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

Study: Voluntary Donations To Schools Are Widening Funding Gap

An IU study shows wealthy school districts are raising more money through non-profits organizations like PTA groups, which widens the gap between rich and poor schools.

401(K) 2013 (flickr)

An IU study shows wealthy school districts are raising more money through non-profit organizations like PTA groups, which widens the gap between rich and poor schools.

A report released this week from education researchers at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs shows voluntary donations to school districts is widening the funding gap between rich and poor districts.

The study, written by SPEA associate professors Ashlyn Aiko Nelson and Beth Gazley, looked only at non-profit groups like Parent Teachers Associations, Booster Clubs and local foundations. They excluded large foundations that donate to schools around the country, because they wanted to track local money donated to local schools.

Nelson says they wanted to look at these types of donations because of the widening gap between wealthy and low-income districts. Currently in Indiana, money raised from income and sales taxes are pooled by the state and allocated to districts on a per-pupil basis using a school funding formula. The state does this as a way to keep funding for all schools equal, but donations through non-profit organizations provides a different way to create inequality.

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SBOE Praises Evansville Schools On Turnaround Efforts

Community members pack the gym at Lincoln School for a public meeting about the school's failing accountability scores.

@NEWSjordanv (Twitter)

Community members pack the gym at Lincoln School back in July for a public meeting about the school's failing accountability scores. State officials toured the failing schools yesterday and say they see big improvement.

Members of the State Board of Education’s Committee on School Turnaround traveled to Evansville yesterday to check on progress in two of the district’s failing schools, Lincoln School and Glenwood Leadership Academy. After touring the schools and meeting with district officials and its lead partner Mass Insight, committee members say they are impressed with the progress.

In a media release sent out by the SBOE, board member Tony Walker said leadership within the district and students’ engagement impressed him.

“I learned a lot today,” Walker said. “It was refreshing to go inside and see the operations and progress of these turnaround schools.” Continue Reading

Indiana Supreme Court Will Look At Bus Fees For Parents

The Indiana Supreme Court will decide whether school districts can charge transportation fees.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Indiana Supreme Court will decide whether school districts can charge transportation fees.

The Indiana Supreme Court plans to hear a case about whether a school district can charge parents a transportation fee to bus kids to and from school.

The case, Lora Hoagland v. Franklin Township Community School Corp., centers around Franklin Township’s $475 transportation fee. A Marion Superior judge sided with the district, but the Court of Appeals reversed that decision, sending it to the state Supreme Court.

As we reported in a story about textbook fees, Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution is vague when it comes to school fees:

“It should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all.” Continue Reading

To Reduce Dropout Rate Among Latinos, Elkhart Has A Plan

Elkhart Community Schools got more involved with students to improve the graduation rate among Latino students.

Chris Moncus / Wikimedia

Elkhart Community Schools got more involved with students to improve the graduation rate among Latino students.

If you want to understand the high school dropout rate among Latinos in Indiana, Elkhart, Ind. is a good place to start.

Nationwide, the graduation rate for Latinos improved over the last five years, and Elkhart Community Schools is no exception. A few years ago, they saw one third of students dropping out, that number higher among Latino students. FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman highlighted the district in a piece about the economics of improved Latino graduation rates. Casselman says students typically drop out when there is an opportunity to work a well-paying job, but that is changing lately: Continue Reading

Governor Pence Explains Choice To Not Apply For Pre-K Grant

Gov. Mike Pence pulled the state's application for millions of dollars in federal funding for pre-k.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Gov. Mike Pence pulled the state's application for millions of dollars in federal funding for pre-k.

Gov. Mike Pence released a statement this afternoon defending his decision to not apply for a federal grant that could have given the state $80 million to develop preschool infrastructure for low-income three- and four-year-olds.

We reported yesterday that the governor stopped the application process, despite the work the Indiana Department of Education and other state agencies had already done to apply for the money.

The grant was only available to states with little or no state funded preschool for low-income children, making Indiana one of 16 eligible states.

In his statement, Pence said the state can meet Indiana’s pre-k needs without federal assistance.

It is important not to allow the lure of federal grant dollars to define our state’s mission and programs. More federal dollars do not necessarily equal success, especially when those dollars come with requirements and conditions that will not help—and may even hinder—running a successful program of our own making.

An important part of our pre-K pilot is the requirement that we study the program so we understand what works and what doesn’t. I do not believe it is wise policy to expand our pre-K pilot before we have a chance to study and learn from the program.

While accepting federal grant dollars can at times be justified to advance our state’s objectives, when it comes to early childhood education, I believe Indiana must develop our own pre-K program without federal intrusion. Continue Reading

Pence Halts Federal Pre-K Grant Application

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Brandon Smith / StateImpact Indiana

Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation creating a state-funded preschool pilot program.

Governor Mike Pence has halted the application for a federal preschool grant that could have provided the state with up to $80 million in early childhood education funding.

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that an email sent from Pence’s office to the Early Learning Advisory Committee explains his reasoning for pulling the application:

In Wednesday’s email, Early Learning Advisory Committee Chairman Kevin Bain, a Pence appointee, announced that the “administration has decided not to submit the federal pre-K grant application.”

He then posted a statement from the administration. “While accepting federal grant dollars can at times be justified to advance our state’s objectives,” it reads in part, “when it comes to early childhood education, I believe Indiana must develop our own pre-K program for disadvantaged children without federal intrusion.”

The deadline for the grant was October 14. A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education declined official comment but said the IDOE spent a lot of time on the grant application.

Senator Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the decision. “The Governor owes those of us who have labored hard to get our state on board and see the benefits of early childhood education more than just a statement,” Lanane said. “It seems imprudent that we reject $80 million because of fear of some speculative ‘pitfalls’ and ‘unproven objectives’ perceived attached to them. I fear this is a setback for the advancement of the welfare of the children of our state that we know will be improved by Indiana moving swiftly to implement early childhood education.”

The developmental grant, issued through the U.S. Department of Education, is available to states lacking pre-k infrastructure to serve more than 10 percent of the state’s preschool-aged population.

Only 16 states are eligible for this specific grant, including Indiana.

Pence has not publicly announced the state’s removal from the application process and calls to his office went unanswered. Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved a new, state-run pre-k pilot program, which is only available in five counties and will begin in most places January.

Gary Schools Get Nov. 10 Deadline To Pay Bus Company

The Gary Community School Corporation owes its busing company more than $2 million to keep services running. The company gave the school district until Nov. 10 to provide payment.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The Gary Community School Corporation owes its busing company more than $2 million to keep services running. The company gave the school district until Nov. 10 to provide payment.

The bus company that provides transportation services for students in the Gary Community School Corporation gave the district a Nov. 10 deadline to start payments on its almost $3 million debt.

Illinois Central Bus Co. CEO Steve Hemmerlein released a statement earlier this week saying the company told Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt if the district didn’t provide a payment plan the company will discontinue service Nov. 10.

Carmen McCollum of The Times of Northwest Indiana reports the company is worried about laying off employees if they don’t receive payment:

“ICSB cannot continue to pay for salaries, fuel and bus maintenance with no payment plan in place,” Hemmerlein said. “If bus service is discontinued, families of the 4,000-plus students will undergo significant hardship to transport their children to and from school, and the jobs of 100 drivers and staff will be eliminated.”

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State Republicans Say Education Will Be Priority In Next Session

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis

House Republicans announced their legislative priorities for the upcoming session on Tuesday, and education issues took center stage.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said the legislature wants to invest more in public school funding by “fixing” the funding formula.

“We have great disparity with some schools as low at $5500 per students in state and federal funds and some schools as high as $9,500 per pupil,” Bosma says.

To help close this gap, Bosma says he hopes to see the state’s economy grow by two percent over the next two years, because most of that would go toward education. Continue Reading

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Indiana’s ISTEP Will Push Kids

This spring, Indiana students will take a new version of the ISTEP.

biologycorner (flickr)

This spring, Indiana students will take a new version of the ISTEP.

There’s an old phrase, nothing’s sure in life except for death and taxes. We could probably make an argument for standardized tests as well (even Harry Potter took an annual exam in his mythical, made up school year).

These tests carry important consequences for teachers, schools and students, and in Indiana this year, students will take a new version of the state’s standardized test, the ISTEP+.

Simply put, the test will be harder. The content of the questions is the same, but the format will look different. For one, there won’t be as many multiple choice questions. Another change is that students will have to explain how they got to their answer.

Why are we changing the test?

When Indiana passed its own academic standards this spring, Michele Walker, Director of Assessment for the Indiana Department of Education, and her team were charged with creating a test to match the new standards.

An assessment matching the new standards was also a requirement to receive a No Child Left Behind waiver extension.

Walker says another change the IDOE wanted to make to the test, is adding a more focused writing prompt. Rather than asking students to write about something inconsequential like whether the cafeteria should add cake to the menu, students will be asked to read a passage and write a paragraph or essay on a related prompt, using the passage for evidence. Continue Reading

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