INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Last week saw two diametrically opposed Indiana politicians go to great
lengths to ensure the state wins large sums of federal money without the
strings that are normally attached.
Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, filed a request with the
U.S. Department of Education to continue using federal “Title I” education
money with flexibility. A day later, Republican Gov. Mike Pence asked the
federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to grant the state an
exemption - and about $16.5 billion - to expand Medicaid using a version of
the Healthy Indiana Plan.
government’s say in how the state operates has been a point of contention
for some of Indiana’s leaders. For example, Sen. Scott Schneider,
R-Indianapolis, led the drive to pull Indiana out of the Common Core
national education standards. But he removed his name from the legislation
that formally ended the state’s involvement when a caveat was added - that
Indiana would do whatever was needed to maintain federal funding.
The question of
control over federal dollars has also reignited dormant battles at the State
Board of Education between Ritz and board members appointed by Pence and
former Gov. Mitch Daniels.
If Indiana does not
win its education waiver, schools would have to follow strict rules under
the No Child Left Behind Act and new monetary restrictions that could hinder
paying for teachers. Even the request for an exemption has come with
requirements -- most notably the start of a new statewide student test in
the fall -- but Ritz and others determined they would be much less onerous
than what the state would face without the exemption.
Ritz said her staff
and others put in “countless hours of work” to ensure Indiana maintains its
“Because of their
work, I believe that Hoosier schools will have much needed flexibility over
how they use some of their federal funding. Most importantly, this
flexibility will improve education for our students,” Ritz said in a
Pence, the gambit is seeking access to billions of federal dollars that
hospitals in Indiana say would greatly help the economy, while attempting to
avoid a full-blown expansion of Medicaid under the federal health care law.
Pence negotiated with federal officials would avoid using traditional
Medicaid - a system he regularly calls “broken” - to provide insurance for
the poor. Instead, Indiana would have some of those people pay marginal fees
to receive coverage through modified health savings plans, as well as
provide support to residents who have access to an employer health plan but
cannot afford it.
Pence wrote to U.S.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell that the state’s Healthy
Indiana Plan 2.0, is the “culmination of many months of productive good
faith discussions” with the federal agency.
“The State of
Indiana is capable and prepared to accept the terms outlined in this waiver
and implement the HIP 2.0 expansion as soon as possible following approval,”
But not everyone
agrees that Indiana should be cutting deals for federal dollars.
At a special
meeting of the State Board of Education dealing with the waiver, fighting
between Ritz and Dan Elsener, a board member and president of Marian
University, centered on whether she would be able to ensure the waiver was
And Andrea Neal, a
Republican member of the education board, questioned whether Ritz and others
should push back on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s ability to set
restrictions on states.
“In contrast to
other board members who want more information, I’ve been floored by the
amount of energy and resource and manpower that’s going into jumping through
the federal government’s hoops,” Neal said at the meeting, which was called
specially to review the waiver. “I personally feel that we have done
ourselves a disservice by not questioning the federal government’s level of
involvement in this.”
requests for money now lie in the hands of federal officials. Ritz’s staff
said they were promised an answer by the end of the month, but finding out
whether the state will win Medicaid money is likely to take months longer.