Legislative Testimony: Tax Credit for Classroom Supplies

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1005 Tax Credit for Teachers’ Classroom Supplies, authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn).

This bill would allow teachers who often dip into their own pockets to provide classroom supplies for their students to receive a tax credit of up to $200 per year.

This is especially helpful for new, young educators that are just starting their careers and will assist all educators as they support Indiana students.

Know the Laws Regarding Minors and ‘Hazardous Duties’ in Internship/Mentorship Programs

Employers often have questions about allowable internship activities. Some of the questions that typically surface include: Are students legally allowed to operate certain machinery? Even if they are, what is my liability for taking on a minor?

While both Indiana and federal laws deem certain duties as hazardous (and thus typically out of the reach of minors), it is often still possible to place minors in roles that expose them to their chosen occupation of interest. In fact, minors determined to be apprentices or student learners are exempt from existing legal barriers and may perform certain hazardous duties.

Student Learner Exemption:
Requirements for hosting a student learner include the following:

  • Enrollment in a course of study and/or training in a cooperative vocational training program in a public school (or in a similar program conducted by a private school).
  • Written agreement between the student, employer, and school coordinator or principal.
  • Work component of the program conducted under the close supervision of an experienced employee.
  • Correlation of safety instructions with the on-the-job training.
  • Schedule of organized and progressive work process to be performed on the job by the student learner

Liability Concerns:
Student learners are no different than any other employee. Employers should call their respective insurance companies with any questions they may have, and individual coverage will vary. Nothing in Indiana law requires a different designation, with respect to liability, for student learners in comparison to regular employees.

More information:
See the Child Labor Checklist  and visit the Indiana Department of Labor page for more information related to federal and state requirements for employing minors, restrictions to work hours, expanded information on what constitutes a “student learner,” and how to obtain work permits. These regulations must still be followed for all employed minors, including student learners.

Picking Up a Book? We’re Not Doing It

23104098How do Americans spend their time? Wylie Communications reports:

  • Engaging in leisure activities: 4 hours, 27 minutes a day (Utah) to 6 hours, 8 minutes a day (West Virginia)
  • Watching TV: 2 hours, 3 minutes a day (West Virginia) to 3 hours, 38 minutes a day (Utah)
  • Using a computer for games or leisure: 19 to 31 minutes a day on weekdays and 22 to 37 minutes on weekends
  • Reading: 13 minutes a day (most Southern states) to 29 minutes a day (North Dakota)

And the news worsens. Teens spend just 4 minutes a day reading for pleasure. Young adults (25 to 34) read for fun for just 8 minutes a day.

Those numbers are downright scary for more than a few reasons.

Legislative Testimony: Employment for Non-Union Teachers

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 302 – Employment Contracts for Non-Union Teachers, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) and Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown).

The Indiana Chamber has long supported similar legislation allowing employees to choose whether or not they want to join their union. And as such, those that choose NOT to join their respective union for whatever reason should have the opportunity to negotiate their contract outside of the collective bargaining agreement that was set forth by that union – just as any other employee in the state might be able to do.

We feel that this legislation empowers both the employer and the employee to negotiate a contract that works best for BOTH parties.

Legislative Testimony: Bill Will Aid Talent Retention

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1054 – Higher Ed Co-Op and Internship Programs, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion).

The Indiana Chamber supports this initiative to tie together efforts from our universities, employers and students in a way to better support all three entities.

The program will incentivize students to stay in Indiana and have access to Indiana employers for potential employment after graduation. Ultimately, we believe this pilot program will help attract and retain additional bright future employees for our state, specifically in the much needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas.

On a related note, the Chamber has an affiliated program, Indiana INTERNnet, which is an internship-matching program. Since Indiana INTERNnet began a little more than a decade ago, the service has helped more than 60,000 students and 5,500 Hoosier employers access important tools and make connections with each other.

Postsecondary Pathways Help Students Achieve Success; Registration Opportunities Coming to Batesville, Muncie

wMaking connections. It’s important to do so in so many ways. I’ll spare you the analogies in getting right to the point that tying education to careers — in other words showing students how their time in the classroom can lead to workplace success — is one of the most critical connections.

The Indiana Chamber is pleased to part with a variety of organizations, led by the Indiana Youth Institute, in presenting regional Postsecondary Pathways programs in 2015. Two successful events took place in late 2014 at Subaru of Indiana Automotive and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Registration is now open for two February programs:

  • February 11 at Batesville High School, including  a tour of Hillenbrand, Inc.
  • February 18 at Ivy Tech Community College in Muncie with a tour of Magna Powertrain, Inc.

Educators, employers, youth-serving professionals and government leaders come together at each daylong event. The goal: Enhance the ability to educate and train students to successfully pursue the postsecondary careers that exist within the region and state.

Additional program partners include: the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana’s Education Roundtable, the Indiana Works Councils, Ivy Tech and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Legislative Session Begins; State Budget Will Dominate

statehouse picHow will the money be prioritized? That’s the overriding question as lawmakers return to the Indiana General Assembly today to start work on a new two-year state budget.

The Indiana Chamber will be pushing for substantially more dollars for an expanded education-based preschool program for low-income families.

Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makes great sense. The current five-county preschool pilot program is inadequate. Indiana has too many children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn. The need is further underscored by the 1,800 applicants for the 450 slots in the pilot program.

The Indiana Chamber will also will be advocating for the state budget to include funding for workforce training with increased designations for high wage career areas, like those in science, technology, engineering and math.

In other education matters, the Indiana Chamber has a longstanding policy of making the state superintendent of public instruction an appointed position and will be seeking to start that on course to becoming reality.

While the political challenges are obvious, we are encouraged that legislative leaders recognize that something has to change. At a minimum, there is consensus for some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.

The Governor’s proposal of letting the State Board of Education elect its own chair is a concept the Indiana Chamber can endorse and would be a good starting point if making the superintendent an appointed position is unable to prevail this session.

In the tax arena, there appears to be strong interest among the General Assembly to provide relief to small business personal property tax filers. Indeed, the Commission on Business Taxation has voiced its support for getting rid of the tax for these users. And that’s what the Indiana Chamber wants to see happen.

The current process is time-consuming and ineffective. All sides would come out ahead with a small business exemption. Much effort is spent by small businesses and their local governments on these returns. And for what? The tax liability often averages between only $10 and $50 per small business. In total, these returns come to a mere 1% of the overall business personal property tax collected.

Read about the Indiana Chamber’s top legislative priorities as well as additional areas of focus for the 2015 legislative session.

Needed: Energy Academy Participants, Sponsors

The Duke Energy Academy at Purdue University is looking for a few good students and teachers (as well as additional sponsors). Applications for the free week-long summer program are due by January 18.

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Why is this important?

By 2030, the global demand for energy will have increased by 50% based on the predicted human population increase. A secure energy future, both in the United States and abroad, needs solutions that come from a diverse energy portfolio. Unfortunately, we face a national crisis in the number and quality of students entering the STEM disciplines that will have a future impact on our nation’s ability to lead the world in the energy sector.

To address these issues, Purdue University has launched an Energy Academy to inspire high school students and teachers in energy sciences and engineering. Participation is provided free of charge to the 42 participating students and 42 teachers. Teachers also will receive a $400 stipend.

The Energy Academy at Purdue will:

  • Conduct a week-long course (June 21-27) on STEM-related energy topics areas of power generation, transportation, power transmission, energy efficiency and new research frontier
  • Lectures: Guest speakers from Purdue, industry, and government will address energy-related topics of current interest and actively engage participants in open discussions
  • Tours: Examples include visit to a wind/solar farm, nuclear reactor and fossil energy power plant
  • Projects: A few student teams will work on energy-related research projects (hands on) based on STEM disciplines while others will participate in a team-based energy policy discussion. Teachers will develop STEM-based energy lesson plans that may be used as teaching modules for their classrooms
  • Hands-on and demonstration: Examples include wind turbine and solar challenge, energy storage, electricity distribution and transmission

Full details and registration available here.

Growing Strong at Noblesville’s SMC

10295185_649652505143607_8886419329462044533_oSMC Corporation of America is the U.S. subsidiary – based in Noblesville – of a Japanese-based company specializing in the manufacturing of pneumatic devices. Think actuators, valves, connectors, temperature control equipment and more.

Business is good. So good that the organization is looking to expand its sales force – in a serious way. During a recent conversation with the Indiana Chamber member, I was told the company is planning a dormitory on campus to educate and train those new salespersons over a six-month period.

SMC looks to expand on its 800 employees already in Indiana. In addition, the company is heavily involved in a promising internship program that places Noblesville High School students into the workplace to gain hands-on experience.

Congratulations on all the good work at SMC and continued success.

Pence’s Education Agenda to Take Center Stage — Should Include More Investment in Preschool

The Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee recently voted to support Governor Pence’s education agenda in principle. The agenda represents an important first step in increasing the focus in Indiana’s K-12 education system to our state’s young people and allowing them to prosper through high-performing teachers and schools.

The list below represents the Governor’s education goals:

  • Increase the base funding per pupil
  • Build on the successful performance funding in the last budget
  • Support efforts by the Commission for Higher Education to expand the performance-based model of funding for universities
  • Allow schools to choose to become “Freedom to Teach Schools – whereby they can improve educational performance by providing more flexibility to superintendents, principals and teachers by easing laws, policies and regulations through waivers granted by the State Board of Education
  • Adjust funding for public charter schools that will allow more communities to offer more choices for families and their kids, and attract more investment for education innovation in Indiana
  • Improve Indiana’s school choice program by lifting the cap on the dollar amount for vouchers and support efforts to raise the cap on the choice scholarship tax credit program
  • Work with legislators to act on the State Board of Education’s recommendations to develop a new, strategic approach to turning around failing schools
  • Increase the amount of money, public and private, to give students more career and technical education opportunities
  • Change how the state funds career and technical education courses, basing funding on performance and relevance instead of enrollment alone
  • Give the State Board of Education authority to elect its own chair

The last bullet item would be a good step if the longstanding Chamber priority of making the state superintendent an appointed position is not enacted. There needs to be, at a minimum, some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.

The one area where the Indiana Chamber differs with the Governor’s education agenda is on preschool; he is seeking $10 million a year in this next budget to fund pre-K scholarships for the five pre-K pilot counties.

The Chamber believes the pilot program is not adequate. Indiana has large numbers of children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn. This ultimately impacts all Hoosier students as schools are forced to deal with wide gaps in achievement levels.

The state needs to provide robust funding that will help all low-income parents access education–based preschool programs. Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makes sense, like in statewide preschool.