new leaders

It’s official: Holcomb and McCormick sworn in as Indiana’s governor and superintendent. Their plans are still coming into focus.

Eric Holcomb and Jennifer McCormick begin their administrations as Indiana leaders today.

Today Eric Holcomb and Jennifer McCormick were sworn in at the Indiana State Fairgrounds as Indiana’s next governor and state superintendent.

Holcomb, an Indianapolis native, is largely aligned with Pence’s education policy, supporting the expansion of charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers for private school tuition.

When he revealed his legislative agenda on Thursday he listed his main priorities, including making the schools chief position appointed in 2021, doubling preschool spending to $20 million but keeping within the original five counties and encouraging more opportunities for students in science, math, engineering and technology.

“Too many are not participating in today’s economy or getting a quality education,” Holcomb said in his inaugural address. “This is where I will focus every day: On ways to take our state to the next level. To make Indiana a place where people thrive. Where they can get a good, fulfilling, well-paid job and a world-class education.”

It’s not yet clear if his education agenda will ultimately be as aggressive as Pence’s or how he’ll work with McCormick, formerly a superintendent in a small district in Yorktown, near Muncie.

McCormick, too, is still a bit of an unknown — while her policies aren’t dramatically different in some ways from her predecessor Glenda Ritz’s, educators and advocates will have to wait and see how she works with her Republican colleagues and whether she diverges from their goals.

She has called for a shorter state exam, some kind of expansion of preschool for poor children, more support for school technology and internet access, and fixes to how the state distributes money to schools with struggling students.

At the swearing-in, she also emphasized a need for the state to value its teachers. McCormick has spent her career as a teacher, principal and superintendent in public schools.

“We must take care of Indiana’s great educators,“ McCormick said. “To Indiana schools, I’m proud to be one of you and I look forward to working for you.”

McCormick has yet to release a proposed budget for the Indiana Department of Education or specify goals for the 2017 legislative session.

For more on McCormick and Holcomb’s background on education policy, see our previous coverage:

high praise

In a speech to ALEC, Betsy DeVos name drops Indiana school choice programs and advocates

PHOTO: Meghan Mangrum
Protestors gathered in front of the Indiana State House before marching through downtown Indianapolis to protest ALEC's annual meeting taking place at the JW Marriott downtown last year.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praised Indiana’s charter school and voucher programs today in Colorado during a speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC.

The organization, strongly criticized by teachers unions, is a conservative nonprofit lobbying group that pairs conservative legislators and business owners to write model legislation. ALEC is holding its annual conference this week in Denver.

DeVos highlighted how Indiana was an early state to adopt charter schools, taxpayer-funded voucher programs and tax credit scholarships, following the example of Minnesota and Wisconsin. She also mentioned the contributions of current and former Indiana leaders, calling out former Gov. Mitch Daniels and current Gov. Eric Holcomb, as well as House Speaker Brian Bosma and U.S. Rep. Todd Huston.

She also spoke highly of politicians from Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida and Kentucky.

“Progress in providing parents and students educational choices didn’t come through a top-down federal dictate – it came as a result of leadership from governors like John Engler, Tommy Thompson, Jeb Bush and Mitch Daniels and continued with governors like Doug Ducey, Scott Walker, Eric Holcomb, Rick Scott and Matt Bevin.

And it came from state legislative leaders like Polly Williams in Wisconsin, Brian Bosma and Todd Huston in Indiana, Ann Duplessis in Louisiana, Debbie Lesko in Arizona, Dan Forest in North Carolina, and so many others, many of whom are in this room today.”

DeVos’ picks are among the state’s most ardent school choice advocates, championing legislation that has established a prolific charter school system and one of the largest voucher programs in the country.

Read: The first major study of Indiana’s voucher program might not change much for the state’s strong pro-school choice legislature

ALEC has had far-reaching influence in Indiana, with several key lawmakers participating in the group and elements of the group’s model laws inspiring some of Indiana’s education reforms in recent years. Rep. Bob Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, has been a member.

The group also admires and has sought to promote Indiana’s legislative work on education, naming its model legislation for school choice programs the “Indiana Education Reform Package.”

Last summer, ALEC held its yearly conference in Indianapolis.

You can find DeVos’ full speech here.

tech trouble

New York City continues to lose track of thousands of school computers, audit finds

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
On Wednesday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer criticized the city's ability to keep track of education technology.

Thousands of computers and tablets that belong in city schools are either missing or unaccounted for — and the city has failed to create a centralized tracking system despite repeated warnings, according to a new audit from Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Just over 1,800 pieces of technology were missing from eight schools and one administrative office sampled by auditors, and another 3,500 in those nine locations were not sufficiently tracked, roughly 35 percent of the computers and tablets purchased for them.

If that sounds like déjà vu, it should: The findings are similar to a 2014 audit that showed significant amounts of missing technology — lost to theft or poor tracking — among a different sample of schools.

“I’m demanding that the [Department of Education] track these computers and tablets centrally,” Stringer said Wednesday. “I shouldn’t have to come back every two years to explain why this matters.”

Of the computers that were missing in the 2014 audit, the city could now only account for 13 percent of them, Stringer’s office said.

The audit raises questions about whether the education department can cost-effectively manage technology as it plans to expand access to it. Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised every student will have access to computer science education by 2025.

Education department spokesman Will Mantell called the report’s methodology “fundamentally flawed and unreliable,” arguing in part that the comptroller’s office didn’t always use the right inventory list or interview the correct staff. He noted the city is working to improve its inventory management.

The city “will continue to invest in cost-effective solutions that catalog and safeguard technology purchases in the best interests of students, schools and taxpayers,” Mantell added.