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Minor Indiana school reforms find last-minute success

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Indiana lawmakers signed off on minor school changes at the close of the 2012 session while reining in broader efforts sought by state schools Superintendent Tony Bennett.

The General Assembly approved new rules for turnaround school operators and set up a commission to study Bennett's new A-F grading system for state schools in the final hours of the session last week. The state's largest teachers union on Monday called the changes a rare victory after being raked in the Statehouse just one year earlier.

"There was just this bipartisan feeling that things were getting too out of control," said Gail Zeheralis, lobbyist for the Indiana State Teacher's Association. "We're grateful the Legislature has now inserted itself into the discussion in a very direct way."

The education flotilla was attached to a broader measure that included more money for state fair victims and a re-working of the state's automatic tax refund after having been scrapped in various forms earlier in the session. Along the way lawmakers dropped efforts to mandate cursive be taught in schools and grandfather in illegal immigrants already enrolled in state universities before the ban on in-state tuition rates began last July.

They also created a joint education commission that will review the new school grading system established by Bennett last year.

"The goal is to make sure there's more transparency and to make sure the Legislature has the ability to question more directly and in a more knowledgeable way," said House Education Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis.

Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Sample said the education measure included some of her department's goals for the session. But she added that one of their top priorities — shortening the time it takes before the state can take over failing schools — did not make the cut.

"The turnaround timeline was a disappointment, because we believe six years is just too long to wait for intervention. We look forward to continuing that conversation in the months ahead," Sample said.

One year earlier Indiana Republicans, led by Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels, approved a massive overhaul of the state education system establishing merit-based pay for teachers, setting up a new teacher evaluation system and creating the nation's broadest-based school voucher program.

Bennett came back again during the 2012 session with further changes, including the request to shorten the time before the state takes over a school.

The state received a federal waiver from requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act last month, but much of that waiver was granted dependent on the state following through with its new school evaluation plan.

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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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