Indiana announces Education Jobs Fund allocations

The Monroe County Community School Corp. will get almost $2 million in federal funds from the Education Jobs Fund program approved by Congress this month.

According to information posted by the Indiana Department of Education, the MCCSC’s allocation is $1,965,296. Richland-Bean Blossom Community Schools will get $508,224. The Bloomington Project School, a public charter school, will get $37,326.

While school officials are welcoming the money, it comes too late to reverse the job and program cuts that the MCCSC and many other districts made this year.

Gov. Mitch Daniels submitted Indiana’s application for $207 million in federal money on Friday, well ahead of the Sept. 9 deadline, Department of Education CFO Lance Rhodes said in a memo. State officials expect that school districts can start receiving their share of the money in November.

Schools will have until Sept. 30, 2012 to spend the funds. According to federal guidelines, they can be used to pay salaries and benefits for teachers and “other employees who provide school-level educational and related services,” including principals and assistant principals, instructional aides, school nurses, custodians and cafeteria workers. The money can’t be used for general administrative expenses, such as central office and school board operations.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, in a letter Friday, urged superintendents Continue reading

PDK poll, teacher effectiveness, Friedman on ‘what works’

Results of Bloomington-based Phi Delta Kappa’s annual Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools were released this week, and they were, as usual, interesting.

Much of the news coverage focused on the fact that only 34 percent of the public gave President Obama a grade of A or B for his education policies, compared with 45 percent last year. But there wasn’t a lot of evidence that the public knows what the president’s education policies are.

In fact, only 20 percent of respondents were aware that any federal stimulus money went for education when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated $100 billion for schools.

The public claimed teacher effectiveness is the No. 1 issue facing the schools, putting it in synch with the Obama administration. The poll also found increasing support for charter schools, an administration priority.

But respondents did seem to disagree with the administration’s “school turnaround” approach, which prescribes closing failing schools or removing principals and/or teachers. Continue reading

‘State of education’ speech – what would Martin think?

The high-minded idealism in Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s “state of education” speech was almost enough to make a person shout amen. But you have to wonder what Martin Luther King Jr., whose words Bennett invoked, would have thought of the superintendent’s assertion that school funding doesn’t matter. Or his argument that schools will compete their way to excellence.

Bennett spoke Monday at Creston Middle School on the east side of Indianapolis. The speech will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on public TV stations, including WTIU in Bloomington. You can read the text on the Indiana Department of Education website.

Citing Democratic U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s statement that education is “the civil rights issue of our time,” the Republican superintendent went further: “It’s the civil rights issue for every generation.”

Bennett talked about visiting Indiana schools where most kids come from low-income and minority households. “While there are some exceptional educators in these schools, research tells us these students are least likely to have great teachers and leadership,” he said. Continue reading

Federal money for more charter schools

The U.S. Department of Education last week awarded $10.8 million to Indiana to help fund the planning and implementation of more charter schools. Indiana was one of 12 states to receive the Charter Schools Program funding, which totaled $136 million.

The purpose of the program, according to a DOE news release, is “to increase financial support for the startup and expansion of these public schools, build a better national understanding of the public charter school model, and increase the number of high-quality public charter schools across the nation.”

The next step is for Indiana charter school organizers to apply for the funding. According to the Indiana Department of Education, charter schools can be funded for up to three years – generally one year to plan their programs and two years to implement them. The money can be used to pay staff or consultants prior to opening, for staff development, and to buy equipment, books and computers, but not to pay salaries once the schools are operating. Continue reading

National updates: Ed Jobs deadline, ‘turnaround’ money chase

Mitch Daniels and other governors have until Sept. 9 to apply for their states’ share of $10 billion from the Education Jobs Fund created last week by Congress, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The House voted 247-161 on Aug. 10 for the funding to save teachers’ jobs, which had already been approved by the Senate. President Barack Obama signed the bill the same day it passed. (It also included $16 billion for state Medicaid expenses.)

Indiana will get $207 million in Ed Jobs funding, enough to keep 3,600 teachers from losing their jobs, according to the Democratic campaign group Organizing for America. Continue reading

Indiana updates: Bennett’s 90-25-90

At a stop on his “Season Opener” tour of Indiana communities last week, Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett told assembled educators at Jasper High School that he wants to see a 90-25-90 compliance rate statewide in three crucial areas by 2012: 90 percent of students passing ISTEP+; 25 percent of high school graduates earning college credit or high academic honors; and a 90 percent high school graduation rate. His comments were reported in the Evansville Courier & Press.

Bennett said the state will continue to pursue a “growth model” to measure academic achievement, tracking individual student progress over time. The model tosses out such terms as “academic probation” and replaces them with letter grades for schools, at least with regard to student performance on ISTEP+ in grades 3 through 8. But the same grading scale doesn’t apply to high schools. Jeff Zaring, administrator of the State Board of Education, told the Courier & Press that high school students will be graded on “college and career readiness.” How? “We’re working on it,” Zaring said.

More from Bennett
In another “Season Opener” stop, this one at Plymouth High School, Bennett relied on a well-worn metaphor to warn educators about the potentially dire consequences of falling behind on reform. “The education reform train is moving very fast down the railroad tracks nationally,” he said, according to the South Bend Tribune. “We’re either going to be driving it, riding the caboose or looking at it from the bottom as it rides over us.”

In response to a question about how schools will pay for professional development required by the state, Bennett said it will incorporate technology and won’t be as expensive as people think, according to the Tribune article.

As for details? Apparently, he’s working on it.

No more budget cuts?
Gov. Mitch Daniels has come in for some criticism about his apparent flip-flopping over additional federal stimulus dollars. He was one of 40 governors who signed a letter in February requesting more money, particularly for Medicaid. But he’s since denounced the extra money, telling Fox News Sunday, “It amounts at this point in time to asking the citizens of responsible states like ours to subsidize those places who have been more reckless. It’s probably not going to help the economy.”

But he’s still going to take the $207 million for education and the $227 million for Medicaid that’s coming the state’s way — even though he believes schools could remain solvent without it.

“That’s our goal, and our current assessment is that we can achieve it, with or without another federal check,” the governor said. “We’ll do all we can to avoid any further reduction.”

Pierce circulates school funding analysis

Indiana Rep. Matt Pierce’s four-page glossy briefing on education funding dropped into Monroe County mailboxes recently. For those who may have missed it, here’s an online version of the Democrat’s analysis of state school funding.

Pierce’s letter to constituents notes, “It’s a sad commentary on the state’s priorities when schools must resort to special referendums and fundraisers to maintain basic school functions.” There’s also a dig at Gov. Mitch Daniels’ comment to the Economic Club of Indiana in February that there’s “an ocean of money” available to schools if only they would try harder to get it.

Pierce says a report by the Daniels administration categorizes transportation, school lunches and classroom building maintenance as nonessential. “Following this logic, schools should direct more money to instruction by making students walk to school and skip lunch,” Pierce notes. “I suppose this would have the added benefit of cutting down on childhood obesity.”

‘Last hired, first fired’ strikes again

A story in Saturday’s Bloomington Herald-Times (subscription required) provides an example of the kind of thing that gives teachers’ unions and public schools a bad name.

It’s about Scott Wallace, a science teacher in the Monroe County Community School Corp. who was selected as 2010 Indiana Teacher of the Year by the Air Force Association but lost his job with the MCCSC because of budget cuts. Wallace was placed deep on the district’s reduction-in-force list as a result of the strict seniority system – “last hired, first fired” – enshrined by the MCCSC’s contract with the local teachers’ union, the Monroe County Education Association.

The MCCSC board voted in April to put 73 teachers on the RIF list, which meant they could be laid off for the 2010-11 school year.

Dozens were called back over the summer. They included Batchelor Middle School’s Jackie Macal, one of six “outstanding Hoosier educators” honored at a Statehouse ceremony in May, Continue reading

‘Edujobs’ update – food stamp increase on the chopping block?

The U.S. Senate breathed new life last week into “Edujobs,” passing legislation that would give the states $10 billion to help prevent teacher layoffs along with another $16 billion to help support Medicaid programs. The House is being called back from recess this week to take up the measure.

But to pay for the education funding without increasing the federal deficit, the Senate had to make spending cuts elsewhere. And one of the cuts it approved – to future spending for the federal food stamp program – is running into opposition.

Indiana would get $207 million from the Senate bill, according to an update from the Education Commission for the States.

The House passed a different version of the teacher jobs bill last month, despite controversy over some of its proposed budget offsets Continue reading

Indiana updates: You think your child’s summer break was short?

The Warren Township school district on the east side of Indianapolis wins the prize for the earliest start to the 2010-11 school year. Their students returned to class on Monday (Aug. 2).

Peggy Hinckley, the Warren superintendent, cites a recent Time magazine article in explaining the rationale for the short summer break. She says summer vacation can be “devastating” for low-income kids. “The article describes what we as educators know, and that is a three-month summer break is not good for children,” Hinckley tells the Indianapolis Star.

The Time cover story, titled “The Case Against Summer Vacation,” makes a powerful case for year-round school. Continue reading