Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Education

February 27, 2011

A conversation with Bennett on education reform

State superintendent says aggressive agenda in students’ best interest.

Kokomo — While State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is pushing for aggressive reform of Indiana’s schools, he does not see a state full of failing schools.

“I would tell you we have some great schools in this state. We have some school leaders who are trying to do some great things. ... This legislation is not because Indiana schools are bad, it’s because we must add the structures to enable our system of schools in this state to grow to meet the needs of a very changing economy.”

Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels’ education agenda includes expanding charter schools, offering vouchers for parents to send their children to private school, merit pay for teachers and limited collective bargaining between teachers and school corporations.

Teachers have protested many of the reforms, saying they punish teachers and do not improve schools for children.

The Kokomo Tribune asked Bennett about the many concerns raised by Kokomo-area teachers.

Private school vouchers

One of the areas of greatest contention has been taxpayer-funded vouchers for parents to send their children to private schools.

Superintendents Tracy Caddell from Eastern, Doug Arnold from Maconaquah and John Bevan from Southeastern all said they think giving public money to private schools is wrong.

Caddell said the money given, which would not be the full amount the public school would receive for that child, would most likely not be enough to pay private-school tuition, and many parents would not be able to transport their children to a private school.

He also said he would be fine with vouchers if public schools were fully funded and the state was also funding full-day kindergarten.

Taylor Superintendent John Magers said the competition could be a good thing, as long as the all schools compete on a level playing field, each having the same expectations for performance.

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