Rachel Morello comes to StateImpact by way of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has worked for various news and education-related organizations across the country - but no matter the locale, you’re sure to find her sporting a Packers jersey and tuning into “Car Talk.” You can follow her on Twitter @morellomedia.
It may be more than a year away, but the 2016 race for Indiana governor is already shaping up to be an interesting contest.
Since the end of the General Assembly‘s annual legislative session just a few weeks ago, a number of candidates have declared their intentions to run. A number of veteran politicians are ramping up campaigns on both sides of the aisle.
What could the race mean for Hoosier education? Let’s take a look at the track records of those who have signed up for the big race.
Current Indiana Governor Mike Pence will run for a second term. (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
“Gov. Mike Pence is a conservative leader and dedicated public servant who always puts Indiana first,” Cardwell said in a statement. “He followed through on his promise to put education first this legislative session by making an historic investment in our children, teachers and schools.”
Earlier in the year, many had suspected Pence might make a go at the Republican bid for the presidential nomination. Now, the governor has 18 months left on the job to make his case to voters why they should extend his presence at the helm of the Hoosier state. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports that history is on Pence’s side – it’s been 40 years since an incumbent Indiana governor wasn’t elected two consecutive terms.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg speaks at a press conference on the steps of the Indiana statehouse in 2012. (Photo Credit: Brandon Smith/Indiana Public Broadcasting)
If Gregg’s name looks familiar, that’s because it appeared on the ticket in 2012. The Democrat and former Indiana House Speaker announced his second run just a day after the conclusion of the “education session,” focusing on his desire to better the state’s economy for the future of Hoosier students.
“Especially as the president of Vincennes University, I understood how important Indiana’s reputation was in attracting good jobs to our state, so our graduates could stay here at home,” Gregg said in a video announcement.
Back in 2012, Gregg called for increased access to early education for middle-income families, proposing a preschool pilot similar to the one that began in five Indiana counties earlier this year. He was also vocal about the need to raise the high school graduation rate and make college more affordable. Whether these remain the focal points of his education agenda remains to be seen as the campaign continues.
Former state superintendent Tony Bennett delivers a speech in Indianapolis. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)
One storyline we never expected to continue for as long as it has: the recurring presence of former state superintendent Tony Bennett.
As we reported last summer, an ethics case against the former state official resulted in a $5,000 fine. The State Ethics Commission approved the settlement regarding allegations that Bennett used state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign, as discovered in a series of emails obtained by the Associated Press in 2013.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Friday that the state will not file criminal charges in connection with either portion of the ethics case.
“No evidence was presented to justify criminal charges, and prosecution on each of these issues is declined,” Curry said in a statement. “I would note that submission of the same Inspector General materials to the U.S. Attorney’s Office likewise did not result in any Federal criminal charges.”
This week, Indianapolis Public Schools announced it is cutting back on some of its music program offerings – and not everyone is happy about the changes.
(Photo Credit: Loyola Fine & Performing Arts/Flickr)
The shift comes as a result of tweaks to the district’s staffing system. Right now, many IPS schools share music educators, who split their time between multiple buildings. This means some schools – specifically those with lower enrollments – don’t have a dedicated, full-time music teacher.
The new “model” seeks to streamline this, giving each school its own full-time music teacher. It’s a change taking place at the elementary school level only.
IPS spokesperson Kristin Cutler says no school will lose music entirely, but some may lose specific classes based on who they keep on for the full-time position.
“Some people are licensed to teach general and vocal music education, some people are licensed [for] instrumental music education, some people are licensed for both, so that would be the determining factor in if the offerings at a school change,” Cutler explains. For example, she adds, a school may keep its general music classes, but lose a band or orchestra program if the teacher is not certified in instrumental education.
Schools with higher enrollments will also be given an additional financial allocation that can be used to hire a second music teacher to support programming and scheduling needs. Cutler says that decision will be left up to individual school principals.
Indiana education officials have agreed to sign a contract with Pearson to operate the ISTEP+ beginning in the 2016 school year. (Photo Credit: Robbie/Flickr)
Testing company Pearson – slated to run Indiana’s statewide ISTEP+ tests beginning in 2016 – is facing criticism over security of assessments it handles in other states.
Education officials in Minnesota canceled statewide science exams Thursday after an apparent cyberattack on Pearson’s system Wednesday. This is the second time testing has been suspended due to hacks in less than a month.
POLITICO‘s Caitlin Emma summarizes the state’s response to the situation:
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius is now questioning whether Pearson can adequately serve as vendor.
“It is simply unacceptable and unfair to subject students and teachers to this kind of uncertainty in a high-stakes testing environment,” she said on Wednesday. “After the April 21 suspension, Pearson added additional security measures to prevent this type of disruption. Given the need to suspend testing today, I have questions about Pearson’s ability to follow through on their assurances.”
Cassellius said her department will talk to districts today about next steps.
Pearson representatives said in a statement that student data had not been compromised.
Congress is in the process of overhauling No Child Left Behind – the nation’s cornerstone education law – and has been since the beginning of the year. The process of taking an idea from a bill to a law is long and arduous, as lawmakers working on NCLB have discovered – they currently find themselves at an impasse. See if you could endure the task: test your skills with EdWeek’s “Choose Your Own Legislative Adventure” game.
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have been trying to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act since the beginning of January. So far, it’s the most serious attempt to overhaul the law since it was last rewritten back in 2001 and branded as the No Child Left Behind Act, the current iteration of the federal K-12 law.
All that craziness can really take its toll on students, teachers, and especially administrators – the people tasked with making sense of statewide programs and mandates for individual school districts.
One of the biggest items for them to tackle: finances.
Like many families, Indiana schools piece together budgets of their own. Instead of paying for groceries, they set aside funds for school lunches; rather than save up for a new car, they count pennies for transportation costs. But unlike the average household, a school district rarely sees a regular income – that number depends on a number of changing factors, including whether voters approve a referendum agreeing to pay extra taxes, or how the state legislature decides to calculate state funding.
What challenges does that create for schools already dealing with tight budgets?
All nine schools in the Brownsburg Community School Corporation have received an “A,” the top state ranking, over the past three years. The district has also remained at the top as far as performance on the state standardized ISTEP+ test, and teachers say their relationships with students and families remain positive.
The district is doing so well, in fact, that people have expressed interest to Brownsburg Superintendent Jim Snapp about moving to the area simply for the schools.
“We’re going to continue to do great things, it’s just going to be a little bit harder on the facilities,” Snapp says.
The new system gives equal weight to student growth and performance. Previously, grades were primarily calculated on student performance on the statewide standardized ISTEP+ test, with only bonus points awarded for student growth.
The performance/growth ratio is 50/50 for Grades 3-8. In high school, the split is 20/20 and the leftover 60 percent is based on factors such as graduation rates, performance on graduation exams, and AP passing rates.
Growth is only measured for students attending school 162 days out of the year. It also doesn’t include students in third grade, because they have not been previously tested (the ISTEP+ starts in third grade).
The feds require that schools can only receive an “A” if they show performance and growth in student subgroups (i.e. student with special needs, free/reduced price lunch, English language learners, etc.)
The new rules will likely result in fewer “A” and “F” schools.
All of these rule elements came to the table following months of discussion and various opportunities to hear public comment on proposed changes.
Source: Indiana Department of Local Government Finance
You can also check out our entire referenda scorecard, with district results dating back to 2008.
StateImpact’s favorite referenda expert, Larry DeBoer, says in general his theory is that referenda have a better chance of passing in May, since those elections don’t typically boast any big races and tend to draw a lot of pro-referendum support. Here was his reaction Tuesday night:
@morellomedia In May ’14, 9 out of 10 won. Since Nov ’09 66% of May referenda have won. Looks like closer to average results this time.
The battle over a proposed classical charter school in Bloomington continued Monday night, at a public hearing for the second go-around in front of the Indiana Charter School Board. That group will review comments received at the meeting and via email before making a final decision – again – later this month.
Seven Oaks Classical School, a proposed charter school for area students, could be one step closer to reality. Members of the Indiana Charter School Board will review comments received via email and a Monday night public hearing before they vote on a recommendation for the school’s application later this month.