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UPDATED: Questions remain about new statewide tutoring program

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Indiana Learns Facebook page

A new statewide tutoring program is set to launch next month, but some school leaders still have unanswered questions. Indiana Learns will provide $500 to $1,000 worth of tutoring help for fourth and fifth graders who are below proficiency on the ILEARN test and qualify for free or reduced lunch.

The Indiana Department of Education has hired the nonprofit group The Mind Trust to run the program. Tutors will be current or former teachers, or students studying to be teachers.

But Lake Central School Superintendent Dr. Larry Veracco says he's still hesitant about encouraging families to sign up. "Who these providers will be, whether they'll be vetted, i.e. background checked, that has not yet been answered, and so it gives us pause to want to get behind a program where there's just a lot of questions dangling out there," Veracco told the school board Monday.*

He said he'd be more comfortable if Lake Central Schools' own staff provided the tutoring in school buildings. "Some of the very children who need this would have a hard time meeting somebody at the library or some other independent location at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., versus if we already have them at school," Veracco said.

Veracco also had questions about how students or schools would be selected for Indiana Learns. He said he hoped to get more information over the coming days.

*UPDATE: Holly Lawson, deputy director of communications at the Indiana Department of Education, reached out to Lakeshore News Wednesday to confirm that providers will be fully vetted, including a background check, and all tutors will be fully-licensed educators. She also confirms that there will be a virtual option for children who may have transportation challenges, and project leads have reached out to Veracco to discuss his concerns.

Lawson encourages all families who think their children may qualify to apply at IndianaLearns.org once the portal opens October 1. While the $15 million the General Assembly has allocated isn't expected to be enough for all students who qualify, Lawson is confident that lawmakers will fill any remaining shortfall.