Who's who in Indiana education

Who’s who in Indiana education: Sen. Ryan Mishler

PHOTO: Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican senator representing District 9, covering parts of Elkhart, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, for 14 years. President of Mishler Funeral Homes and Bremen Monument Company.

What makes him a power player: Mishler replaced long-serving Sen. Luke Kenley as the head of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, making him one of two main budget-writers in the General Assembly. In addition to helping put together the state budget, which includes money for schools, Mishler’s committee also considers bills that could have a financial impact on the state.

Before he took center stage: Mishler was involved with education legislation, mostly through his close relationship with Kenley, even before he took the helm of the appropriations committee. Mishler was a co-author on one of the first bills urging lawmakers to scrap the state ISTEP test, and also played roles in past years’ school funding bills.

Here and now: This year, Mishler is making a big push for the state to rectify its school funding gap, a result of higher-than-expected public school enrollment.

Who supports him: In recent years, Mishler has received campaign contributions from Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education, assessing legislators’ support for public schools, gave Mishler an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Also check out our list of education issues to watch this year.

education power players

Who’s who in Indiana education: Rep. Tim Brown

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos and Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican representing District 41, covering parts of Montgomery, Boone, and Tippecanoe counties. So far, has served 23 years in the House of Representatives. Brown had a career as an emergency room doctor in Crawfordsville, retiring in 2015.

Why he’s a power player: Brown is chairman of the influential House Ways & Means Committee, one of the main budget-writing bodies in the Indiana General Assembly. In addition to helping craft the state budget, which includes money for schools, Brown’s committee also considers bills that could have a financial impact on the state. Any proposal involving money — including testing, school choice and preschool — has to pass muster with him. In recent years, Brown has supported funding increases for students with special needs and virtual charter schools.

Money follows the child: Brown has pushed for changes over the years to how Indiana funds schools, favoring plans aimed at equalizing the base funding allocated for students across districts. Historically, the state had padded the budgets of districts that were losing large numbers of students — helping them adjust but leading to disparities between schools across the state.

Brown finally achieved his goal of having the same basic aid for each district in 2015. Enrollment is now the driving factor in how much money schools get, as opposed to where they are located or what kinds of students attend.

On school choice: Brown served on the House Education Committee in 2011, the year the legislature passed a number of major education reform measures dealing with charter schools, teacher evaluation and vouchers. Since then, Brown has continued to support school choice options, working on bills about “education savings accounts” and other choice programs that would let students take individual classes outside their public schools.

Who supports him: Brown has received campaign contributions from Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country; and Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers.

Given his support for choice-based reform, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education gave Brown an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card highlighting who it thinks has been supportive of public schools.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Also check out our list of bills to watch this year and where they were halfway through the session.

education power players

Who’s who in Indiana education: Sen. Luke Kenley

PHOTO: Sarah Glen
Sen. Luke Kenley

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican representing District 20, covering parts of Hamilton County. So far, has served 25 years in the state Senate. Kenley has spent parts of his career as both a lawyer and grocery store owner.

Why he’s a power player: Kenley is cost-conscious chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the main budget-writing bodies in the Indiana General Assembly. He has overseen many of the state’s school funding changes in the past several years, notably ones that removed local property taxes from school general funds. Kenley also leads Senate decisionmaking on what, how and where the state should spend money designated for schools. He has significant influence when it comes to setting aside money for other education proposals that aren’t in the funding formula, such as testing, preschool and programs for English-learners.

The unseen cost of change: Kenley balked in 2015 over an astronomically high testing budget proposed by then-state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, and he introduced legislation that year to get rid of ISTEP altogether. That move kicked off a conversation that culminated in the test being scrapped after 2018. Perhaps ironically, Kenley had been one of several GOP leaders who advocated that Indiana abandon the Common Core Standards in 2014, which led the state to quickly overhaul ISTEP for 2015  — an expensive process.

The Senator from Noblesville has also long been skeptical about the practicality of making major investments in state-sponsored preschool and has held constant in that view since lawmakers considered then-Gov. Mike Pence’s preschool proposal in 2014.

On school choice: While Kenley has advocated for charter schools and the state’s voucher program, he has taken a harder stance than some of his fellow lawmakers on making sure those schools are held accountable for educating students before granting them more state dollars. He expressed concern over legislation that would give charter schools extra funding for buildings and transportation in 2015 and a bill that would let private voucher schools skip ISTEP testing in 2014.

His early years of public service: Kenley served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971.

Who supports him: In past elections, Kenley has received campaign contributions from Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers; Stand for Children, a national organization that supports education reform and helps parents to organize; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country.

Conversely, given his support for choice-based reform, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education gave Kenley a “D” in its 2016 legislative report card highlighting who it thinks has been supportive of public schools.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Also check out our list of bills to watch this year.