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

Compromise On SB1 Keeps Ritz As Chair Through 2016

State superintendent Glenda Ritz would remain chair of the State Board of Education under the conference committee report released Monday.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz would remain chair of the State Board of Education under the conference committee report released Monday. (Photo Credit: Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

The new format and role of the State Board of Education is taking shape as the legislative session winds down, and it appears state superintendent Glenda Ritz will keep her role as board chair under changes made to Senate Bill 1.

A conference committee for the bill released its latest report Monday, which if approved, would allow the current chair of the State Board of Education to remain in place until Jan. 31, 2017, the end of Ritz’s current term.

After that, language would require the board to elect its own chair annually from among its ranks.

The conference committee report echoes other changes we’ve seen in previous versions of SB1, including reducing its membership from 11 to nine. The governor would make only six board appointments, giving the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem each one appointee.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, chaired the conference committee and says most other states have smaller state boards of education, allowing the group to be more efficient.

Another change reflected in the report would give the SBOE authority to “authorize the development and implementation of the ISTEP+ program and any other statewide testing program, including establishing criteria for content and format of the ISTEP+ program.”

Right now, this power to influence test criteria and content lies solely with the Department of Education – but Holdman says shifting some authority to the SBOE doesn’t eliminate the IDOE from the process.

“I would disagree that we give the state board all of the authority over ISTEP+,” he says. “My understanding is that we allow the department to do its job, but it has to be approved and there is oversight with the board, as with everything.”

John Barnes, Director of Legislative Affairs for the IDOE, says including the SBOE into the process of creating and implementing the ISTEP+ only makes it confusing. He cites the current testing window as an example of when it could get complicated with both agencies trying to troubleshoot issues.

“You’ve got to be able to make snap decisions, you’ve got to be able to get things done right away,” Barnes says. “There isn’t time for two different entities to consult about what’s going on, so we feel like that’s a big mistake.”

The report also establishes the board as a state education authority so it can gain access to data that board members say the IDOE doesn’t share.

The legislature has until Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. to finalize the legislation, so SB1 could be tweaked in the next few days.

ISTA Advocates For Collective Bargaining Before End Of Session

Teachers unions are pushing to collectively bargain bonuses for teachers included in Senate Bill 566.

Teachers unions are pushing to collectively bargain bonuses for teachers included in Senate Bill 566. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Legislation coming out of this year’s General Assembly could change a lot for the day to day operations of schools, with the funding formula changing and a variety of structural changes proposed for the State Board of Education, and one thing teachers are keeping a close eye on: their collective bargaining rights for new bonuses.

In Senate Bill 566, a comprehensive education bill, one section addresses giving teachers with master’s degrees bonuses.

The current bill says a teacher is eligible for these bonuses if he or she “has earned a master’s degree from an accredited postsecondary educational institution in a content area directly related to the subject matter of a dual credit course; or another course taught by the teacher.”

It’s legislation that rewards teachers for continuing their education, according to Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, and makes them role models as lifelong learners to their students.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith says while her organization is pleased to see the legislature rewarding qualified teachers, limiting the bonuses to these parameters leaves out a whole group of teachers.

“We thought it should be a little bit broader because for example, in elementary classrooms if you have a master’s degree you might not have a content area, you might have a master’s in education.”

And according to the legislation, the degree must be related to a specific subject area. Meredith and other members of the ISTA are working with legislators to broaden that criteria to any education related degree.

Brown says he and others on the conference committee are working to change that language to address concerns raised by ISTA.

“The bill does not prohibit elementary teachers,” Brown says. “We hope we’ll clarify the language as we move toward a conference committee report.”

The legislation doesn’t allow the teachers and schools receiving this bonus pay to negotiate it like base salaries, which is a huge problem for Meredith, who says any sort of compensation for teachers should be subject to collective bargaining.

Another reason Meredith says teachers should be able to bargain with these bonuses is to make sure the money is awarded to teachers fairly, and not in a subjective manner from administrators.

“We really want a way to be able to bargain it so we can set parameters and that everyone knows what the rules are,” she says. “Everybody knows what you have to do to qualify or to get whatever it is that’s being offered.”

Brown says the reason the legislation currently prohibits collective bargaining on these bonuses is to give the local administrators and school boards the control to reward teachers that perform well and receive additional education.

SB566 is still being worked on in conference committee, and will be finalized by the end of the session Wednesday.

State Board Bill Will Address Access To Data

State superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as the chair of the State Board of Education, but if Senate Bill 1 goes forward that would no longer be the case. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

State superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as the chair of the State Board of Education, but if Senate Bill 1 goes forward that would no longer be the case. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

Among the complaints State Board of Education members repeatedly lodge toward state superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Department of Education is access to certain data sets. The legislature is seeking to address that in the final days of the 2015 session.

A conference committee for Senate Bill 1 has not yet been scheduled, but legislative leaders say it will be one of the last bills finalized, as they are still working on it.

At the beginning of the session, the SBOE included data sharing as one of its legislative priorities. Board member Brad Oliver says the board currently doesn’t get full access from the IDOE to data sets like A-F grades. Senate President Pro Tem David Long says it’s this issue he and his colleagues are trying to address in SB 1.

“We’re trying to figure out a way where that information exchange at all levels is improved, and that’s the big holistic fix we’re looking at right now,” Long says. “And it’s being made after a lot of conversations – that includes with the department. We’re not pointing fingers, we’re just saying let’s fix this and fix it right.”

Oliver says the IDOE cites the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as reason for not disclosing certain information. House Speaker Brian Bosma says to make sure board members get access to all data, the legislature might try to establish the board as a “state education agency,” therefore qualifying the group to see that data.

“The State Board of Education does not fall within the current parameters for a state education agency, and that’s the stumbling block on them receiving some information,” says Speaker of the House Brian Bosma. “It’s very easy to establish them as a state education agency by statute. We’re again just trying to remove roadblocks as they crop up.”

A conference committee will be scheduled to finalize language over data sharing before next Wednesday, when the legislative session ends.

A Recap Of Senate Bill 1 And The Future Of The SBOE

State superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as the chair of the State Board of Education, but if Senate Bill 1 goes forward that would no longer be the case.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as the chair of the State Board of Education, but if Senate Bill 1 goes forward that would no longer be the case. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

One of the more controversial education bills moving through the General Assembly this session is Senate Bill 1, which changes the State Board of Education, including removing the state superintendent as the chair.

After passing both the House and Senate, the bill will likely go to conference committee before being signed into law by the governor, so we at StateImpact thought it would be a good time to review what the chair of the SBOE does and how this bill would change the current board.

The Current State Board of Education

Current law allows for 11 board members, which includes the elected state superintendent and ten other members the governor appoints. Four of those members must currently work as educators and have a teaching license. And most important, the law says the state superintendent serves as the chair of the board.

The chair runs the meetings, calls on people to speak, calls for votes on motions, and sets the agenda. It’s very much an administrative role for the group, but it’s these duties that state superintendent Glenda Ritz performs that have started so much conflict with the current board.

Ever since she took office, we’ve seen Ritz and the other board members disagree on when an agenda was set or what was on the agenda. They often argue about communication between the two entities, because Ritz and the Department of Education have a separate staff from the state board members. Board member Brad Oliver has been very vocal about the issues he has with how Ritz currently runs the board.

“The thing that I’ve not been accustomed to is in most boards I’m on, the chair will go out of their way to make contact with individual board members to cultivate those relationships, to sit down periodically and talk about what is coming before the board typically,” Oliver says. “For reasons that are well documented, when CECI was created and other things that happened, we’ve gone further away from that. There’s very little communication between the chair and individual board members.”

Senate Bill 1 is the legislature’s attempt to address these issues. Continue Reading

Bill To Change State Board And Remove Ritz Passes House

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as chair of the State Board of Education. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz currently serves as chair of the State Board of Education. Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana

The House today passed Senate Bill 1, the measure that would change the makeup of the State Board of Education, including removing the state superintendent as chair and letting the board choose its own chair from among its ranks.

The House voted 55-41 to accept the updated version of the bill, which we outlined in detail here.

In addition to removing the state superintendent as chair of the board, it also changes the following aspects of the board:

  • Adds two members to the board.
  • Increases the number of members with education experience from four to six.
  • Gives one board appointment each to the Speaker of the House and Senate President Pro Tem. The governor would still have 10 appointments.

Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, sponsored the bill in the House and says despite testimony to the contrary, the bill is not about politics.

“It is strictly about policy and getting the right policy in place,” McMillin says. “What we are considering doing here and what we are discussing here is giving the State Board of Education the opportunity to select their own chairperson and also doing some things differently with the board.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate so they can approve the House amendments. It could be sent to conference committee or if passed again there, it will be voted on by both chambers again before going to the governor to be signed into law.

Legislative Update: State Board Chair And Senate Budget

As the so called “education session” gets closer to an end, the General Assembly is finalizing a number of education bills to send to the governor’s desk. One of the major decisions the legislature is debating is how the state funds school districts. Another is whether to keep Glenda Ritz the head of the state board of education.

StateImpact Indiana’s Claire McInerny appeared on Indiana Newsdesk Friday to give an update on some of the education bills still up for amendments before final passage.

House vs. Senate: A Comparison Of School Funding Formulas

The Senate released its version of the 2015-2017 budget Thursday, with K-12 and higher education receiving a combined 63 percent of state funds. The way the Senate proposes to fund schools differs slightly from the House’s budget, mainly in how it funds low-income students.

(Read more about the Senate’s proposed budget)

To illustrate the differences between the two budgets, we looked at the per pupil amount for a variety of school corporations ranging from rural, urban, low-income and affluent. Hover over the bars in graphs below to see exact amounts:

Here’s a direct comparison between the House and Senate budgets for these school corporations:

Continue Reading

Indiana’s Reputation Post-RFRA Reaches Potential College Students

Universities around Indiana are responding to the religious freedom bill passed last week.

Universities around Indiana are responding to the religious freedom bill passed last week. (Photo Credit: Barbara Harrington/WTIU News)

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act dominated headlines last week and garnered national media attention. In response to the law, corporations, organizations and other state governments announced they wouldn’t work with Indiana if the law remained intact.

The portrayal of Indiana in national media also affected the decisions of a more impressionable group of outsiders: high school seniors from other states considering Indiana colleges and universities.

Almost every day this month, hundreds of prospective students will visit Indiana University’s campus. They either recently committed, or are trying to get one last feel for the university before choosing a school by the May 1 deadline.

Liam Dixon is one of those students taking an April campus tour. He applied to 18 universities and has spent the majority of his senior year at his home in Irvine, Calif. trying to decide which one is the best fit for him. He recently settled on IU.

Liam Dixon, a high school senior from Irvina, Calif., will attend IU-Bloomington this fall. He visited campus for the first time this week, after reading about Indiana's religious freedom law.

Liam Dixon, a high school senior from Irvina, Calif., will attend IU-Bloomington this fall. He visited campus for the first time this week, after reading about Indiana’s religious freedom law. (Photo Credit: Barbara Harrington/WTIU News)

Around the same time he committed to IU, the news of Indiana’s religious freedom bill reached Dixon in California, where he goes to school with openly gay students and lives in what he calls a very open-minded community.

“I didn’t know how to interpret hearing they were being so close-minded and conservative on this on specific topic,” Dixon says.

Dixon wasn’t the only out-of-state student to question his decision about spending the next four years in Indiana after reading about the law. The Admissions Office at IU received multiple calls and emails from out-of-state students and their families.

“These are families that have developed relationships with us and they’ve visited us many times and they’ve been engaged with us throughout their process,” says Sacha Thieme, Executive Director of Admissions for IU. “They just want to know that the experiences that they’ve had with Indiana University and Bloomington to date are going to be the same experiences they can expect in the future.”

Thieme says although the concurrent timing of the commitment deadline and RFRA was unfortunate, it helped engage prospective families with IU and learn even more about the university.

“We welcome families to ask questions, we welcome students to ask questions, we’re an institution of higher education we invite academic inquiry,” Thieme says.  Continue Reading

House Ed Committee Votes To Keep ISTEP Over National Test

The State Board of Education will meet Friday to discuss this year's ISTEP+.

The State Board of Education will meet Friday to discuss this year\’s ISTEP+.  photo credit: David Hartman (flickr)

The House education committee voted 8-4 today in favor of an amendment that removes language from Senate Bill 566 that would have allowed the state to use a nationally crafted assessment rather than the ISTEP+.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, authored the bill as a cost-saving measure after learning how much it will cost to write a new assessment that matches the state’s new academic standardsa price tag currently set at $134 million.

Kenley’s suggestion of using a national test surfaced back in December, when state superintendent Glenda Ritz presented her budget to the Senate Appropriations Committee. But as the bill passed through the Senate and entered the House, critics emerged saying reverting to a nationally crafted test would be returning Indiana to the education situation it wanted to abandon when it left Common Core.

Michael Cohen, president of the national education consulting group Achieve, worked with Indiana when it pulled out of Common Core and wrote new standards. He testified to the committee today in favor of the amendment, saying dumping ISTEP+ and trying to make a national test fit Indiana’s unique standards could put the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver in jeopardy again.

In response to legislators that suggested taking an off-the-shelf test like NWEA and tweaking the standards to match the test, Cohen said that kind of change is not a tweak, but “major surgery.”

“We’re going to give control of Indiana’s test to a testing company,” Cohen said.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who helped author the amendment, says the test most people suggested replacing ISTEP+ with is NWEA, a test school districts currently use throughout the year leading up to the ISTEP+. The problem with using that test, says Behning, is it’s a completely different type of assessment and wouldn’t comply with state law.

“Reality is they (NWEA) have never created an end of course or summative exam and so Indiana would be venturing into totally uncharted territory,” Behning said.

Behning says the other issue with using an off-the-shelf test is most national tests are Common Core aligned and wouldn’t be able to assess the state’s standards.

The bill now goes to a summer study committee.

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