Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Education

February 27, 2011

A conversation with Bennett on education reform

State superintendent says aggressive agenda in students’ best interest.

(Continued)

Kokomo —

Bennett said private schools that accept vouchers would have to agree that their students will take the ISTEP state assessment, and those school will be assigned a letter grade for performance, just as public schools are.

He said the private schools may still choose which students to accept, but “they cannot have higher standards for students who accept the vouchers than they have for students who do not get vouchers.”

Bennett said the vouchers would be available only to students who have been in a public school at least two semesters.

“One of the things we are trying to do is say public schools should have the first chance at serving children. If parents do not feel their children are getting the service they need, then they could take a voucher and attend a public school.”

He said the bill is not meant to say that public schools are failing, but that they are not able to meet the needs of some children.

Even in high-performing schools, Bennett said, there are children whose needs are not being met in that district.

The voucher bill was supposed to pass the Indiana House of Representatives by Friday to stay alive, but it was in jeopardy because of minority Democrats fleeing to Illinois. The move was to prevent a vote on certain legislation, including the right-to-work bill, according to The Associated Press.

Lauren Auld, Bennett’s press secretary, said Bennett did not pursue full-day kindergarten or making kindergarten mandatory because of the cost.

“Given across-the-board belt-tightening, the agenda focuses on improving what we have, rather than spending on new programming. If the economy was in the right place and we had the funding, he would support mandatory kindergarten.”

Charter schools

The proposed expansion of charter schools has also been rebuked by teachers, who say those institutions are not proven to help students.

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