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.

School Explores Benefits Of Teaching With Music

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Students at Tindley Genesis Academy in Indianapolis participate in the morning meeting, which blends songs, chants and dancing. Music is at the center of all curriculum at the school. (photo credit: Steve Burns/WTIU)

From the parking lot at Tindley Genesis Academy in Indianapolis – you can hear music.

Outside of the school, it’s a dull thumping, but once you enter the front door, drumming, shrieking and synchronized chanting greets you – before the secretary has a chance to say hello.

It’s coming from the gym.

Second through fourth grade classes stand on the sidelines of the basketball court, drumming, dancing and taking turns singing their class chants.

“This is our morning meeting that we have every morning, and our students get together, we celebrate together,” says Principal Todd Hawks. “Right now we’re hearing class chants, so every class is named after a college or university, so it’s the different cohorts between our schools doing their class chat.”

In addition to the class chants, teachers step into the center of the circle and share academic and emotional achievements of their students. At the end, Principal Todd Hawks leads the students in affirmations, giving encouragement for the day.

“Ambition,” Hawks yells out to the students.

“Ambition,” they respond.

“Is wanting,” he calls.

“Is wanting,” they return.

“To succeed!”

“To succeed!”

It’s not just the morning meeting – students have music class four days a week.

“They’re learning world drumming, piano, performing arts skills that teach them life skills, and how to read and write music,” Hawks says.

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Pre-K: Republican Governors Vs. Republican Lawmakers

A craft project created by Pre-K students at Penny Lane West School in Bloomington.

A craft project created by Pre-K students at Penny Lane West School in Bloomington. (photo credit: Sara Wittmeyer / WFIU)

The 2017 legislative session is winding down, and legislators have yet to decide on a final version of the pre-k expansion bill. Before the session started, Governor Eric Holcomb asked lawmakers to double funding for the state’s pre-K pilot program, which currently only serves children in five counties.

As the bill stands now, the pre-K pilot program will receive a $3 million increase, not the $10 million Holcomb asked for.

This struggle between a Republican governor advocating for pre-K funding and a reluctant Republican-held legislature is a familiar one in Indiana.

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This Week At The Statehouse: Budget, Superintendent, ISTEP+

The Indiana Statehouse. (Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

The Indiana Statehouse. (Jimmy Emerson/Flickr)

As the legislative session enters its last three weeks, lawmakers begin to wrap up, and many of the major education bills we’ve been following moved forward.

State Superintendent Change Revived In The Senate

In the first half of the session, a Senate committee voted against changing the state superintendent position from an elected to an appointed one. But that idea found new life this week. An amendment approved in the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee Monday altered the House bill enough to revive it.

Senate Releases Its Education Budget, Increasing Funds For K-12

The Senate released its proposed budget for the next two years, and it included more money for K-12, English Language Learners and students living in poverty.

The Senate budget also reverses the House move to eliminate the teacher bonus program.

For state-funded pre-K, it expands the program from 5 to all 92 counties. In other way it is similar to the House plan and proposes investing the same $16 million per year for high quality pre-K programs and money for homeschool programs.

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Senate Unveils Budget For Education, Increasing Funds To K-12

The Senate unveiled its budget proposal Thursday, showing an increase to K-12 funding.

The Senate unveiled its budget proposal Thursday, showing an increase to K-12 funding. (photo credit: Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The Senate unveiled its budget proposal for the next two years Thursday, showing higher increases for K-12 spending, compared to the House proposal. Increases include more money for English Language Learners and students living in poverty.

The budget that passed out of the House increased funding for K-12 by 2.8 percent over two years. The Senate proposal increased it by 3.4 percent, which shakes out to $358 million over two years.

A major change from the House budget is the addition of $40 million for complexity grants. Complexity is money calculated for students living in poverty, and during the last budget session, the General Assembly scaled it back so all schools would receive similar allocations. The proposed increase would provide more money to schools with more students living in poverty.

Another change from the House budget is money for teacher performance grants. The House voted to eliminate the program, and instead reinvest that money into general school funding, but the Senate wanted to make sure there was specific money for teacher bonuses.

“We think that extra pay for good teachers is a good thing,” says Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville). “We think having a performance funding model that makes sure that that money goes to the classroom teacher and is not swallowed up in the bureaucracy or the administration of the local school corporation is a good thing.”

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Bill Looks To Help Struggling Gary Schools With Financial Issues






















The financial situation in the Gary Community School District has been dire. It is racking up debt and struggling to meet basic financial responsibilities, like payroll. The district currently has $100 million in debt and an operating deficit of $8.6 million.

A bipartisan bill in the legislature this session aims to improve the situation by creating a new position in the district. Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Merrillville) co-authored the bill with Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville).

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Manufacturing Companies Need More Workers? Look To The Schools

Caleb Pierson looks over a cabinet project he designed for Heartwood Manufacturing. Pierson is a graduate of a program run through Batesville High School, that helps high school students get manufacturing skills while still in high school.  (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Caleb Pierson looks over a cabinet project he designed for Heartwood Manufacturing. Pierson is a graduate of a Batesville High School program that teaches manufacturing skills. (photo credit: Claire McInerny/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Manufacturing companies all over the state have open positions and can’t find qualified workers to fill them. These jobs require specialized training because the new world of manufacturing requires more technology-based skills. So companies are finding new opportunities to teach them.

The Problem In One Manufacturing Town

Batesville is a town of less than 7,000 people, and half a dozen manufacturing companies employ hundreds of them. But they would like to employ more.

This is a problem Brett Hofer, safety and training coordinator at Batesville Tool and Die, knows well.

“We’d post the positions for some of our technical, trade positions, and it would be really hard to find somebody who had those skills and could come in right away,” Hofer says.

Batesville Tool and Die is a metal stamping company that employs about 400 Batesville residents. Its main products are auto parts, and as technology evolves, its jobs requires more computer skills.

“If they’re having a problem with a part, if something is not to spec, they have to be able to get in there and find out what’s causing this, why is this doing this, and from there making the adjustment to the pieces,” he says.

So leaders at Batesville Tool and Die spearheaded an effort to create more workers to take these positions. They created a feeder system.

“Working with the schools we were able to get the 17-, 18-year-old students start coming in and seeing our facility and potentially getting them a head start in the training for some of our technical trade positions,” Hofer says.

Adding Manufacturing To K-12 Education

This feeder system is a partnership between Batesville High School, the local Ivy Tech campus and a few Batesville manufacturing companies. They created a new program for high school juniors and seniors. Students spend half their days in traditional high school classes and the other half in manufacturing classes at Ivy Tech. Eventually they intern with a local manufacturing company doing entry level work. The hope is that both student and employer will want to continue the working relationship.

That’s exactly what happened with Caleb Pierson and his boss, Joe Meyer.

Meyer and Pierson walk through the wood shop at Heartwood Manufacturing, the company Meyer started and leads as CEO. On the big, loud, assembly floor, employees cut wood on large machines and furniture sits on the floor in various stages of completion.

Pierson shows off a set of cabinets he designed. It will be shipped to a hospital in another part of the state.

“On this job in particular, we went up, we met with the project manager of the hospital, measured all the rooms, they gave us drawings of what they wanted,” Pierson says. “Then me and him designed everything on the computer and designed it.” 

Pierson is 19, and he learned the computer technology he used to design these cabinets in the Batesville High School program.

“Before I was in this program I really had no idea what manufacturing was,” he says. “I probably would have thought it was standing in a dark factory, not moving for 8 hours a day and just moving a part from one conveyer belt to another. I thought it actually sounded pretty boring.”

At the beginning of high school, Pierson thought he wanted to be engineer. But after seeing first hand what manufacturing jobs looked like.

“I realized I didn’t want to be an actual engineer,” he says. “I wanted to do something more along the lines of designing stuff but still being able to do the hands-on stuff,” Pierson says.

Which is exactly what he does now at Heartwood. He interned with the company his last year of high school, and when he graduated, he took a full time job as a designer.

And this is becoming the participating companies’ preferred way of hiring. Meyer, Pierson’s boss, says it’s more effective.

“For us, it’s sort of an extended job interview over a two-year period,” Meyer says. “It’s hard to put a dollar figure on it, but without a program like this we spend a lot of time in the hiring and firing process, trying to determine if someone’s gonna last.”

This is the fifth year of the program, with two graduating cohorts. So far, the school district estimates, of the 10 students who have graduated, 75 percent are employed by manufacturing companies. And they plan to continue offering this opportunity, so students like Pierson and companies like Heartwood can continue to find each other.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I probably would have ended up going to college, because I used to think that’s what you had to do,” Pierson says. “So I would probably be somewhere spending a lot of money on an engineering degree, only to graduate in three years and learn that is not at all what I want to do. So this is saving me a lot of time and money and I know I’m in the right field I want to be in.”

McCormick Asks For 2019 Start Date For New Test, Not 2018

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick wants lawmakers to extend the timeline for creating a test to replace ISTEP+. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick wants lawmakers to extend the timeline for creating a test to replace ISTEP+. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick asked a Senate education committee Wednesday to extend the timeline for creating a test to replace ISTEP+.

The Senate is considering a House bill that would, once again, revamps the state assessment, the ISTEP+. The current version of the bill has students taking the new test next year. This concerns McCormick and others at the Department of Education.

The legislature scrapped an old version of the ISTEP+ a few years ago, and the test had to be re-written quickly because former governor Mike Pence removed the state from Common Core standards. The quick turnaround meant confusion and issues with the rollout.

McCormick says legislators should avoid a similar situation.

“We’ve got to blueprint, we’ve got to vet, and we’ve got to get it right,” McCormick says. “To roll it out in 2018, we could do it, but it might not be pretty. And we’ve tried that before as a state, and we didn’t get it right.”

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State Considers Emergency Funding For Gary Schools

Gary Community Schools are struggling to meet payroll and other financial obligations, and is looking to the state for help.

Gary Community Schools is struggling to meet payroll and other financial obligations, and it’s looking to the state for help. (photo credit: Rachel Morello/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board recommends the state grant Gary Community Schools a loan to cover teacher paychecks and other costs until the end of March.

The board unanimously approved the recommendation last week, and the NWI Times reports the school district’s debt includes an $8.6 million operating deficit.

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This Week At The Statehouse: A Slow Start To The Second Half

In a 41-9 vote, state senators pushed ahead a two-year, $32 million proposal that would modestly expand state-funded preschool beginning July 2017.

Pre-K continues to be one of the most debated education bills this session. (photo credit=”Sonia Hooda / Flickr

At the halfway point in the legislative session, the bills passed in the first half, by House or Senate, move on to the other chamber.  So this week, a few education bills that made that cut got their first hearing in the House or Senate education committees.

The House committee only heard two Senate bills this week, one regarding emergency medications in schools and another on 529 savings plans.

Any amendments or votes on those won’t come until next week at the earliest.

Seven major House education bills got their first hearing Wednesday in the Senate’s Education and Career Development committee. These include teacher background checks, prayer in school and suicide prevention training. These bills could start moving forward in the process, with amendments or votes, as early as next week.

Part of the pre-K expansion bill is facing opposition because of a provision that says acceptance into the On My Way Pre-K program also means acceptance into the state’s private school voucher system. More than a dozen people, including a House lawmaker, testified against that portion of HB1004 Wednesday.

Child advocacy groups are still asking lawmakers to increase funding for pre-K to $50 million. The House bill currently proposes a $10 million funding increase.

Senate lawmakers approved their own version of preschool expansion with a smaller $3 million bump.

Help us help you! We want to know what you want covered. Have a question or story idea? A specific policy that deserves more explanation? Reach out! Leave a comment or reach reporter Peter Balonon-Rosen at and reporter Claire McInerny at

A Tale Of Two Pre-K Bills: What Is The Future Of Early Ed?

Students at a pre-kindergarten camp in Avon, Ind., play a counting game. Many are calling on the legislature to expand the current pre-k pilot program to help more kids. (Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

Students at a preschool camp in Avon, Ind., play a counting game. Many are calling on the legislature to expand the current pre-K pilot program to help more kids. (Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana)

The second half of the legislative session begins this week, and the House and Senate have two very different bills to expand state funded pre-K.

Both bills passed out of their original chambers and are now being considered by the opposite chamber of the statehouse. Before the session, both Republicans and Democrats supported expanding the pilot program and allocating more money for preschool scholarships for low-income children.

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