Monday, January 29, 2024

In Case You Missed It – January 29, 2024

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

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"'The primary role of chaplains is to provide pastoral or religious counseling to people in spiritual need,' the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said in a statement. 'Allowing them to assume official positions — whether paid or voluntary — in public schools will create an environment ripe for religious coercion and indoctrination of students.'

"...Chaplains are trained and certified to provide spiritual and emotional support. Lawmakers should leave mental health care services to the professional school counselors qualified to do that job."
-- Editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**


Not content with diverting tax dollars meant for public schools to religious and private schools, Indiana Republicans are now trying to open the door to religious proselytization in public schools. Write or call your local legislators and tell them NO! to chaplains in public schools.

Bills to employ school chaplains, allow religious instruction move forward in Indiana legislature

From Indiana Capital Chronicle
Lines between church and state blurred at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday as lawmakers gave the go-ahead for two education bills that seek to increase students’ access to faith leaders and religious instruction.

One proposal, House Bill 1137, would require schools to approve parental requests for students to leave school during the day for religious instruction. A separate measure, Senate Bill 50, could bring paid chaplains into Indiana’s public schools. Both bills advanced from their assigned committees and now head to the respective chambers for further consideration.

Faith-based school chaplains would test First Amendment

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Indiana’s student-to-counselor ratio ranks worst in the nation, according to the 2023 State of the Indiana Girl Report published in September.

Two bills introduced in the General Assembly — one in the House, the other in the Senate — seek to fill the counselor void, but critics say their solution is unconstitutional and could end up further harming some children’s emotional and mental health.

House Bill 1192 and Senate Bill 50 would allow public and charter schools to employ chaplains, or approve them as volunteers, to counsel students and staff. Though school chaplains wouldn’t be required to divulge privileged or confidential communications, the bills are written to invite skepticism as to the ultimate goal of allowing pastoral care.

The Senate version, authored by Sen. Stacey Donato, R-Logansport, says a chaplain may only provide secular assistance, unless the student (or their parent or guardian) gives consent for religious advice, guidance and support services. The House proposal of Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart, does not include such language.

“The primary role of chaplains is to provide pastoral or religious counseling to people in spiritual need,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said in a statement. “Allowing them to assume official positions — whether paid or voluntary — in public schools will create an environment ripe for religious coercion and indoctrination of students.”

Without any oversight to prevent chaplains from imposing their own religious viewpoint on the children they counsel, HB 1192 and SB 50 could undermine the religious freedom of students of all faiths and no faith.


Nancy Bailey: It’s Time to Take Back Kindergarten!

Play is children's work...for better health, better learning, and happier children!

From Diane Ravitch
Nancy Bailey is a retired educator who has seen the damage wrought by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the nonsensical grandchild called Every Student Succeeds Act. We can say now with hindsight that many children were left behind, we did not make it to the Top, and every student is not succeeding.

Nancy knows that the greatest casualty of these ruinous federal laws and programs are young children. Instead of playing, instead of socializing, instead of living their best lives as children, they are being prepared to take tests. This is nuts!

Nancy explains in this post (originally from 2021 but nothing has changed) why the status quo is harmful to small children and how it should change...

NPE Action endorses Jennifer McCormick for Governor of Indiana.

Jennifer McCormick, former Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, gets NPE-Action's endorsement for Indiana Governor.

From the Network for Public Education Action
The Network for Public Education Action gives its strongest endorsement to Jennifer McCormick for Governor of Indiana. Jennifer is a lifelong educator and native of Indiana. 

Jennifer is a former teacher, principal and school superintendent. She served as State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2017 to 2021. During that time she took on the legislature, eventually changing political parties. 

Jennifer told us that as governor, she “will focus on aggressively funding the expansion of quality and affordable childcare as well as universal PreK so all children have the foundational skills necessary to succeed in the K12 environment. She said she “will appoint a Secretary of Education and members of the state board of education that understand the ever-evolving needs of Indiana students and implement programs that develop the skills critical to thrive in a changing world and prepare Hoosier kids for careers, college, and life after high school.”


We have lots of news from Allen County and Fort Wayne this week. See the link to subscribe to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette at the end of this post.

Implications are imposing for education overhaul bills

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Lawmakers are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks in their quest to educate more Hoosiers — whether through job training or traditional college.

But some of the discussions carry concerning consequences. Two major proposals this year deserve in-depth examination that a short session likely can’t provide.

First up is an effort by House Republicans to allow key higher education scholarships and grants to be used for job training instead of toward full-time college credits.

The legislation impacts the 21st Century Scholars program, Freedom of Choice Grant and the Higher Education Award. Collectively, the current budget includes about $330 million annually in state funding for that aid.

Each program has slightly different rules, but generally there are GPA and credit completion requirements. And all specify that students must be attending a two-year or four-year program on a full-time basis...

...The second major proposal is Senate Bill 8, which will blur the line between two- and four-year degree institutions that was set up 20 years ago.

At that time, under Gov. Mitch Daniels, a study by the Government Efficiency Commission recommended establishing Ivy Tech as a true community college system, and phasing out associate degree programs at other campuses.

That’s because it would be cheaper to earn an associate degree at Ivy Tech the first two years then transfer to a traditional four-year school for bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

Indiana education secretary says schools can get started on proposed literacy initiatives

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Will Hoosier schools have the funds to launch new literacy mandates proposed by state lawmakers? Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner this week maintained they do – at least for now.

She said Thursday the Indiana Department of Education has enough holdover dollars to roll out additional reading tests and expanded summer school options laid out in Senate Bill 1, which is under consideration at the Statehouse.

And more state funds are expected to be requested in the 2025 budget session.
FWCS to offer employees child care stipend with $750,000 grant

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools will use $750,000 in state funding to help employees pay for child care.

The program’s implementation should provide the district with information it doesn’t have about its 4,050 workers, said Mitch Sheppard, philanthropy director.

“If you were to say, ‘What do our employees need? How severe is the child care need?’ We really don’t know,” she told the school board Monday.

The one-time grant from the Family and Social Services Administration will be distributed on a reimbursement basis to employees using state-licensed child care facilities. The program will launch as soon as possible, Sheppard said.

Remote learning challenges: What school officials in Allen County are considering

Area school district officials told WANE 15 Tuesday they are learning as they go as winter weather challenges have led to more remote learning days.

WANE 15 spoke with Mark Daniel, superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS), and Park Ginder, superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools (SACS), and Tamyra Kelly, the Public Information Officer at East Allen County Schools (EACS) to see how remote learning days have gone so far...

...At FWCS, Daniel said there’s a lot of room for improvement. He said they want students more engaged and interactive.

“Remote learning days are not the same as being in school in person,” Daniel said. “So we know that we’re trying to be flexible, but at the same time, we need our students and our parents and our staff to fully engage.”

Each school year, each district gets 3 e-learning days where students work independently, but remote learning days that require students to Zoom with a teacher are unlimited.

Daniel said if things don’t improve, there could be changes.

Northwest Allen County Schools sees challenges due to property tax cap

Northwest Allen County Schools (NACS) is seeing the effects of a property tax cap passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2023.

House Bill 1499 capped property taxes at 4% to provide relief for homeowners as home values were skyrocketing over the past few years. That cap has resulted in less money than anticipated being funneled into Indiana schools. Most districts are faring well because their growth in student population is stable. But NACS is an outlier, said Superintendent Wayne Barker.

According to Barker, the rapidly growing district is losing out on around $1.2 million in tax money over two years due to this cap. As the more people move into the district limits, the district needs more buses, drivers, faculty and staff. All of that requires money. This means other projects will have to wait, Barker said.

FWCS board accepts $500,000 for $14.7 million early learning center, more fundraising expected

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
A formal campaign should be announced soon for a $14.7 million early learning center benefiting teen parents in Fort Wayne Community Schools, the district’s philanthropy director said.

About $4 million in contracts and soft commitments has been raised so far, Mitch Sheppard told the school board Monday while presenting a $500,000 Early Learning Indiana grant for approval.

“We’re bringing this one forward because the donor has asked us to get the grant on the books,” she said. “You’ll be hearing a lot more about (the project) soon as we’ll have some donations of land and significant additional fundraising to back it up.”

Southwest Allen County Schools receives Juul settlement payments

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Southwest Allen County Schools’ participation in a nationwide lawsuit against electronic cigarette giant Juul Labs Inc. has started paying off.

The district’s nine traditional schools received a collective $43,193 boost from the settlement’s first installment. The school board approved the distributions Tuesday as part of its consent agenda.

SACS, Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools were among entities nationwide that accused Juul of designing and marketing its products to appeal to youth.

Fort Wayne Community Schools to limit students' access to cellphones

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools leaders agreed Monday to spend $120,864 on equipment limiting students’ access to their cellphones during the school day.

The district will pilot the use of magnetic lock-and-release student phone pouches at four middle and high schools beginning this academic year, although the exact timing is unknown, said Jack Byrd, chief systems officer.

The sealed magnetic devices will allow students to keep their phones in their possession throughout the school day, but the phones will be inaccessible until they can be unlocked by specialized magnets.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both are available with a subscription. Staying informed is essential; one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information, go to [NOTE: NEIFPE has no financial ties to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]

Note: NEIFPE's In Case You Missed It is posted by the end of the day every Monday except after holiday weekends or as otherwise noted.


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