Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indiana’s College Loan Default Rate Ranks High

Data released by the U.S. Department of Education shows Indiana has one of highest default rates of student loans in the country.

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan said higher education systems and states need to be held more accountable for graduation rates and the quality of degrees that help students get jobs, during a speech in Maryland Monday

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testifies before Congress. (Photo Credit: EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS/LANDOV)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testifies before Congress. (Photo Credit: EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS/LANDOV)

“We must shift incentives at every level to focus on student success, not just access,” he said. “When students win, everyone wins. But when they lose, every part of the system should share responsibility.”

The U.S. Department of Education released national graduation and loan default data on Monday. Indiana is tied with Iowa for the third highest default rate in the country.

On average 15 percent of Indiana students — those at four-year, public, private and for-profit schools –  who entered repayment on federal student loans between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011 couldn’t pay back their loans before September 30, 2013.

That rate is skewed by Indiana’s for-profit colleges whose students have a 22 percent percent default rate. Students at the state’s public colleges default at a rate of 10 percent. Private school students fared the best — with only a 6 percent default rate.

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Financial Issues Build On Gary Schools’ Perception Problem

Afflicted by debt and other financial issues, the Gary Community School Corporation is struggling to sell off abandoned school buildings – and holding onto the vacant structures is only adding to widespread perception of the district as ‘unsafe.’

July 26, 2015 1:01 AM GARY – Gary’s neighborhoods are pockmarked with 21 abandoned schools littered with broken windows and gang graffiti that add to the northwestern Indiana city’s urban decay. Gary Community Schools officials say they’re unable to sell the buildings because of a $7.1 million lien from the IRS over delinquent taxes and penalties.

Read more at: www.journalgazette.net

Feds Grant Indiana Three-Year No Child Left Behind Waiver

Indiana is still in line with the expectations set in order to receive federal funding.

The state Department of Education announced today that Indiana has received a three-year extension from the U.S. Department of Education for the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. This flexible status exempts the state from various provisions of the federal education law.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says this waiver will give schools more local control and greater flexibility over how they use federal dollars.

“I will continue to work with both local schools and the federal government to find increased ways to direct more resources into classrooms while reducing the amount of time spent on testing,” Ritz said in a statement.

Indiana had been operating under a one-year waiver extension granted last summer.

No Child Left Behind is the latest version of the country’s cornerstone education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), an extensive statute that has governed funding for primary and secondary education since 1965. ESEA is up for renewal this session in Congress, and right now the House and Senate have each passed their own version of a rewrite. The chambers will have to work together to come up with one version to send to the President’s desk.

Along with all other states, Indiana would be subject to whatever regulations appear in a new version of ESEA – unless the feds decide to continue the practice of granting waivers – so it’s unclear how long this waiver will stay in effect.

Former President George W. Bush signed NCLB into law in 2002.

Higher Ed Commission Joins Efforts To Reduce Student Debt

As student debt continues to climb across the country, state officials and institutions in Indiana are taking steps to help student figure out how to best manage their loans.

As we’ve reported, the General Assembly passed a law during the 2015 “education session” to better inform college students about their debt load. House Enrolled Act 1042, authored by Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, requires public and private colleges and universities across the state to provide annual information to all students receiving loans, specifically those participating in the 21st Century Scholars program or receiving Frank O’Bannon scholarships – both state funded programs.

Beginning in June 2016, schools will be required to send estimates of the following data on a yearly basis:

  • Total amount of student loans
  • Total amount the student will have to pay (principal + interest)
  • Monthly payment amount
  • Percentage of the cumulative federal borrowing limit a student has reached
State officials hope a new law requiring colleges and universities to communicate with students about their debt repayments will make things easier on both parties. (Photo Credit: 401(K0 2012/Flickr)

State officials hope a new law requiring colleges and universities to communicate with students about their debt repayments will make things easier on both parties. (Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012/Flickr)

Indiana University has already been sending student borrowers this type of letter since 2012, and the school has seen much success. IU officials estimate undergraduate debt system-wide has decreased by over 12 percent – close to $31 million.

To help institutions fulfill this new “truth in borrowing” requirement, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has released new guidance, as well as templates for those student letters.

Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers says she hopes the materials will provide further clarity for schools, to allow them to help Hoosier students be more responsible with paying for school.

“As we call upon Indiana’s colleges to keep tuition increases to an absolute minimum, we must also make sure students make informed decisions when they borrow to pay for college,” Lubbers said in a statement. “Providing students…an easy-to-understand breakdown of their debt responsibility is a small step that will help thousands of Hoosiers graduate with less debt.”

The Commission estimates Hoosier graduates leaving school with a four-year degree shoulder an average debt load of $27,000. That amount sits closer to $17,000 for students graduating with two-year degrees.

Indiana ranks near the top of the list when it comes to student debt across the country. Nationwide, the average student owes $28,400 after college, according to data from the Institute for College Access and Success.

Strategy Session: Money, Management Key For Ritz’s Campaign

In politics, as in life, there are good days and there are bad days.

As of late, nobody knows this better than gubernatorial candidate and current state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Following allegations last week that Ritz’s campaign may have violated some election finance laws, the candidate and her team are now in clean up mode – but progress has been slow. To make matters more complicated, Ritz lags far behind her opponents in campaign funding.

Can the superintendent regain her footing in the race before it’s too late?

Let’s Recap…

Glenda Ritz had a rough go of it last week.

Reports surfaced late Thursday that financial documents submitted to the state showed the superintendent’s gubernatorial campaign accepted donations during the 2015 legislative session –something prohibited by state law, which defines the session as a sort of “blackout period.” Ritz has since claimed this was a recording error, along with submitting an amended finance report to the state Elections Division.

A supporter holds his sign supporting state superintendent Glenda Ritz during her announcement she will run for governor in 2016. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

A supporter holds his sign supporting state superintendent Glenda Ritz during her announcement she will run for governor in 2016. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Andrew Downs, a political analyst and director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW, says this is the sort of violation that doesn’t get made very often, which reflects poorly on the campaign.

“This seems to be a fairly large mistake, and in reality, something that might just be referred to as ignorance of the law,” Downs says. “It’s the sort of thing that you want to make sure you’re getting right – and this, obviously, looks like they’re not getting it right.”

What’s more, Downs adds that the snafu is an indicator that at the moment, Ritz’s campaign is not as well-oiled as it could be.

“These can snowball, they can build on one another and create an even greater image that the campaign is not up and running,” Downs says.

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IPS Superintendent Attends White House Conference on Discipline

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and two other administrators are at the White House today for a conversation on school discipline. Reducing suspension and expulsions rates is a priority of the Obama administration and is an ongoing focus at IPS.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee will attend a discussion on school discipline at the White House on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (Photo Credit: Indianapolis Public Schools)

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee will attend a discussion on school discipline at the White House on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (Photo Credit: Indianapolis Public Schools)

In the past year at IPS, student suspensions, expulsions and arrests have been dramatically cut by at least 40 percent.

The reason? The district is focusing more on helping students understand and control why they act out instead of kicking them out of school.

“What we are trying to do is use behavior, especially inappropriate behavior, as an opportunity for instruction,” said Cynthia Jackson, IPS Positive Discipline Coordinator. “So there is going to be some opportunity for natural consequences but also an opportunity to learn new skills.”

Jackson joins Ferebee and Arsenal Tech principal Julie Bakehorn at the White House where national experts and key Obama staff will discuss “improving school discipline policies and practices,” according to the invitation.

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Report: Indiana’s Education System Improved Year After Year

The state of Indiana’s school children is slightly better than previous years but still lagging in some areas compared to national standards. That’s according to the annual KIDS Count report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report found the following about Indiana’s education system:

  • 61 percent of children do not attend preschool, a number consistent with the findings in the 2007-09 report. The national average is 54 percent.
  • 62 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, better than the national average of 66 percent.
  • 62 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in math, up from the last report when the state was at 65 percent. It’s also lower than the national average of 66 percent.
  • 20 percent of high school students are not graduating on time, a significant decrease from the last report, when 26 percent of students were not graduating on time, but slightly higher than the national average of 19 percent.

Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting writes that overall, the state ranks 32nd in well-being, which factors in data from categories including health, economic well-being and family and community – last year the state ranked 27th:

But Indiana Youth Institute interim CEO Glenn Augustine says that’s more a case of other states, such as Missouri and New York, improving just a little more than Indiana.

“In three-quarters of the categories the Casey Foundation looks at, Indiana either held its own or improved,” Augustine says.

The KIDS Count report is released every year.

Teachers: How Much Do You Pay For School Supplies Each Year?

It’s no secret that teachers spend hundreds of dollars each year to decorate their classrooms, stock the classroom library or have extra supplies on hand. It’s become the norm for teachers to pay for most of these classroom items out-of-pocket,

In fact, at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, a SheerID and Agile Education Marketing study found that on average, teachers spend around $513 of their own money on classroom supplies, instructional materials, books and professional develop.

The General Assembly recognized this trend during the 2015 session when some lawmakers proposed a $200 tax credit for teachers – but the final version of the budget allowed for only $100.

We want to know what this practice looks like in Indiana. Teachers, educators or anyone who works with kids in an education capacity, please fill out this one question survey so we can get a feel for how much of your paycheck goes back into your job.

Ritz Camp Corrects, Resubmits Erroneous Campaign Finance Report

Officials with State superintendent Glenda Ritz’s gubernatorial campaign are attempting to clear up allegations they violated Indiana election finance laws.

Indiana State Superintendent and gubernatorial candidate Glenda Ritz speaks to the press at the statehouse, following allegations her campaign violated election finance laws. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Indiana State Superintendent and gubernatorial candidate Glenda Ritz speaks to the press at the statehouse, following allegations her campaign violated election finance laws. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Earlier this week, financial documents submitted to the state showed that Ritz accepted 28 campaign donations totaling more than $8,000 between January 6th and February 23rd, during the 2015 legislative session. State election laws prohibit candidates from accepting or soliciting donations when the General Assembly meets.

In a statement released Saturday night, Ritz’s team said they had discovered and amended “inadvertent errors” in the campaign’s most recent finance report. They say the dates for twenty-one of the contributions have been changed to reflect a date of possession outside of the blackout period, rather than the date of deposit during that period, as they were originally submitted.

Ritz’s team also clarified that they had indeed received unsolicited contributions.

“While a number of these unsolicited contributions were refunded prior to the report, three contributions totaling roughly $900 were inadvertently deposited,” Ritz’s camp said in the statement. “These contributions have now been refunded by the campaign.”

The corrected report has been submitted to the Indiana Elections Division.

“The amended report makes several corrections to ensure full compliance with Indiana’s campaign finance law,” Ritz’s camp said in the statement. “We look forward to continuing to fully comply with all reporting requirements.”

The Ritz for Governor team also announced the addition of a new treasurer, although they did not provide a name.

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