of those universities, since their inception, were started for the benefit of Indiana [residents] and Indiana students. So we need to be true to those missions.”

IU-Bloomington spokesperson Mark Land says leaders at IU understand these concerns, but says qualified, Indiana residents will not lose a spot at IU-Bloomington to an out of state student. Land says IU-Bloomington is only one campus in the IU system, and has a different mission from the regional campuses in Kokomo, South Bend, New Albany, Gary and Richmond. Continue Reading

A New Wave Of Transforming Schools: The Transformation Zone

IDOE Director of Legislative Affairs John Barnes, IPS Superintendent Louis Ferebee and State Board of Education member Brad Oliver discuss the new plan for failing schools at the BDG Legislative Conference.

Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury), IPS Superintendent Louis Ferebee and State Board of Education member Brad Oliver discuss the new plan for failing schools at the BDG Legislative Conference.

One of the biggest accomplishments from Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting was a recommendation from the board to the governor and legislature regarding turnaround efforts for failing schools.

The board accepted the recommendation from its turnaround committee to overhaul the way the state intervenes in failing schools.

The recommendation includes a few big changes. First, the board will now intervene after four consecutive years of receiving a D or F, rather than six years of consecutive Fs.

The recommendation was approved with a 9-2 vote, with Cari Whicker and state superintendent Glenda Ritz voting against it, citing issues with certain parts of the plan.  Continue Reading

AP: Report Shows Bennett Could Have Been Charged With Wire Fraud

A report obtained by the AP shows evidence supporting criminal charges against Tony Bennett, although none were ever pursued.

A report obtained by the AP shows evidence supporting criminal charges against Tony Bennett, although none were ever pursued.

A state report released to the Associated Press reveals evidence against former state superintendent Tony Bennett that could have supported charges of federal wire fraud, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

But Bennett was never charged.

Instead, an ethics committee, which looked at Bennett’s use of state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign, concluded Bennett committed minimal ethics violations and forced him to pay a fine.

The Associated Press’ Tom LoBianco writes the Indiana inspector general’s report the AP obtained indicates the evidence against Bennett was much more serious.

The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law. That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.

Continue Reading

What The Indianapolis Pre-K Program Means For Other Towns

The Indianapolis City-County council approved a $40 million preschool program for low income students.

The Indianapolis City-County council approved a $40 million preschool program for low income students.

The Indianapolis City-County Council voted 19-8 last night in favor of Mayor Greg Ballard’s preschool program, which will give more than 1,300 low income children in Marion County the opportunity to attend preschool. The program will cost an estimated $40 million.

WFYI’s Michelle Johnson explains where the money for the new program will come from:

The money would come from removing 35,000 homes from the Homestead Tax Credit program, reallocating funds for charter school oversight, and interest from the Fiscal Stability Fund.

The program would also leverage about $20 million in private funding from businesses and foundations. About $2 million of that would come from Eli Lilly and Company, which is also leading an effort to raise another $8 million from other corporate donors.

The compromise is smaller than one Mayor Greg Ballard proposed earlier this year, allowing three- and four- year olds to take advantage of the program, and prioritizing the children of poorest families. Under the plan, a family of four with an annual income of just over $30 thousand dollars would get highest priority.

The program wasn’t always poised to be a success, and it seemed the council wouldn’t approve the full $40 million, but last month the council began backing Ballard’s plan. Continue Reading

Mishawaka School Employees Lose Collective Bargaining Rights

Non-teacher employees in the Mishawaka school district will lost collective bargaining rights when their current contract ends Dec. 31.

Non-teacher employees in the Mishawaka school district will lost collective bargaining rights when their current contract ends Dec. 31.

The Mishawaka School Board voted to terminate collective bargaining rights for school employees like custodians, bus drivers and food service workers starting Jan. 1.

This decision stems from the employees’ choice to not renew a contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union, which ends Dec. 31.

The South Bend Tribute writes more about the issue:

[...] AFSCME’s bylaws prohibit members from contracting with another union under the AFLCIO umbrella for a year after disassociating with it, Steve Bolin the former union president said. Bolin contacted the Indiana State Teachers Association, which is not under the AFLCIO umbrella, and asked a representative to talk with the 3060 group, which represents 59 of the eligible 114 members.

Last month, Bolin said, the group voted in favor of associating with the teachers’ union beginning in 2015.

Then, “all hell broke loose,” Bolin said. “AFSCME has gone crazy on the (school) corporation, relieved me of my duties and taken over all of my duties.” Continue Reading

The Franklin Busing Case Looks Back To Nagy Opinion

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.

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.

The Indiana Supreme Court began hearing arguments Monday in the case against Franklin Township schools’ decision to eliminate busing services and replace it with a private service, which parents had to pay for.

As we’ve reported, parents sued, it went through the court system, and is now in front of the five judge panel at the state Supreme Court.

The Indiana Business Journal writes that lawyers representing the parents are citing another case involving parent fees in a public school system:

Continue Reading

More Indiana Students Could Receive Free Breakfast

School districts in Indiana can apply to receive meals through a national non-profit, Breakfast in the Classroom.

School districts in Indiana can apply to receive meals through a national non-profit, Breakfast in the Classroom.

Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, a non-profit which provides free breakfast for children in high need districts around the country, announced this week they are expanding into Indiana.

Breakfast in the Classroom is a separate service from the federal free/reduced meal program. As their name suggests, students eat the meal together in their classroom, while the teacher takes attendance, collects homework or completes other morning tasks.

The program does not stay in districts long-term, but provides breakfast for one school year in a way to encourage students who qualify to get breakfast through the free/reduced meal program to do so.

The Walmart Foundation funds the program, and a variety of education organizations work with the organization. They include Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the School Nutrition Foundation. Continue Reading

Pre-K Pilot Beginning Soon, A Tight Timeline For Some Counties

The pre-k pilot program will launch in four counties in January, a quick turnaround since counties found out about their selection in July.

The pre-k pilot program will launch in four counties in January, a quick turnaround since counties found out about their selection in July.

After becoming law back in March, the state’s pre-k pilot, On My Way Pre-K, will soon become a reality. Four of the five counties are poised to launch in January, and applications for providers and families wanting to participate are now available.

The five counties selected to participate in the program weren’t announced until the end of July, leaving organizers in those counties five months to fundraise, select eligible providers and work on recruiting eligible children.

In the counties’ original applications, they outlined their short-term capacity for preschool students: how many spots are available, how many potential providers, possible sources of fundraising, etc. So not to say they started the process from scratch back in July, but five months before launch means things have moved quickly in many places. Continue Reading

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