Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

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.

[...]

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

School Leaders, Community Debate Proposed Bloomington Charter

Parents, school leaders and community members in Monroe County are divided when it comes to whether or not a proposed charter school would benefit their neighborhood.

Seven Oaks Classical School, a charter school proposed for Monroe County, proposes a focus on educating children through a classical education in the liberal arts and sciences.

Abhi Sharma / Flickr

Seven Oaks Classical School, a charter school proposed for Monroe County, proposes a focus on educating children through a classical education in the liberal arts and sciences.

The proposed charter, Seven Oaks Classical School, touts a mission “to train the minds and improve the hearts of young people through a rigorous classical education in the liberal arts and sciences.” The K-12 school would join either the Monroe County Community School Corporation or the Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, with the ability to support close to 500 students in its first year.

If approved, the school would open in 2015 in either Bloomington or Ellettsville.

At a forum hosted Monday night, multiple community members spoke up in support of as well as in opposition to the school. Mary Keck of The Herald-Times reports Indiana Charter School Board representatives heard over two hours of public comment from more than 50 people:

Many who opposed the charter expressed concern that its founders may have a conservative agenda, based on the proposed school’s connection to Hillsdale College and the Barney Charter School Initiative. Some felt the lack of transportation and the charter’s inability to provide lunch and cafeteria services to students made it inadequate to serve students.

Funding challenges mean the school will lack some basic offerings, such as lunch and bus service. Seven Oaks is not alone in this regard – federal, state and private groups struggle to keep up with demand when financing for charter schools, according to a recent report by the nonprofit group Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

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1-2-3′s: The Battle Over Funding For Pre-K In Indianapolis

Most figures in Indiana politics agree on the importance of and need for high-quality preschool. The issue of how to pay for it? That’s a different story.

Preschool-age students in Indianapolis are on their way to having high quality options for education - as long as state officials can agree on how to pay for them.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Preschool-age students in Indianapolis are on their way to having high quality options for education - as long as state officials can agree on how to pay for them.

The most recent battle is playing out in Indianapolis, where Mayor Greg Ballard introduced his preschool initiative in late July. Ballard’s initiative would fund preschool for children from low-income families, as well as boost the quality of local providers. The mayor has called his five-year program a preventative measure, part of a new plan to reduce crime in the city.

That plan calls for an estimated $50 million by 2020 to cover preschool for about 1,300 kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Ballard says over the next five years, the city hopes to raise half that amount through philanthropy. The other half would come from taxes – specifically the homestead tax credit. The mayor wants to eliminate the credit, which would cost the average homeowner about $22 per year.

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Turnaround Officials: Defining Stakeholder Roles Is Key To Success

Updated, 1:40 p.m.:

The State Board of Education Committee on School Turnaround hosted a public meeting Friday in Gary to discuss improvement efforts at Roosevelt Career and College Academy, a public high school the state took over in 2011.

Roosevelt Career & Technical Academy in Gary has been run by turnaround operator EdisonLearning, Inc. since 2012.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Roosevelt Career & Technical Academy in Gary has been run by turnaround operator EdisonLearning, Inc. since 2012.

Roosevelt is currently operated by EdisonLearning, Inc., a private, for-profit education management company. According to the Post-Tribune, the company has “encountered several maintenance-related problems with the Gary Community School Corp., but in recent weeks both sides say they have ended the bickering and now have a ‘shared vision.’”

Perhaps due in part to that history, representatives from both Roosevelt and EdisonLearning told the committee that the most effective way to attack transitions and operational challenges is to clearly define the role of each stakeholder.

“You really have to have a collaboration,” says EdisonLearning CEO Tom Jackson. “If you don’t have that triad and clearly spell out what is the role of the state, the role of the turnaround partner, and the role of the district, you will delay and frustrate the turnaround effort.”

“Its important for both parties to sit down so everyone is clear about the roles and responsibilities of each party,” agrees Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry.

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Individual State Standards Don’t Bode Well For U.S. On World Stage

So many standards, so little time.

Wide variation in state academic standards makes comparison across the country - as well as internationally - difficult, according to new research.

Connor Bleakley / Flickr

Wide variation in state academic standards makes comparison across the country - as well as internationally - difficult, according to new research.

That’s essentially the takeaway from the most recent national report on academic guidelines.

A report released Thursday by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) finds that what’s considered “proficiency” in certain subjects varies widely – not only across states, but also between the U.S. as a whole and its international counterparts.

The study compares performance standards for reading, math and science in each state with international benchmarks used in two international assessments – the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) – to gauge difficulty and global competitiveness of each state’s standards.

The results generally showed the percentage of proficient students in most states declined when compared with international students – and Indiana was no exception.

For example, 77 percent of students in the Hoosier were considered proficient based on state performance standards for 8th grade math in 2011. When those same students had their score compared to TIMSS benchmarks, only half of them (35 percent) were still considered proficient.

That means in Indiana, students only required a C- in order to be considered proficient. The same rang true for students testing in fourth grade math and reading.

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