Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Ben Skirvin

The Story Of One Lonely Indiana School District

North White School Corporation

North White School Corporation recently closed two of its outlying elementary school buildings. Reducing the total number of schools in the district from five down to three.

During his tenure as school board president at North White School Corporation, Shannon Mattix has pushed for something strange.  Usually, school officials fight to protect their district from outsiders trying to take control, but Mattix has a different idea. He wants to consolidate the four districts in White County into one megadistrict.

“One of the things that I brought up and a few other members of the community brought up was that consolidation needed to happen for the whole county.” says MattixHe’s talking about a series of meetings dating back to 2000 during which the issue of countywide consolidation was raised.

Among the people in Maddix’s district that StateImpact spoke with, it’s a popular plan. Chris Fullerton owns a little computer shop about ten minutes west of Monticello in the heart of Reynolds Indiana.  He can list some specific reasons why he thinks consolidation is a good idea. Continue Reading

Year In Review: How Rural Education Changed, And How It Stayed The Same

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Signs like this one from Worthington are becoming more common in towns across rural Indiana, where changes to the property tax code are forcing districts to consider school closure and consolidation.

It’s been an interesting year for schools in Indiana’s hinterland and StateImpact has been there through school closures, referendums, and even the birth of a new kind of Indiana school.

In this segment of our “Year in Review” series we revisit the most important news from Indiana’s dusty farm towns and soybean fields. Continue Reading

The Top Four Education Priorities For Next Legislative Session

Indiana Public Media

Brandon Smith works out of the Statehouse covering politics and legislative affairs for Indiana Public Broadcasting.

Here at StateImpact, we are experts in education.  For political news we reach out to our hardworking statehouse reporter Brandon Smith. Without further ado, we bring you a list of the top legislative priorities as compiled by our expert government correspondent.

Mandatory teaching of cursive writing had been eliminated in public schools recently.  A bill introduced by Senator Jean Leising would put cursive education back into Hoosier public schools.
Credit Creep

Governor Mitch Daniels made “credit creep” a part of his legislative agenda.  His concern is over the number of credit hours it takes to earn a diploma at Indiana’s higher education institutions.  Daniels is proposing that those requirements be lowered unless the schools can make a convicing argument to keep them at current levels. Daniels cited 120 hours as a traditional measure for attaining a diploma; schools would have to come in at or under that level. Continue Reading

Meet The Influencers: The Center For Evaluation And Education Policy

The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy is not a traditional lobbying firm. It’s a subdivision of Indiana University’s School of Education.  It researches every policy ever considered by any Indiana agency ever connected to education. Consider this brief from 2003 which discusses the value of exporting an Indiana University Social Studies program to Lithuania and Latvia.

Project Citizen is a civics education program developed and promoted throughout the U.S. by the Center for Civic Education. The federal government recommended the program to the education ministries in Latvia and Lithuania. The Social Studies Development Center at Indiana University assisted those countries with implementation, and asked the Center to design and oversee evaluation, including an examination of the project in Indiana. Instruments, instructions, and organization had to be coordinated in Lithuanian, Latvian, Russian, and Polish to accommodate the two Baltic nations.

Most of CEEP’s projects are of a less esoteric nature than this one. The group has published dozens of policy briefs on the school choice voucher program, charter schools, school consolidation, referendums, the property tax cap amendment and every other major education issue that’s come up in recent years. Continue Reading

The Seven Most Influential Lawmakers In Indiana Education


Republicans control both houses of the Indiana General Assembly and a small handful of conservative lawmakers were behind nearly all of the controversial legislation from last legislative session. These senators and representatives are the power players.  They are the movers and shakers when it comes to education policy in Indiana.

We bring you the list of the top lawmakers in the state of Indiana based on their record of passing major laws. These are the people to look to this session when it comes to proposing and passing legislation.

A few Democrats have been included on this list. Some of them worked with the Republicans on certain policies. Some of them were vocal opponents of the Republican legislative platform.

The House

Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis), Education Committee Chair

State of Indiana

Robert Behning chairs the powerful Education Committee in the Indiana House of Representatives. His name is attached to nearly every piece of controversial education legislation proposed last year, including several bills cited as the cause of last session’s Democratic walkout.

Behning has long been a staunch advocate of private and charter schools. On his statehouse profile, he acknowledges working with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization which drafted a number of pieces of model school voucher and charter school legislation. Much of that work has since become law in states like Indiana, Ohio, and Florida.

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Meet The Influencers: The Indiana State Teachers Association

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Teachers and union workers came together last legislative session to protest bills that put limits on the collective bargaining process. Along with teachers, the ISTA was able to work with other groups like the American Federation of Labor and The United Autoworkers in organizing these demonstrations.

Legislators from across Indiana are already in the statehouse pushing for everything from right to work to modifications to the state’s property tax code.  And where there are lawmakers there are lobbyists- influential outsiders trying to push their agendas through the halls of power.  We’ve been covering these entities in a series we’re calling “Meet The Influencers.”  Last week, we brought you a conservative think tank which works with Republican lawmakers to draft legislation. This week, we continue our series by looking to the other side of the aisle.

The Indiana State Teacher’s Association

It’s been a rough few years for the ISTA.  The state’s largest teacher’s union took a beating last session on a variety of issues ranging from collective bargaining, to teacher evaluations, to school vouchers.  The group opposes all of these and a slew of other education related policies that became law earlier this year.  In fact, much of the followup to last session involved covering a half dozen lawsuits challenging nearly every part of the Republican education policy platform.

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Meet the Influencers: The American Legislative Exchange Council

State Of Indiana

House Education Chair Robert Behning is one of a number of Indiana legislators with strong ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

This year’s legislative session is already underway and lawmakers are hurrying to put their bills forward for consideration. And where there are lawmakers, there are interest groups. The groups and their lobbyists can be tremendously effective in steering — or killing — legislation, so we’re helping you get familiar with them. Learn about the most important groups and individuals influencing your lawmakers with our series, “Meet the Influencers.” First up …

The American Legislative Exchange Council

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is not a lobbying firm, but it has quite a bit of influence at the capitol. It’s an organization that brings together right-leaning businesses and legislators from statehouses all over the country. They meet at a series of annual conferences to, among other things, hammer out model bills to be introduced into state legislatures.

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Study Finds Children Turning To Porn Rather Than Sex Ed To Learn About Sex

An interesting article from The Telegraph about research showing an increasing number of children are turning to the internet rather than the classroom to learn about sex.

The average age at which children first watch pornography is just 11, interviews with 140 pupils, teachers and people working in the porn industry also revealed. Australian researchers Maree Crabbe and David Corlett said children were turning to adult films because schools were not handling the positive aspects of sex.

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Where One Rural Public School Closes A Charter School Opens

What happens when a small town — a VERY small town — in southeastern Indiana loses its public school and residents attempt against all odds to replace it with a charter school?  To find out, StateImpact went to Canaan, Ind. (Population 90), where residents are trying to do just this.

Even with kids attending from other locations, Canaan’s one public school had an enrollment of just 99 students. So it was no surprise that the school was unable to sustain itself and forced to close last year.‬‬

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