Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Education Cheat Sheet: What Voters Should Know At The Polls

    In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

    StateImpact Indiana

    In a mid-term election with no big races, education could prove to be the most important issue to voters.

    Who’s ready for Nov. 4?

    We’ve spent the past few days showing you how education will play into this year’s mid-term election, namely the presence of charter schools, a particularly timely pre-k referendum, and a who’s who of educationally-minded campaign donors.

    The good news is that as voters, the power to shape what happens over the next few years is in your hands — who you elect could determine what education policies are selected, whether in the state legislature or on your local school board. So before you head to the polls and paste on your “I Voted!” sticker, skim through this list of items you should keep in mind when filling out your ballot:

    • Legislative leaders have signaled a desire to change the school funding formula. Earlier this month, House Republicans announced that education would be a priority for the upcoming legislative session. Notably, House Speaker Brian Bosma said the legislature wants to close the gap between the state’s lowest- and highest-funded schools by effectively “fixing” the state’s current funding formula. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has said the proposed agenda is in line with what her department wants to accomplish, so the next year could see some big strides in that area.
    • Other budget fixes could impact parents’ wallets, too. How? Textbooks. Indiana is one of only eight states that allows schools to charge textbook fees, along with regular activity and class fees. Superintendent Ritz said in September she wants to eliminate this financial burden for families, asking for $70 million increase in the Indiana Department of Education’s proposed budget – a 3 percent bump -to put toward paying for textbooks for every Indiana student. The General Assembly will vote on Ritz’s budget this coming session and, like previous legislatures, could consider eliminating the fee. But as we’ve reported, Senate Appropriations Chair Luke Kenley said the increase Ritz is asking for is larger than any increase they have granted a state agency the last few budget cycles.
    • What’s the word? Pre-k. The state’s pre-k pilot launches in four of the five selected counties in January, and as it moves forward, state legislators will be looking at the program’s effectiveness (from a longitudinal study as well as Kindergarten Readiness Assessments). But they haven’t determined who will create the study or how they will do so, and approving those methods which will be a task for the General Assembly. Expect more talk about funding pre-k statewide, as well.
    • The election in 2016 could mean the possibility of a change in leadership. Looking ahead two years, Indiana will have both a gubernatorial and a presidential election, so the people you vote into office now could serve under two different power structures (state representatives serve a two-year term, four years for those in the state Senate). And who knows, it’s possible some of Indiana’s own will try to make their way to higher office – Governor Mike Pence hasn’t given a firm answer as to whether or not he’ll make a run for the White House.

    Let us know what education issues will be on your mind when voting next week in the comments below.



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