Who Is In Charge

Bill to collect education data passes with Democratic support

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

A bill that collects education data under a new state agency — an idea state Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s supporters initially viewed as a power grab — passed the House 89-6 today.

House Bill 1003, authored by Rep. Steve Braun, R-Zionsville, aims to bring together data from K-12 schools, colleges, the state’s workforce development arm and business leaders with the goal of spotting trends and helping schools adapt to employer needs. It was one of several bills that passed the House or Senate and will continue to be considered in the second half of the legislative session beginning next week.

The Indiana State Teachers Association initially criticized the bill for creating what it termed a state “data czar,” who ISTA feared could challenge Ritz’s authority, as head of the Indiana Department of Education, to manage K-12 education data. Ritz has clashed with Gov. Mike Pence over an agency he created, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, arguing the center’s hiring of a separate staff for the Indiana State Board of Education usurped duties assigned to her in law.

Among Ritz’s battles with the state board last fall was a dispute centered on who had authority to issue A to F school grades. The other 10 board members sparked a lawsuit from Ritz, the board’s chair, by writing a letter to legislative leaders asking for their help to issue the grades, which they complained should have been released earlier. Ritz said they were delayed because of testing errors.

Ritz’s suit, which alleged that by crafting the letter the other board members held a secret meeting in violation of state transparency laws, was dismissed because she did not consulted Attorney General Greg Zoeller before filing it. The A to F grades were released in December, nearly two months later than last year.

Braun said the bill was completely unrelated to Ritz’s disagreements with the state board and Gov. Pence.

“It does not change in any way what data is collected by any individual data or how that agency uses that data or will use it in the future,” Braun said during the floor debate.

Democratic House leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, responded that he remained concerned about launching a new agency with a potentially high salary executive director.

“We’re creating a new bureaucrat,” he said. “I think there are probably some laudable goals here. The person is going to be very expensive and they are going to have control over a lot of information.”

Even so, the bill attracted most of his party’s votes.

Other education bills passed today include:

  • State fair absences, Senate Bill 114. Schools will excuse up to three days of absences from school for children participating in the state fair under this bill. Debate centered on whether the decision to excuse absences should be codified in state law or left up to local schools. The bill passed the Senate 28-21.
  • Dropout school funding, Senate Bill 159. The bill addresses funding problems for dropout recovery charter schools. Concerns about rising costs of the fast-growing schools raised alarm in the Senate last year, which decided to temporarily block any new dropout recovery schools from opening. This bill would fund the schools as a separate line item, outside of the K-12 funding formula where they formerly received state aid, and creating an approval process to open new dropout recovery charter schools. The bill passed the Senate 49-0.
  • School debt restructuring, Senate Bill 143. This bill aims to help school districts affected by property tax caps restructure their debt to prevent a loss of state aid to support busing. Changes to school funding to limit property tax increases have depressed transportation funding for some districts. It passed the Senate 49-0.


meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.