Daniels to Push Education Reforms in Indiana

TEACHER SHOWDOWN: Indiana is rapidly becoming the state to watch for education reformers this year. Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican who may or may not run for president in 2012, and his state superintendent of public instruction, Tony Bennett, are pushing a heavy education agenda this year. They want to tie teacher salaries to student performance, give private-school vouchers to families, and revamp teachers' collective bargaining agreements in a way that union leaders say would weaken them. Lawmakers kicked off this year's legislative session with a scuffle over "right to work" legislation, possibly setting up a fight between the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Daniels administration. Bennett already has a testy relationship with the group after it refused to sign off on his Race to the Top reforms.

FUNDING WOES: Elsewhere, lawmakers gearing up for their sessions are hearing increasingly desperate pleas from superintendents and other school officials. Of course, stories about underfunded schools have become almost routine by now. But as Nicholas Johnson of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told the Washington Post last week, we're about to enter "the most difficult budget year for states ever." In Illinois , Rockford-area superintendents say they haven't received any state money for the current fiscal year, which began in July. In Missouri , schools are owed a $255 million funding boost next fiscal year to comply with a state-mandated funding formula. And in Kansas , a cash shortage  forced the state to postpone half of its regular school payments last week. Schools in several states have resorted to using rainy day funds to make up the shortfall.

VACANCY WANTED: California 's new governor, Jerry Brown, says he won't appoint a secretary of education, according to the San Francisco Chronicle . Brown says there's no need for another layer of educational bureaucracy since the state already has an elected state superintendent and an 11-member board of education appointed by the governor. Brown also did not appoint a secretary during his earlier stint as governor.

OUT OF ALIGNMENT: Finally, the Center on Education Policy is revisiting Common Core standards, one of the hottest education stories of 2010. In a report released Thursday, the group found that most of the states that have adopted the new standards are not tying them to higher education admission requirements. In a survey conducted in October and November, the center found that only seven states plan to align first-year college courses with the K-12 Common Core standards. So far, 40 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core, which seek to standardize what students are expected to know across states. The new standards were designed to help students graduate from high school ready to tackle higher education or the workforce.

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