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.
Shirts, signs and stickers are among the items Pre-K 4 All volunteers distribute to community members to spread the word about Bartholomew County's pre-k referendum.
At a recent community gathering in Columbus, hundreds of people are milling about making small talk. Robin Hilber is standing outside, folding a stack of green shirts. Each sports the phrase “Lead the Way With Pre-K.”
Hilber ruffles through the shirts and a few piles of other campaign materials.
“We’ve got yard signs, we’ve got buttons that also have the same logo on them, and then we also have business cards,” Hilber lists. “It’s important to vote ‘yes’ for pre-k!”
Hilber is a volunteer with Pre-K 4 All, a community group working to promote the passage of a preschool-related referendum on this November’s ballot – an issue all too familiar to county residents.
Taxes would increase by 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for seven years. That amountsto roughly $16 extra per year for a taxpayer with a $100,000 home. The levy would bring in about $12.6 million dollars to fund scholarships and allow the county’s existing public pre-k program, Busy Bees Academy, to continue operating and even expand.
Residents faced this request before in 2012 when they voted no on the referendum. But this time around, Hilber and her team are campaigning harder; they are putting out yard signs, canvassing neighborhoods and attending community events to get the word out.
“We weren’t quite as vocal, so we’ve decided to go out there and really inform people of the issue,” Hilber explains.
Pre-k is a hot topic across the state, and the renewed interest could help Bartholomew County’s cause. But there is much more for community members to consider.
Indiana’s youngest students are getting a lot of attention these days, perhaps most notably because of the state’s pre-k pilot program. The initiative will target kids from low-income families in five counties during the 2014-15 school year.
Legislators approved more than $10 million dollars for the pre-k pilot, and many say they hope to expand the program statewide. But that will depend on how successful the pilot is in improving student outcomes – and in order to determine success, the state needs data.
StateImpact sat down with ELAC member Dr. Megan Purcell, who is also a clinical assistant professor at Purdue University. She explains what the assessment will look like, and how it might differ from what is typically used to determine kindergarten readiness.
The grant, aimed at states that have a great need for pre-K infrastructure, could provide up to $80 million in federal investment for early childhood education.
Indiana is one of only 16 states eligible to apply.
The original deadline to submit the grant application was Oct. 15. The U.S. Education Department, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, announced today that they have extended that deadline to Oct. 22.
The Indiana State Board of Education voted Wednesday to hold off on releasing 2014 A-F school accountability grades until their November 5 meeting.
The scores were sent out on an embargo Tuesday, but will now not be released for a few weeks.
Multiple board members expressed concern that data calculation errors for a handful of schools would compromise the integrity of the board.
“We’re being told that the comparative analysis is not done, we’re not ready,” said board member Brad Oliver. “I would rather have accurate data on November 5th than to just do this knowing we don’t have key pieces. These grades are going to be scrutinized by everybody. We’re trying to get it right.”
“It’s so important to them that we need to ensure that the data is accurate,” added board member David Freitas.
Prior to discussion of the timeline, the board heard appeals from three schools with atypical configurations. Those schools included Christel House Academy, Indiana Math and Science Academy and Carpe Diem.
The board finalized its decision Tuesday at a meeting in Indianapolis.
Board members peppered Seven Oaks leaders Lindsey Weaver and Matt Wolf with questions about their initial charter application. Among the concerns:
Alignment of the school’s proposed discipline policy with its mission of “training minds and improving hearts. Board member Karega Rausch called the policy “consequence-heavy” and commented that it seemed “disconnected” from the school’s proposed classical model.
The school did not have plans to offer a lunch program for students. Wolf told board members the group had not initially budgeted for a lunch program, but said they had are discussed possible options in the case the budget did allow for it in the future.
The Seven Oaks board’s financial expertise. The group did not include any members with experience that charter school board members found significant for effective management.
The Seven Oaks board’s lack of K-12 experience. Although a number of group members have been involved in education activities – including homeschooling and classroom teaching – board staff took concern with their collective lack of operational experience.
Board staff did commend Seven Oaks leaders’ passion and dedication, as well as their plans for the school’s special education services and technology.
Ultimately, board members accepted their staff’s recommendation to deny the charter. Board member Karega Rausch says the deficiencies he and his colleagues saw from Seven Oaks outweighed the strengths at this point in time.
The Indianapolis community continues to make small steps in supporting Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s pre-k initiative, but the program has yet to reach full funding.
Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana
Pre-k is an important issue in Indiana this year. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is just one of the state's policymakers who is attempting to make moves for the city's youngest students.
The City-County Council approved $1.7 million in funding for pre-k during their meeting Monday night. The money is part of the city’s $1 billion budget for 2015.
Pre-k funds will come out of the local homestead tax credit, which was overfunded by $2 million. Ballard had wanted to eliminate that credit outright to add $5 million a year toward his $50 million pre-K plan. Council Democrats voted that idea down.
Ballard had sought $5 million a year, which would have triggered a $2 million gift from the Lilly Foundation and a commitment to find $8 million more in private donations.
With just a third of the money potentially in the pipeline, a foundation official declined to say whether Lilly would still make a grant if the $5 million isn’t reached.
“We haven’t even gone that far in our discussions yet,” said Michael O’Connor, director of state government affairs. “This (the $1.7 million) is a positive indicator, but there are a lot of moving parts still.”
Earlier this month, the Lilly Endowment pledged $22.5 million to support two early childhood education initiatives – Early Learning Indiana and the United Way of Central Indiana. Both of those organizations plan to use the money to strengthen current preschool programs as well as build new ones.
Although policymakers generally accept the goal of Ballard’s initiative, not everyone agrees on how the program should be funded.
Let’s take a look at some of the items on the agenda:
Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana
Glenda Ritz and members of the Indiana State Board of Education will meet on October 15.
Approval of proposed rule language on Pre-K Accreditation. Preparations for the state’s pre-k pilot program are well underway, and a key element of implementation is helping providers in the five participating counties get ready. The board will look at new legal language describing which providers have the proper credentials to actually participate in the program. Remember that providers also have to qualify as a Level 3 or 4, the top two levels on the state’s Paths to QUALITY rating system. Public hearings on the proposed language will be held in late November and early December.
This is an update from a story we posted on Thursday, October 2. You can find the original story here.
According to a pro-charter school advocacy group, Indiana’s public charter school sector is among the best in the nation.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released its inaugural report last week of what it considers the “healthiest” charters. The District of Columbia and Louisiana topped the list; Indiana came in at number seven.
The report looked at characteristics like growth, innovation and quality – but critics say those measurements are flawed because researchers did not accurately compare charters and traditional public schools.
[T]o critics, the rankings do little more than build on the Alliance’s previous work, indicating how friendly a state is to charter schools but not enough about which is truly the best in terms of academic quality. They also argued the rankings set a low bar for academic quality by comparing charter schools with local public districts, many of which are struggling urban schools, rather than with top-performing schools elsewhere.
The State Board of Education’s Committee on School Turnaround has been traveling the state recently, getting input from different school corporations on the future of their lowest-performing schools.
Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana
State Board of Education members Sarah O'Brien, left, and Tony Walker sit on the board's school turnaround committee, along with Dan Elsener. The group has been gathering input from various turnaround operators, most recently in Indianapolis.
Thursday, the SBOE heard about the takeover efforts at Arlington High School in Indianapolis. The state took over the school in 2012, after it received a string of ‘F’ school letter grades six years in a row.
As far as what will happen beyond that, it’s up in the air. Tindley has made it clear that they wish to hand over control of the school, but the organization did not send a representative to Wednesday’s meeting. IPS has offered to step in, as has Charter Schools USA, a management company that operates three other takeover schools in the city.
Here’s a quick look at the ideas different stakeholders tossed around for the future of Arlington:
It’s that time of year again: put on your good citizen hat and rock that vote. It’s election season.
Two Indiana school districts will pursue referenda this Nov. 4: the East Noble School Corporation of Noble County, as well as the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation.
Lee Creighton / Flickr
Two Indiana school districts will pursue referenda during this November's elections.
The former hopes to raise money for construction of an entirely new middle school building, as well as mechanical and roof improvements at the district high school. East Noble school officials will ask for 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to cover about $37 million in building costs between budget years 2020 and 2032.
According to the project’s website, over the last year or so, district officials held community forums and met with several local groups to solicit input. Leaders considered renovating the current building, but decided to pursue funds for an entirely new facility on the ballot.
Should voters pass the measure, the ENSC School Board will move forward with securing an architect for floor plans and formalizing the purchase of the land.