[r85] Pond Report: No Summer Vacation at the Statehouse (9/1/2010)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Start Date: 9/1/2010 All Day
End Date: 9/1/2010
Sometimes I'm asked, "What to legislators do over the summer?"

Because Indiana is a part-time citizen legislature, state lawmakers hold other, full-time jobs in their communities that keep them very busy. Some are teachers, some are farmers, many are business owners, and a few are retired.

However, every summer we get notified of the summer study committees to which we have been appointed-and we know that session is not far away.

These summer study committees give us a head start on the process of examining the important issues we expect to debate on this session.

This way, we can get a lot of legislative work done ahead of time, and keep Indiana's 3-4 month sessions from stretching into year-round sessions, as is the case in many states and in Washington, D.C.  Besides allowing us to hold those other jobs I mentioned, this also saves a lot of Hoosier taxpayer dollars.

This week, the hot topic at the Statehouse was education: how to fairly distribute funding for each student and how to make sure students are in school to receive the education that they need.

Last Monday in the School Funding Formula Committee, various educators testified that they believe the formula, which determines how much state money is given to a school to educate a single student, needs to be made simpler and more equitable.

They also encouraged legislators to re-evaluate the complexity index, which takes into account the variables in a school setting which would cause funding to fluctuate, such as the number of special needs students, a gifted student program or the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch.

Then on Tuesday, legislators learned about how absenteeism rates directly correlate with dropout rates. That's not too much of a surprise. What was surprising to the committee was the high percentage of absenteeism in younger grades.

One study presented to the committee by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy stated that 60 percent of future dropouts could be identified as early as Grade 6.

As a former kindergarten teacher myself, I can attest that it is very important to a student's future success to have a strong basis in kindergarten and all the early elementary grades.

Strong parental support and a stable home life are crucial. If a student cannot read and comprehend words by the end of the third grade, the student will be at a great disadvantage as he or she moves into middle and high school.

A student struggling with reading is more likely to drop out of high school before graduating. Research has even found that households headed by a high school graduate accumulate 10 times more wealth than households headed by a high school dropout.

We as legislators, must understand the educational problems and then develop the best school climate and educational curriculum to serve each and every student to develop his or her full potential.

We must develop a way to retain our best and brightest to teach in the classroom and be mentors to our children.

-30-

State Rep. Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven) represents portions of Allen and DeKalb counties. For a live video feed of this summer's interim committee meetings, visit http://www.in.gov/legislative/2441.htm.