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Indiana schools chief lauds overhaul in annual speech

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Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett used his second annual assessment of the state's education system to promote a sweeping overhaul approved this year.

Bennett touted new laws that set merit pay for teachers and grant school vouchers for parents to send students to private schools in his second "State of Education" speech Tuesday.

"The landscape of Indiana's schools is now one that embraces freedom, competition and accountability," he said.

Bennett also said the state takeover of five public schools that had underperformed on state tests had been a long time coming. He said that in the future, he would like to shorten the time it takes until the state can intervene in running those schools.

"It should not take six consecutive years of failure for us to give these schools the support they need," Bennett said to loud applause from the crowd at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White dropped a lawsuit seeking to block the takeover of two of his schools, but also said he will pull IPS resources from the schools which are being taken over.

Throughout his speech, Bennett likened the global education race to the historical "space race" between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. He referred to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's comments that the global race to innovate in education is the modern equivalent of putting a man on the moon.

"In the education space race, Indiana has achieved lift off," Bennett said in prepared remarks.

Linda Erlinger, executive director of Stand for Children-Indiana, lobbied on behalf of the new law establishing merit pay for teachers. Bennett's speech hit all the high points that she and others who supported the education overhaul were looking for, she said.

The focus now turns to putting those new laws in place, including devising new methods for evaluating teachers, she said.

"This is where the hard work begins," Erlinger said following Bennett's speech.

Indiana's school voucher law, which provides parents scholarships to send their students to private and religious school, has garnered national attention for Bennett and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

It also led to a lawsuit, backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association, that claims the new law unconstitutionally funnels taxpayer dollars to religious institutions.

"I think the state of public education in Indiana is good, and it has been for some time," ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger said, swiping back at arguments from Bennett and Daniels that changes were needed to fix a broken public schools system.

But Bennett and others are ignoring problems educating students who do not speak English as a first language, come from low-income families and have special needs, Schnellenberger said.

The major changes Bennett is now touting do nothing to fix those problems, he said.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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