Education issues continue to dominate discussions at the statehouse and across Indiana, as Hoosiers debate a series of controversies relating to school funding, the role of the chair of the State Board of Education and the spring ISTEP+ test.
StateImpact’s Claire McInerny spoke with Indiana Newsdesk host Joe Hren about the week’s events.
Opposing Viewpoints and Rallies
Private, charter and public school leaders held a rally on Thursday to show why they think Indiana is heading in the right direction, pointing to increases in test scores and the fact that students can attend a better school with state financial support, even if it is outside of their district or is a private or charter school.
But hundreds of Hoosiers gathered in the same space just a few days before, exclaiming they feel public schools and State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who they elected, is under attack.
“I voted for Glenda Ritz to be my state superintendent of public instruction. I didn’t vote for Governor Pence,” Mary Plaia, a kindergarten teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools said. “He’s trying to take my vote away by ousting her from her power and that’s not acceptable in a democracy.”
Ritz’s supporters are particularly concerned with a bill that would remove her as the chair of the State Board of Education, but another issue that’s been a point of controversy is the state’s standardized test.
The Department of Education recently announced the test was going to be 12 hours this year because of pilot questions educators were testing for next year’s exam.
When the news broke the governor accused Ritz of failing to appropriately plan and vowed to take action.
Since then, Ritz, the governor and the legislature have all been working to cut down the test. But schools are set to start giving that exam next week and there are still a lot of things lawmakers are deciding on…mainly which part of the test can be cut down.
What Are Schools Doing About The ISTEP+ Test
How have schools been feeling about the ISTEP+ exam? Frustrated, StateImpact Indiana reporter says–at least until this week.
They didn’t know what to do with the tests they were given because the governor, the state legislature and the Department of Education were trying to find ways to shorten the exam and that meant the test booklets they had might be unusable.
Then, on Thursday, the Department of Education released its plan to shorten the test to about 8 hours total.
That plan splits the test into two versions. Students in some schools will take the first version. Other schools will take the second version. Basically, students are just taking half the exam, so instead of two 60 minute math sections or two essay questions, they only have to take one of each.
Changes To The School Funding Formula
Republicans in the state House of Representatives also announced this week they plan to increase education funding by $469 million over the next two years.
But some schools will see more of that money than others. The formula is quite complicated, and if you want to dive into the budget, check out our explanation here.
The gist of it? Rural and suburban schools will be seeing more money. Urban schools, not so much.