Column: Debate to continue post-election

(Bedford) Times-Mail

If the early signs are any indication, Hoosiers should be prepared for a tussle about education in Indiana.

Gov.-elect Mike Pence said he will push education reforms, including private school vouchers and merit pay programs for teachers, even though the chief proponent of those ideas, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, was defeated Nov. 6.

Democrat Glenda Ritz, a teacher in Indianapolis, beat Bennett by 6 percentage points.

The remarks after the election are already shaping the debate.

Pence: “We have a strong affirmation on the progress of education reform in this state. I’m going to be looking for partners in both political parties to continue to lead on education reform and that includes our new superintendent of public instruction.”

Nate Schellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association: “I think for them to say this is not a referendum on education reform and the policies they implemented over the last four years would be them sticking their heads in the sand.”

But the state schools chief is not the only one calling the shots.

The Indiana General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, develops most of the state’s accountability rules for education, sets school funding and passes laws about collective bargaining and vouchers. The Department of Education sets the rules to implement those laws. And those rules must be approved by the 11-member Indiana State Board of Education.

Then there is the public.

It is clear the way to improve those schools will be up for some stiff debate in the coming weeks.

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