Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What To Know About The Indiana Pre-K Bill Signed Into Law

Indiana will expand state-funded preschool allows the program to extend to 15 new counties, ties it to the state’s private school voucher program and includes a controversial option for online preschool.  (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Indiana expands state-funded preschool, allowing the program to extend to 15 new counties, tying it to the state’s private school voucher program and including a controversial option for online preschool. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

With little fanfare, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill Wednesday that will expand Indiana’s pre-K pilot program.

The new plan will expand state-funded preschool to 20 counties, tie it to the state’s private school voucher program and include a controversial option for online preschool.

Currently, the $10 million state-funded On My Way Pre-K program serves around 2,000 low-income students in five counties. Expanding preschool access in Indiana has been a key goal of lawmakers this session, including Holcomb.

Under the new $22 million plan, any of the state’s 92 counties are eligible to compete to become one of the 15 counties included in the expansion. Lawmakers say rural counties and places with a lack of high-quality preschool providers will be prioritized.

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State Cancels 2 Schools Planned By Charter Schools USA

Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage, center, celebrates an academic recognition for Bonita Springs Charter School in Bonita Springs, Fla. in February 2017. (Credit: Charter Schools USA)

Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage, center, celebrates an academic recognition for Bonita Springs Charter School in Bonita Springs, Fla. in February 2017. (Credit: Charter Schools USA)

A state board that authorizes charter schools voted Monday to cancel plans for a group of Indianapolis business professionals to open schools in Marion and Clark counties.

The reason?

Florida-based Charter Schools USA, the would-be manager, had ceased communicating with the Indiana Charter School Board for nearly a year and missed a required deadline to identify a facility for one of the schools, according to board staff.

“Because of the inability to either meet the deadline and/or even give a reason for not meeting the deadline or trying to postpone the deadline we recommend the charters be revoked,” said James Betley, the board’s executive director, during a public meeting.

The board agreed and voted 5-0 to cancel the charters.

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Muncie Takeover Bill Passes General Assembly, But Delays Action

Teachers, students, and the community rallied for the school in February.

Teachers, students, and the community rallied for the school in February. (photo credit: Indiana Public Radio)

Indiana lawmakers in both houses on Friday night approved a bill that could still allow a state takeover of Muncie Community Schools because of its financial crisis.  But the final version postpones a takeover for several months and gives the district the option of working to turn itself around.

Under the final version of the bill, Muncie is essentially put on probation.  If Gov. Eric Holcomb signs the measure, Muncie will be designated as a “fiscally impaired school corporation.”  An interim emergency manager will be appointed to make financial decisions until December. This gives the district time to enact the deficit reduction plan it passed last week.  And the bill says that emergency manager could actually be MCS Superintendent Steve Baule.

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K-12 Funding Inches Up In 2-Year Indiana Budget

Funding for education, which is more than half of the state’s $32 billion biennium spending plan, includes $345 million in new dollars for English-language learners, private school vouchers and a 1.6 percent increase in per-student funding in 2018 fiscal year.  (WFIU/WTIU)

Funding for education, which is more than half of the state’s $32 billion biennium spending plan, includes $345 million in new dollars for English-language learners, private school vouchers and a 1.6 percent increase in per-student funding in 2018 fiscal year. (WFIU/WTIU)

Indiana schools will receive more money per student as part of a two-year state budget compromise hashed out between House and Senate lawmakers in the past few days.

Funding for education, which is more than half of the state’s $32 billion biennium spending plan, includes $345 million in new dollars for English-language learners, private school vouchers and a 1.6 percent increase in per-student funding in 2018 fiscal year. That will increase to 1.7 percent in 2019 fiscal year.

The budget also rewrites the process for allocating top teachers bonuses, so educators in low-performing districts are not shortchanged.

House Bill 1001 was approved by the House 68-30 and Senate 42-8. Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to sign it. Continue Reading

Legislation Sent To Gov. For New Indiana Test, Graduation Pathways

The legislature sent the governor a bill that changes the future of the state assessment system. (James Martin/Flickr)

The legislature sent the governor a bill that changes the future of the state assessment system. (James Martin/Flickr)” credit=”

It’s (almost) official. ISTEP+ is out. ILEARN is in.

Lawmakers pushed through legislation Friday to develop new statewide testing program known as Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network or ILEARN. The legislation also creates multiple pathways to meet high school graduation requirements.

Students would be able to meet state graduation requirements under a number of options. Those include passing end of course assessments, achieving a certain score a college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT, passing international baccalaureate or advanced placement exams or receiving industry certifications.

The state board of education would determine how each pathway operates.

The new test and graduation requirements are set to take effect during the 2018-2019 school year, barring any unforeseen moves by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

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Indiana’s New Pre-K Plan Expands To 20 Counties, Ties To Vouchers

Indiana's preschool pilot program would expand to 15 new counties and include a controversial option for online preschool under legislation heading to the governor's desk. (Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

Indiana\’s preschool pilot program would expand to 15 new counties and include a controversial option for online preschool under legislation heading to the governor\’s desk. (Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

A new Indiana plan to expand state-funded preschool allows the program to extend to 15 new counties, ties it to the state’s private school voucher program and includes a controversial option for online preschool.

Currently, the $10 million state-funded On My Way Pre-K program serves around 1,500 low-income students in five counties. Expanding preschool access in Indiana has been a key goal of lawmakers this session, including Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The size of the expansion remains unclear, but under a budget proposal likely to remain intact, the state would double the program’s size. They’d dedicate $20 million to brick-and-mortar preschool annually – and allow it to grow in a limited fashion.

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Cursive Writing Finally Gets Its Day At The Statehouse, Kind Of

(Pixabay)

A stand-alone bill failed at the Statehouse earlier this year, but the penmanship issue got folded into another bill. (Pixabay)

“Should learning cursive be necessary?”

That’s the question Indiana lawmakers voted Thursday to require the Department of Education to ask school teachers, administrators, and school boards. A bill now heading for the Governor’s desk mandates the department to survey whether those groups are in favor or opposed to mandatory instruction of cursive writing.

Cursive writing, whether it’s crucial for schooling or a relic of the past, has been debated for years in Indiana.

For half a decade, Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) has crusaded to ensure that Indiana law requires schools to teach cursive. The Indiana Department of Education made cursive lessons optional beginning in 2011. Leising proposed legislation each year since to require schools teach the penmanship style in which some characters are written joined together in a flowing manner.

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As Legislature Finalizes Muncie Finance Bill, Here’s How We Got Here

The Muncie Community Schools school board held an emergency meeting last week to discuss ways to reduce the district's debt. This comes after the legislature include Muncie in a bill that would assign a state appointed financial advisor to the district, to help reduce the $19 million debt it currently carries. (photo credit: Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The Muncie Community Schools school board held an emergency meeting last week to discuss ways to reduce the district\’s debt. This comes after the legislature include Muncie in a bill that would assign a state appointed financial advisor to the district, to help reduce the $19 million debt it currently carries. (photo credit: Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Muncie Schools are pushing back against a bill in the legislature that would allow the state to intervene in the district’s finances.

Here’s what’s at issue – should the state take over the financial management of a school corporation? On one side, Gary Schools say yes, they want state help.

The conversation started this legislative session. Senate Bill 567 allows the state to appoint a financial advisor to help Gary Schools stay solvent. That district is struggling with declining enrollment and other financial setbacks.

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Indianapolis Public Schools Seek Input On Closing 3 High Schools

Jim Scheurich, a professor of urban education studies in the IU School of Education at IUPUI, makes a comment during the IPS School Board work session at School 15 on Tuesday, April 18, 2019. Scheurich is worried that the closure of schools will have unequal impact by race. (Eric Weddle/WFYI)

Jim Scheurich, a professor of urban education studies in the IU School of Education at IUPUI, makes a comment during the IPS School Board work session at School 15 on Tuesday, April 18, 2019. Scheurich is worried that the closure of schools will have unequal impact by race. (Eric Weddle/WFYI)” credit=”

An Indianapolis Public Schools task force says over the next 10 years so few students are expected to be enrolled, that only four out of seven district high schools will be needed.

At a meeting Tuesday evening, members of the task force urged the board of commissioners to consider shuttering three high schools next year, while community members voiced opposition to the proposal and one commissioner advocated for closing even more high schools.

Board president Mary Ann Sullivan agreed that schools needed to be closed and promised that community input would be gathered at a series of meetings to help shape the final decisions. The first such meeting is 6-8 p.m. April 26 at the Glendale Library

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Appointed Superintendent Bill Heads To Governor

House Speaker Brian Bosma presents the bill to the full House that makes the state superintendent an appointed position.

House Speaker Brian Bosma presents the bill to the full House that makes the state superintendent an appointed position in 2021. The bill passed out of the legislature and now goes to the governor. (photo credit: Brandon Smith/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

The House advanced a bill to the governor Tuesday to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed, rather than elected, position.

The original House version of the bill made the state schools superintendent an appointed position beginning in 2021.

But the Senate had defeated its identical version of the bill earlier in session. So that chamber had to make changes in order to comply with its rules about hearing a matter it already voted down. Those changes include pushing the date back to 2025 and adding qualifications, including an background in education and a two-year residency requirement.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) reluctantly went along with those changes. He says he’d prefer no such restrictions.

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