Getting an early start

Indiana House speaker calls for a big expansion of preschool support

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, (right) and Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, take the oath of office along with the rest of the House members during the annual Organization Day session to officially begin the 2017 legislative session.

More poor families who want help sending their children to preschool could have reason to rejoice next year.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma today announced that expanding preschool tuition scholarships would be one of his top priorities for the coming legislative session.

Other education priorities include a push to shift education dollars toward classroom expenses and away from school administrative and support services.

“We need to find a way to concentrate our education dollars in the classroom, where they are most effective with highly motivated teachers of high quality,” said Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican.

Bosma made education one of the centerpieces of his acceptance speech after being re-elected House speaker this afternoon during the General Assembly’s annual Organization Day. Lawmakers met for a short session to choose leaders and adopt basic rules before their work formally begins in January.

On preschool, Bosma called for expanding the preschool tuition vouchers that the state began as a pilot program in 2014. That $10 million program serves 1,585 kids in five counties, including Marion County, but demand for the program far exceeds availability.

Bosma is not alone in embracing the preschool expansion. Both the incoming governor, Eric Holcomb, the Indiana State Board of Education and incoming state schools superintendent, Jennifer McCormick, have called for more kids to receive the free service.

That’s a change from a few years ago when Gov. Mike Pence had to make a hard push to convince skeptical fellow Republicans to support state-funded preschool programs. This year, Holcomb favors a slow, deliberate expansion to a few counties at a time but Bosma said he believes the benefits of preschool are proven and he wants to move faster.

“I’d like to double or triple the program,” he said. “I don’t need to be convinced. I’ve seen it first hand and many others have. Not everyone is of the same option, and we do have fiscal constraints in the coming session that are very real.”

Democratic House leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City said his party also wants a faster expansion.

“I don’t really understand the hesitancy,” he said. “This state has been tiptoeing over hot coals on its way to pre-K. Let’s get it to the kids who need it. There are kids who need it in every county in Indiana.”

Bosma did not offer details on his claim that Indiana schools spend too much on administrative and support spending, nor did he outline any ideas for what changes should occur, saying lawmakers would figure that out during the session.

If there is money to shift, he said he wanted it to go to teachers to help make the profession more attractive to top college graduates.

“We need to continue to find ways to treat teaches as faculty rather than factory workers,” he said. “We’ve made progress on this but we need to do more. We need to free them from regulatory burdens and bureaucratic control to do the job they desire to do.”

Pelath said he wasn’t sure Bosma was right that spending on non-classroom supports was out of line, but he endorsed the need to pay teachers more.

“That requires careful analysis after which there could be some differences in interpretation,” he said. “But unambiguously we have to make sure teachers are fairly compensated for the market-based reason that you have to attract very good people to the profession.”

awarding leaders

Meet the nine finalists for Tennessee Principal of the Year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's 2016 principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis. This year's winner will be announced in October.

Nine school leaders are up for an annual statewide award, including one principal from Memphis.

Tracie Thomas, a principal at White Station Elementary School, represents schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of finalists. Last year, Principal Docia Generette-Walker of Middle College High School in Memphis received the honor.

Building better principals has been a recent focus for Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as roles of the school leaders change under school improvement efforts.

“Successful schools begin with great leaders, and these nine finalists represent some of the best in our state,” McQueen said. “The Principal of the Year finalists have each proven what is possible when school leaders hold students and educators to high expectations.”

The winner will be announced at the state department’s annual banquet in October, where the winner of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Tracie Thomas, White Station Elementary, Shelby County Schools
  • Stephanie Coffman, South Haven Elementary, Henderson County School District
  • Linda DeBerry, Dyersburg City Primary School, Dyersburg City Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Kenneth “Cam” MacLean, Portland West Middle School, Sumner County Schools
  • John Bush, Marshall County High School, Marshall County Schools
  • Donnie Holman, Rickman Elementary School, Overton County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Robin Copp, Ooltewah High School, Hamilton County Schools
  • Jeff Harshbarger, Norris Middle School, Anderson County Schools
  • Carol McGill, Fairmont Elementary School, Johnson City Schools

you better work

Hickenlooper, on national TV, calls for bipartisanship on job training for high school graduates

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to reporters on the eve of the 2017 General Assembly.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday said Republicans and Democrats should work together to rethink how states are preparing high school graduates for the 21st century economy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, appeared on the Sunday public affairs program alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to discuss their work on healthcare.

The Colorado governor brought up workforce training after moderator John Dickerson asked what issues besides healthcare both parties should be addressing.

“Two-thirds of our kids are never going to have a four-year college degree, and we really haven’t been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where the new generations of jobs require some technical capability,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”

Hickenlooper has long supported a variety of education reform policies including charter schools and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. Last fall he backed a new program that is expected to this year connect 250 Colorado high school students with paid job training.

Watch Hickenlooper and Kasich here. Hickenlooper’s remarks on job training begin right before the 11- minute mark.