Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

10 Key Questions From Indiana’s Study Committee On Education

Like a lot of other people in Indiana these days, the General Assembly is taking a close look at pre-k and early childhood education this session.

The legislature’s Interim Study Committee on Education met Monday, charged with studying a host of topics described in HEA 1004, the legislation that established, among other things, Indiana’s first state-funded pre-k pilot program. Many of the remarks at that meeting reiterated the need for pre-k in Indiana, as well as funding to support it – along with a few recommendations for the committee to consider.

If you’ve ever attempted to watch C-SPAN, you’ll know how challenging it can be to boil a hearing or meeting down to one or two key takeaways – we at StateImpact feel your pain.

So, we’re taking a page out of the study committee’s book and making a list. The committee has defined 10 key questions to focus on during discussion on pre-k and early childhood education – and we’re attempting to give you a rundown of what happened during the three-hour meeting using the magic of bullet points.

Here are those 10 questions the committee is asking – and some comments from key players who are trying to help them figure things out:

The legislation's interim study committee on education has defined ten key items to focus on in discussions of early childhood education.

Sonia Hooda / Flickr

The legislation's interim study committee on education has defined ten key items to focus on in discussions of early childhood education.

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Lilly Joins Push For Pre-K With $22.5 Million In Grants

There is plenty of energy behind the push for preschool in Indiana, and now one of the state’s major philanthropic organizations has provided some financial fuel.

Policymakers and educators around the state have embraced the push for more high quality pre-k programs.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Policymakers and educators around the state have embraced the push for more high quality pre-k programs.

This week Lilly Endowment Inc. pledged $22.5 million to support two early childhood education initiatives. A grant of $20 million will support Early Learning Indiana (formerly Day Nursery Association), and the United Way of Central Indiana will receive $2.5 million. Both organizations plan to use the money to strengthen current preschool programs as well as build new ones.

The United Way is a key player in Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s initiative to expand pre-k in his city. Ballard introduced the idea as part of a new plan to reduce crime in the city, and already plenty of other politicians have voiced opinions on how to pay for the program.

Eli Lilly and Co. has already pledged to support Ballard’s plan by soliciting $10 million in donations from the local business community, including a $2 million contribution of its own.

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Here’s Why Indiana’s Public Charter Schools Are #7 In The Nation

Indiana’s public charter school system is considered one of the best in the nation, anchored by a charter school law ranked second among the 43 states that have such legislation.

Rankings

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

This is according to a list of the nation’s healthiest charter school systems, compiled by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The NAPCS released its inaugural report Wednesday judging states on how well they are implementing their charter school laws. Rankings were based off measurements of growth, quality and innovation in state’s charter sectors.

Combining those metrics, Indiana’s public charter school system came in at number seven out of the 26 states evaluated. The District of Columbia and the state of Louisiana topped the list with the “healthiest” charter school systems.

Even more impressive, the state’s public charter school law ranks second, above 40 other states and the District of Columbia, all which offer similar legislation. Indiana’s law ranks behind only Minnesota, where the nation’s first charter schools appeared in 1991.

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How The Role Of A School Librarian Is Changing

Once upon a time, Jaime Burkhart would have been considered a “librarian.”

“My job description title in Monroe County is ‘media specialist’,” Burkhart explains.

As technology finds its way into classrooms, librarians are seeing their roles in schools change.

Brad Flickinger / Flickr

As technology finds its way into classrooms, librarians are seeing their roles in schools change.

iPads and the Internet have become a regular part of the classroom scene at Batchelor Middle School in Bloomington, where Burkhart works, as well as in many other schools across the district, the state and the country. And that means people like Burkhart are no longer simply checking out books.

“Librarians really are curating information, however that is,” Burkhart says. “Whether that be print resources or digital resources, we work really hard to select the right things for teachers so that we can support them in their curriculum.”

Librarians really are curating information, however that is.
-Jaime Burkhart, Librarian/Media Specialist

‘Media Specialist’: What’s in a name?

To work in a school, certified librarians like Burkhart must also hold a valid teaching license in the state of Indiana. This allows them to know the standards they help support, so they can use their other skills to help teachers work effectively.

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Gary Legislators: Reduce And Change The School Board To Help Kids

The Gary Community Schools Corporation is shrinking because of financial problems leading to school closures.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The Gary Community Schools Corporation is shrinking because of financial problems leading to school closures.

State representatives Charlie Brown D-Gary, Vernon Smith D-Gary and Senator Earline Rogers D-Gary are trying to gain support for legislation that would reduce the Gary School Board from seven elected members who represent districts of the city to five at-large members, three elected and two appointed by the mayor.

Brown says the current system of electing the school board is no longer working because the district is shrinking, schools are closing and consolidating, enrollment is declining and a number of financial problems are plaguing the district. He says past school boards with district representatives struggled to make decisions on closures, because everyone wanted to protect the schools in their districts.  Continue Reading

Gary Schools Owe $2.6 Million To Keep Bus Services Running

The Gary Community School Corporation owes its busing company more than $2 million to keep services running. The company gave the school district until Nov. 10 to provide payment.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The Gary Community School Corporation owes its busing company more than $2 million to keep services running. The company gave the school district until Nov. 10 to provide payment.

Bus service for Gary students could be discontinued in November if the district doesn’t pay its transportation company $2.6 million for services they’ve already delivered.

The Illinois Central Bus Company, the bus company that provides transportation for Gary Schools, sent a letter to Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt saying the district has until Nov. 10 to provide payment or evidence of a payment plan if they want bus service to continue.

In the letter, the company explains its reasoning for the deadline:

The significant arrears and lack of clarity with respect to your ability to pay for already-delivered services has put ICSB in an untenable position. As a result, our company cannot continue to provide services without payment or concrete evidence of payments to come. At a rate of $150,000 per week, each month that passes adds $600,000 to the amount in arrears. This situation jeopardizes the viability of our company and the jobs of 100 drivers and employees.

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Auditor Candidate And Ritz Publically Blast CECI This Week

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, left, and Gov. Mike Pence have been at odds since the creation of CECI.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, left, and Gov. Mike Pence have been at odds since the creation of CECI.

The closer we get to Nov. 4, the more aggressive the Democrats are getting against the Pence administration, and, this week especially, his Center for Education & Career Innovation.

At a campaign event in Allen County Wednesday, State Auditor candidate Mike Claytor claimed CECI’s existence costs taxpayers $14 million and an even larger claim about CECI’s finances. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette’s Jamie Duffy and Niki Kelly have more from Claytor’s event:

“They’re the only agency that doesn’t have to revert,” Claytor said. “It’s a shell game. The people (who are working for the CECI) are not being paid from the agency they are working,” adding that the costs of those 21 people amount to $14 million.

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CECI itself doesn’t have a line item in the current state budget because it didn’t exist when the budget was passed. But the agencies under CECI did revert money.

The State Board of Education returned $1.7 million, and the Indiana Works Council sent back nearly $150,000. The agencies CECI oversees reverted $2.18 million – or 21 percent of their appropriation.

Gov. Pence created CECI by executive order in 2013, and, since then, state superintendent Glenda Ritz and the organization have been at odds, because Ritz sees the creation of the agency as an abuse of power by Pence.  Continue Reading

Pre-K Pilot To Launch In Four Of Five Counties In January

Representatives of the five counties chosen to participate in the pre-k pilot program met in Indianapolis yesterday to share ideas about implementing the program.

Barnaby Wasson (flickr)

Representatives of the five counties chosen to participate in the pre-k pilot program met in Indianapolis yesterday to share ideas about implementing the program.

Governor Pence and representatives of the five counties selected to participate in the state’s pre-k pilot program met yesterday to discuss implementation of the program. At the meeting, Pence announced  four of the five counties (Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh) are ready to start implementing the program Jan. 1 but Jackson County will wait until July to issue vouchers to families.

Dan Hodge, Executive Director of the Jackson County Education Coalition, says in Jackson’s County’s original statement of readiness they said they would not be ready to implement the program by January.

“What will be our biggest challenge may be to have enough capacity to reach the children that we want to reach,” Hodge said. “Because one will be trying to reach the children, we may have to go out and shake the bushes a little because we are a rural community.” Continue Reading

County Leaders, State Officials Meet To Plan Pre-K Pilot

Representatives of the five counties in Indiana’s preschool pilot program met in person with state officials for the first time Wednesday as they prepare to begin implementation.

Gov. Mike Pence met with officials Wednesday from each of the five counties selected for the state's pre-k pilot program.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Gov. Mike Pence met with officials Wednesday from each of the five counties selected for the state's pre-k pilot program.

In July, the state chose Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion, and Vanderburgh counties to implement a state-funded pre-k pilot.  There are more than 15,000 children in the five counties eligible for the program, and more than 10,000 of those are considered unserved, meaning they’re not receiving federally funded early childhood education.

Governor Mike Pence says four of the five counties are prepared to begin at least partial implementation January 1st, while Jackson County – the only rural county chosen for the pilot – will need more time.

Pence says there’s a great deal of urgency to help these children, for their sake as well as the sake of the state.

“I want to get this program moving so that we can begin to learn from these programs, learn what will be the most effective way to go forward,” Pence says. “Indiana’s going to be studying these programs, studying the impact these programs are having on our kids, on their educational outcomes and then we’ll be making policy decisions about any additional programs in the future on that basis.”

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When It Comes To Free Textbooks, Indiana Is The Exception

Indiana is one of eight states to charge parents for textbooks.

timuiuc (flickr)

Indiana is one of eight states to charge parents for textbooks.

At the beginning of each school year, families in Indiana’s public schools are hit with bills that include activity fees, class fees and the largest line item- textbook fees. Textbook rental fees cost parents on average about $100 per child.

Frustrating to most parents is the knowledge that Indiana is one of only eight states that charge for textbooks.

That is why state superintendent Glenda Ritz announced earlier this month that she wants to eliminate this financial burden for families.

The Indiana Department of Education’s proposed budget for the next two years asks for $70 million more to put toward paying for textbooks for every Indiana student.

The burden of textbooks on families

Jackie Chatterton has five kids in the Noblesville School district, ranging from fifth grade to twelfth grade.

“Our textbook fee bills arrived last week in the mail, one per student, and the grand total was over $1,000 for all five of the girls,” Chatterton said. “The higher the grade level, the higher the bill.”

That’s on top of other school fees so her kids can be in band and play on the soccer team as well as the $300 she spent on school supplies. And because of these high fees, the Chatterton’s large family has to make sacrifices to pay for everyone’s fees.

“We don’t typically vacation in the summer as a family but we try to take advantage of spring break or fall break to take a trip, and we’re not doing one of those this fall,” Chatterton said. “Partially because of these bills.” Continue Reading

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