Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


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:

Northern School Districts Advertise To Attract Transfer Students

Plymouth Community Schools are running a television ad to promote the school in a community where school vouchers are growing.

Plymouth Community Schools are running a television ad to promote the school in a community where school vouchers are growing. (Photo Credit: Plymouth Community Schools)

As the new school year gets closer and closer many districts are preparing their teachers and buildings for another nine months of learning. But in the northern part of the state, three school districts are trying to market themselves through local media to encourage students and their families to enroll in their public schools.

The South Bend Community School Corporation, Plymouth Community School District and School City of Mishawaka are all running some sort of media campaign promoting the district’s schools in hopes of encouraging families to stick with their public school option.

The advertising campaigns come after an updated report from the Department of Education released earlier this month that shows students living in the South Bend and surrounding communities are using more and more choice scholarships to attend private schools. In just four years the number of students living in the South Bend school district using the scholarships increased from 371 in 2011-2012 to 2,224 in 2014-2015.

And this is a trend happening in many large, urban areas in the state. As the state’s voucher program gains popularity, private schools are seeing an increase in enrollment while public schools are struggling to keep students in their classrooms.

Which is why school districts in the northern part of the state find themselves budgeting money for advertisements.

The Mishawaka Schools paid more than $1,600 to run a three-week radio campaign promoting the schools in their district. The district hired a private marketing firm to help create the spots, which promote the flexibility of programs throughout the district. Continue Reading

First Year Teachers Can Spend More Money Out Of Pocket On Supplies

Learning Treasures, a teacher supply store in Bloomington, offers a 10 percent discount on all materials the month before school starts to give teachers spending hundreds of dollars out of pocket a break.

Learning Treasures, a teacher supply store in Bloomington, offers a 10 percent discount on all materials the month before school starts to give teachers spending hundreds of dollars out of pocket a break. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

When most of us start a new job, we don’t typically buy hundreds of dollars worth of office supplies for our colleagues and ourselves. In fact, most of us would be outraged if that were expected. But teachers essentially do just that every school year.

Continuing our series on first year teachers, we look at how much it costs for a new teacher to start their classroom and stock it with the educational materials they’ll need.

It All Adds Up

In Teacher’s Treasures, a teacher’s supply store in Bloomington, Sara Draper is picking out the pocket chart she will use as a calendar in her second grade classroom at Helmsburg Elementary School in Brown County.

It’s her first year teaching, so she has not only a blank slate but also blank classroom walls she needs to fill with educational posters and materials. And that comes at a price.

The calendar she wants is $21, and that doesn’t include the different number cards she’ll put into the different slots.

A calendar is just one of the things on Draper’s shopping list this summer. She also needs to get borders, letters, and decals for her bulletin boards and games for indoor recess. And she’s paying for it all out of pocket.

“My birthday is Aug. 8 so I’m probably going to ask for supplies for my classroom,” Draper says. “I mean, it’s like, I need a lot of stuff.”

The Trend

Out of pocket spending is nothing new for teachers, but over the last five years the amount they spend has increased dramatically. The national average for teachers’ out of pocket spending is around $500. As state funding for schools continues to not be enough for big expenses like salaries, repairs and transportation, money allocated for classroom materials falls by the wayside.

StateImpact polled 108 teachers about how much they spend each year out of pocket on educational materials. It’s a non-scientific poll but shows the most teachers who responded either spend on average between $400 and $500 or more than $1,000.

Continue Reading

Education Leaders In Legislature Want To Study Teacher Shortage

Legislative leaders are asking to put the state's teacher shortage on the agenda for summer study committees.

Legislative leaders are asking to put the state’s teacher shortage on the agenda for summer study committees. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Legislative leaders are asking the Interim Study Committee on Education to look at the teacher shortage issue in Indiana during this year’s summer study committees.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, Thursday, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said they would like the legislature to “proactively address this issue” after many news organizations (including StateImpact) reported the most recent data from the Department of Education showed licenses issued to new teachers over the last four years declined 62 percent.

The letter also recognizes that education programs at higher education institutions in the state are seeing declining enrollments, including a 45 percent decline at Ball State’s elementary program over the last 10 years.

Behning says he’s recently heard from superintendents in his district who are having trouble hiring teachers because of this shortage.

“They did say they’ve had significantly more difficulty getting, especially secondary, educators in STEM areas…but it is becoming a greater problem,” Behning says.

The legislators write in the letter what they hope to accomplish regarding this topic if a study committee is permitted:

“It would be helpful to receive testimony from experts, and from the field on why teacher enrollment and licensures are dwindling. We believe it is important to have a plan to the matter issue prior to the 2016 legislative session, and studying it during the interim could be a key component in crafting that plan.”

Behning says different actions the General Assembly may be able to take would be providing incentives to stay in the classroom for up to five years or grants to get certified in high-need teaching areas like special education or STEM areas.

Summer study committees begin in August, and the first education committee is set for Aug. 11 at 1 p.m.

Meet The First Year Teachers

Gabe Hoffman will teach third grade at Nora Elementary School in Indianapolis. This summer, he's spent a lot of time organizing his class library.

Gabe Hoffman will teach third grade at Nora Elementary School in Indianapolis. This summer, he’s spent a lot of time organizing his class library. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

Think about the teachers you had as a kid. How many of them had been teaching for more than 10 years, 20 years, even 30 years? Quite a few probably, because that’s how the profession used to work.

But in the last 10 years, that’s changed, with 40 to 50 percent of new teachers not making it past their fifth year.

So what is it like to be a new teacher? What happens in classrooms that cause half of new teachers to leave and what makes the other half stay?

Over the next year, I will follow three teachers to learn about what makes their first year challenging, what is different than they expected and what makes all the time and hard work worth it.

But first, the problem

It’s graduation day for students at Indiana University’s School of Education.

Lines of gown-clad future teachers slowly make their way across the stage. They smile at their families and friends. A few have decorated their caps to look like chalkboards.

Right now, they’re excited to become teachers. But if statistics hold true, in just five years, half of them will be in a new profession.

“And so that’s kind of alarming to see,” University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll says. “The rates were always high but they [have] slowly but surely been getting a little higher.”

Ingersoll researches teacher retention and says more teachers are entering the classroom. They just aren’t sticking around. He says while it’s easy to say teachers aren’t staying in the profession because of the increased accountability created through No Child Left Behind, including pressure to make sure students perform well on standardized tests and those scores being linked to teacher evaluations, it’s more complicated than that. Continue Reading

Report: Indiana’s Education System Improved Year After Year

The state of Indiana’s school children is slightly better than previous years but still lagging in some areas compared to national standards. That’s according to the annual KIDS Count report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report found the following about Indiana’s education system:

  • 61 percent of children do not attend preschool, a number consistent with the findings in the 2007-09 report. The national average is 54 percent.
  • 62 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, better than the national average of 66 percent.
  • 62 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in math, up from the last report when the state was at 65 percent. It’s also lower than the national average of 66 percent.
  • 20 percent of high school students are not graduating on time, a significant decrease from the last report, when 26 percent of students were not graduating on time, but slightly higher than the national average of 19 percent.

Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting writes that overall, the state ranks 32nd in well-being, which factors in data from categories including health, economic well-being and family and community – last year the state ranked 27th:

But Indiana Youth Institute interim CEO Glenn Augustine says that’s more a case of other states, such as Missouri and New York, improving just a little more than Indiana.

“In three-quarters of the categories the Casey Foundation looks at, Indiana either held its own or improved,” Augustine says.

The KIDS Count report is released every year.

Teachers: How Much Do You Pay For School Supplies Each Year?

It’s no secret that teachers spend hundreds of dollars each year to decorate their classrooms, stock the classroom library or have extra supplies on hand. It’s become the norm for teachers to pay for most of these classroom items out-of-pocket,

In fact, at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, a SheerID and Agile Education Marketing study found that on average, teachers spend around $513 of their own money on classroom supplies, instructional materials, books and professional develop.

The General Assembly recognized this trend during the 2015 session when some lawmakers proposed a $200 tax credit for teachers – but the final version of the budget allowed for only $100.

We want to know what this practice looks like in Indiana. Teachers, educators or anyone who works with kids in an education capacity, please fill out this one question survey so we can get a feel for how much of your paycheck goes back into your job.

Muncie School District To Stop Offering Transportation Services

Muncie Schools will discontinue bus services because of budget problems.

Muncie Schools will discontinue bus services because of budget problems. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

Representatives of the local school district in Muncie have voted to stop bus transportation for area students in 2018 – the soonest state law will allow.

But school board members say they don’t actually want to stop school buses from running. The board says it’s sending a message to the Statehouse to fix a state law that’s hurting some Hoosier schools.

A unanimous vote to end school bus transportation in Muncie came with no boos, insults, or impassioned pleas from the public Tuesday night, because as Muncie Community Schools Superintendent Steven Baule puts it, everyone knows the problem lies with the state.

“It was really a law set up to solve a problem that wasn’t a problem,” Baule says.

Baule is talking about protected taxes, a law passed in 2013 by state lawmakers to make sure no school with outstanding debt defaults on its bond payments. Money must be put into the debt services portion of a school’s budget first, and the rest parceled out to remaining portions. That’s left Muncie with an almost 90 percent loss in its transportation fund.

The protected taxes law is one reason district’s are struggling to fund transportation, in addition to the property tax caps that were added to the state constitution a few years ago. But after the law went into place, the General Assembly created waivers for districts hardest hit.

How does a district receives the waiver?

“You’re impacted by 10 percent or more. In other words, you’re going to lose 10 percent or more of your funding, specifically for transportation,” says Dennis Costerison, Executive Director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.

But the news from Muncie shows even with these waivers, districts are struggling to provide services like transportation that have typically been provided.

The waivers expire next year, so Muncie and other affected school districts will no longer have this reprieve unless the General Assembly takes action.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, says he would like to see the legislature take up the issue and modify the protected tax law.

“This is a bigger deal than we thought it would be, and I think the initial ideas here were well intended, but you know, this happens sometimes.” Lanane said. “There are unintended consequences and we shouldn’t be afraid to address it and I hope we will next year.”

Lanane says it will likely take a rally of school districts around the state for lawmakers to take up the issue of protected taxes in future sessions. Because Indiana law says a school district must give parents three years’ notice before stopping bus service, Muncie has until 2018 to convince other districts to make the same statement.

Study: Most Districts Don’t Protect LGBTQ Students From Bullying

Indiana hovers around the national average of number of school districts in a state with an anti-bullying policy in place.

Indiana hovers around the national average for number of school districts with an anti-bullying policy in place. (Photo Credit: richiesoft/Flickr)

With the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage, transgender people entering mainstream pop culture and controversial legislation regarding inclusion and the rights of LGBTQ people (something Indiana knows all too well), it was only a matter of time until these issues reached the classroom.

But a recent study released by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network shows most school districts in the country don’t have anti-bullying policies in general, and even fewer have specific policies to protect LGBTQ students.

When it comes to Indiana districts with anti-bullying policies, 79.7 percent of districts have a policy on the books. The national average is 73.3 percent.

But when you dig into the policies in Indiana, very few of them specifically cover LGBTQ students. Only 3.1 percent of policies cover lesbian, gay and bisexual students. Less than one percent of policies add transgender students to that list.

This probably stems from the fact that the state’s anti-bullying law exists doesn’t break down into specific groups of students that are protected.

The other notable data from the study looks at preparing and holding teachers accountable if they know about or witness bullying. In Indiana, only 11 percent of school districts in the state with anti-bullying policies require professional development around the policy. So even if a school has a policy in place, the teachers rarely receive training on how to implement it. And only one percent of those schools have any sort of reporting system in place.

(To read about a group of students trying to inform their teachers about LGBTQ issues, check out one of our previous stories.)

On a national scale, the U.S. Senate took up this issue Tuesday when Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) proposed an amendment to the new version of No Child Left Behind his chamber is considering. The addendum would have DONE WHAT to help reduce the amount of bullying toward LGBTQ issues, but both Democrats and Republicans voted against the amendment.

Evie Blad of Education Week explains what the proposed amendment would have done and why it failed:

The Student Non-Discrimination Act, proposed by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been proposed in previous sessions of Congress and endorsed by the White House. It would have amended the ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind, with the aim of protecting students from harassment based on “actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Supporters of the measure—including the co-sponsor of the proposed ESEA overhaul, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington—made passionate pleas for its passage, telling stories about cruel harrassment of young gay students on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“The Student Non-Discrimination Amendment would afford LGBT students similar protections that currently exist for students who are bullied, based on race, gender, religion, disability, and country of national origin,” Murray said. “So unless you think LGBT students don’t deserve protection from discrimination the way other students do—this should be an easy one to support.”

But a growing number of federal courts, as well as the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have all said that Title IX’s protections for sex and gender extend to sexual orientation and gender identity, said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., the associate executive director and general counsel for the National School Boards Association.

Gary Schools To Pick Financial Consultant

The Gary Community Schools Corporation is moving forward with a plan to choose an outside organization to help manage the district’s finances.

GARY | Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, along with members of the School Board, seem receptive to working with a specialist to iron out the school’s financial problems. As a result of legislation pushed by Sens.

Read more at:

Mailbag: Reactions To Recent School Choice Coverage

Mailbag Long LogoIt’s been a while since StateImpact did a Mailbag post, where we showcase reader comments and reactions to our stories – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t always reading your feedback.

We’ve recently done a few stories reporting on school choice in Indiana, and many of you shared your thoughts with us.

In a story looking at the state’s voucher use since it started five years ago, we looked at the original intention of the voucher program and how it’s changed after four years:

To understand the state’s school voucher program, officially called the Choice Scholarship Program, you have to sift through a lot of numbers. A good place to start: enrollment.

“Well it’s grown quite a bit, the number of students using the choice scholarship program increased a lot year over year, there’s no question about that,” says Chad Timmerman, education policy adviser to Gov. Mike Pence.

During the 2011-12 school year – the first year for the Choice Scholarship program – around 4,000 students enrolled. Last year, it was almost 30,000.

“Obviously with the doubling of students or whatever magnitude we’re growing, you’re obviously going to spend more on vouchers,” Timmerman says.

After reading the story many of you took to social media to share your thoughts on the program and how its changed:

Cindi Pastore shared her thoughts on Facebook:

I’m not sure why no one ever sees the flaws in this privatization plan- once you starve the public schools to the point where they have to close or at best can only afford to give children minimal service- WHO exactly is going to educate the children who private and charter schools refuse to serve? Is it that you can’t see this or is it because you don’t care? 40 million dollars are being rerouted awAy from the most needy and to for profits- why doesn’t this bother you?

Rachelle Ruge-Bernard commented on our Facebook:

They made it a business

Keep interacting with us about our work and the topics we’re covering, we love to know what you’re thinking and it often helps drive our reporting.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »