We Can Check These Education Matters Off the List (For Now)

For the last decade, the Chamber has strongly advocated to have a state-funded high quality pre-K program for children from low-income families. While we were successful in achieving a small pilot program for five counties a few years ago, we were able to significantly increase the state’s investment this legislative session. The Chamber helped to lead a strong coalition of community leaders, businesses, philanthropies and providers to achieve $44 million appropriated in the two-year budget (HB 1001) to expand the pilot. We can now increase the number of counties from the original five to up to 20, with a preference given to rural areas.

Separately, we successfully advocated for a lowering of the county match of dollars from a base of 10% down to 5%. In addition, we worked on offering up to 20% of the appropriated dollars to be used for capacity-building grants to allow for providers to grow more high-quality placements. This was a priority for both the House and Senate leadership, as well as Gov. Holcomb and the final bills passed with strong bipartisan votes of 82-16 and 31-19, respectively.

The Chamber also were able to pass a bill (SB 248) that would allow small school corporations situated in the same or adjoining counties to consolidate services if 20% of legal voters in both school districts petition the trustees of their respective school corporations. A small school consolidation grant that was originally included in this bill was moved into the budget to help offset costs. The Indiana Chamber has been supportive of this legislation in previous sessions and most recently, the Indiana Chamber Foundation has commissioned and is finalizing a study that shows the direct correlation between smaller school corporations and lower postsecondary attainment for students.

The Chamber has had a long-standing policy to support the opportunity to reduce administrative costs by merging or consolidating administrative services in smaller school districts, which we believe will in turn reduce the duplication of programs or services, increase cost efficiencies relating to the use of school facilities, plus reduce debt and provide for establishing other cost-cutting measures.

And we can now check off a legislative agenda item that the Chamber has been advocating for over 30 years to complete. House Bill 1005 will move the Superintendent of Public Instruction from an elected to appointed position. We had originally advocated for this bill with an effective date of 2021 (and therefore no election in 2020); however, the Senate version of the bill died by surprise on the Senate floor on third reading. That meant to consider the House version (which was virtually identical), the content had to be “substantially different” than the failed bill, per Senate rules.

Therefore, the Senate amended the bill to change the effective date to 2025 and include a residency requirement of two years and have certain educational experience. The Chamber did not support these changes as we felt that Indiana’s education leader should be the best person available and no other appointed state agency position has such required qualifications. However, it was decided by Senate leadership and counsel that the changes had to remain for the measure to proceed. So while we are extremely happy that we were able to get the position appointed, we are disappointed with the additional requirements. The Chamber will continue to advocate for these to be stripped from statute in subsequent sessions, although we feel that it will likely be a very difficult lift.

Workforce Survey: Business Input Needed

The greatest asset of any business is its people. Unfortunately, many organization are facing challenges in workforce and talent development efforts. The Indiana Chamber seeks to provide assistance through various policy and program efforts.

Currently, the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s 10th annual survey of Indiana employers is taking place. Hundreds of human resources professionals and company leaders have already shared their insights on skills shortages, training needs, incentives and more.

The Chamber Foundation is partnering with Walker, an Indiana-based customer experience consulting firm. The survey sponsor is WGU Indiana. Check out its brief video on “Why We’re Different”:

Among the recent trends: Companies that left Indiana jobs unfilled in 2015 due to under-qualified applicants increased to 45% – compared to 43% and 39%, respectively, for the prior two years.

In addition, 27% of respondents identified filling their workforce and meeting talent needs as ­­their biggest challenge. Another 49% categorized the talent needs as “challenging but not their biggest challenge.” The 76% total exceeds the numbers for 2015 (74%; 24% biggest challenge) and 2014 (72%; 20% biggest challenge).

View more on the 2016 results. If you have not received the survey from Walker and are interested in participating or learning more, contact Shelley Huffman at shuffman@indianachamber.com or (317) 264-7548.

Indiana Chamber Opposes Teacher Evaluations Bill

The Indiana Chamber opposes SB 35, which provides that a school corporation may use objective measures of student achievement as part of a teacher evaluation plan. (Current law provides that the use of an objective measure of student achievement is required as part of a teacher evaluation plan.)

While there are potentially some issues with teacher evaluations and those issues should be addressed at a more comprehensive level, it is a longstanding Chamber policy that teacher evaluations are extremely important and that student objective measures should be included in the evaluation process.

Note that last year, HEA 1395 (which did decouple the test results from the evaluations for one year) passed with the Chamber’s qualified support. This is because we felt that the administration of the ISTEP test – not the exam itself – was flawed. There is already local control when determining how much student objective measures will be attributed toward teacher evaluations and what objectives should be included in addition to the statewide assessment.

In addition, while many complain about including student objective measures in evaluations, it does not seem to have a negative impact in effectiveness ratings for teachers (98% were rated effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations).

The bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday and held until this week for amendment and vote.

Concerns Over Education Matters Bill

The Indiana Chamber opposes, in part, SB 108, which eliminates the requirement that the Department of Education must publish a model compensation plan. It also:

  • Eliminates a requirement that each school corporation shall submit its local compensation plan to the department
  • Eliminates a requirement that the department must publish the local compensation plans on the department’s web site
  • Removes requirements that the: (1) department shall report any noncompliance of a school that fails to submit its compensation plan; and (2) State Board of Education shall take appropriate action to ensure compliance
  • Makes changes to the time frame, from four to six years, in which the State Board may take over a failing school
  • Provides that a principal or superintendent, or the principal’s or superintendent’s designee, may recommend an individual to participate in the Indiana high school equivalency diploma program

The Indiana Chamber testified against the provision concerning failing school interventions. We feel strongly that the trigger threshold of State Board of Education intervention should be kept at the current rate of four years instead of the drafted language of six years. It is important to keep our schools strong and accountable for our students, and six years is simply waiting too long to act regarding an underperforming school; our students deserve better.

The bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday and held until this week for amendment and vote.

Latest on ISTEP and ‘A-F’ School Grades

The ISTEP Alternatives Panel has made its final recommendations on how to replace ISTEP, which was legislatively determined to sunset in the fall of 2017 after scoring, technical and mismanagement issues plagued the exam the past two years.

These recommendations include: students in grades 3-8 to take one English and math exam at the end of the school year, and 10th grade students to take English, Algebra 1 and biology at the end of the school year. The tests will be taken once and not split into two testing times in the winter and spring.

One of the most important recommendations was to recognize that national testing experts advised that it takes a minimum of two years to fully implement a new testing system throughout the state. So it is very likely that we will see legislation during the upcoming 2017 legislative session to undo the sunset provision.

The recommendations received wide support from 21 of the 23 members of the panel, made up by a majority of educators. The two “no” votes were by Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Ayanna Wilson Coles, a Pike Township educator appointed by Ritz. These recommendations now go to the Legislature, which can choose to use them during the 2017 legislative session. The Indiana Chamber strongly advocated last year
to have a business representative appointed to the panel, and we would like to thank our board member, Marilyn Moran-Townsend of Fort Wayne, for all of her work and dedication to the panel and helping lead the collaborative effort that resulted in the recommendations.

This week, the State Board of Education released school A-F grades which, as anticipated, were lower than in previous years. And while expected, it is important to note that it is very difficult to compare this year’s scores to the scores in 2015 for two important reasons. First, last year, the Legislature (with the Indiana Chamber’s support) decided to protect schools from the lower ISTEP scores due to the test mismanagement and scoring
issues. This “hold harmless” provision stated that 2015 grades were changed only if they improved from 2014; otherwise schools were able to hold onto the higher grade. So the 2016 scores released this week are the actual first show of true impact of the more rigorous assessment based on the newer and more-challenging college and career ready standards. Second, this year the State Board of Education determined school grades
based on a new formula that equally weighs growth and proficiency.

While there has already been significant discussion on whether to “hold-harmless” for this year’s ISTEP exam, the U.S. Department of Education has already stated that such a provision would not be allowed. The Indiana Chamber will continue to push legislators on the importance of assessments AND accountability – for teachers, schools and students in the 2017 legislative session and beyond.

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.

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.