Federal officials alerted Indiana in early May the waiver was at risk because the state has failed to meet 9 of 18 benchmarks it set when requesting the waiver. A lengthy report said Indiana, among other things, failed to show how it’s preparing students for college and careers, and that teacher and principal evaluation systems are inadequately tied to student achievement.
Ritz has minimized the threat, calling the problems “technical.” Her assurances have failed to comfort critics on the State Board of Education. They’ve said the shortcomings pointed out by federal officials are significant.
“Losing the waiver will have an immediate and devastating effect on our schools and students,” said board member Brad Oliver, a former teacher and school principal.
Oliver and school officials around Indiana point to the state of Washington to justify their fears. Last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan yanked that state’s waiver after its Legislature failed to pass a law requiring schools to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores.
Local schools felt the impact immediately. They’re losing control of more than $40 million a year from the federal Title I program for at-risk students. Instead of deciding how to spend the money, they’re required to set it aside to transport students to higher-performing schools, pay for private tutoring programs or foot the bill for intensive teacher training.
“When you look at our waiver, you realize it was a victory for Indiana because local schools got to make decisions about how they could best spend their Title I money,” said Oliver. “And many of our schools were succeeding doing just that.”
Logansport Community Schools Superintendent Michele Starkey said she fears losing control of Title I funds.
Starkey doesn’t want to let go of reading coaches she’s hired with Title I money to help immigrant children in her schools. Thirty percent of Logansport students don’t speak English as their native language, and most of those students them live in poverty.