Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

House vs. Senate: A Comparison Of School Funding Formulas

The Senate released its version of the 2015-2017 budget Thursday, with K-12 and higher education receiving a combined 63 percent of state funds. The way the Senate proposes to fund schools differs slightly from the House’s budget, mainly in how it funds low-income students.

(Read more about the Senate’s proposed budget)

To illustrate the differences between the two budgets, we looked at the per pupil amount for a variety of school corporations ranging from rural, urban, low-income and affluent. Hover over the bars in graphs below to see exact amounts:

Here’s a direct comparison between the House and Senate budgets for these school corporations:

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Bill To Change State Board Chairmanship Still Alive

In the waning days of the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers have yet to decide the fate of the State Board of Education.

Superintendent Glenda Ritz appears at a rally on her behalf at the statehouse in February. (Photo Credit: Gretchen Frazee/WTIU)

Superintendent Glenda Ritz appears at a rally on her behalf at the statehouse in February. (Photo Credit: Gretchen Frazee/WTIU)

The House Committee on Education held its final hearing Thursday on Senate Bill 1, a measure that would allow SBOE members to elect a chairperson within their ranks – rather than the elected state Superintendent automatically fill that position.

The bill passed committee 8-4.

Language added to the measure would also shift who makes board appointments. Right now, the governor names all members other than the superintendent. Many have suggested designating some appointments to various legislators – an idea committee chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, echoed in an amendment he proposed early Thursday.

That amendment distributes power for board assignments as such:

Governor = 10

House Speaker, in consultation with the House minority leader = 1

Senate President Pro Tem, in consultation with the Senate minority leader = 1

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Senate Echoes House Counterparts In Constructing Budget Proposal

As the 2015 “education session” of the Indiana General Assembly draws to a close, lawmakers are making final moves – perhaps most notably in all sectors, finally whittling down the biennial budget.

State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville

State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

The budget currently sits in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee, whose proposal released Thursday mirrors much of the House version put out last month.

K-12 and higher education combine to make up 63 percent of the proposed $31.5 billion two-year appropriations. Appropriations chair Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, says his committee wants to increase K-12 funding by $466 million over the biennium.

As you’ll remember, Indiana’s school funding formula relies heavily on two measurements: foundation (base funds per student) and complexity (money set aside for at-risk students).

Like the House GOP, Senate Republicans want to see foundation increase:

FY 2016: $4,943 per student

FY 2017: $5,052 per student

What looks a bit different is the calculation for complexity money, based on shifting the definition of “at-risk.”

That number used to be calculated based on how many students received free textbooks, followed by students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. The House proposed changing the definition to include only students receiving free lunch.

The Senate wants to base the calculation on what’s known as “direct certification.” In other words, if a child’s family qualify for one of three federal low-income services – foster care, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – the federal government will automatically notify the state Department of Education that he or she qualifies for complexity money.

“That’s a pretty big change,” Kenley says. “This is somewhat of a balancing act.”

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Indiana’s Reputation Post-RFRA Reaches Potential College Students

Universities around Indiana are responding to the religious freedom bill passed last week.

Universities around Indiana are responding to the religious freedom bill passed last week. (Photo Credit: Barbara Harrington/WTIU News)

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act dominated headlines last week and garnered national media attention. In response to the law, corporations, organizations and other state governments announced they wouldn’t work with Indiana if the law remained intact.

The portrayal of Indiana in national media also affected the decisions of a more impressionable group of outsiders: high school seniors from other states considering Indiana colleges and universities.

Almost every day this month, hundreds of prospective students will visit Indiana University’s campus. They either recently committed, or are trying to get one last feel for the university before choosing a school by the May 1 deadline.

Liam Dixon is one of those students taking an April campus tour. He applied to 18 universities and has spent the majority of his senior year at his home in Irvine, Calif. trying to decide which one is the best fit for him. He recently settled on IU.

Liam Dixon, a high school senior from Irvina, Calif., will attend IU-Bloomington this fall. He visited campus for the first time this week, after reading about Indiana's religious freedom law.

Liam Dixon, a high school senior from Irvina, Calif., will attend IU-Bloomington this fall. He visited campus for the first time this week, after reading about Indiana’s religious freedom law. (Photo Credit: Barbara Harrington/WTIU News)

Around the same time he committed to IU, the news of Indiana’s religious freedom bill reached Dixon in California, where he goes to school with openly gay students and lives in what he calls a very open-minded community.

“I didn’t know how to interpret hearing they were being so close-minded and conservative on this on specific topic,” Dixon says.

Dixon wasn’t the only out-of-state student to question his decision about spending the next four years in Indiana after reading about the law. The Admissions Office at IU received multiple calls and emails from out-of-state students and their families.

“These are families that have developed relationships with us and they’ve visited us many times and they’ve been engaged with us throughout their process,” says Sacha Thieme, Executive Director of Admissions for IU. “They just want to know that the experiences that they’ve had with Indiana University and Bloomington to date are going to be the same experiences they can expect in the future.”

Thieme says although the concurrent timing of the commitment deadline and RFRA was unfortunate, it helped engage prospective families with IU and learn even more about the university.

“We welcome families to ask questions, we welcome students to ask questions, we’re an institution of higher education we invite academic inquiry,” Thieme says.  Continue Reading

Bipartisan Congressional Duo Releases NCLB Rewrite Bill

Senate leaders unveiled a bipartisan bill Tuesday to replace the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The bill, authored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), includes items that are attractive to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including state-crafted accountability systems and maintenance of the current federal testing schedule.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the bill, along with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who called it an “important step” and added that the President will continue to advocate for a measure that drives progress as well as helps to close nationwide achievement and opportunity gaps.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., unveiled a bipartisan bill Tuesday to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that the two have been brokering for more than two months.

Read more at:

House Ed Committee Votes To Keep ISTEP Over National Test

The State Board of Education will meet Friday to discuss this year's ISTEP+.

The State Board of Education will meet Friday to discuss this year\’s ISTEP+.  photo credit: David Hartman (flickr)

The House education committee voted 8-4 today in favor of an amendment that removes language from Senate Bill 566 that would have allowed the state to use a nationally crafted assessment rather than the ISTEP+.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, authored the bill as a cost-saving measure after learning how much it will cost to write a new assessment that matches the state’s new academic standardsa price tag currently set at $134 million.

Kenley’s suggestion of using a national test surfaced back in December, when state superintendent Glenda Ritz presented her budget to the Senate Appropriations Committee. But as the bill passed through the Senate and entered the House, critics emerged saying reverting to a nationally crafted test would be returning Indiana to the education situation it wanted to abandon when it left Common Core.

Michael Cohen, president of the national education consulting group Achieve, worked with Indiana when it pulled out of Common Core and wrote new standards. He testified to the committee today in favor of the amendment, saying dumping ISTEP+ and trying to make a national test fit Indiana’s unique standards could put the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver in jeopardy again.

In response to legislators that suggested taking an off-the-shelf test like NWEA and tweaking the standards to match the test, Cohen said that kind of change is not a tweak, but “major surgery.”

“We’re going to give control of Indiana’s test to a testing company,” Cohen said.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who helped author the amendment, says the test most people suggested replacing ISTEP+ with is NWEA, a test school districts currently use throughout the year leading up to the ISTEP+. The problem with using that test, says Behning, is it’s a completely different type of assessment and wouldn’t comply with state law.

“Reality is they (NWEA) have never created an end of course or summative exam and so Indiana would be venturing into totally uncharted territory,” Behning said.

Behning says the other issue with using an off-the-shelf test is most national tests are Common Core aligned and wouldn’t be able to assess the state’s standards.

The bill now goes to a summer study committee.

Legislative Budget Leaders Continue Push For National Assessment

State senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) chairs the senate appropriations committee and wrote Senate Bill 566.

State senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) chairs the senate appropriations committee and wrote Senate Bill 566. photo credit: Gretchen Frazee / WTIU News

Budget leaders in both the state House and Senate continue to advocate for dumping the ISTEP+ as the state’s assessment and replacing it with a nationally crafted test as a cost saving measure for the state.

As we’ve reported, the State Board of Education is in the process of approving a new test for the 2015-2017 school year. The current price tag from the Department of Administration, who selects bids from testing companies, is $134 million.

But Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, doesn’t want to take the route of creating a new test tailored specifically to Indiana’s standards, which is why he wrote Senate Bill 566.

If signed into law, SB 566 would allow Indiana to use an already created national test in future school years rather than hiring a testing vendor to create the ISTEP+.

Before Indiana chose to leave Common Core standards last year, it was part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which would have provided a national test. But when Indiana left that consortium to write its own standards, the state also had to write a test that tested the new standards. Continue Reading

Senate Committee Dramatically Changes Transformation Zone Bill

The Indiana Statehouse.

The Indiana Statehouse. (Photo Credit: Indiana Department of Administration)

A bill that would have permitted school districts to create “transformation zones” as a remedy for failing schools was gutted in a Senate committee Wednesday.

The bill would have allowed school districts to assemble a group of school and community members to help turnaround schools that receive an F six years in a row under the state’s A-F accountability system. 

During the Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday, members approved amendments proposed by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, which eliminated much of the transformation zone language and shifted the focus of the bill.

Shaina Cavazos writes for Chalkbeat Indiana what the bill looks like now:

But the bill now contains no mention of transformation zones and makes sure the Indiana State Board of Education would not be allowed to take control of an entire school district.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said the biggest changes were proposed in amendments by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary. When they were included, it changed the entire focus.

“There’s not much left in this bill after this amendment,” Kruse said.

The bill still includes a prohibition against schools offering potential students or their families gifts with a significant monetary value. It also would grant struggling schools a “safe harbor” provision where they could get an extra year to show academic improvement before the state would intervene.

Currently, turnaround schools are paired with a third party partner to help improve student performance, but after an Evansville school district found success with the transformation zone model, other districts wanted a chance to use that model.

The newly amended bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then the full Senate. The House approved the original bill last month.

Two Indiana Colleges Create Scholarships For Undocumented Students

Brother Jesus Alonso is an administrator at Holy Cross College in South Bend, and advocates for resources to help undocumented students go to college.

Brother Jesus Alonso is an administrator at Holy Cross College in South Bend, and advocates for resources to help undocumented students go to college. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)

One afternoon on his way to work, Juan Constantino’s headlight went out.

“I had no idea,” Constantino recounts. “A cop pulled a U-turn, pulled me over he said, ‘do you know why I pulled you over?’”

If Constantino were like most students, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. He probably would have been let off with a warning and told to get his light fixed. But Constantino isn’t like most students. He’s undocumented and that means he didn’t have a driver’s license.

Constantino was charged with a misdemeanor. His family gathered the money quickly and posted his bail. Constantino went home, finished his homework and went to school the next day.

For undocumented students like Constantino, the threat of deportation is always present, and creates barriers to receiving an education.

For example, paying for college is almost impossible. Without legal status, their parents often work low wage jobs, and without a social security number the student can’t apply for federal loans.­­

Wabash College and Holy Cross College in Indiana are trying to tear down some of those barriers by creating scholarships specifically for undocumented students. Continue Reading

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