Posts filed under 'Education'

School fees decision from the Indiana Supreme Court

The Indiana Supreme Court recently held that “service fees” charged by school corporations are prohibited under Indiana’s constitutional guarantee of a “free and equal” education.

In Nagy v. Evansville-Vanderburgh County School Corp., the court, however, decided not to address the issue of whether charging for school textbook rental was also a violation of the state Constitution.

The South Bend Tribune made their opinion of the Court’s decision clear in an editorial this week:

So just what should an Indiana Supreme Court justice be expected to do for his public service pay? Answer the hard questions? Or just the easy ones?

It seems to us that the court took the easy way out with its ruling on Nagy v. Evansville-Vanderburgh County School Corp. The justices settled the specific matter regarding the constitutionality of student services fees. But they punted the question of textbook rental fees back to the Indiana General Assembly — even though legislators long have ducked the state’s duty to fully fund textbooks for public school students.

I agree that textbook rental fees should be eliminated so that Indiana students may receive the benefit of a truly free education.

However, I also tend to agree with Justice Sullivan’s dissent, which takes a more deferential approach to Legislative authority to determine what exactly is funded in the public education system.

The Court’s opinion is available here (.pdf), and more coverage is available at Advance Indiana and the Indiana Law Blog.

6 comments April 11th, 2006

Upward Bound students visit the Statehouse

Yesterday I was able to host a great group of high school students from South Bend who were visiting the Statehouse.

upward bound

The freshmen and sophomores represented most of our area high schools, and are participating in the University of Notre Dame Upward Bound program:

The program serves all students who meet the first-generation (no one in the immediate family has gone to college) and low-income student in the South Bend community.

Typically, students enter the program in their freshman year of high school and during their three years with the program they participate in the programs’ academic tutoring program and Summer Residential Program where they take college prep courses and live on Notre Dame’s campus for six weeks.

Students travel to visit colleges across the nation and are provided with the necessary resources and information, both educationally and culturally, to be successful in college.

Notre Dame’s participation in Upward Bound dates back to 1966, and has helped to prepare over 5000 students for enrollment in college.

I was able to introduce the students on the floor of the House, and their program director, Alyssia Coates, was given a few minutes to talk about the program to the assembled House members.

If you have a group that is planning on visiting the Statehouse, feel free to let me know if I can help arrange a tour or provide any information.

Add comment February 17th, 2006

Visit to Swanson Highlands School

just a billEvery year, the National Conference of State Legislators sponsors the “America’s Legislators Back to School Program.” In an effort to help educate our students on civics and Indiana government, I participate in the program by visiting fourth-grade classrooms in my district. Indiana fourth-graders spend the year learning about Indiana history and government, so it is a good time to talk with them.

I recently visited Swanson Highlands Elementary School to talk with several classes about my job as a legislator, and how a bill becomes a law in Indiana.

swanson highlands

On this visit, I divided the group into a “House of Representatives” and a “Senate,” and let them pick a bill to move through the process. They decided on legislation requiring mandatory recess for all grade levels.

After several amendments in both chambers, and a divisive conference committee on whether recess should be mandatory for high school (or even college), the bill died in a close vote on the conference committee report in the Senate. There was a strong Senate faction that felt the whole issue was just “stupid.”

The State Legislature operates an active outreach program for students – offering tours for school groups, and an active page program. If you know of a school group that might be visiting the Capitol, or have a child who would like to serve as a page, please feel free to let me know.

Add comment November 9th, 2005

Ivy Tech, the IEDC, and growing small businesses

ivy tech lunchYesterday I attended the annual Ivy Tech Legislative Luncheon in South Bend along with fellow legislators Rep. Tom Kromkowski (D-South Bend), Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), Sen. Marvin Riegsecker (R-Goshen), and Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend).

We heard updated information on Ivy Tech’s continually improving programs and increasing enrollment. Some of their new courses at the campuses in South Bend, Warsaw, and Elkhart include paramedic science, paralegal, biotechnology, and an AA degree for liberal arts students.

I had a good conversation with attendees about the changing role of the community college in Indiana. Ivy Tech administrators want to know if there are better ways they can increase opportunities for our underprivileged population (who might not otherwise attend a post-secondary school), while continuing to provide valuable vocational skills training.

I told some of them about the meeting I attended before the luncheon. That morning I had met with David Behr, a project manager at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) North Central Region office in South Bend.

The main focus of my conversation with Mr. Behr was the problem of providing service to the smaller companies that need help, but don’t have the resources to find it. For example, a small machine shop with 30 employees may not have a human resources director who can apply for grants to pay for half of their training costs. An injection mold company may not even be aware of the people waiting to help them with export assistance, or the team that can help with modernization from the Purdue Technical Assistance Program.

The large companies with support staff know all about the many benefits that Indiana offers, but small businesses – the backbone of our economy – are hard to reach.

My suggestion to the IEDC and to the folks at Ivy Tech was to focus on serving these small business better. It may take more effort and energy to accomplish, but most new job growth in the state comes from existing small businesses. The drive to help our small businesses must be at least as strong as the effort to bring new companies to Indiana.

Some possible solutions may involve further streamlining paperwork requirements for grant applications, or even a more proactive outreach strategy from agencies like the IEDC. If you have any ideas that can help streamline assistance programs for small businesses, please feel free to let me know.

Add comment October 12th, 2005

IUSB Legislative Luncheon

iusbToday I joined legislators from across the region at Indiana University South Bend’s annual Legislative Luncheon. The meeting took place in a banquet facility in the school’s impressive new Student Activities Center.

Chancellor Reck focused on the university’s accomplishments in expanding programs and enrollment, while the legislators emphasized their commitment to improving and expanding IUSB for the future.

One of the priority projects for the near future is renovating the massive Associates Building for use as new instructional and program space.

Representatives and Senators attended from as far as 50 miles away. I was glad to see the support for IUSB, and I think that speaks to the school’s importance as a regional academic center and economic growth engine.

September 26th, 2005


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