Indiana Hits It Big in Year in Review

There’s nothing like a little teaser to whet your appetite for more. Here’s what we included in today’s INside Edge e-newsletter about this blog post:

When a national organization lists the top five events in a particular field for a certain year, it’s quite an accomplishment to gain a mention. It’s even better when you’re cited three times in those five entries, including an individual recognition for overall efforts. Find out who and what we’re talking about.

The answers are Indiana education reforms in 2011 and the accolades come from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University as it ranks the best education events of the past year.

Here’s the full press release, with Indiana’s mentions below:

BEST Education Events of 2011
1. Reinvigoration of school choice via opportunity scholarships and vouchers.
Despite the attractive choice that private schools (especially Catholic schools) offer in many inner cities and notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s resolution of issues of federal constitutionality, private school choice remained largely politically taboo until this year.  In what history may view as a watershed, private school choice moved ahead in many places in 2011, including the District of Columbia, where the scholarship program was resuscitated in Congress by Speaker John Boehner; Indiana, where opportunity scholarships were made available to perhaps half the state’s students; and Ohio, which lifted a too-tight cap on its program for kids exiting low-performing schools.

2. The rollback of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey, Idaho, and (temporarily) Ohio.
Progress in improving education is slowed by union contracts that impede sensible decisions about the hiring, firing, deployment, and compensation of educators.  CBAs also drive up costs.  Moreover, many public sector workers are generously compensated—and enjoy relatively secure jobs—and their gold-plated benefit systems are bankrupting states and school systems.  Voters and courageous state leaders finally put these issues on the table in 2011, and five states made major reforms in the pertinent statutes.  (Ohio’s were undone in a November referendum.) 

5. Indiana’s overall record of education reform.
During 2011, Indiana abolished collective bargaining for teacher benefits and work rules.  It allowed all universities to authorize charter schools and removed its cap on charter schools.  The legislature also enacted a program of opportunity scholarships for low-income students that Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett has correctly described as “the nation’s most expansive.”  Indiana moved school board elections from spring to fall, in effect empowering the broader public to participate in the governance of its school systems.  In sum, Indiana has the best reform record of any state in 2011.