Indiana Republicans are Scaling Back Bennett, Bush Reforms

In  story titled Education Facing Reform Fatigue – State Lawmakers are Leery of Passing More Legislation, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reporter Niki Kelly writes about the efforts of Indiana republican legislators to slow some of the reforms championed by former education boss Tony Bennett and his mentor Jeb Bush. Here’s a brief look at each:

School Grades

It seems everyone agrees there is something wrong with the A-F system used to rank schools. The Indiana Department of Education and State Board of Education tweaked the formula, and when the rankings were released last fall, no one understood them. Schools who were an A dramatically dropped. Others thought they improved but saw no change in their rank. Legislators held hearings on the new system, which was roundly denounced.

For now, the GOP Senate has inserted language into House Bill 1427 to void the current A-F rules and move to a new two-ranking system. Schools would receive one grade for the pass-fail rate of students on state performance tests and a second grade that gauges academic growth or improvement of students.

Voucher Expansion

The House initially passed a massive expansion of the state paid private school program for low- to middle-income families that would have cost tens of millions more each year. But the Senate scaled back the expansion considerably – and the bill still barely passed the chamber 27-23.

It currently allows kids to get vouchers without attending public schools first if they would otherwise attend a failing public school. It also eliminates the public scChool requirement for siblings of a child with a voucher. And the bill eased financial eligibility requirements for voucher families if their incomes rise slightly.

Still though, 10 Republicans voted against the voucher bill in the Senate – a clear hint that efforts

Common Core

The Senate passed a bill initially to pause the state’s move to national Common Core standards. But the House refused to give that bill a hearing.

So the Senate responded by placing the language into House Bill 1427 and sending it back to the House.

“I’m delighted that the Senate passed legislation to halt further implementation of the Common Core state standards until we hold public meetings to study this issue further,” said Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis.

“Parents and teachers across the state have stood up to fight for the highest possible academic standards for our students. Common Core threatens our high standards and our ability to determine as a state what our students need to learn to be prepared for a successful future. With the federal government’s involvement pushing states to adopt the standards, this is no longer a state-led initiative, and Indiana has lost its ability to set its own education policy.”

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other education groups, though, have fought hard to retain Common Core.

Long acknowledged the two Republican chambers differ greatly on the issue. The issue will be part of final

Bennett has been quoted as saying that reforms shouldn’t be slowed down. Small wonder Bush wanted him so badly for Florida and that so many rich folks from the  education privatization crowd filed his campaign coffers last year. It’s clear that neither Bennett nor Bush care if anyone disagrees with them and brush aside opposing views. Nor will either admit they may have been wrong.

But what if they have been?

Some Indiana republicans are thankfully – and wisely willing to pause;  and not to blindly follow as do their Florida colleagues.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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