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Bennett, Daniels Unveil Education Budget Priorities

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has made his agency’s funding request to the State Budget Agency.  The total calls for about $6.5 billion annually from the state’s general fund.  Bennett has already told schools statewide that they can expect about the same amount of funding for 2011 as they received this year.  But some cuts are proposed to support programs such as professional development.  Still, Bennett said he wants an increase to what schools get to fund classroom learning.

“I hope what we are able to do is at the very, very worst case scenario, I hope we do not look at a reduction in education funding," Bennett said.  "As a matter of fact, I hope if revenues hold up we’re able to fund a modest increase for Indiana schools.”

Meanwhile, Bennett and Governor Mitch Daniels joined together Wednesday to unveil more of their agenda during a meeting of the Indiana Education Roundtable. It’s a plan that focuses on teacher pay and assessments, more charter schools and added accountability.

The proposals would expand charter schools by letting all private universities become charter school authorizers and creating a statewide charter school board.  They also want the legislature to make it easier for public schools to convert to charter schools.  The state is also proposing the legislature decide what should happen with schools that have failed to make adequate performance improvements and have been taken over by the state.  The third major component of the combined DOE/Daniels education agenda focuses on teachers.  Officials say they want to chip away at collective bargaining, restricting negotiations between teachers and schools to salary and wage related benefits only, not other working conditions and fringe benefits.  They also want to tie teacher pay to student learning through standardized tests and other factors.  House and Senate Education Committee Chairs Bob Behning and Dennis Kruse say they’re planning to introduce several bills on different components of the education plan, rather than one all encompassing education reform bill.

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