Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

Governor Mike Pence says he’s made no decision yet who will run the Family and Social Services Administration or the Department of Child Services. 

Pence Wednesday held the first meeting with members of his Cabinet.  In attendance were FSSA chief Michael Gargano and DCS director John Ryan, both of whom were appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels.  But Pence said he has not decided whether the two men will stay on in his administration.

Governor Mike Pence wants a one percent increase for K through 12 school funding in each of the next two years. Schools would have to earn the extra money in the second year.

The governor’s budget includes around 190 million new dollars for K-12 schools.  But Crothersville Democratic Representative Terry Goodin said that’s not enough.

"Our public schools are the number one economic development tool in our state," said Goodin.  "So if that’s the case, we need to fund those economic development tools properly.  One percent’s probably not going to do that."

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Governor Mike Pence went straight to work after being sworn in Monday, signing 15 executive orders, including a measure stripping some authority away from the incoming state superintendent of public instruction.

One of Pence’s first acts in office was to rescind an executive order signed by former Governor Mitch Daniels.  The new order shifts oversight of the Education Employment Relations Board from the state superintendent to the governor, where it had historically been before Daniels changed it.  The board settles teacher contract disputes. 

If job creation is priority No. 1 for lawmakers this session, job placement for veterans seems to be priority 1-A, with new legislation aimed at getting servicemembers back to work.

The unemployment rate for younger veterans – those of the post 9/11 era – is considerably higher than the rate for average Hoosiers. 

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Ball State President Jo Ann Gora says the state’s funding formula for higher education unfairly favors some schools over others.

Gora says the state’s performance funding system is a one-size-fits-all structure that favors large and growing campuses.  She says schools like Ball State – which Gora believes has focused on quality, rather than quantity – are penalized. 

Indiana’s public universities are at the Statehouse this week to make their cases for increased funding.  

A common theme among the university presidents Wednesday was proving to lawmakers that their school is working to reduce the cost of college for its students.  Acting Purdue president Tim Sands said one of the ways the West Lafayette school aims to accomplish that is creating a more year-round schedule by increasing class offerings in the summer.

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus says it will focus on improving child safety and fostering economic development in the current session.  Its members say the impact of their initiatives goes beyond the state’s minority communities.

House and Senate leaders say they’re looking forward to a less contentious legislative session than the past two years as the General Assembly convenes Monday.

The last two sessions saw sweeping education reforms, Right to Work, abortion bills and immigration measures that created significant conflict between Republicans and Democrats in the legislature. 

Now, the GOP holds a supermajority in both houses. 

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

A new proposal from Attorney General Greg Zoeller and a GOP state senator would help Indiana schools put more police officers in their buildings.

School resource officers are already present in somewhere between a quarter and a third of Hoosier schools. 

State revenues are expected to grow at a modest pace in the next few years.  That’s based on new forecasts unveiled Monday.  State lawmakers are still preaching caution as they head into a budget session.

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