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

Year In Review: The State Board Of Education In 2014

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, left, Brad Oliver, David Freitas and Andrea Neal listen during a previous meeting.

State Board of Education members Gordon Hendry, left, Brad Oliver, David Freitas and Andrea Neal listen during a previous meeting. (photo credit: Claire McInerny)

If you’ve followed education policy in Indiana the last few years, you’ve no doubt come across news about the State Board of Education. The 11 person panel, including state superintendent Glenda Ritz, creates education policy for the state that is recommended to the legislature and the governor.

Board meeting started to become dramatic when Ritz, a democrat, was elected in 2012 and became chair of the board which is comprised of Republican governor Mike Pence and former governor Mitch Daniels’ appointees.

So how did that saga play out in 2014? Here are the highlights:

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Year In Review: Important Education Legislative Actions of 2014

The 2014 legislative session include a few education bills, and 2015 should be no different.

Yesterday, we reviewed the biggest education surprises of the year. Today we want to review the biggest legislative decisions regarding education in Indiana.

Here are some of the key proposals the 2014 General Assembly and the governor put into law this year, as well as what we can expect for 2015.

Pre-K Pilot Program

Easily one of the biggest pieces of legislation passed, House Bill 1004 created the On My Way Pre-K pilot program. Since the governor signed it into law earlier this year, the program moved forward at full speed, with the Family and Social Services Administration selecting the five counties chosen to participate, issuing applications for providers and families, and preparing for a January launch in four of the counties.

Once scholarships are issued to the first group of students, the research portion of the pilot will begin. The legislation requires students participating in the program to be assessed using a kindergarten readiness assessment. A longitudinal study will also be conducted, but the format of that study has not been released.

New Academic Standards

After Governor Pence signed a bill removing Indiana from the Common Core, the General Assembly passed legislation mandating the state board of education create new standards by July 1. They did, and teachers throughout the state have spent the first semester of this school year implementing these standards and preparing kids for a new version of the ISTEP+ that will match them.  Continue Reading

Year In Review: The Biggest Education Surprises Of 2014

A lot in terms of education policy changed this year, and we review them before heading into 2015.

A lot in terms of education policy changed this year, and we review them before heading into 2015. Photo credit: alamosbasement (flickr)

In a state where education policy can change dramatically from one election to the next, 2014 saw some of the biggest education changes since former governor Mitch Daniels’ widespread reforms started in 2011.

As we head into the 2015 session, when legislators will vote on a new education budget and a spring testing session without the updated version of the ISTEP+ written, we want to review the biggest education moves this year.

Abandoning The Common Core

Only a few years after adopting the Common Core state standards, Governor Pence signed legislation in late March removing Indiana from the national standards. The decision started a slew of other changes, including the writing of new academic standards. The re-write only took a month, and the standards are similar in format to the Common Core, displeasing critics of the nationally crafted standards.

This shift meant some changes for teachers in their daily life in the classroom, but the biggest consequence of this decision is the creation of a new standardized test. Because of requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind law, a state’s assessment much test students on that state’s standards – and when Indiana wrote its own, there was no aligned test.

Since the summer, the State Board of Education and the Department of Education have worked with test vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill to write a new version of the ISTEP+ that will only be used this spring. That test will be very different for students, with fewer multiple choice and more open-ended questions, and it will resemble whatever new assessment the state will adopt for future years.

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What Does The State Board of Education Chair Do?

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

Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July’s meeting. (Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Earlier this month, Governor Pence dissolved the Center for Education and Career Innovation and announced he will encourage the legislature to change a law that says the state superintendent is the board of the State Board of Education. Pence wants the board to elect its own chair, citing the board’s continued tension with state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

We’re going to explore some hypothetical situations ahead of the General Assembly’s 2015 session, to break down what it will take to make these changes to the SBOE and what that would look like.

Changing the Law

So, if the General Assembly votes to change this distribution of duties for the SBOE, what will it take?

The Indiana Constitution says “there shall be a State Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose method of selection, tenure, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.”

So legislators don’t need to make a Constitutional amendment, which is much more difficult, rather they would vote to change part of the Indiana Code that addresses the roles of the State Board of Education that designates the state superintendent as chair of the board.

Senator Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, serves on the Senate Education Committee and says he is glad to see the Governor suggest this.

“I think it deserves consideration and some discussion because I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who says its working well the way it is right now,” Yoder says. “It’s just not a good concept, especially when you have opposing parties representing each side.” Continue Reading

Obama Administration Releases Draft Of College Ranking System

The Obama Administration will release its draft of a new ranking system for colleges today, seeking feedback from stakeholders in the field. Politico Pro education reporters look at the challenges of trying to find consistent metrics to rate the accessibility, affordability and outcomes for two and four year colleges.


In the weeks and months leading up to the first major release of the controversial college ratings plan, Education Department officials have described the content as a “draft,” an “outline” and a “wire frame.” They weren’t exaggerating. The highly anticipated draft release issued Friday morning was delayed…

Read more at: www.politico.com

How Education Could Factor Into A Pence Presidential Bid

Governor Mike Pence is often mentioned on the list of potential Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential election.

Governor Mike Pence is often mentioned on the list of potential Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential election. (House GOP)

We’re almost two years away from the 2016 presidential election, but speculation, rumors and announcements are already in full swing. Many potential candidates are focusing on issues that took a backseat during the financial crisis, including education.

Gov. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, is often mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election, and over the past year he has made a slew of education decisions many people say are proof he wants to be relevant on the national stage. Pence avoids directly answering the question of whether he’ll run, but if education is going to be a cornerstone of a political campaign, there’s a lot to look at in Indiana.

For starters, earlier this month Pence explained his legislative plan for the upcoming session, saying he wants it to be a session focused on education policy. But before the governor gives any more specifics on his plan, let’s examine his education policy decisions up until now, and what the could mean for a potential campaign.

Backing Out of the Common Core

Removing Indiana from the Common Core was one of Pence’s biggest education moves over the past year. The standards are not well liked by conservatives, who view them as a tool for too much federal oversight in local school districts, so earlier this year Pence signed legislation making Indiana the first state to make an exit. Continue Reading

Show Me The Money: Fundraising Efforts For On My Way Pre-K

The Pre-K pilot will begin in January, and fundraising efforts have proven to be a challenge for some of the counties.

The Pre-K pilot will begin in January, and fundraising efforts have proven to be a challenge for some of the counties.

The state’s new preschool pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, launches in January in four of the five pilot counties. Creating an education program from scratch takes time, creativity and a lot of money, regardless of the $10 million allocated to the program from the Family and Social Services Administration. $10 million doesn’t go as far as one might think when divided by the five counties and split between the two thousand eligible children.

That’s why as part of the law that created the program, selected counties are required to raise at least 10 percent in matching funds to put toward student scholarships. These funds can be from private donations or federal grants.

Governor Pence announced the five counties in July, leaving those in charge of fundraising a few months to find hundreds of thousands of dollars before the January launch in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.

‘It’s frustrating because it’s a moving target’

Lake County, home to Gary, East Chicago and Crown Point, has more than 1,000 children on the waiting list for Head Start, the current option for low-income preschool. The need is there, but an abundance of donors is not, according to Dennis Rittenmeyer who is in charge of fundraising for Lake County’s program.

Rittenmeyer says the county will meet the 10 percent match, but he has received some pushback from potential donors.

“Several donors that I have talked to, even though in some cases they still are agreeing to support this effort, have said they don’t like it because it really is the state’s responsibility,” Rittenmeyer says. “It’s not private foundations’ responsibility to run ongoing public education.”

Another obstacle to Rittenmeyer’s fundraising efforts is the future of the program. Continue Reading

Out Of State Student Enrollment Could Affect Higher Ed Funding

The campus of Indiana University East / Ivy Tech Community College / Purdue University College of Technology in Richmond.

The campus of Indiana University East / Ivy Tech Community College / Purdue University College of Technology in Richmond.

The number of out of state students at large Indiana universities, mainly Purdue and Indiana University, are increasing, causing concern for some in the legislature.

Forty-three percent of IU-Bloomington’s freshman class are out of state or international students, and 44 percent of the undergraduate population at Purdue are not Indiana residents.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairs the Senate Appropriations committee and told the Associated Press of his disappointment in these increases, saying it hurts the mission of state-run universities and could affect funding the legislature allocated for higher education institutions this session.

“I’m concerned,” said Kenley. “Both of those universities, since their inception, were started for the benefit of Indiana [residents] and Indiana students. So we need to be true to those missions.”

IU-Bloomington spokesperson Mark Land says leaders at IU understand these concerns, but says qualified, Indiana residents will not lose a spot at IU-Bloomington to an out of state student. Land says IU-Bloomington is only one campus in the IU system, and has a different mission from the regional campuses in Kokomo, South Bend, New Albany, Gary and Richmond. Continue Reading

A New Wave Of Transforming Schools: The Transformation Zone

IDOE Director of Legislative Affairs John Barnes, IPS Superintendent Louis Ferebee and State Board of Education member Brad Oliver discuss the new plan for failing schools at the BDG Legislative Conference.

Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury), IPS Superintendent Louis Ferebee and State Board of Education member Brad Oliver discuss the new plan for failing schools at the BDG Legislative Conference.

One of the biggest accomplishments from Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting was a recommendation from the board to the governor and legislature regarding turnaround efforts for failing schools.

The board accepted the recommendation from its turnaround committee to overhaul the way the state intervenes in failing schools.

The recommendation includes a few big changes. First, the board will now intervene after four consecutive years of receiving a D or F, rather than six years of consecutive Fs.

The recommendation was approved with a 9-2 vote, with Cari Whicker and state superintendent Glenda Ritz voting against it, citing issues with certain parts of the plan.  Continue Reading

AP: Report Shows Bennett Could Have Been Charged With Wire Fraud

A report obtained by the AP shows evidence supporting criminal charges against Tony Bennett, although none were ever pursued.

A report obtained by the AP shows evidence supporting criminal charges against Tony Bennett, although none were ever pursued.

A state report released to the Associated Press reveals evidence against former state superintendent Tony Bennett that could have supported charges of federal wire fraud, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

But Bennett was never charged.

Instead, an ethics committee, which looked at Bennett’s use of state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign, concluded Bennett committed minimal ethics violations and forced him to pay a fine.

The Associated Press’ Tom LoBianco writes the Indiana inspector general’s report the AP obtained indicates the evidence against Bennett was much more serious.

The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law. That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.

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