Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Eric Weddle, WFYI

McCormick: ‘Concern’ 2 State Board Of Education Seats Still Vacant

The Indiana State Board of Education. (Eric Weddle/WFYI)

The Indiana State Board of Education. (Eric Weddle/WFYI)

With two seats sit vacant on Indiana’s education policy-creating body, the state’s highest ranking education official is concerned.

As Gary Community Schools prepares for a state-hired emergency manager to take control, the seat on the state education board that represents the district remains vacant.

The same goes for East Chicago Schools as it faces a lead contamination crisis in the community.

The Indiana Board of Education member from the 1st Congressional District represents both areas. But that member, Eddie Melton, resigned from the board in November, after being elected a Democrat state senator.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who took office in January, has yet to appoint someone to the vacant seat.

“It is a concern,” says Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of public instruction and board chair. “I think the bigger picture is we want to make sure each district has a voice. I know the governor’s office also feels that urgency.”

The 9th District seat sits vacant, as well. Lee Ann Kwiatkowski resigned after she joined the department of education as McCormick’s chief of staff.

In all, 11 members sit on the board. The governor appoints most members. McCormick says having only nine members can cause slow down board business.

Earlier this month during a regular board meeting, one member was absent, leaving eight members to vote on a series of actions. State law requires six “yes” votes for an action to pass.

So when members cast a 5-3 vote to grant waivers to let formerly failing private schools become eligible for school vouchers — no action was taken and the waivers were not granted, due to a lack of votes.

Last month, Holcomb signed the law that created the waivers to help once-failings schools speed up their acceptance back into the Choice Scholarship program.

A spokeswoman for Holcomb’s office says they are working to fill the vacancies.

Since 2015, the 11-member board consists of the following members: eight appointed by the governor; one appointed by Speaker of the House; one appointed by President Pro Tempore of the Senate; and the state superintendent. No more than five members of the board can be from the same political party.

Failing Virtual Charter School Escapes Closure But Will Shrink

Stuart Udell, the CEO of K12 Inc., the country’s largest operator of for-profit charter schools, answers questions from members of the Indiana Board of Education during a hearing about the failing Hoosier Academies Virtual School on May 10, 2017 at the University of Evansville. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI)

Stuart Udell, the CEO of K12 Inc., the country’s largest operator of for-profit charter schools, answers questions from members of the Indiana Board of Education during a hearing about the failing Hoosier Academies Virtual School on May 10, 2017 at the University of Evansville. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI)

The long failing Hoosier Academies Virtual School avoided closure from the State Board of Education at a hearing Wednesday.

Instead, the board approved a lesser punishment – a cut back on the number of students who can enroll this fall.

The online school became eligible for state sanctions, including shutdown, in early 2015. But it’s taken more than two years and three additional state education board meetings for the members to decide to take action.

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Voucher Schools Lose Bid For Waivers Under New Law

Jennifer McCormick leads the State Board of Education meeting May 10. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI)

Jennifer McCormick leads the State Board of Education meeting May 10. (photo credit: Eric Weddle/WFYI)

The Indiana State Board of Education denied waivers for three voucher-accepting private schools to speed up their eligibility to continue to accept voucher students.

A private school that receives D or F school grades for two or more consecutive years is no longer eligible to accept students who use vouchers to pay for tuition.

A law just signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb allows private schools to ask the State Board of Education for a waiver after one year if they can show academic improvements.

The board voted 5-3 in favor of approving the waivers for each school but state law requires six “yes” votes for action to be taken – so it failed.

Board member David Freitas says the legislation appears clear.

“So if you look at the law, they meet all the requirements of the law,” he says. “What basis would we deny it?”

But member Gordon Hendry cautioned the approval, noting that changes to the state’s A-F accountability scale last year reward a student’s academic growth. Those changes, he says, provide just a snapshot of the schools’ improvements without a second year to compare it.

The schools who requested the waiver each had three consecutive Ds: Central Christian Academy in Indianapolis, currently rated A; Turning Point School in Indianapolis, currently rated A; and Lutheran South Unity School in Fort Wayne, currently rated B.

John Elcesser of Indiana Non-Public Education Association emerged nearly an hour after the board’s vote to make public comment. The three schools seeking the waiver, Elcesser says, were part of the impetus for the legislation.

It’s unclear if the the schools will request the board to reconsider granting waivers but the statute is silent regarding resubmission request from a school that was previously denied.

After Years Of Second Chances, Indiana Online School Remains Chronically Failing

Anna Allman laughs with daughter Piper as they review German language words as part of Piper’s Hoosier Virtual Academy foreign language course at the Mooresville Public Library on April 18, 2017. Allman says she’d be devastated if the school was closed because “individual students that are being positively impacted -- such as our family.” (Eric Weddle/WFYI News)

Anna Allman laughs with daughter Piper as they review German language words as part of Piper’s Hoosier Virtual Academy foreign language course at the Mooresville Public Library on April 18, 2017. Allman says she’d be devastated if the school was closed because “individual students that are being positively impacted — such as our family.” (Eric Weddle/WFYI News)

Hoosier Academies Virtual School was near the brink of closure by the Indiana State Board of Education in March 2015 when the board opted for a one-year delay on casting a verdict.

Then, there was a call for another delay.

Now, more than two years since Indiana’s first online charter school became eligible for state intervention due to chronic failure, the state board will consider whether to shutter it or take a less severe type of intervention during a meeting Wednesday in Evansville.

“It’s unfortunate it’s been this many years,” says recently elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction and board chair Jennifer McCormick about the school’s ongoing academic failures. “But it is what it is and we have to take some action.”

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State Cancels 2 Schools Planned By Charter Schools USA

Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage, center, celebrates an academic recognition for Bonita Springs Charter School in Bonita Springs, Fla. in February 2017. (Credit: Charter Schools USA)

Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage, center, celebrates an academic recognition for Bonita Springs Charter School in Bonita Springs, Fla. in February 2017. (Credit: Charter Schools USA)

A state board that authorizes charter schools voted Monday to cancel plans for a group of Indianapolis business professionals to open schools in Marion and Clark counties.

The reason?

Florida-based Charter Schools USA, the would-be manager, had ceased communicating with the Indiana Charter School Board for nearly a year and missed a required deadline to identify a facility for one of the schools, according to board staff.

“Because of the inability to either meet the deadline and/or even give a reason for not meeting the deadline or trying to postpone the deadline we recommend the charters be revoked,” said James Betley, the board’s executive director, during a public meeting.

The board agreed and voted 5-0 to cancel the charters.

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K-12 Funding Inches Up In 2-Year Indiana Budget

Funding for education, which is more than half of the state’s $32 billion biennium spending plan, includes $345 million in new dollars for English-language learners, private school vouchers and a 1.6 percent increase in per-student funding in 2018 fiscal year.  (WFIU/WTIU)

Funding for education, which is more than half of the state’s $32 billion biennium spending plan, includes $345 million in new dollars for English-language learners, private school vouchers and a 1.6 percent increase in per-student funding in 2018 fiscal year. (WFIU/WTIU)

Indiana schools will receive more money per student as part of a two-year state budget compromise hashed out between House and Senate lawmakers in the past few days.

Funding for education, which is more than half of the state’s $32 billion biennium spending plan, includes $345 million in new dollars for English-language learners, private school vouchers and a 1.6 percent increase in per-student funding in 2018 fiscal year. That will increase to 1.7 percent in 2019 fiscal year.

The budget also rewrites the process for allocating top teachers bonuses, so educators in low-performing districts are not shortchanged.

House Bill 1001 was approved by the House 68-30 and Senate 42-8. Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to sign it. Continue Reading

Legislation Sent To Gov. For New Indiana Test, Graduation Pathways

The legislature sent the governor a bill that changes the future of the state assessment system. (James Martin/Flickr)

The legislature sent the governor a bill that changes the future of the state assessment system. (James Martin/Flickr)” credit=”

It’s (almost) official. ISTEP+ is out. ILEARN is in.

Lawmakers pushed through legislation Friday to develop new statewide testing program known as Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network or ILEARN. The legislation also creates multiple pathways to meet high school graduation requirements.

Students would be able to meet state graduation requirements under a number of options. Those include passing end of course assessments, achieving a certain score a college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT, passing international baccalaureate or advanced placement exams or receiving industry certifications.

The state board of education would determine how each pathway operates.

The new test and graduation requirements are set to take effect during the 2018-2019 school year, barring any unforeseen moves by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

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Indianapolis Public Schools Seek Input On Closing 3 High Schools

Jim Scheurich, a professor of urban education studies in the IU School of Education at IUPUI, makes a comment during the IPS School Board work session at School 15 on Tuesday, April 18, 2019. Scheurich is worried that the closure of schools will have unequal impact by race. (Eric Weddle/WFYI)

Jim Scheurich, a professor of urban education studies in the IU School of Education at IUPUI, makes a comment during the IPS School Board work session at School 15 on Tuesday, April 18, 2019. Scheurich is worried that the closure of schools will have unequal impact by race. (Eric Weddle/WFYI)” credit=”

An Indianapolis Public Schools task force says over the next 10 years so few students are expected to be enrolled, that only four out of seven district high schools will be needed.

At a meeting Tuesday evening, members of the task force urged the board of commissioners to consider shuttering three high schools next year, while community members voiced opposition to the proposal and one commissioner advocated for closing even more high schools.

Board president Mary Ann Sullivan agreed that schools needed to be closed and promised that community input would be gathered at a series of meetings to help shape the final decisions. The first such meeting is 6-8 p.m. April 26 at the Glendale Library

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College Financial Aid Deadline Is April 15 In Indiana

FAFSA reminder from the U.S. Department of Education. (Department of Education)

FAFSA reminder from the U.S. Department of Education. (Department of Education)

This Saturday is the deadline for Indiana students to fill out their application for college financial aid, including the federal Pell Grant.

To receive financial aid for college, students must complete the FAFSA — that’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“Every prospective college student—whether they’re a high school senior or a returning adult—should complete the FAFSA,” Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said.

Students in Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program will lose their scholarship if they don’t submit it on-time.

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So-Called ‘Prayer In Schools’ Bill Sent To Indiana Gov. Holcomb

The Indiana Statehouse. (Brandon Smith/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The Indiana Statehouse. (Brandon Smith/Indiana Public Broadcasting)” credit=”

Bipartisan legislation that seeks to protect religious freedom for students has been sent to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The bill by Indianapolis Democratic Rep. John Bartlett says traditional public and charter schools can not discriminate against students or parents because of their religious beliefs. It also asserts students’ right to wear religious clothing and express their beliefs in class writings.

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