Dan Evans: Early Childhood Education a Key to a Healthy Indiana

Dan Evans, President and CEO of Indiana University Health, explains why early childhood education and expanding preschool opportunities for families of all income levels is so critical to the health of our state.

Promise, Partnerships and Indiana’s Future

tThe following column, written by Indiana Chamber Vice President Tom Schuman, was written for Inside INdiana Business:

In the not exactly breaking news category, there is dysfunction at the top in leadership of Indiana’s K-12 education efforts with plenty of blame to go around. But the good news is this column has nothing to do with that.

Instead, it tells about the focus being placed where it needs to be – on today’s students who will be the future workforce and aspiring community leaders. We detail some of these stories in the March-April issue of BizVoice magazine, but share a few highlights with you here.

Like in Wabash, which initiated the Wabash County Promise to provide K-3 students with 529 college savings accounts to begin to change the culture and mindset about higher education. Students with accounts are seven times more likely to continue their education beyond high school, but this program is so much more than that.

Families, teachers, the business community, private sector funding partners and others are engaged and energized. The “promise” has expanded to LaGrange, Noble and Whitely counties and the application period is open through March 9 for additional pilots for the 2015-2016 school year. The ultimate goal: a successful Promise Indiana program.

Or go to Batesville in the southeastern portion of the state. The K-12 system, Ivy Tech Community College and local businesses have partnered on a program that has students dividing their time between all three locations each week. The result is young people with on-the-job work experience and substantial credits toward an associate degree – before they receive their high school diploma.

(Batesville has a variety of other initiatives that allow students to gain real-world experiences as a result of educators acknowledging that a great deal of learning takes place “outside our walls.”)

The school-business connection is Batesville is beginning to be replicated in other locations around the state. The Indiana Works Councils, specifically created to help these conversations and alignments occur, seem to be doing just that.

It does cause one to wonder, however: Why did this take so long? Business haves complained about not having access to the skilled workforce they need; educators, as a nature of their profession, are dedicated to helping ensure future success for their students.

Rick Sherck, executive director of the Noble County Economic Development Corporation, offered an explanation in BizVoice.

“For the most part, industry and education knew they needed each other. But they didn’t know how to go about forming that relationship. Sometimes it’s been an adversarial relationship. You hire someone out of high school and you complain about the educational system because they didn’t prepare them. It’s not industry’s fault and it’s not education’s fault. We just need to work together and find solutions and positive ways to engage youth.”

Well said.

Educators, if you’re not going into your local businesses to see how the skill sets have changed with today’s jobs, do so. The doors will be open. If the reasoning from school leaders is that too many other requirements prevent such activities, challenge the status quo and make time.

Business leaders, don’t complain about a lack of workforce skills unless you’re ready to be part of the solution. In fact, you should be driving the solution as a leading partner. Invest your time in the young people in your community and you will realize the benefits for years to come.

Remember, it’s all about the students. Keep that top of mind and great things will happen.

Postsecondary Pathways Clearly Paved in Batesville

“A healthy manufacturing environment in Indiana in large part determines the health of our state economically,” said Kim Ryan, president of Batesville Casket Company, at the Indiana Youth Institute Postsecondary Pathways event in Batesville last week. The Indiana Chamber was a co-sponsor.

Ryan enthusiastically encouraged educators in the room to share manufacturing opportunities with their students, and emphasized the importance of developing local talent in order for communities to keep critical employers. And she said employers play a large role in this effort by partnering with their local school system.

Batesville High School focuses on providing opportunities for students to learn outside the classroom with the help of local employers like Batesville Casket, Batesville Tool & Die and Heartwood Manufacturing. Students can take classes at Ivy Tech and then spend time learning with these local employers.

I toured Heartwood Manufacturing and was impressed by the diversity of the products they can produce and the quality. They have a staff of about 50, and they offer learning opportunities to students from Batesville High School. Students are able to create a product from beginning to end – from ordering the parts and understanding the financial side to putting it together. One student was even building a gun case!

Learn more about the participating businesses:

Making a College ‘Promise’; Community Applications Available

bThe March-April issue of the Indiana Chamber’s BizVoice magazine will include a feature on the Wabash County Promise and the move to expand that to Promise Indiana.

What is the Promise? It’s creating college savings accounts for young people as early as kindergarten, but it’s also so much more — changing the culture and mindset about the importance of education to young people, families and communities.

Wabash County began its work in 2013. Three more counties (LaGrange, Noble and Whitley) came on board in 2014. Now, applications are open through March 9 for additional pilot counties for the upcoming school year.

Local leadership and support are the keys to success. Data and resources are provided to assist selected counties in a program that is gaining national attention and praise.

Remembers, to see the full story in BizVoice (online and in the mail on February 27).

State Superintendent Needs to be Appointed, On Same Page with Governor

It’s about good public policy. It’s about what’s best for students and teachers.

For nearly 30 years, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has supported having the state superintendent of public instruction be an appointed position. We did this when Republicans and Democrats controlled the governor’s office. And we have been far from alone.

In years past, the state Democratic and Republican parties have included it in their platforms. And in 2004, both Gov. Joe Kernan and challenger Mitch Daniels had it among their campaign proposals.

It may be surprising to some, but the Indiana State Teachers Association used to support having an appointed superintendent. However, the group changed its tune once its 2012 endorsed candidate, Glenda Ritz, was elected.

The Indiana Chamber has remained consistent with its position and believes politics should be put aside.

Having an appointed superintendent came oh so close to happening in the late 1980s during Gov. Robert Orr’s administration – passing the House and falling only one vote short in the Senate. Since then it’s mainly been a parade of governors and superintendents not on the same page on major education policy (regardless of which party held either office). That situation doesn’t serve the state, students, parents or teachers well.

Our governor campaigns on education issues and sets an education agenda. In order to be held accountable for that, he needs to be able to appoint the superintendent of his choosing. That way, we can be assured there is alignment with respect to education policy. Hoosiers can then hold the governor truly responsible for education and factor that into his performance assessment come election time.

Appointing a superintendent also means the person chosen comes from a broader pool of qualified candidates. And the selection should then be based on the person’s education and leadership merits, not political backing.

Many have known for a long time that the current system isn’t conducive to getting things done. That’s only been exacerbated the last two years with the divergent philosophical opinions of Gov. Mike Pence and Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Too often this has resulted in the State Board of Education at a crossroads, if not a standstill. That’s entirely unacceptable.

What’s more, the superintendent, as head of the state Department of Education, should be treated like every other agency leader. We don’t elect the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, commissioner of the Department of Revenue and so forth. All of those officials are appointed at the discretion of the governor. The Department of Education should be the same.

Indiana is already behind the times – and more than 35 other states – in acknowledging that an appointed superintendent serves citizens best. Our preference would be that realization happen sooner rather than later. We recognize the political sensitivities and pressures currently in play – though we don’t agree with bowing to them – and want to see serious discussion and action taken on the issue this legislative session.

Legislative Testimony: State Board of Education Governance

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 1 – State Board of Education Governance, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle).

While the Chamber prefers to have the Governor appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction, allowing the State Board of Education to appoint its own chair is a step in the right direction and will allow for a more seamless way for education policy to be enacted.

However, the Chamber believes that the Governor should be allowed to control the appointment process for State Board members as a right of the executive branch leader (as opposed to having the Indiana House Speaker and Senate Pro Tem make several selections, which SB 1 proposes).

Non-Union Teacher Contract Bargaining Requires Flexibility

Finding, retaining and empowering great teachers must be a top priority for Indiana schools. However, the state’s teacher bargaining law ties the hands of administrators and forces the union-bargained contract and all its controls on every teacher in a district, whether or not they choose to even join the union.

Senate Bill 302, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon), would allow school districts to negotiate employment contracts directly with individual teachers or groups of teachers that choose not to join their union, instead of being forced to negotiate exclusively within the bargaining agreement and impose those same contract provisions on all teachers.

Today, schools and districts cannot recruit superb educators and those with specific skills needed (e.g. STEM, foreign languages, etc.) and cannot be offered higher pay or other incentives. And in districts with teacher shortages, there is no room to negotiate a contract to hire a teacher that might be needed to fill an important gap. There is no flexibility – it’s the union’s contract or nothing, even in a right-to-work state like Indiana.

Teachers are professionals and should be treated like it. They have the right to be a union member and bargain collectively should they so choose, but they also should have the right to negotiate their own contracts. If we want better teachers in this state, we need to encourage and support excellence.

The bill would free teachers from a longstanding stranglehold on contracts, allow for excellence to be rewarded and recruited, and stop treating all teachers like interchangeable parts under the same contract terms regardless of skills, performance or a school’s needs.

Please take a moment to send a message to your state senator and the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee to ask for support of Senate Bill 302 to provide for more flexibility for school districts and teachers.

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.