Monday, February 5, 2024

In Case You Missed It – February 5, 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.'

"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."
-- the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette** editorial board.


Faith-based school chaplains would test First Amendment

We included this article from last week's In Case You Missed It again this week. It continues to be read and spread through social media. And now the Senate has passed their version of the bill.

Contact your state representative to stop this bill before it goes any further. We need trained counselors in our public schools, not religious indoctrination. Indiana taxpayers already fund sectarian religious instruction through school vouchers. No more.

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.

...Proponents of HB 1192 and SB 50 likely will tout the proposals as remedies to the mental health needs of Hoosier 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.

Allen County school districts react to bill aiming to address 3rd graders who fail state reading exam

Does retention even work?

"Tamyra Kelly, a public information officer for East Allen County Schools, said they’re in favor of any extra support for students learning to read.

"'In our experience, retention would not be the answer. A bill that could fund earlier intervention and supports would be most favorable to schools and their students,' Kelly said."

School district leaders in the greater Fort Wayne area are reacting to a state bill that focuses on making sure students can read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade.

Senate Bill 1 would support holding back students who fail the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment (IREAD-3), a grade three reading assessment developed in accordance with state legislation, while also requiring schools to give remediation to students at risk of not passing.

The bill was written by Sen. Linda Rogers (R) and 30 other GOP lawmakers. Once referred to as the “retention bill” by some, Senate Bill 1 has been amended to contain more efforts before getting to retention, with that being more of a last resort.


U.S. House Passes Child Tax Credit Expansion. Bill Heads to Senate.

Children learn best when they are safe, well-fed, and well-cared for. The tax credit expansion will help.

From Jan Resseger's Blog
For a long time, the needs of poor children have not been much of a motivator for American social policy reform.

Many of us remember Bill Clinton “ending welfare as we know it” in 1996, but we have very likely forgotten the title of the bill that ended welfare: the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, a law whose name specifically blamed the poor for a lax attitude about bettering themselves through work. The American Rescue Plan generously expanded the Child Tax Credit and made it fully refundable. That COVID relief bill, passed in March of 2021, reduced child poverty in the United States by 40 percent during that year, but Congress allowed it to expire at the beginning of 2022, when Joe Manchin and the majority of Congressional Republicans said the modest cash payments were discouraging parents from working. This month, the Washington Post reported another example of politicians punishing children for the supposed sins of their parents: Republican governors in 15 states have rejected a new, federally funded program to give food assistance to hungry children during the summer when school is not in session. Nebraska’s governor said: “I don’t believe in welfare.”

While a lot of politicians have shown themselves willing to overlook the well documented needs of millions of U.S. children, last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan compromise tax bill that combines business tax breaks and significant expansion of the Child Tax Credit. The bill will now move to the U.S. Senate.


Southwest Allen County Schools begins strategic plan process

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Small-group conversations Wednesday among Southwest Allen County Schools stakeholders – including students, parents and teachers – marked the beginning of a four-month effort that should end with a roadmap for the district.

School board President Jennifer Bennett expects the final product – a strategic plan – will ensure that district leaders are basing decisions on a cohesive vision.

“I’m excited to get this process going,” she told about 40 people gathered at the transportation conference room for the first of four strategic planning sessions.

Along with collecting feedback from invited participants, SACS will seek input from the broader community via an emailed survey, Superintendent Park Ginder said.

Bidding closes for NACS construction projects

Northwest Allen County School Board Members approved maximum price amendments for three construction projects in the district.

Bids for the Carroll High School additions and renovations, Willow Creek Middle School, and Central Office construction are closed as contracts with Weigand Construction were approved Monday.

The guaranteed maximum price amendment for the three projects adds up to approximately $130 million. They will be funded through lease financing which will keep the community’s tax rate the same. Wayne Barker, Superintendent of NACS, said the costs are less than what they expected.

Groundbreaking nears for Northwest Allen County Schools construction projects

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Northwest Allen County Schools expects to celebrate groundbreakings next month as three projects totaling $130 million in construction costs get underway.

“Countless hours have been spent to get us to here,” Superintendent Wayne Barker told the board Monday, adding that contractors could start moving dirt next week. “It won’t come soon enough because we have students to educate, and they keep coming. So that’s a very good problem.”

The board agreed last spring to address increasing enrollment by building a third middle school and by expanding and renovating Carroll High School. The elected leaders also approved construction of a central office because it has outgrown its space at Perry Hill Elementary School. That project includes renovations to Perry Hill.

Board action Monday addressed the projects’ guaranteed maximum price. Willow Creek Middle School will cost about $73.5 million; the Carroll improvements will cost about $41.1 million; and the new central office and Perry Hill renovations will cost about $15.8 million.

**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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