Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Kyle Stokes

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.

  • Email: kdstokes@indiana.edu

Despite Massive Debts, State Says Muncie Schools Must Keep Buses On The Roads

Muncie Community Schools superintendent Tim Heller.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Muncie Community Schools superintendent Tim Heller.

A bad school year for Muncie Community Schools leaders got even worse Friday after the state denied their request to end bus services they say the district can no longer afford.

That means a school year that began with a failed referendum and the controversial consolidation of the district’s high schools might end with, according to The Star Press, “staffing cuts, fewer buses running more routes and increased walking zones.”

District officials told voters ahead of a November special election that the rejection of a $3.3 million ballot issue would force them to end the district’s $3 million transportation contract.

But Indiana law requires a school district to inform families three years before the total elimination of busing services. While state officials say they’re “sympathetic” to Muncie’s financial plight, the district didn’t provide a “sufficient plan” to get students to school safely. (The Muncie Politics blog has the full denial document.)

While critics say Muncie school officials haven’t done enough to prevent the district’s debt from snowballing, district officials see their financial woes as a direct product of property tax caps that have kinked many Indiana schools’ revenue streams. Continue Reading

With New Senate Bill, Indiana Would Slow Common Core Review

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, talks with Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, before the third Common Core panel.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, talks with Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, before a Common Core panel.

The “pause” in Indiana’s rollout of the nationally-crafted Common Core academic standards would stretch into yet another year if state lawmakers adopt legislation filed this week.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, has proposed giving the State Board of Education an extra year — until July 1, 2015 — to continue its review of the Common Core, adopt a set of academic standards and select a statewide test to match those standards.

The bill would prolong a touchy dispute over the most basic expectations Indiana sets for its students at all grade levels at a time when key state lawmakers appear to be growing weary of the fight. (House Speaker Brian Bosma called the Common Core debate a “distraction” late last year.)

Most State Board members have voted for the Common Core in the past, and Kenley’s proposal wouldn’t prevent them from re-adopting the standards without amendment. The bill also says the board “may include elements of the Common Core” in whatever standards they write next.

But Common Core opponents say Indiana’s ready to go it alone. Continue Reading

New Session, Similar Pre-K Plan: House Ed Panel To Take Up Pilot Program Bill

A student prepares for nap time at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A student prepares for nap time at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind.

Indiana lawmakers’ attempt to create a state-funded pre-K program in this new legislative session will look a lot like their attempt at doing so last session.

The House Education committee is set to take up a bill Thursday that bears striking resemblance to a proposal the full House passed last year: Create a pilot program in five Indiana counties that provides scholarships for low-income 4-year-olds to attend preschool.

That idea didn’t pass muster with the Senate Education committee last year. Lawmakers in that chamber scaled back the proposal over concerns with its cost, which was then estimated at $7 million annually for 1,000 students.

Skepticism about pre-K’s potential cost remains. But pre-K vouchers gained a powerful public ally this fall in Gov. Mike Pence — and the question is whether his support will be enough to turn the tide. Continue Reading

Elkhart Truth: School Districts ‘Won’t Need To Make Up’ Monday, Tuesday Snow Days

Snow-covered roads in Bloomington Sunday night.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Snow-covered roads in Bloomington Sunday night.

Following record cold and record snowfall over much of Indiana, The Elkhart Truth reports school districts that cancelled classes Monday or Tuesday will not have to make up those days:

George Frampton, director of the office of accreditation for the education department, confirmed Monday that state superintendent Glenda Ritz has authorized schools to apply for a one-day waiver from the required 180 days of instruction. Later in the day, Ritz’s press secretary, Daniel Altman, told The Elkhart Truth that the waiver will be offered to schools for Tuesday as well… Continue Reading

State Intervention Will Likely Stop Short Of Takeover For Troubled Evansville School

Fourth grade teacher Amber Santana gives testimony at a public hearing on the future of Glenwood Leadership Academy in Evansville. Nearly 200 people, including neighbors, community leaders and school staff, attended.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Fourth grade teacher Amber Santana gives testimony at a public hearing on the future of Glenwood Leadership Academy in Evansville. Nearly 200 people, including neighbors, community leaders and school staff, attended.

Stopping short of calling for outright takeover of an Evansville school with some of Indiana’s lowest standardized test scores, Indiana education officials have proposed adding state-level oversight for the troubled Glenwood Leadership Academy.

District officials had pleaded with state officials for more time to allow their improvement plan — which includes a $600,000 contract with an outside turnaround group backed by federal grant money — to begin to work at the school.

The recommendation State Board of Education members will consider at their meeting Wednesday would require that contract to remain in place, Center for Education and Career Innovation spokesperson Lou Ann Baker confirmed to StateImpact Monday. Continue Reading

Indy Monthly: Ritz Spokesperson Searched Bennett Email Files, Denies Leaking Story

State superintendent candidate Glenda Ritz and incumbent Tony Bennett.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz and her predecessor, Tony Bennett.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz‘s chief spokesperson David Galvin took three to four weeks to personally scan through “tens of thousands” of emails from the administration of her predecessor, Tony Bennett, reports Adam Wren in his latest for Indianapolis Monthly.

The piece doesn’t reveal how AP reporter Tom LoBianco knew to ask for emails that revealed Bennett’s last-minute changes to the state’s A-F formula or his possible use of state resources for campaign purposes.

But there are several compelling tidbits. For instance, after getting tipped off there might have been problems with the 2012 A-F grades, Galvin asked the Department of Education’s IT department for the email inboxes of Bennett’s closest aides. Continue Reading

How Indiana Schools Are Handling The Referendum Learning Curve

Signs like this one from Worthington are becoming more common in town across rural Indiana, where changes to the property tax code are forcing districts to consider school closure and consolidation.

Ben Skirvin / StateImpact Indiana

A "Save Our School" sign in a window in Worthington.

Want to pass a referendum in your school district? Better get to work, says Donna Petrait.

Get to work, like, yesterday. Or a few years ago.

“Any school district that is anticipating having a referendum needs to start three years in advance,” says Petrait, who consults for school districts on strategic communications plans.

It’s one of the lessons Petrait picked up in Indiana’s brief history with referenda. Since 2008, only half of the 92 districts who’ve tried to convince voters to raise their own property taxes have been successful.

Yet recent trends suggest districts and their supporters are beginning to figure out how to get voters on their side. As political scientist Andrew Downs points out, while 60 percent of school referenda failed in 2008 and 2009, nearly 60 percent of school referenda passed 2012 and 2013.

“We’re learning. We’re learning,” says Petrait. Continue Reading

Hoping To Change Education Policy Debate, Indiana School District Premieres Documentary Film

More than 1,000 people pack downtown Lafayette's Long Center for the Performing Arts for the premiere of "Rise Above The Mark." Donations to the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation funded the film's production and district officials were critical to crafting its message.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

More than 1,000 people pack downtown Lafayette's Long Center for the Performing Arts for the premiere of "Rise Above The Mark." Donations to the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation funded the film's production. District officials were critical to crafting its message.

Two-thirds of Hoosiers are satisfied with their public schools, a recent Ball State poll shows.

But many Indiana school district officials still feel they’re losing the battle for public opinion, pointing to what they see as statehouse defeats — from expansion of the state’s voucher program to high-stakes teacher evaluations and standardized tests — as proof.

Hoping to change the education debate, the leaders of West Lafayette Community Schools launched an unusual marketing push last month: they premiered a documentary film laying out their take on Indiana education policy.

The district funded the film, called “Rise Above The Mark,” not with tax dollars, but with donations to its foundation arm. But West Lafayette superintendent Rocky Killion was instrumental in visioning the film, which takes aim at Indiana lawmakers — and pulls no punches.

“We’re the right school district to start that conversation because we’re not making any excuses,” Killion says. “We’re not saying the reforms are hurting our public schools from a metric. We’re saying that it’s going to hurt our future if we don’t change course.” Continue Reading

The Education Stories To Watch In 2014

State superintendent Glenda Ritz chairs a meeting of the State Board of Education.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz chairs a meeting of the State Board of Education.

Tensions between Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the rest of the State Board of Education escalated in the latter half of 2013 after Gov. Mike Pence announced the creation of a new agency to coordinate workforce development efforts in the state.

Squabbles between Ritz and the new Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) were front and center at State Board meetings. In October, the 10 appointed members sent a letter to legislative leaders accusing the Department of Education of delaying the release of A-F grades, triggering a lawsuit. The next month, Ritz walked out of a public meeting without adjourning it. And she called the creation of CECI a power grab.

Democrats and Ritz allies predict a move to strip Ritz of her authority as chairwoman of the State Board in the coming year. But as we gaze into the StateImpact crystal ball, we’re not so sure.

As 2013 comes to a close, we’ve made a few predictions about where some major education issues are headed in 2014 and added a list of stories we’ll be covering in the coming year. Continue Reading

Indiana Attorney General Taking School Resource Officer Push To Congress

A school resource officer visits a classroom.

Flickr / Nicole Mays

A school resource officer visits a classroom.

Washington lawmakers are beginning to write the federal budget, and Indiana’s top lawyer wants to make sure they include more money for school resource officers.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced last week he plans to work with the state’s congressional delegation in hopes of increasing the budget of a relatively-small U.S. Justice Department grant program for hiring police officers to work in schools.

On the state level, Indiana lawmakers have already authorized $20 million in matching grants to help schools hire resource officers; districts have already claimed more than $9 million of that money.

While some criminal justice advocates question the effectiveness of such a push, it aligns with a goal Obama administration officials spelled out last January: fund the hiring of 1,000 new school resource officers across the country. Continue Reading

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education