Call sheds light on civics staff cuts

September 8, 2010
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The following blog was written by IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger.

Following the announcement that the Indiana Bar Foundation planned to restructure its civics education staff from three staff members to one after learning there would no longer be funds from the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts due to low interest rates, the IBF held a conference call for teachers to express their concerns and ask questions of the current civics education staff and IBF executive director Chuck Dunlap.

They let me listen in while I was waiting for a plane to return from vacation on Tuesday afternoon.

At the beginning of the call, and in past interviews about this for Indiana Lawyer, Dunlap emphasized that this was not easy for anyone involved. He also mentioned when IBF learned that interest rates were high enough for IOLTA funds to cover civics education funding – a rarity among other civics education programs around the country – the plan at the time was to deal with a decrease in funding if and when it happened. Unfortunately, that time is now, and because he and others have no reason to believe interest rates will bounce back anytime soon, they saw a need to make a change.

But if the IOLTA funds make a comeback to a high enough level to add staff in the future, he said, the IBF would likely do so. He added the new structure is similar to how the IBF used to handle civics education programs until a few years ago, and that the quality of the experience for the students and teachers involved shouldn’t be affected by the change.

The IOLTA funding was also only used for the civics education team – other funding sources pay for class materials and the district and state competitions, and for travel expenses for teachers to attend national trainings. And Indiana State Bar Association sections raise money for the travel expenses for students to go to the national competition in Washington, D.C. Those funding sources haven’t changed, Dunlap said.

He also mentioned the Hour for Civics program, which was started to make up for a decrease in IOLTA funds last year. That program, which encouraged attorneys to donate the equivalent of a billable hour to civics education, had not raised nearly enough last year or this year to make up for the loss of IOLTA funds.

Dunlap said the way they were restructuring the staff wouldn’t be to have one person doing three jobs. The plan is to figure out how that new person, who would start by Jan. 1, 2011, along with Dunlap and other IBF staff members, can help district coordinators and their volunteers do more than they have needed to do in the past due to the help they’ve been able to rely on from IBF staff.

This could be a challenge, said Erin Braun, current director of civic education for the IBF, because many of the districts have grown in the last few years in terms of teachers and recently added district coordinators, so there will definitely be a learning curve for the newer district coordinators. But because the district coordinators and teachers are so enthusiastic, she didn’t think it would be a problem for them to want to do more.

She and Kyle Burson, director of the IBF’s We The People program, will be available through the end of the year to help with the transition. They will also be available on a contract basis for other programs that have other funding sources, such as the Frontiers program, which is similar to We The People, but for community groups instead of school classrooms.

The third staff member, director of Project Citizen Eric Steele, starts a new job with the Center for Civics Education in Washington, D.C., at of the end of this week. He applied for and accepted that job before the IBF announced plans to restructure the civics education staff.

As an outside observer, what was remarkable about the call was the level of transparency between the teachers and the civics education team members. The IBF staff answered all of their questions as best as they could, and at the end suggested that if there was anything they didn’t address or wanted to address later, the teachers could call any of them directly.

While the program is changing, volunteers will be needed now more than before – could you spare some time for civics education in Indiana?
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

ADVERTISEMENT