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

For Counties Not Chosen In Pre-K Pilot, Preschool Still A Priority

Most of the state will not get to participate in the new pre-k pilot program, but that isn't stopping them from increasing access to preschool.

Barnaby Wasson (flickr)

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.

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Bennett Speaks Out On A-F System Allegations

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks with media on his last day in office.

Dan Goldblatt / WFIU

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.

But as Andrew Ujifusa for Education Week reports Bennett admits the complicated way schools were scored added to notion he and his staff cheated. Continue Reading

For The Five Counties Selected To Host Pre-K Pilot, What’s Next?

Preschool.

Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images

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.

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Online Petition: Governor Pence, Let Ritz Do Her Job

An online petition asking Governor Pence and his State Board of Education appointees to stop interfering with state superintendent Glenda Ritz’s duties gained almost 500 signatures over the weekend.

Governor Mike Pence and state superintendent Glenda Ritz co-chaired the Education Roundtable meeting in June.

Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana

Governor Mike Pence and state superintendent Glenda Ritz co-chaired the Education Roundtable meeting in June.

The College Democrats of Indiana filed the petition on change.org with a goal of 1,000 signatures. So far the petition has 478.

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

State Ethics Commission Accepts Bennett’s Settlement

Tony Bennett will pay a $5,000 fine after the Inspector General ruled he did violated one ethics code during his time in office.

Carolyn Harless/WFIU

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.

Inspector General David Thomas’ report dismissed the other accusation that Bennett altered the states A-F formula to raise the grade of Christel House Academy from a C to an A, to benefit the school’s founder, a financial supporter of Bennett’s political campaign.

Thomas writes in the report the reasoning for dismissing the A-F accusation:  Continue Reading

A Struggle Of Power At The SBOE Meeting Over Who Does What

Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July's meeting.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

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

Former Schools Chiefs Tony Bennett Guilty Of Ethics Violation

A settlement regarding Tony Bennett's ethics violation will be released Thursday.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

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.

Stephanie Simon of Politico writes Bennett is found not guilty of the other accused ethics violation:

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.

Takeover School Asks SBOE For Money To Operate, Facing Closure

Tindley Accelerated Schools (also known as EdPower), the Indianapolis based non-profit that oversees five charter schools in the city, petitioned the State Board of Education today for more money to operate Arlington Community High School. Tindley took over the failing school in 2012, claiming they receive less funding in federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) than previous years.  Marcus Robinson, Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of EdPower, testified before the board saying solutions need to be made to keep Arlington operational.  "We've come not for a paycheck but for a partnership," Robinson said.  If they cannot afford to keep the school open, Indianapolis Public Schools would most likely take over ownership of Arlington.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

Marcus Robinson, CEO of Tindley Schools, appeals to the State Board of Education to keep Arlington High School Operational. The board heard Robinson's testimony at Wednesday's meeting.

EdPower (also known as Tindley Schools), the Indianapolis based non-profit that oversees five charter schools in the city, petitioned the State Board of Education Wednesday for more money to operate Arlington Community High School for the 2014-2015 school year.

EdPower took over the failing school in 2012, and claim they receive less funding in federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) this year compared to previous years.

SIG money comes from the federal government but the State Board of Education decides which schools in Indiana receive the grants. Continue Reading

Tensions Rev Up Ahead Of State Board Of Education Meeting

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, Dan Elsener, Cari Whicker and Brad Oliver listen to a presentation during the October meeting.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, Dan Elsener, Cari Whicker and Brad Oliver listen to a presentation during the October meeting.

The State Board of Education meeting Wednesday will follow a full agenda focusing on assessments, timelines for various tests and updates on major education initiatives, including the new pre-k pilot program.

The board is also considering two resolutions that seek to involve the board more in important decisions, rather than leaving those to state superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education.

As we reported yesterday, one resolutions would amend the board’s meeting procedures. The suggested changes would allow the entire board to have a say regarding when a meeting is planned, it would update the appeals procedures and alter how the board is required to solve disputes among its members (something we’ve been seeing a lot of the past year). Continue Reading

State Board Requests Changes To Meeting Procedures

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State Board of Education member Brad Oliver and state superintendent Glenda Ritz listen during a January 2014 meeting.

State Board of Education members drafted a resolution they will present at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled meeting that requests the creation of an Ad Hoc committee to make amendments to state meeting procedures.

This comes after months of disagreement between the State Board of Education and state superintendent Glenda Ritz who chairs the board, including fights over agenda items, delays in delivering information from the Department of Education to the board, and of course Ritz’s lawsuit against the board regarding Indiana’s Open Door Law.

The amendments look to address the issues at the center of these past disputes. One suggested amendment would give board members, alongside the Chair, control over designating meeting dates, times and locations. Another would extend appeals by board members to the Chair’s ruling to all actions and decision.

Another even addresses the issue of these disputes head on, laying out new procedures for when board members argue with one another or the state superintendent. The amendment says if a dispute happens, rather than the Chair having final word on what is right or wrong, the issue will go to the entire board for a vote.

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