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Civics program cuts staff

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The staff of the civics education program of the Indiana Bar Foundation will be restructured due to decreases in IOLTA funding available for next year, the IBF announced today.

Overall, Interest on Lawyer Trust Account funds, which have been accumulated from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, and will be distributed for budgets that will cover Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011, are down 55 percent in Indiana compared to IOLTA funds available for programs for the 2010 budget year. It has not yet been announced how the funds will be distributed to Indiana’s 14 pro bono districts.

Starting Jan. 1, 2011, the three-person civics education staff will be restructured to be run by one person who will receive additional support from other members of the IBF staff, including IBF executive director Chuck Dunlap.

In the last two years, the program has seen its IOLTA funds go from $160,000 to $90,000 to $0 for 2011, he wrote in a memo to educators in the civics program.

The current staff of Erin Braun, Eric Steele, and Kyle Burson has run the program as a team for the last two years. In that time, the We The People mock congressional hearing team representing Indiana has consistently placed in the top 10 in the country. Since the program moved to the IBF six years ago, it has placed in the top 10 five times.

The organization has also enjoyed a strong reputation among We The People programs around the country.

Because of this loss of funding, the program will also no longer organize institutes for teachers from Indiana and bordering states to teach educators about how to bring civics education programs to their classrooms, including We The People and Project Citizen programs.

As for the three team members, as of Sept. 10, Steele will begin a position with the We The People program in Washington, D.C.

While memos from Braun and Dunlap to educators involved with the IBF’s civics education program said it was not an easy decision, Braun and Burson have decided to leave rather than continue in the newly restructured program.

While Braun and Burson were unsure where they’ll be after Dec. 31, both have expressed an interest in continuing work with civics education. For instance, earlier this week, Braun started a graduate program at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School for Public and Environmental Affairs and has already started work on a project about civics education.

Educators will have a chance to weigh in on how the program can be restructured during a conference call with the IBF civics education staff Sept. 7.

How the decrease in IOLTA funds for 2011 will affect other programs, including pro bono districts, is not yet known but will be reported in a future issue of Indiana Lawyer.


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