Education was studied by local residents and state legislators at the Clay County Cracker Barrel on Saturday.
Sen. Richard Bray, Rep. Vern Tincher, Rep. Andrew Thomas and Rep. Clyde Kersey discussed a proposed bill, which could alter the dates of the 180-day school year with a start date after Aug. 30 and an end date before May 30.
"I taught school Friday and I'm going to teach school Monday," LeRoy Howes said to the panel. "Where do you stand on it?"
Due to the duration of the Indiana State Fair and the high number of school-aged youth involved in 4-H, at one time, school began at the conclusion of the fair so livestock events and projects in competition didn't conflict with academics.
"That's been discussed for several years," Tincher said.
The state mandates a certain number of days, Bray pointed out, although there would be some key advantages.
"You wouldn't have to pay as much for air conditioning too," he said.
Much like the dates of ISTEP testing, Thomas prefers legislators make a decision and stick with it rather than making numerous changes over a period of years.
"I guess I'm hesitant to change anything unless there's a reason," he said.
Meanwhile, Mary I. Hendrickson stated that due to her patriotic nature, she has concerns about how educators plan to mark the 200-year anniversary of Indiana's statehood 11 years from now.
She distributed information to the panel, pointing out that both Massachusetts and Maine observe official state holidays for statehood anniversaries.
"I'd like to see something done. You've got 11 years to play with it," she said.
A question regarding legislative mandates for graduation requirements, raised by Denzil Adams, was followed by a cry of "Amen" when he pointed out budgets are cut after the addition of tougher programs. Meanwhile, funds for air conditioning are being taken from the capital outlay fund as one county school is on the verge of closing, he added.
"I'm concerned we've taught kids how to take tests, but not how to read," Adams said. "We've dug ourselves a hole in education, and I'm not sure how we're going to get out of it."
Thomas said that with a mother, two sisters and a brother in education, he is familiar with the growing concerns of educators in his district.
His top three concerns are jobs, education and government responsibility, and noted that Clay County School Corp. is the second largest employer in the area.
"This weighs heavy on my heart," he said. "To a certain extent, the governor may be testing the waters."
Kersey agreed, noting that schools, principals, teachers and students are being held responsible for education at a time when it seems no end is in sight in terms of budget cuts.
"We're more concerned about testing than learning and that bothers me. We've got a Cadiallac program on a Chevrolet budget," he said.
With the state of education "in disarray," he said, "we can't expect students to perform at a high-class level. And we keep increasing the standards."
With Core 40 and other requirements in schools, it's a statistical fact 30 percent of students will not qualify for graduation. But much like the implementation of other standards aimed at vastly improving the system, like the A+ grade and ISTEP testing, this will likely lose its luster in time.
"The good thing is, eventually this will go like everything else goes," he said.
Tincher said that the Core 40 and an Honors Diploma are great for students seeking admission to colleges or universities, but it's crucial to attend to the needs of those seeking a high school diploma before entering the workforce. Graduates must learn basic skills like household budget management in order to provide for their families.
"When we raise the bar, a lot of kids can't clear the bar," he said, comparing meeting the standards to an athlete without the physical capabilities required to jump over an ever-increasing height. In correctional facilities around Indiana, more than half of inmates do not possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. In some cases, the state is sending students into the world without providing the means to earn an honest living.
"They fall through the cracks, and they can't get a job," Tincher said. "You're condemning those kids who don't go to college with wandering through life."