Kyle Stokes joined WFIU/WTIU in 2011 as an education reporter and blogger for StateImpact Indiana, a collaborative reporting venture between WFIU and NPR News. He comes to Bloomington from Columbia, Mo., where he was a producer and reporter for NPR member station KBIA-FM and NBC affiliate KOMU-TV. Originally from Minneapolis, Minn., Stokes is a proud graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and an even prouder Minnesota Twins fan.
Halfway between Louisville and Evansville on the Ohio River are two small cities: Tiny Tell City, Ind., and the even tinier Cannelton. Cannelton’s only three miles upstream from Tell City — but it can seem like it’s worlds apart.
“Here’s some old buildings, just sitting here, empty,” says Cannelton City Schools superintendent Al Sibbitt as he drives down Washington Street. Continue Reading →
This reporter on the set of the WTIU-TV newsmagazine 'Indiana Newsdesk.'
I was telling this guy at a social occasion what I did for a living — that the work was invigorating and interesting, that I hoped it was making a difference, that I loved my job — when his eyes narrowed.
“Yes, but you’re an education reporter.”
I knew what this guy was thinking, though he didn’t have to say it. He assumed I spent my days covering choir concerts, bake sales and school plays. Education — a low-impact beat.
A higher business personal property tax, argues economist Scott Drenkard, would incentivize a bank in need of an ATM, for example, to "hire a bank teller — even though it doesn't make any economic sense."
StateImpact is featuring conversations with experts from two national think-tanks on the state’s proposed business personal property tax cut. Read our interview with an economist who opposes the cut here.
Imagine a bank, economist Scott Drenkard says, that wants to purchase an ATM machine.
In Drenkard’s hypothetical example, the ATM costs $30,000 per year to buy and maintain. It’s also business equipment, meaning the bank will have to pay Indiana’s business personal property tax on that ATM.
What’s the alternative?
“Hire a bank teller for $30,500 a year,” Drenkard says. “If the business personal property tax is higher than $500 a year, you’re going to hire the bank teller even though it doesn’t make any economic sense” — after all, the teller won’t dispense bills at any hour of any day of the week.
Drenkard, an economist at the right-leaning Tax Foundation, uses the example to illustrate his central point: personal property taxes create barriers to buying the equipment businesses need to be successful and, ultimately, stimulate growth in the broader economy. Continue Reading →
Business equipment tax revenue pays for many of the same school district expenses property taxes fund, such as busing.
StateImpact is featuring conversations with experts from two national think-tanks on the state’s proposed business personal property tax cut. Read our interview with an economist who opposes the cuthere.
“It’s just part of a broader trend,” says state budget and tax expert Michael Mazerov, “of believing that reducing business taxes is something that will significantly boost state economic growth.”
“But,” Mazerov adds bluntly, “it won’t work.”
Mazerov, a senior fellow at the non-partisan but left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, calls Indiana’s plans to cut its business personal property tax “penny-wise” and “pound-foolish,” arguing the move would harm local governments and schools while not substantially helping the economy. Continue Reading →
Screenshot from College Board / Edited by StateImpact
This graphic shows the distribution of Indiana students' scores on the AP exams they took relative to the states that border Indiana.
More than twice as many Indiana students took an Advanced Placement exam in 2013 than in 2003, but the percentage of the state’s students scoring high enough to earn college credit still lags the national average.
That’s one takeaway from a report released Tuesday by officials at the organization that administers AP tests to high schoolers across the country.
The graphic above tells much of the story: smaller proportions of Indiana students are earning scores of 3, 4 or 5 on the exam — the scores that are generally good enough for college credit — than in neighboring Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan or Ohio.
The part of the story the graphic does not tell, however, is that larger percentages of Hoosier high schoolers are taking AP exams than in the four states bordering Indiana. Continue Reading →
Cannelton City Schools was in 'complete disarray' when Al Sibbitt took over two years ago. The 72-year-old part-time superintendent has had to implement steep cuts to keep the district going, but revenues are still drying up.
At 72, Al Sibbitt doesn’t need to be working. But his part-time job still keeps him up nights.
“Where can I cut a few dollars here?” the Cannelton City Schools superintendent will ask himself when he can’t sleep. “Where can I save a few dollars there?”
The first snowpack of the winter on the front lawn of Indianapolis' Washington High School in 2012.
Compared to last year, harsh winter weather has prompted Indiana districts to cancel or delay classes on more than twice as many days this school year, if an analysis by our colleagues at WTIU News is any indication.
After unusual numbers of school closures and delays this winter, state Board of Education members voted Thursday to give Indiana educators seven additional school days in March to administer the state’s benchmark standardized tests.
Department of Education officials say the new schedule won’t delay the release of ISTEP+ results later in the spring but said this extension was the only extra time for testing schools would get. Continue Reading →
StateImpact graphic / Google Fusion Tables / DLGF Data
This map shows how much of each Indiana school corporation’s local tax levy was lost to the state’s property tax caps in 2013. Note: Indiana’s Department of Local Government Finance does not have property tax cap data for LaPorte County, accounting for the gap in the map there.
But as our brand new map shows, the 50 or 60 districts that have lost the largest shares of property tax dollars to the caps come from all over the state, featuring enrollments large and small.
What the map doesn’t show: The caps’ impact has grown since their debut. Property owners statewide got to keep more than $245 million last year that would’ve gone to school corporations if not for the caps — up $100 million from 2010.