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

Evansville Has The Secret Recipe To School Turnaround Success

Glenwood Leadership Academy in Evansville if one of the districts failing schools. After one year in the district's Turnaround Zone, GLA has reduced office referrals, increased IREAD scores and are getting more students closer to passing the ISTEP+.

Claire McInerny (StateImpact Indiana)

Glenwood Leadership Academy in Evansville is one of the district's failing schools. After one year in the district's Turnaround Zone, GLA has reduced office referrals, increased IREAD scores and are getting more students closer to passing the ISTEP+.

Last year, the school district in Evansville did something unheard of. They had five schools consistently receiving F’s from the state, and some of those schools were performing so poorly that the state was on the verge of taking them over. So the superintendent, teachers union and community came up with a plan that is exceeding expectations: they accepted that some of their schools needed intervention and made themselves open to help.

One of those five schools, Glenwood Leadership Academy, is showing rapid growth and could serve as an example for other schools in similar situations.

GLA has been in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation’s “Transformation Zone” for one complete school year, and now that it’s almost halfway through this current school year, the State Board of Education thought it was a good time for a check up.

“Glenwood Leadership Academy, I don’t think under my definition, is not a failing school anymore,” board member Tony Walker said. Continue Reading

Sortable Table: Who’s Funding Your Representative?

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

StateImpact Indiana

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

A few days ago, we told you education could be the biggest issue facing voters at the polls Tuesday in an otherwise lackluster mid-term. Today, we’ve gathered some evidence to prove that point.

Below is a sortable table of campaign donations to both state Senate and House candidates from education focused organizations: PACs, unions and individuals who are key stakeholders in Indiana education.

As you look through the tables, you’ll see there are significant donations from these organizations, and in the case of many candidates, education related donations funded most of the campaign.

There are two donors the fueled the most money into Republican and Democratic candidates: IPACE and HQE (how they’re represented in the table). Indiana Political Action Committee for Education, IPACE, is the political action committee affiliated with the Indiana State Teachers Association and are mostly funding Democratic candidates. On the other side, Hoosiers for Quality Education, a PAC affiliated with the Institute for Quality Education, is funding Republicans who advocate for school choice. Continue Reading

How Charter Schools Are Present On The Ballot

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

StateImpact Indiana

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

In the circle of school choice supporters nationwide, Indiana is known as a place with pro school choice laws and expansive options. But as charter schools expanded throughout the state and more school voucher money became available, so did controversy.

Now, charter schools are becoming a political platform for candidates in the state.

Indianapolis as a case study

Let’s first look at the Indianapolis Public Schools school board race in which ten candidates are running for three open spots on the board.

Indianapolis has one of the largest populations of charter schools in the state, with 40 residing within city limits. Because charter schools receive state funding just like public schools, the funding of charter schools within IPS’ district will be a relevant issue for those elected.

This emphasis on how charters will interact with IPS schools is evident in the candidates’ campaign financial filings. Charter advocates and PACs donated to multiple candidates. Christel DeHaan (founder of Christel House Academy of Tony Bennett scandal fame) donated $3,000 to David Hampton and $2,000 to Mary Ann Sullivan who are both running for the at-large position.

Charter advocacy groups based on the East Coast

including Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now and Leadership for Educational Equity donated a collective $13,200 to the candidates.

So that’s $18,200 of charter school supporter money funneled into a public school board race.

Charters advocates are funding General Assembly candidates

Republicans running for the General Assembly are seeing an influx in donations the last few weeks from Hoosiers for Quality Education, the new PAC name for Hoosiers for Economic Growth and parent organization to the Institute for Quality Education. The group is an Indiana based pro school choice advocacy group, and in the state senate race alone, HQE donated around $107,500 to Republican candidates.

Democrats are receiving education-related donations as well, but not from charter school advocates. We’ll look at that money later in the week.

The topic of charter schools is now ammunition for the debates between Republicans and Democrats in the state. In a statement back in July, Democrat Jeff Sparks who is running for state representative in District 62, blasted Republicans for their forgiveness of $91,000,000 in charter school debt.

Julie Berry, a Democrat running for state senate in District 45, has made education the flagship issue of her campaign. She writes on her campaign website that improving the state’s public schools are her priority if elected.

“Public schools are struggling in southern Indiana, and throughout the state, with fluctuating budgets, due in part to vouchers and charter schools,” Berry writes. “The majority of Indiana’s students will remain in public schools and it is our duty to maintain and improve Indiana’s public school system.”

Sparks and Berry are just two examples of candidates discussing charter schools in their campaigns, and it’s clear the subject is a polarized issues, with Republicans in the state supporting school choice and Democrats opposing it.

Could Education Be The Biggest Issue At The Polls This Year?

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

StateImpact Indiana

In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

Here at StateImpact, education is the priority — and it seems those running for public office in Indiana this year agree.

The typical attitude toward midterm elections is lackluster when there isn’t a presidential race pulling people to the polls. And although voter turnout will most likely still be abysmal next Tuesday, we’re here to tell you if you want to vote with education in mind, this election is a great opportunity to do so.

This week we’re going to dive into some of the education issues at play in local and state elections across the state. We’ll look at charter schools, a pre-k referendum on the ballot in Columbus, how much money is funneled into school board races and the call from Republican leaders to change the school funding formula.

Political analyst Ed Feigenbaum says polling data from both sides, as well as independent polls, shows education is the top issue for voters.

“Unlike the past several cycles when jobs and the economy were the top issue or issues, this year, education is the top issue,” Feigenbaum said. “And when you drill down a little bit deeper, the key concern is education funding.”  Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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

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