INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — 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,
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
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.