Indiana News

Next Education Reform Debate: State-Funded Preschool

Bennett endorses concept but warns state lacks the money to fund it

11/14/2011

Indiana's next round of education reform may center on the most fundamental question of all: how much the state should spend.

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At the University of Indianapolis's annual education forum, members of an opening panel unanimously endorsed state-funded preschool -- but state school superintendent Tony Bennett cautioned applauding audience members to curb their enthusiasm. He says preschool needs to be part of an overall reform of Indiana schools, not just an add-on. And he says in a still-struggling economy, "we're fooling ourselves" to assume there's enough money to pay for it.

Bennett repeated his call for schools to look for efficiencies outside the classroom. Fort Wayne Superintendent Wendy Robinson responds her district has slashed $15 million already -- she warns there's a limit to how far belts can be tightened.

And while Bennett hails this year's passage of merit pay for teachers as a way to reward the best in the profession, Indiana State Teachers Association president Nate Schnellenberger complains those budget concerns make it impossible to tell whether the bonuses will be big enough to be a true incentive.

The two-day UIndy conference concludes Tuesday.

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