Early Childhood

Preschool bill easily passes House

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
A preschooler in the Reggio program at IPS School 60.

The Indiana House today strongly supported a bill that would represent the state’s first foray into direct aid for preschool, passing it 87-9.

House Bill 1004 is one of top legislative priorities of Republican Gov. Mike Pence and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. The idea of state aid for preschool also has long running support from Democrats, who voted overwhelmingly for the bill.

Even so, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Indiana is one of just 10 states that provides no direct state aid to children attending preschool. Last year a similar bill, which also aimed to pay for preschool for about 1,000 low income four-year-olds in five counties, also passed the House with a huge 93-6 majority. But that bill was bogged down in the Senate Education Committee, which had tepid support for the idea, and ultimately the program was dismantled in favor of a grant program.

Signals from the Senate so far have not suggested any new enthusiasm for state-funded preschool. Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said his committee continues to be skeptical of the program. And Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, has questioned whether the state can afford to begin spending on preschool and suggested the debate should wait until the 2015 biennial budget-making session. Kenley sits on the education committee and chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

A fiscal impact statement for the bill from legislative staff estimated it could enroll up to 4,600 children and cost as much as $24.7 million. But Bosma has said he sees the program starting smaller and costing less, more in line with the 2013 estimate of $7 million.

The bill next will be heard in the Senate Education Committee in the second half of the legislative session, probably in early February.



Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”