Indiana Chamber, Ball State Announce Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Index for Hoosier Communities

An old proverb, first printed in 1639, says: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” In today’s state and national economies, the assertion is that the healthier the residents are, the wealthier and wiser they and the broader community will also be.

The Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) created the Healthy, Wealthy, Wise Index for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, its Foundation and the Wellness Council of Indiana to emphasize the critical importance of the health factor. The Index will serve as a valuable measuring tool for the Wellness Council’s Indiana Healthy Community initiative.

The Wellness Council of Indiana is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana Chamber.

“Health is a key success factor to learning and wealth,” says Wellness Council of Indiana Executive Director Chuck Gillespie. “Community leaders and business decision makers need to understand why ‘healthy’ must be a big priority in order to ensure the vitality of their communities and workplaces.”

Thirty indicators – 15 health, six wealth and nine wise – were selected to establish the three indices. Results among all 92 counties and, separately, the 50 states are divided into quartiles, with those in the fourth quartile having the strongest performance.

“Our research also found there are major policy implications,” states Michael Hicks, the George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Economics in the Miller College of Business and director of CBER. “There is a huge disparity in health and health care costs associated with preventable diseases in Indiana, especially across rural and urban settings. With this information, local governments can partner with businesses and non-profits to figure out how wellness can be more effectively spread throughout our communities.”

The Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 (www.indianachamber.com/2025) economic development action plan for the state includes four drivers, with three health-related goals under the Attractive Business Climate section (along with the direct correlation of the Wise index to the plan’s goals under Outstanding Talent). While the state has fared well in tax, regulatory and other areas in enhancing its business climate, the unhealthy state of the population is a costly and dangerous outlier.

The Indiana Chamber and allies have formed the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana to tackle health care challenges, with an initial legislative focus on reducing smoking. Nearly one-quarter of the adult population in Indiana smokes at an annual cost of $6 billion in additional health care expenditures and lost productivity.

“The Wellness Council has focused on creating and maintaining well workplaces throughout its history,” Gillespie shares. “The Indiana Healthy Community initiative is an important step to embracing and working toward community-wide health improvements. Healthy citizens are essential to Hoosiers being prepared to learn and work at their highest capabilities. Leaders are encouraged to use these findings in assessing the current status of their communities.”

Srikant Devaraj, CBER research assistant professor, adds, “This research found that there is a strong correlation between the built environment – the man-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity – and the places where people are moving, implying that households put more value on the recreational amenities. Infrastructure related to traditional wellness activities, such as trails, playgrounds, parks and open green space matters more than ever in where people and subsequently businesses relocate.”

Counties that score highly in all three indices include Bartholomew, Dearborn, Dubois, Kosciusko and those surrounding Indianapolis. As suggested by earlier research, rural areas do not fare as well as urban settings. There are examples of high and low performers in close proximity to each other. Nationally, success is varied with Indiana having a below median health index and above median wealthy and wise results.

The Healthy, Wealthy, Wise Index is available at www.wellnessindiana.org, www.readyindiana.org and www.bsu.edu/cber/publications. The Ball State site includes full index scores for each county and state.

To be considered an Indiana Healthy Community, communities must apply to the Wellness Council of Indiana and meet eight key components, including working with various community leaders, getting citizens involved, analyzing political atmospheres and ensuring environments are best for making healthy choices. Part of the requirements include having a certain number of businesses certified as AchieveWELL companies, a Wellness Council designation for individual organizations

Locations interested in becoming Indiana Healthy Communities can visit the Wellness Council web site for more information and to apply.

Indiana Chamber Unveils Top Legislative Priorities for 2017

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Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (right) speaks during Monday’s Indiana Chamber Legislative Preview. He was joined during the panel discussion by Senate President Pro Tem David Long, as well as House Speaker Brian Bosma and Minority Leader Scott Pelath. Our VP Caryl Auslander moderated.

Long-term transportation infrastructure funding, expansion of state-funded preschool to children from low-income families and strategies to reduce the state’s smoking rate are among the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s top priorities for the 2017 session.

These objectives were announced at the organization’s annual legislative preview in Indianapolis today. The event sponsor was Ice Miller LLP.

“Based on studies, reports and simply travelling across the state, it’s pretty apparent that what we desperately need is a long-term, sustainable, transportation infrastructure funding plan,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

He believes whatever strategies are ultimately settled on to fund the state’s road and bridges, two factors must be taken into consideration.

“We need to completely fund both maintenance needs and important new projects, and ensure that every user pays their fair share.”

Specific funding strategies the Indiana Chamber could support include: indexing the fuel excise taxes/fees to inflation; raising fuel excise taxes/fees; charging fees for alternative-fuel vehicles (which aren’t subject to the regular fuel tax); tolling a major interstate; and dedicating all of the sales taxes on fuel to infrastructure (the current model allots a penny with the other six cents going to the state’s general fund).

Brinegar notes that the Indiana Chamber would support replacing any revenue lost to the general fund with another revenue source so that the general fund is left whole.

Education is also high on the organization’s agenda.

“We are encouraged that virtually everyone involved sees the need to increase state-funded preschool,” Brinegar begins. “The Indiana Chamber will be advocating that disadvantaged youngsters take priority for the state’s limited dollars.

“We want to see legislators focus on fiscal responsibility, ensure preschool programs are of high quality and adopt a mixed delivery model that includes public schools, Head Start programs, licensed family and center-based childcare, as well as community-based organizations. All of those things are vitally important.”

The Indiana Chamber is part of the All IN 4 Pre-K coalition.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber is supporting suitable testing for students and accountability measures for all involved in the education process.

“Clearly there have been issues with ISTEP testing and the communication of result expectations based on the state’s new college and career-ready standards,” Brinegar says. “But the fundamental importance of measuring students, teachers and schools remains. That’s how we can predict student progress, rate teacher effectiveness and compare and contrast school performance relative to state and national peers.”

Indiana ranks 44th in the nation for highest percentage of smokers. Brinegar stresses that the increased health care costs associated with this level of smoking has the attention of employers.

“These workers are less healthy, have higher insurance premiums and miss more days on the job – and some are not able to work at all.”

The Indiana Chamber, a member of the new Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, is backing a comprehensive approach to reducing the state’s smoking rate. The proposal includes: raising the price of cigarettes via a tax increase; funding a more robust smoking cessation program; increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21; and repealing special privileges for smokers (that prohibit employers from asking possible new hires if they smoke).

“Right now, Indiana is spending substantially more on smokers with health issues who are on Medicaid than it is taking in via cigarette tax revenues. For every pack sold and taxed at 99.5 cents, the state spends at least $15.90 in related health care costs,” Brinegar states. “Obviously that’s not a sustainable tradeoff and needs the state’s attention.”

In the summer, the Indiana Chamber more closely aligned with the state’s technology industry, forming the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council to facilitate better communication and coordination among interested parties.

According to Brinegar, a key focus is public policy so technology leaders can present a strong, unified voice at the Statehouse. Out of the gate, the goal is to “make technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity.”

Brinegar says: “Indiana is already fostering an impressive entrepreneurial spirit and becoming a technology hub in the Midwest. But we need to better support our technology successes and build on them. After all, our technology efforts now provide tremendous support to the agriculture, logistics and manufacturing sectors in the state – three of our main cogs.”

The Technology and Innovation Policy Summit on December 15 will unveil all the council’s legislative goals.

A complete rundown of the Indiana Chamber’s 2017 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

Also at the legislative preview event, five state legislators were honored as Indiana Chamber Small Business Champions “for their hard work and dedication to improving Indiana’s small business climate.” This award is based on voting and advocacy during the past legislative session.

The 2016 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Travis Holdman from Markle, District #19; Sen. Tim Lanane from Anderson, District #25; Rep. Matt Lehman from Berne, District #79; Rep. Karlee Macer from Indianapolis, District# 92; and Rep. Ed Soliday from Valparaiso, District #4.

Recap of the Indiana Chamber’s Top 8 legislative priorities:

  • Support establishing a long-term sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, bridges, etc.
  • Support the expansion of publicly-funded preschool initiatives for children from low income families
  • Support suitable testing for students and accountability for all involved in the education process
  • Support comprehensive approach to decreasing the state’s smoking rate
  • Support a statewide water policy to assure future resources and our economic prosperity
  • Support making technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity
  • Support maintaining and enhancing our attractive tax climate
  • Support a work share program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns

New Award to Recognize School-Business Partnership

????????????????????????????????????????????Collaborative efforts between educators and employers are viewed as essential to ultimate student success. The Indiana Chamber Foundation has established the School Counseling-Business Partnership Award to recognize such initiatives.

Applicants should demonstrate a high school counseling-employer partnership that has assisted students through work-and-learn experiences, career coaching or others methods of helping students’ professional growth. The winning high school counseling office will receive a $1,000 college scholarship to be given to a student of its choice who has demonstrated exceptional progress as a result of the partnership.

The School Counseling-Business Partnership Award will be presented at the 11th annual IMPACT awards hosted by Indiana INTERNnet on February 8, 2017. Nominations are due December 1.

Learn more by reading Ready Indiana’s release or contact Shelley Huffman at shuffman@indianachamber.com.

Important New Teacher Scholarship Now Available

A program the Indiana Chamber advocated for to assist with the potential teacher shortages is now accepting applications.

The Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship allows the Commission for Higher Education to award college scholarships for up to 200 of the best and brightest future teachers. These students must have graduated in the top 20% of their class and receive the top 20th percentile scores on the SAT/ACT exams.

To continue earning the scholarship in college, students must earn a 3.0 cumulative GPA and complete at least 30 credit hours per year. Current college students are also eligible for the scholarship, but priority will be given to high school students.

Upon graduation, scholarship recipients have the requirement to teach in Indiana for five consecutive years.

The Pence administration set up the program in House Bill 1002 and the Legislature appropriated $10 million in House Bill 1001, authored by House Speaker Brian Bosma.

The Indiana Chamber believes that this legislation is a great first step in recruiting outstanding teachers into the field as well as helping to raise the profession. Excellent teachers lead to strong students, which will eventually lead to talented employees and business leaders.

Visit www.LearnMoreIndiana.org/NextTeacher for more information on the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship and to apply.

The Commission for Higher Education will review applications and notify students selected to receive a scholarship by April 15, 2017.

Chamber Partners With Lilly Endowment on Counseling Initiative

36107229With so much uncertainty plaguing our country, it’s a welcome relief when everyone in Indiana can play a role in an important initiative. That initiative is critical – including making sure our young people are ready for college or a career after completing their secondary education.

The effort to provide promising futures for all received a major boost with the September 30 announcement of an up to $30 million Comprehensive Counseling Initiative from the Lilly Endowment. The Indiana Chamber, through the work of its Foundation, is proud to be a partner with other organizations in assisting educators and engaging employers in this critical work.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation has supported a series of studies over the past three years to identify best practices and counseling models. Now, this new initiative will make financial resources available to help schools best meet the needs of their students.

Employers have a crucial role to play. The Indiana Chamber, with 24,000 members and investors, is in the best position to build upon the educator-employer connections that have begun to occur with more frequency in our state.

Our organization’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan calls for at least 90% of Indiana students who graduate from high school being ready for college and/or career training. With the Endowment’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative, talented and dedicated education professionals in place and employers prepared to play an active role in meeting future workforce needs, we are ready to work toward that goal and beyond.

Learn more about Indiana Chamber Foundation research at www.readyindiana.org and the Endowment initiative at www.lillyendowment.org/ed_ci.html.

Chamber Endorses Jennifer McCormick for Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is backing Dr. Jennifer McCormick in the race for state superintendent of public instruction over incumbent Glenda Ritz. The organization has very rarely stepped into statewide races and this marks the first time ever to endorse a challenger in one. McCormick is the current Yorktown Community Schools superintendent.

“Our volunteer leadership voted to take this unusual step because we can’t have four more years of divisiveness and dysfunction from the Department of Education. It’s time to hit the reset button,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“We need a state superintendent who understands the importance of having a productive working relationship with the stakeholders engaged in the state’s education policy. Glenda Ritz has proven she’s incapable of doing that and has over politicized the system.”

In contrast, the Indiana Chamber notes McCormick’s “positive relationships with both educators and the business community. She will be the constructive, get-things-done type of a superintendent that we need in today’s climate.”

States Dr. McCormick: “I am honored to receive this support from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Over the last two decades, I have served at every level in our state’s K-12 public education system, as a classroom teacher, principal and superintendent. I am running for this office because Indiana deserves the best Department of Education in the nation.

“I look forward to working with our state’s dynamic business community and all stakeholders as we strive to put students first and prepare them for careers in our great state.”

The Indiana Chamber has long been involved in education policy because businesses need good, qualified talent to thrive.

“We are well aware of the current workforce challenges that must be addressed by business leaders and educators working together,” Brinegar explains. “We need a superintendent who will roll up her sleeves, and work in tandem with other state agencies and organizations to make the needed progress. That is exactly what we expect Jennifer McCormick to do.”

When it comes to specific policies under Ritz that are of concern, Brinegar is quick to cite several.

“Maintaining the education policies that have improved student outcomes in recent years is at risk,” he states. “Whether that’s our assessments, school and teacher accountability or parental choice of which school is best for their children. Ritz is in favor of none of that.”

Her clear opposition to any type of accountability may be the most troubling for the Indiana Chamber.

“The accountability aspect is so vital because this is what tells parents, students and the community at-large how well their schools and teachers are performing, so that parents can make informed decisions about what school their child attends,” Brinegar stresses.

“Jennifer McCormick believes in the importance of accountability and she demonstrates it every day as a successful superintendent who leads a team in her schools and focuses on what’s best for student learning.”

One of the Indiana Chamber’s top objectives for the 2017 legislative session will be expansion of state-supported pre-K to more students from low-income families.

“Jennifer McCormick realizes that the at-risk group needs to be the focus and she will make effective use of the state’s scarce resources,” Brinegar offers. “We can count on her to administer this important program properly. We can’t risk having what happened to ISTEP happen with pre-K.”

Recruiting the Next Generation of Hoosier Educators

96631972The following is a guest blog by Indiana House Speaker Rep. Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis).

The single most important factor in student success is an outstanding teacher in the classroom. That’s why our schools need a strong hiring pool of high-quality teachers to ensure Hoosier students have the best chance of success.

To help attract and retain top talent, I authored a new law this year establishing the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship. This program, which received bipartisan support, is designed to incentivize our best and brightest high school graduates to pursue degrees in teaching and work in Indiana’s classrooms.

Beginning Nov. 1, both incoming and current college students studying education can apply for the scholarship, which awards $7,500 per year toward college costs to those who commit to teaching in Indiana’s public or private schools for five years after graduating.

The scholarship is available to 200 students statewide each year who either graduate in the top 20 percent of their class or earn a score in the top 20th percentile on the SAT or ACT. While in college, students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and complete at least 30 credit hours per year to continue receiving the grant. Graduates must obtain their teaching license and teach in Indiana for five consecutive years. The commission can make special exceptions for life’s unexpected circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Students interested in applying must be nominated by a teacher and submit their nomination form to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Students are encouraged to complete the nomination form before the application period opens.

I applaud the work of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and Commissioner Teresa Lubbers in implementing this new program and launching a promotional campaign to spread the word about this great opportunity. Students can visit LearnMoreIndiana.org/NextTeacher for information and to submit an application before the Dec. 31 deadline. The commission is also expected to launch TV, radio and digital advertisements this month.

Indiana’s new scholarship program represents a bipartisan effort with input and broad-based support from lawmakers, teachers and education organizations, including the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, a coalition of Indiana colleges and universities, the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Indiana Catholic Conference and Stand for Children.

This new program will help our schools attract and retain highly qualified teachers – especially for subjects like STEM and special education. Hoosier students hold the keys to Indiana’s future, and we will continue to work together to strengthen our commitment to students, teachers and schools.

Chamber Testimony in Support of Pre-K Expansion Given to Interim Committee

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The Indiana Chamber submitted testimony Wednesday to the Interim Study Committee on Fiscal Policy regarding the state-supported expansion of pre-K for children from low-income families. Below is that testimony from Caryl Auslander, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of education and workforce development:

“I am honored to serve for the Indiana Chamber, but the most important role I play right now is that of being a Mom to two school-aged kids. My youngest started pre-K this fall and she is off to an amazing start to her educational career. But there are thousands of four-year-old Hoosier children from low-income families that are not as fortunate. They risk starting school with a bigger disadvantage of being behind and not being ready to learn.

First and foremost – we would like to thank the Indiana General Assembly. Two years ago, Indiana became the 42nd state to offer direct state aid for preschool tuition to at-risk children. As you know, this pilot program (On My Way Pre-K) provided $10 million for vouchers provided to four year old children in five counties (Allen, Lake, Marion, Jackson and Vanderburgh).

Fast forward two short years later, we are thrilled that both gubernatorial candidates, both superintendent of public instruction candidates and legislative leaders of all four caucuses have committed to making pre-K a priority this upcoming legislative session. But we know that the breakdown comes from the details on the plan and how exactly to pay for it. The Indiana Chamber has been working hard in the interim as a part of the AllIN4PreK coalition focusing on pursuing several key policy points:

  • We are promoting expanding the pilot program to include more 4 year olds from low-income families across the state
  • And if we are going to spend state dollars – we need to do it wisely. These pre-K programs must be high-quality – levels 3 or 4 on the Paths to Quality rating system
  • And these programs need to be accessible to working parents – nearby where they live or work or on public transportation lines. Therefore we suggest supporting a mixed-delivery system – quality providers in centers, public schools, private schools, ministries and homes
  • We want to ensure that we continue data reporting requirements that are now in place within the pilot program to make sure our investments are providing positive results
  • And finally, we want to work with the Legislature to find an appropriate fiscal number to fund this program within the constraints of the budget and reflective of revenue forecasts. We recognize that this is a big investment but it is a worthwhile one – according to the Indiana Department of Education, our state spends nearly $32 million a year on kindergarten remediation and expanding the pilot program could significantly mitigate those costs

Kindergarten is now more like first grade due to the increased rigor of college and career-ready standards. It is imperative that children, specifically those without means, have access to quality early-childhood education to have them ready for kindergarten by the time they walk in the door. It is our hope that attending a quality pre-K program will mitigate the high costs of remediation and have students more prepared to learn in their educational career.

The Indiana Chamber has made expanding pre-K a priority for the 2017 session as we want to grow our own talented workforce in Indiana – and an important pathway to that is starting early with four year olds from low-income families and a quality pre-K program.”

A Look at Pre-K Expansion and New Coalition

GIt is now late summer, and that means that we’ve reached back-to-school time in Indiana. It is a big year in the Auslander household as my youngest embarks on her first year of pre-K. However, there are thousands of less-fortunate Hoosier 4-year olds that will not have that opportunity to join her.

The Indiana Chamber has been supportive of pre-K in our legislative priorities for years and was a champion in promoting the passage of the state-funded pilot program “On My Way Pre-K” in five counties (Allen, Lake, Marion, Jackson and Vanderburgh), as the business community strongly believes that children who receive a quality start to their education will succeed better and need less remediation moving forward in their schooling.

There have been many recent announcements on pre-K during this busy campaign season. The Chamber has chosen to endorse and help lead the efforts with the All IN 4 Pre-K initiative recently rolled out across the state.

This plan focuses on several key non-negotiable points:

  • Expansion of the pilot program to include more Hoosier children from low-income families
  • Pre-K programs included must be of high-quality – level 3 or 4 of Paths to Quality (Family and Social Services Administration quality rankings)
  • Pre-K programs should include a mixed-delivery system of providers: centers, schools (public and private), ministries and family homes
  • Work with the Legislature to find an appropriate budget amount to fund the expansion, within the constraints of the budget and revenue forecasts
  • Continue reporting requirements put into place with the existing pilot program
    According to the Indiana Department of Education, our state spends nearly $32 million a year on kindergarten remediation. The expansion of a state-funded pre-K program could significantly mitigate those costs.

My daughter will succeed in her schooling because my husband and I can afford to send her to a quality program. Other Hoosier students are not nearly as fortunate. The Indiana Chamber is ready to once again make this a priority for the upcoming legislative session.

Survey: Where Will the Workers Come From?

Several straightforward conclusions can be drawn from the ninth annual workforce survey conducted by the Indiana Chamber and its foundation.

The good news is that respondents are optimistic about growing their businesses over the next one to two years. The challenge, however, is that they don’t know where they are going to find the workers to allow that growth to take place.

For the third consecutive year, the number of jobs left unfilled due to underqualified applicants increased. So did the number of employers who identified filling the workforce as their biggest challenge.

“There is a reason that Outstanding Talent is the top driver in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The survey once again reinforces the work that must be done at so many levels to increase the skills of our current and future workers.”

View the press release and additional survey charts.

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