Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Tallian bill would allow new funding option for adult education programs

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

While the future of the Portage Adult Education Center remains in limbo, District 4 State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, says she is currently working on a bill that would grant funding to non-school entities providing adult education services.

Tallian said that a federal law exists that allows non-school entities the opportunity to offer adult education programs, but the current Indiana law dictates the state can only allocate funds to schools.

“In order for the other entities to get state funds, you’d have to change that legislation,” said Tallian who plans to introduce the bill during the 2011 Indiana General Assembly. “I want to make that change so that adult education centers can open again.”

At the start of this year, a total of 19 satellite branches of the Portage Adult Education program in six counties closed due to a lack of permanent funding solutions, including the Chesterton Adult Learning Center. Since then, adult education has continued at the Portage Adult High School for the 2010-11 school year, and with cuts projected in next year’s state budget, Portage school officials said they may recommend shutting down the program altogether next year.

Tallian in 2008 was a member of an interim study committee on adult education that sought options for further funding. Although the committee recommended increasing the amount by $4 million, the governor’s budget in 2009 slashed the item by $1 million instead. By the end of the session, the funding for adult education statewide stayed at $14 million, the same amount that had been approved by the state legislators for the past decade.

During a state budget committee meeting this month, Tallian said the figure in a new proposal is projected to drop this year to about $10 million, making the outlook bleak on adult education programs like Portage who are struggling. Portage Adult Education saw yearly deficits of around $300,000 while this past year the state made significant cuts to school operating funds.

The Portage Schools have been the program’s chief funding unit since its establishment in 1960s.

Since May of this year, the Center of Workforce Innovations who oversees the WorkOne centers throughout the region has stepped in to reopen ten centers that had operated under the Portage program including Chesterton and Valparaiso.

Executive Director for the Center of Workforce Innovations Linda Woloshansky said her agency “stepped up to the need” when it saw that schools in the region were not in the position to lend their resources to keep the adult education program afloat.

Woloshansky said she will be meeting with Sen. Tallian later this week to discuss the language of the bill.

“We want to know how we can help in the future and look at that because we do want to maintain the centers that are currently in operation,” said Woloshansky. She said the agency can still receive funding from the state indirectly as long as the school agrees to transfer the money.

The Center of Workforce Innovations was not able to open back up all the centers due to time and money, and looked for the ten that had the biggest needs and community support. Woloshansky said they made sure that one center was open in each of the six counties: Porter, Lake, LaPorte, Starke, Newton and Jasper.

While maintaining the same curriculum that was offered in the Portage system, students can also participate with WorkOne in getting career consultation, job placement, and referral to post-secondary education.

“We’re trying to bring all that kind of richness to the table for them,” said Woloshansky.

Woloshansky said the agency may be able to open up more of the centers if the state does decide to set aside funds. “We would we appreciate that support.”

Hoosier Youth Corp

During the 2011 Indiana General Assembly, Tallian said she will also offer a bill that will set up a summer intern program called Hoosier Youth Corp for high school students. The program will be similar to the federal program AmeriCorps which gives participants the opportunity to provide services for their communities.

With job opportunities being extremely limited for youth, Tallian said the program would allow students to pick up summer work.

Students would work for a number of weeks on a small weekly stipend and when the program is completed, the participant will get an educational award to help pay for the student’s college tution as long as the school is within the state.

Tallian said the state began a program similar to this on a more limited basis but now has the ability to expand with the state picking up additional stimulus money.

Other Efforts

Talian said she also plans to recommend changes this year to two bills already in place.

As Ranking Minority Member of the Pensions and Labor Committee, Tallian said she wants to revise the Workman’s Compensation law to increase both temporary and permanent injury payments now that the previous increases have expired. Tallian said Indiana currently ranks 49 in 50 states for paying out benefits.

“We’re going to reauthorize the yearly increase and try to add a little bit more,” she said.

Tallian is also looking to add more to the Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement Conference bill she introduced a few years ago. The bill would now target the ten or twelve counties in Indiana that account for 80 percent of the mortgage foreclosures in the state.

A new program would allow the county courts to help residents pay off their mortgages since banks will not take payments on foreclosed mortgages. Tallian said there is also going to a large amount of federal money available to help certain individuals who have lost their jobs and are having trouble with their mortgages.

In another effort, Tallian said the Labor committee is working on solutions to balance the deficit in the unemployment insurance trust fund. The deficit as of now towers at approximately $2 billion from funds borrowed at the federal level and is expected to reach $2.5 billion when payments are made in the spring.

Removing Politics in Redistricting Possible?

This year’s assembly will also tout with it the process of reshaping state legislative and congressional districts. The new districts will be based on population trends apparent in the certified data collected from this year’s census.

Having served on the Census Data Advisory Committee this summer, Tallian told the Tribune early projections showed population shifts in Lake County where more residents are choosing to live in the southern and eastern portions, which is a strong indicator the districts will be realigned. She did say however the projections do not strongly indicate that there will be any move in the U.S. Congressional district.

Tallian said there have been recent efforts to implement an independent legislative redistricting commission to advise General Assembly members. Twenty-one states have independent redistricting committees and Tallian said she favors the move to make redistricting as fair as possible but removing politics is pretty close to impossible.

“Everybody is going to try and be fair, but it’s just a determination of what is there. You just have to get as many sensible people together as you can,” she said.

A change to implement an independent committee will mean a change to the state constitution, Tallian said, which means the earliest one can appear on the scene will be in the next round of redistricting in 2021.

 

Posted 12/21/2010

 

 

 

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