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 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


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.

Chamber Exec One of Only 22 Chosen Nationally to Study Education Pipeline

05afa7bShelley Huffman, director of college and career readiness at the Indiana Chamber, has been named a fellow for the 2016-17 Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Fellowship for Education Attainment program.

The fellowship is designed for chamber of commerce executives who work to improve the birth-to-career education pipeline in their communities. Fellows participate in an immersive education and workforce development experience that includes best practice sharing, reviews of case studies, interaction with and learning from national experts, and the opportunity to build a strong peer-to-peer network.

The fellowship is being offered to only 22 chamber of commerce professionals nationwide this year. Huffman was selected to participate “based on her passion for strengthening the talent pipeline and improving regional education and workforce development outcomes,” offers Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) President Mick Fleming.

Through the experience, Huffman, who oversees college and career readiness initiatives and related workforce strategies for the Indiana Chamber Foundation, will develop and execute a specific regional action plan for specific educational attainment objectives set by the Indiana Chamber.

Huffman is looking forward to the various summits and opportunities to collaborate with national experts. She says this is a very exciting and important endeavor for the Indiana Chamber: “It directly relates to some of the top goals we have in Indiana Vision 2025, our long-term economic development plan for the state, and will play a role in moving those forward.”

Explains Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar: “This fellowship embodies what the Outstanding Talent driver in our plan is all about. Having more Hoosiers receive the proper education from start to finish so they can embark on a meaningful career path will benefit our entire state. Businesses will have a larger talent pool and citizens will have increased quality of life.”

Those selected to participate in the fellowship program represent organizations that are actively engaged in policy, programs and system reform efforts across the birth-to-career spectrum.

For more information about ACCE’s education attainment work, visit

Talent is Everything

cSignificant numbers of talented people, not to mention entrepreneurs, in the STEM fields come from international backgrounds. Home countries are trying to entice these men and women to return, while U.S. policy makes it difficult for them to stay here, apply the lessons they have learned and be meaningful economic contributors.

The Kauffman Foundation has more:

The United States stands to lose valuable economic contributors unless it removes immigration barriers to international STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who earn advanced degrees here, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

International Ph.D. students in the United States on temporary visas accounted for nearly two-fifths (39 percent) of all Ph.D.s in STEM fields in 2013 – a proportion that has doubled over the past three decades. If the trend continues, the majority of STEM Ph.D.s from U.S. universities will go to international students by 2020.

The report, “Will They Stay or Will They Go? International STEM Students Are Up for Grabs,” conducted by Richard Appelbaum and Xueying Han at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that nearly two out of five international STEM students are undecided about whether to stay in America or return to their home countries after graduation. More than a third of them are aware of programs designed to lure them back to their countries of origin, at the same time U.S. immigration policy makes it difficult for them to remain here.

The ability to retain international STEM graduates has implications for U.S. entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth. In 2014, 29 percent of all new U.S. startups were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, reflecting a startup rate nearly twice as high as that of U.S.-born adults.

“Innovation is one of America’s strongest assets, but other nations are gaining on us,” said Yasuyuki Motoyama, director in Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “These students represent talented scientists and engineers. If we want to maintain our edge amid intensifying global competition, then our immigration policies must be modified to make it easier for international STEM students to make America their permanent home.”

The Kauffman report draws from 2,322 responses to an email survey of domestic and international graduate students enrolled in STEM programs at the 10 U.S. universities with the largest number of international students. Thirty-four percent of the respondents were international students holding temporary visas.

The report recommends that Congress take action to open the immigration door wider to international STEM students, including:

  • Adopt the Immigration Innovation Act (or the I-Squared Act), which would increase the H-1B visa annual cap from 65,000 to between 115,000 and 195,000, depending on demand and market conditions.
  • Adopt the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy Act of 2015 (or the STAPLE Act), which would allow international students who earn STEM Ph.D.s from U.S universities and receive job offers from U.S. employers to be admitted for permanent resident status and exempted from H-1B visa limitations.
  • Amend the H-1B visa system to allow all individuals to switch employers/jobs.

The Kauffman researchers recommended that Congress avoid lumping illegal immigration with legal immigration in one bill, cautioning that “politics should play no role in an issue so critical to the future of U.S. competitiveness.”

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)


Early Childhood Education Gets a Push in the Right Direction


Great news: It seems like 2017 will be the year that everyone finally jumps on the train to expand the pre-K pilot program in Indiana. In just the past two weeks, we have had two major announcements from Governor Mike Pence and Superintendent Glenda Ritz on different proposals to expand the pre-K pilot program.

As background, in 2014 Pence testified in front of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee to pursue Indiana’s first pre-kindergarten program for disadvantaged four-year-olds. That session generated legislation to create a five-county pilot program (selected counties were Lake, Marion, Jackson, Vanderburgh and Allen) for 2,300 grants of up to $6,600 for low-income four-year-old students. This voluntary, voucher-based program could place students in public schools, private schools, licensed child care centers, licensed homes or registered ministries – as long as they were a Level 3 or Level 4 on Paths to Quality, which is Indiana’s child care quality rating and improvement system.

This pilot program was awarded $10 million that year and was given an additional $10 million the subsequent year. The response was overwhelming – over 500 low-income applicants in Marion County alone were turned away. In Valparaiso, 600 applications were submitted for only 285 spots. It is important to note that 41 other states have publicly funded preschool programs. Indiana is unique as businesses around the state have stepped up to the plate and have invested heavily to push to expand the pilot program. The business community realizes that having a quality start to school will ultimately lead to a stronger workforce and better communities.

The day of the Indiana Chamber’s spring board of directors meeting earlier this month, Governor Pence announced that he had sent a letter to Secretary Sylvia Burwell of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing interest in expanding pre-K education for disadvantaged children. HHS oversees preschool development grants authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). He has also stated publicly his desire to request additional state dollars in the next budget. It should be noted that Pence had the opportunity to apply for $80 million in federal grant dollars in 2014 and decided not to pursue the application at the very last minute, citing concerns regarding federal intrusion. The Governor now states that the pilot is producing great results and the time is right for expansion.

Similarly, Ritz announced a proposed expansion of pre-kindergarten programs in announcing her Imagine 2020 legislative plan the following week. Ritz’s pre-kindergarten announcement included high-quality, state-funded, universal access to pre-K to the tune of $150 million per year. With this price tag, Ritz stated that if the political will is there, the funds will follow. Her plan utilizes reversions from state agencies already made to the general fund and leveraging federal dollars.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg joined Ritz this week to discuss more details about the pre-K plan. It was explained that the $150 million per year would be available for 289 public school districts with pre-K programs. The program would be voluntary for students, but would be open to all Hoosier four-year-olds, regardless of family income.

While we are thrilled that leaders of both parties are supporting expansion of pre-K programs in Indiana, per usual, the devil is in the details. Expansion can take shape in many forms: universal coverage for all four-year-olds regardless of income levels, increasing the number of counties in the pilot, expanding access to three-year-olds or changing the poverty-level income requirement. These details all are yet to be determined in each proposed plan.

The Indiana Chamber has partnered with many stakeholders to promote expansion of the pre-K pilot and has been meeting frequently to determine our approach to the 2017 legislative session, our messaging and to work collaboratively with community partners and Chamber members to promote a well-funded, high-quality expansion. We will be relying on employers across the state to help us beat the drum about the importance of a great early start to school, which will help lead to lifelong success.

Teacher Legislation Plus ISTEP Panel Update

Indiana educators are among the best and the brightest, and have the utmost important job of teaching our future Hoosier workforce. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week across the United States. The Indiana Chamber was proud to support many pieces of legislation to help raise up the teaching profession. Many bills sought to provide ways to ease the teaching shortage issue, provide supplemental funding to educators and provide opportunities for teachers to grow in their profession. We look forward to more opportunities during the 2017 session.

caryl ed

House Enrolled Act 1395 not only sunsets the high-stakes ISTEP exam, but it also creates a 23-person panel which will review and recommend an alternative based on the new federal regulations set forth by the Every Student Succeeds Act. The Indiana Chamber worked tirelessly to ensure that the business community had a seat at the table and we are pleased that Indiana Chamber board member and former board chair, Marilyn Moran-Townsend, was recently appointed by Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne). Moran-Townsend serves on the Chamber’s Business Higher Education Forum policy committee and has an incredible background in education, including as former chair of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and a founding member of the Indiana Education Roundtable. Other appointees include:

  • Nicole Fama – principal of Indianapolis Public School #93; Fama will be chair of the board
  • Dr. Jim Roberts – Batesville Community School Corp. superintendent
  • Chuck Weisenbach – principal of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis
  • Brent Freeman – special education officer for Indianapolis Public Schools
  • Dr. Michelle McKeown – part-time assistant professor of education studies at DePauw University
  • Ayana Wilson-Coles – third grade teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis
  • Julie Kemp – principal at Chrisney Elementary School in the North Spencer County School Corp.
  • Wendy Robinson – superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools
  • Callie Marksbary – Indiana State Teachers Association
  • Melissa Scherle – Indianapolis Public Schools second grade teacher
  • Edward Rangel – assistant principal at Tindley Genesis in Indianapolis
  • Dr. Scot Croner – Blackford County Schools superintendent
  • Dr. Lynne Stallings – Ball State University professor
  • Jean Russell – literacy specialist at Haverhill Elementary in Southwest Allen County Schools, 2016 Indiana Teacher of the Year
  • Steve Baker – Bluffton High School principal
  • Dr. Kenneth Folks – East Allen County Schools superintendent

Also on the panel: Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Steve Braun, Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers, Senate Education and Career Development Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) and State Board of Education member Byron Ernest.

The panel will submit recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than December 1, 2016.

Focusing in on Student Engagement and Hope

tCareer readiness preparation begins long before a student makes it to college and begins pursuing internships to explore strengths and interests. It even begins before high school, when students are making postsecondary decisions.

Career readiness largely hinges on success students experience when they are much younger – even back to fifth grade!

The Gallup Student Poll (Fall 2015) measures four dimensions of student success – engagement, hope, entrepreneurial aspiration and career/financial literacy – and analyzes how those impact student behavior. The poll is administered to U.S. students, grades 5 – 12.

For example, students who are “engaged” and “hopeful” are 4.6 times more likely to say they do well in school than “actively disengaged” and “discouraged” students.

The aim of the Gallup Student Poll is to enable superintendents, principals and educators to take direct action based on the results to provide a more robust educational experience. This early action is critical in preparing students for college and the workforce.

One of the most interesting pieces of data from the poll relates to entrepreneurial aspirations. A staggering 42% of respondents indicate they plan to start their own business. However, these aspirations dwindle as students get older, especially for females, indicating that entrepreneurial aspirations should be identified and supported in middle school.

Of the respondents, 50% were “engaged,” 29% were not engaged and 21% were actively disengaged, meaning they are totally disconnected from the learning environment.

The data finds that engagement is different across the age groups. As you go up by grade, engagement goes down. For example, 75% of fifth graders are engaged at school, while 33% of 10th graders are engaged at school.

This suggests students are not getting the needed mentorship as they go through school and are not receiving praise and recognition.

  • 48% of students are hopeful
  • 34% of students are stuck
  • 18% of students are discouraged

When students know what they do best and have opportunities to develop their strengths, they are more motivated and enthusiastic about learning and are more likely to be engaged at school. High engagement in primary and secondary school, especially a focus on “hope” (defined as ideas and energy students have for the future), can only improve postsecondary and career outcomes.

The 2016 Legislative Session: Some Noteworthy Shots Made

Silhouette of Teen Boy Shooting a Basketball at Sunset, copy space

With the NCAA basketball tournament in full swing and baseball season just around the corner, slam dunks and grand slams are both center stage. Neither of those terms, however, can be used to describe the 2016 Indiana General Assembly session. We’ll have to settle for a solid jump shot or maybe a line drive double in the gap.

The number one priority for the Indiana Chamber and its business members was enhanced funding for roads and transportation infrastructure. A total of $1.1 billion, when counting money for local governments, is a strong start. What’s even more important is the commitment legislators made to address longer-term needs in the 2017 budget-writing session.

All four legislative caucuses and the governor’s office offered plans and spent considerable time working toward solutions. That is an excellent sign of even better things to come. In the education arena, the disastrous ISTEP test implementation in recent years led to several needed pieces of legislation. Teachers and schools will not be negatively impacted by the 2014-2015 test results, but all-important accountability remains in place and a summer panel – with the Indiana Chamber at the table – will determine a more suitable testing future for our state’s students.

Other positive legislative results included funding the third Regional Cities program, scholarships for prospective top-of-their-class teachers, a long-sought solution to the unregulated lawsuit lending industry and saving hundreds of millions of dollars with more appropriate property tax assessments of large retail facilities (aka “big box” stores).
Unfortunately, there were also two significant missed opportunities. Indiana must be seen as a welcoming place for all in order to retain and recruit top talent, new business investment and tourism. Failing to pass civil rights legislation doesn’t put Indiana in the strong position it could have been, or arguably needs to be. While this proved a bridge too
far for legislators to cross in this election year, all of our state leaders must find a way going forward to work together to craft a solution.

Despite bipartisan support, implementing a work share program barely even got out of the starting gate. Work share would benefit employees, employers and communities when the next economic downturn occurs. At the request of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the Indiana Chamber partnered with them to commission an independent study of why a work share program is needed. The Chamber also took the extra step of identifying viable funding options for the program’s administration. However, DWD still was unable to get on board. Until they do, this policy will, unfortunately, face an uphill climb.

If these last two items had been added to the plus column, we might just be talking slam dunks and grand slams. Still, there will be another game in town next year, and the Chamber will be back at it – pushing these policies and others that support making Indiana a more prosperous place for employers and their employees.

Read further analysis from Brinegar on several of these issues in this summary