Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – After weeks of propane shortages and high prices, some relief is coming to rural residents in the Midwest, South and other areas that have had trouble keeping their heating tanks filled during the bitterly cold winter.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that residential propane prices have fallen for a second straight week, down from about $4 a gallon in late January to $3.76 a gallon on Feb. 10.

Supplies of the fuel the Energy Department says 5.5 million U.S. households use for heating have improved slightly thanks to efforts by the propane industry, the federal government and states.

But Propane Education & Research Council President Roy Willis says the nation’s propane supply remains low and more blasts of winter cold would quickly send prices back up.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The State Board of Education has agreed to extend ISTEP+ testing after weeks of frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls that have forced repeated closures of many Indiana schools.

WISH-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1lDO2tb ) the board voted unanimously Thursday to approve extending the applied skills portion of the exam from March 3 until March 21. That testing had been scheduled for March 3 through March 12.

The board also extended ISTEP’s IRead-3 testing from March 17 until March 21, providing two more days of testing for third-graders.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz recommended the change after many Indiana schools closed for multiple days this winter because of heavy snows and subzero temperatures.

ISTEP+ exams are administered annually to third- through eighth-grade students and cover English, math, science and social studies.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana is one of seven states receiving federal money to improve their lowest-performing schools.

The Indiana Department of Education says it received more than $8.6 million in School Improvement Grants from the U.S. Department of Education last week.

The Education Department says in a news release that the funds are intended to aid states “to continue to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools.”

The other states receiving the grants are Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Utah and Washington. Indiana’s share is the largest of $39 million in grants awarded

The federal grants are awarded to schools with the greatest need that have shown the greatest commitment to improve.

The state says the funds will be used during the school year that begins this fall.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The state school superintendent says school districts could make up some snow days by having longer school days or having online instruction on a Saturday.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz says she will soon outline options for districts across the state that have canceled numerous days this winter because of heavy snow and extreme cold.

Ritz tells The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1fZa8AM ) that a district could add an additional hour to six school days to make up for one lost day. Schools with the proper technology could provide weekend instruction over the Internet.

Ritz says districts would need to seek a waiver from the Department of Education from the state’s requirement of 180 school days.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Indiana Senate has approved a measure that would increase the amount that disabled veterans receive in property tax reductions.

The measure authored by Sen. Doug Eckerty and Sen. Travis Holdman would increase the property value that qualifies for a reduction from $143,000 to $195,000. The measure now heads to the House, where Rep. Woody Burton is the sponsor.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill Thursday.

Eligible veterans must meet certain disability ratings set by the various military branches and be at least 62 years old. Roughly 17,000 veterans qualified for the reduction last year and the number could grow by 25 percent under changes approved by the Senate.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) – A magistrate has entered a not-guilty plea for a Purdue University student charged with murder in the shooting of another student in a classroom.

Twenty-three-year-old Cody Cousins of Warsaw appeared at a hearing Thursday at the Tippecanoe County Jail to face a murder charge in the death of 21-year-old Andrew Boldt of West Bend, Wis.

Court documents say Boldt suffered both gunshot and knife wounds when he was fatally attacked around noon Tuesday in Purdue’s Electrical Engineering Building. Several other people were in the classroom at the time.

Prosecutors asked that Cousins be held without bond and defense attorney Robert Gevers II didn’t contest that, so Magistrate Sean Persin ordered that Cousins remain in custody.

Cousins sat composed with his hands on his lap for most of the 10-minute hearing.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Hemp plants could start appearing in Indiana fields if a state Senate bill to allow growing the crop gains support from lawmakers.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will discuss the bill Friday afternoon. Indiana would need to apply for a federal permit to grow the crop that’s used to make paper, clothing and building materials.

Hemp is similar to marijuana but has a much smaller amount of the latter’s psychoactive compound.

The bill also would declassify industrial hemp as marijuana in Indiana.

Kentucky passed similar legislation to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp crops last year.