A little-noticed measure approved by the Indiana Legislature could provide flexibility for parents who want their children to start kindergarten a little early.
Contrary to some interpretations, it did not change the kindergarten age requirement. State law still says that children may start kindergarten if they turn 5 by Aug. 1. That’s the earliest cutoff date of any state, tied with Alabama, Kentucky, Nebraska and North Dakota.
But the law lets schools waive the age requirement and enroll children who miss the cutoff date, if parents request it. It’s up to local school districts to set policies on when to grant waivers.
During the current school year, kindergartners who didn’t turn 5 by Aug. 1, 2018, were not counted in their school’s enrollment for state funding purposes. That created an incentive for school districts to just say no to waiver requests, and reportedly many did.
Indiana legislators have been boasting this week about the “historic” increase in school funding they’ve included in the state budget. But Brown County School District Superintendent Laura Hammack has been thinking about how to cut spending by about $200,000 a year.
State base funding for Brown County schools will be reduced by that much under the two-year budget and school funding formula that lawmakers approved Wednesday.
“We have to make sure our revenues match our expenditures,” Hammack said. “To do that we have to reduce the budget.”
The state budget increases K-12 funding by 2.5 % each of the next two years. That’s better than lawmakers have done in recent budget sessions. As Hammack said, it could have been worse. But it barely matches the U.S. inflation rate of 2.4% predicted by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation. And an outsized share goes to growing charter and voucher schools.
This chart from Forbes Statistica has been all over social media in Indiana in recent weeks, as well it should be. I wonder if Indiana legislators have seen it – and if they have, if they’re paying attention.
It shows that Indiana ranks dead last when it comes to increases in teacher salaries over the past 15 years. Pay for Hoosier teachers has increased by less than $7,000, not adjusted for inflation. That’s less than half the increase seen in neighboring states Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.
The legislature is hitting the home stretch on its 2019 session. By far the most important business left to resolve is approving a two-year state budget, including funding for schools. So far, lawmakers have proposed K-12 funding that barely keeps up with inflation. That needs to change.
Indiana students will start taking new ILEARN assessments Monday. Is ILEARN really something new, not just ISTEP with a different name and more bells and whistles? State officials insist it is.
“One of our key messages is literally that: This is not designed to be ISTEP 2.0,” said Charity Flores, director of assessment for the Indiana Department of Education.
The biggest difference, Flores said, is that ILEARN math and English/language arts assessments for grades 3-8 will be computer-adaptive. Students will take the tests online, and algorithms will guide the questions they see. The questions will change in difficulty depending on how the previous question was answered. The goal is a more precise, focused evaluation of students’ skills.
UPDATE: The Senate budget bill now includes the same expansion to Indiana’s voucher program that the House approved last month. The Senate added the voucher provision as an amendment late Monday. It approved the budget today. Differences between the two versions will be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee.
The Indiana Senate took some modest steps in the right direction with the state budget that it approved last week. For education, it improves on the House-approved version on several counts.
- The Senate budget bill allocates more money for K-12 schools: an increase of 2.7% in the first year of the biennium and 2.2% in the second year versus 2.2% each year for the House version.
- It keeps more of the funding with public schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools, spending less on virtual charter schools.
- It provides a little more money for “complexity,” the factor in the funding formula that gives more money to schools serving disadvantaged students.
Indiana’s highest-poverty school districts spend only 65 percent of what’s needed for their students to achieve modest academic success, according to a new education finance report from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education and the Albert Shanker Institute.
Is it because we can’t afford to do better? Not at all. Indiana is near the bottom of the states when it comes to funding “effort,” the percentage of gross state product spent on schools.
It’s more compelling evidence that state legislators should be thinking a lot bigger as they decide how much of the two-year state budget to spend on K-12 education.
Indiana Republicans act as if they decided to draft House Bill 1005 after Jennifer McCormick announced she wouldn’t seek re-election. But there’s plenty to suggest McCormick would have been pushed out even if she hadn’t agreed to step aside.
Unfortunately, evidence about who lobbied for the change, and why, is likely to remain secret.
Under HB 1005, Indiana’s governor will appoint the chief state school officer starting in 2021. The bill was approved by largely party-line votes – 70-29 in the House and 29-19 in the Senate. It just needs Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signature to become law, and that should come any day.