House, Senate Disagree on Education Funding

Apr 10, 2015
Courtesy / Indiana Senate Republicans

The Senate released its version of the state budget Thursday, outlining a method to fund schools different from that proposed by the House.

There are two pots of money when it comes to school funding: foundation and complexity. Foundation is the amount of money the state gives every student. Complexity is the money allocated toward low-income students.

The biggest difference between the House and Senate budgets is how a student qualifies for complexity money.

Courtesy / Indiana House Republicans

House Democrats say the state budget proposed by House Republicans will devastate many public schools throughout the state.  The budget passed overwhelmingly in a House vote Tuesday.

House Republicans named education their top focus this session, and the bulk of debate over the budget revolves around education funding. 

Specifically, it involves changes to the school funding formula that seek to help growing, wealthier suburban school districts.  But those changes would mean significantly less money for poor, inner city schools that are losing students. 

State Issues New Guidance on Shorter ISTEP+ Test

Feb 19, 2015

After news that this year’s ISTEP+ would take students twelve hours to complete, the Department of Education adopted a plan Thursday to shorten the test.

The DOE decided to split the open-ended portion of the test, which begins next week, into two forms. They say that will shave three hours off the original twelve-hour test.

Around 30 percent of the current test consists of pilot questions that don’t count toward a student’s score – those are the questions the DOE split between the two forms.

Courtesy / Indiana Senate Republicans

The Senate passed their version of a bill Tuesday to change how the State Board of Education is constructed.

Senate Bill 1 allows the members of the State Board of Education to select a board chair from within their ranks.

Right now, the state superintendent automatically assumes that position. But the General Assembly has taken it upon itself to change this, following months of strained relations among the board, current superintendent Glenda Ritz and Governor Mike Pence.

Legislature Trying to Fast-Track ISTEP+ Changes

Feb 17, 2015

The General Assembly is trying to speed up the process for approving changes to this spring’s ISTEP+ test.

Late last week, the State Board of Education and Department of Education approved a handful of recommendations to shrink this year’s version of the test, which students can start taking in less than two weeks. 

By law, those changes must get the okay from the General Assembly. In order to fast-track that process, two things happened in the House of Representatives Tuesday:

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

House Republican budget architect Tim Brown says his caucus’ proposed budget will include more money spent on education than ever before in state history.  The House GOP’s budget proposal was unveiled Monday.

House Republican leaders have said for months that education was their top priority this session and that they planned a significant increase in funding for K through 12 schools. 

To that end, House Ways and Means Chair Tim Brown says, under the House GOP budget, schools would get $469 million more over the next two years than they did in the last state budget.

Protesters Pack Statehouse in Support of Ritz

Feb 17, 2015
Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Educators, parents and even a few kids out of school for the snow day packed the statehouse in Indianapolis Monday to show support for state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Icy relations have become the norm among the state’s top education policymakers, including Ritz, Governor Mike Pence, the State Board of Education and the Department of Education.

Courtesy / State of Indiana

The Indiana Department of Education says it will proceed as planned to issue the ISTEP+ exam beginning Feb. 25, even after Gov. Mike Pence signed an executive order Monday to re-evaluate the test’s length.

Even though the test could change -- after the testing consultant hired through Pence’s executive order issues recommendations on how to shorten it -- the DOE says they are preparing school districts as if the test will not change.

Deputy state superintendent Danielle Shockey says Pence’s actions only add to the confusion in preparing for this year’s ISTEP.

House Backs Bill Removing Ritz

Feb 10, 2015
Indiana Department of Education.

The House passed a bill Monday to remove the state superintendent as chair of the State Board of Education, a move some say is politically motivated.

Historically, the state superintendent has automatically assumed the position of state board  chair. This bill changes the law defining that responsibility, allowing board members to elect a  chair from within their ranks.  

The word “dysfunction” has appeared in countless descriptions of board relations since current  State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, took office.

Obama Touts Community College Plan in Indianapolis

Feb 6, 2015
Courtesy / White House

President Obama says other states should follow Ivy Tech Community College’s lead when it comes to connecting students to high paying jobs. The president traveled to Indianapolis Friday to tout his plans aimed at getting more people on the track to better wages.

During the event at Ivy Tech, Obama once again explained his plan to make two years of community college free.