πŸ‘‹ It's Thursday, and we need your help. Axios Local is creating a bracket challenge for the best college football tradition.

  • Which school β€” and tradition β€” should we submit to represent Indy? IU fans' reputation for tailgating but not going to the game? Purdue's giant drum? Notre Dame's player walk? Something totally different?
  • ➑️ Hit reply and tell us.

πŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Indianapolis member Tony Paganelli!

β˜€οΈ Today's weather: Sunny, with scattered afternoon showers and a high near 80Β°.

Today's newsletter is 956 words β€” a 3.5-minute read. Edited by Lindsey Erdody and copy edited by Bill Kole.

1 big thing: Pence defends 2020 election result

Pence took a break from the campaign trail to address Republican lawmakers in Indy yesterday morning. Photo: Cheryl Senter for the Washington Post via Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike Pence received a warm welcome while back home again in Indiana for a brief stop yesterday.

Driving the news: While speaking at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit at the Indiana Convention Center, the 2024 presidential hopeful somberly mentioned the latest indictment of former President Trump, but otherwise was upbeat with the friendly crowd of party insiders.

What happened: Pence joked about the infamous fly from his last televised debate and, at the behest of Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston, pulled out a decent George W. Bush impression.

Details: Pence played to the audience of state lawmakers by promising greater flexibility for states and a smaller federal government if he's elected president.

  • He pledged to eliminate the federal Department of Education.
  • He said he'd "repeal all Obamacare mandates."

Meanwhile, Pence reiterated that the 2020 Georgia election was not stolen, "despite what the former president and his allies have said."

Catch up fast: An Atlanta grand jury unveiled sweeping charges Monday against Trump and 18 allies over alleged efforts to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results β€” a case that many close to Trump have feared most imperils him.

What Pence said: Trump and his allies "are entitled to the same presumption of innocence that every American enjoys" in the wake of the new charges.

The intrigue: Pence could be on stage with Trump next week at the first Republican debate, though the former president is not expected to attend.

  • "I hope he comes," Pence said. "I really do. I say I've debated Donald Trump 1,000 times, just not with the cameras on."

Go deeper

2. πŸ“– Too many Hoosier kids can't read

Marion County IREAD-3 pass rates, by school district
Data: Indiana Department of Education; Table: Axios Visuals

Indiana's third-grade reading scores are stagnating.

Driving the news: Results from this past spring's administration of the IREAD-3 exam released yesterday show that Hoosier third graders have made little progress since the pandemic disrupted education nationwide.

  • Statewide, scores have flatlined over the last three years, with 81.9% of third-graders tested passing this year β€” up from 81.6% in 2022.
  • In 2019, the last administration before the pandemic, 87.3% of students passed.

Why it matters: The test measures students' foundational reading skills, and what they'll need to succeed as they progress through school and shift from learning how to read to reading in order to learn.

Reality check: Indiana's reading proficiency rates were already in decline before the pandemic.

  • "Our highest passing point of the IREAD-3 assessment was a decade ago," Education Secretary Katie Jenner said. "It's key for us to acknowledge … as we urgently have to overcome this."

The big picture: The results underscore the importance of an ongoing effort to overhaul the way schools teach young children to read, aligning teaching methods and curriculum to what's being called "the science of reading."

  • The state set a goal for 95% of students to be able to read by the end of third grade by 2027.

The bottom line: Jenner said it's urgent that the state makes progress more quickly or else "it will be years and years and thousands and thousands of kids," before they hit that goal.

Zoom in on Marion County

3. Pit stop: More of the same news

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

πŸ’Έ Indiana's high obesity rate put a $9.3 billion dent in the state's economy in 2022, according to a new report supported by Eli Lilly and Co.

  • You may recall that Lilly recently asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve one of its newer diabetes drugs for chronic obesity treatment. (IndyStar)

βš–οΈ U.S. Sen. Todd Young called Monday's indictment of former President Trump "more of the same" and renewed his criticism of Trump's candidacy, urging fellow Republicans to move on to "someone who can actually win come next November." (Muncie Star Press)

πŸ’° Indiana has paid out $1 million to eight people wrongfully incarcerated through a relatively new program allowing individuals to apply for restitution. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

4. 🏈 How to call an audible

Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Peyton Manning is famous for his audible call, "Omaha."

  • What you may not realize is that every audible is discussed and practiced ahead of time.

Driving the news: The former Colts quarterback told state lawmakers at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit in Indianapolis yesterday that how he makes a decision to change is a lesson that applies off the football field.

What he's saying: "Winging it is not good in any field, I can promise you, especially not on the football field," he said.

How it works: "Guts, instinct and courage are part of making change, calling an audible," he said. "But I really think … it's what I would just call dogged preparation, just having a plan for what might be coming down the road."

The bottom line: "These past few years we've been dealing with what I would callΒ the greatest blitz of all time with this pandemic. It has forced all of us to audible, it has forced all of us to communicate."

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5. πŸŽƒ Pumpkin spice season arrives

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Summer isn't over yet, but pumpkin spice season is here.

Driving the news: Ash & Elm is releasing its popular Autumntide cider tomorrow.

Zoom out: Krispy Kreme started selling its pumpkin spice flavors last week. Dunkin' released its fall menu yesterday and there are rumors that Starbucks will release its fall menu on Aug. 24.

The intrigue: Local coffee shops don't seem to be thinking ahead to fall just yet. Social media accounts for more than a dozen cafes are still promoting summer beverages.

Lindsey's hot take: I'm here for slightly cooler temperatures and fall things. Bring it on.

Reality check: It's supposed to hit 90 next week, so maybe don't pull out your sweaters just yet.

πŸ“¬ You tell us: When should fall menus and decor come out? Is August too soon? Hit reply.

Our picks:

πŸ‘Ž Arika likes pumpkin spice season but still thinks August is too soon!

πŸ›£οΈ Lindsey thinks Indy should have parks underneath its highway overpasses, too.

πŸ‘Ά James is on parental leave.