Hoosier Economy Budget Hearing: K-12 Education reform, testimony by State Superintendent Tony Bennett

Budget Hearing: K-12 Education reform, testimony by State Superintendent Tony Bennett

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On Tuesday State Superintendent Tony Bennett testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Superintendent Bennett outlined the major components of his education reform agenda and defended his position for why all of these reforms are interdependent and necessary for comprehensive structural reform that will lead to “education transformation” and eventually to fiscal savings and reform.

See the Dept. of Education presentation>>

A few highlights of the discussion (Note- Comments are paraphrased):

How will performance measurement systems be designed? Especially in realms of special education, music programs, etc?

Mr. Bennett began by explaining that the state cannot define universal performance measurements to evaluate a teacher effectiveness. He explained that the DOE will design starting places, guidelines, and guardrails for local schools to make their own determinations about how performance measurements should be created and applied, but ultimately local school corporations will be given this authority and control.

Mr. Bennett reiterated that performance measurements will not be used just for reprimanding purposes, but they will also provide a way to ensure that we are rewarding excellence. These evaluations will provide a new way of providing raises to teachers that goes beyond traditional incremental, years of service, degrees attained raises.

Why has the testing remediation line item’s funding been decreased by such a substantial amount?

Mr. Bennett explained that this decrease represents a shift from focusing dollars on remediation to assessment.

Will this bill take money away from public schools?

Mr. Bennett said believes that Indiana should fund a portion of a child’s education, no matter where the student chooses to go (charter, private, or other). He argued that this will create a climate that encourages schools to always become better by competing for students equally, improving Indiana’s education system as a whole.

Several concerns were outlined in the testimony:

  • HB1001 keeps schools at 2007 funding levels.
  • This budget flat-lines special education, vocational education, and academic honors programs.
  • The bill does not limit the number of virtual charters that can open.
  • HB 1001 reserves $36M over the biennium for new charter schools. Arguably, that is money that could be distributed to existing public and charter schools.
  • The fiscal impact of vouchers, the cost of evaluations or the costs related to developing merit based pay proposals are not contained in the bottom line.