Who Is In Charge

Education changes still in process as legislature nears end

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Lawmakers begin the 2018 session Jan. 3.

As Gov. Mike Pence found out with when the preschool program he strongly endorsed was knocked off course in the Indiana Senate after strong support in the House, there are no guarantees in the lawmaking process.

At least the Pence-backed House Bill 1004, which was rewritten by the Senate Education Committee to drop the preschool program in favor of a summer study committee on the subject, got a hearing. The authors of other education bills that have inflamed some passion, such as one that would require cursive writing instruction (Senate Bill 113) and one designed to make it easier for schools to celebrate Christmas (Senate Bill 326) are still waiting to see if either will get a committee hearing or if they will die before they ever reach the House floor.

Time could be running out for those bills. The legislature’s 2014 session is moving quickly toward its March 14 adjournment date. To become law, bills under consideration must be passed and approved by both the House and Senate by March 4, a little over a week away.

Bills originating in the House need approval first by a committee, then by the full House. Then they move to the Senate where again approvals must come from a committee and the full Senate. The process is the same for bills that originate in the Senate. Those that make it through both the House and Senate may need a further conference to resolve any differences that arise between the House and Senate versions. Finally, they need the governor’s signature.

In all, 43 education-related bills have passed either the House or Senate. It’s likely that not all of those will win approval from both chambers. Here’s a looks at where education bills that are moving toward approval stand.

There are no education bills that have passed the House that have also passed the Senate yet. Bills already passed by the Senate that have now passed the House include:

These bills have passed the House Education Committee that are awaiting action by the full House:

Bills that are still being considered by the House Education Committee:

These education-related bills have budget implications and therefore are awaiting consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee:

  • Teacher loan payback. Senate Bill 330 would provide grants to part time college students and offer college loan reimbursement to teachers in high demand fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • Complexity index. Senate Bill 363 makes changes to the way school poverty is calculated for some school districts.

House bills that have passed the Senate Education Committee, or another committee, and are awaiting action by the full Senate include:

  • Preschool study. House Bill 1004 once contained a preschool pilot program, but it was dropped by the education committee and replaced with a plan to study the issue over the summer.
  • Drop out recovery charter schools. House Bill 1028 requires a study of dropout recovery charter schools, which mostly serve adults. The schools prefer to be funded via the K-12 funding formula. State law currently funds them separately and limits and new schools from opening.
  • Career and technical education. House Bill 1064 creates a study of the return on investment of career and technical education programs in Indiana.
  • Expanded background checks. House Bill 1233 requires school employees receive an expanded background check every five years.
  • High ability students. House Bill 1319 requires more reporting from schools about students who score in the high ability range on ISTEP.
  • Bond refunding. House Bill 1340 allows for bonds to be refunded when schools consolidate.
  • Allergic reaction injections. House Bill 1323 allows colleges to keep EpiPens and administer them if needed.
  • Tax cap fix. House Bill 1062 is similar to Senate Bill 143, aimed at giving districts more flexibility to manage their debt and avoid shortfalls that have resulted from property tax caps in some districts.

This bills are still being considered by the Senate Education Committee:

Education-related bills being considered by other Senate committees include:

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.