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Bennett discusses state of education in Indiana

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett was the guest speaker at the Clay County Republican Club meeting Monday. [Order this photo]
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett believes the state has become a model for other states across the nation when it comes to education.

"Indiana has become the place in the U.S. where education reform is meeting with education results," Bennett told members of the Clay County Republican Club Monday.

Bennett was the guest speaker at the club's monthly meeting, which took place at the Kennedy Crossing Bingo Hall.

"Since 2009, (reforms) have enabled us to take a seat in the U.S. on policy reform," Bennett said, adding several states have inquired about how Indiana "did it."

Bennett told the audience he believed in three "concepts," or values, regarding education reform, including competition, having schools operate in a regulatory free environment and accountability.

"A free market drives society," Bennett said. "Prior to 2009, we had an education system that was basically a monopoly ... today, students can go from public schools to public schools."

In reference to letting schools operate free of regulation, he said his department has taken several steps, including implementing evaluation programs for superintendents, which he said would help them better manage staffs.

Bennett added he believes accountability "drives behavior."

He told those in attendance Monday the results are clear, stating student scores across the board have improved. He said the state now ranks second in the nation on improvements through Advanced Placement Courses.

"We're seeing the results," Bennett said. "We think we are poised to be the state that everybody looks to.

"But we're not finished."

Bennett said if re-elected, he hopes to transform school funding and also implement accountability within school boards.

"We are on the cutting edge of transformative change in our state," Bennett said.

Several questions Bennett fielded from the audience referenced accountability for school boards.

One resident asked Bennett how it would be possible.

Bennett suggested school boards, like school systems, receive letter grades. He also said he believed there should be a fiscal efficiency rating for boards.

"Board members should be held accountable," he said. "They are stewards of your tax dollars. Don't forget that.

"The schools belong to you. Schools were built for children. We want schools and communities to take ownership again. I think if we want to improve our communities, we improve our schools."

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