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To attend
Edwin J. Rousseau Centre dedication: 11 a.m. today, One Main St.
Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission public hearing: 6 p.m. today, Grand Wayne Center
Select Commission on Education: 2 p.m. Tuesday, House chamber, Indiana Statehouse
File photos
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, seen speaking to teachers in Fort Wayne, will address legislators on Tuesday on the state of Indiana’s education reforms.
The week ahead

Bennett’s pre-emptive support


Will state Superintendent Tony Bennett be raked over the coals when he appears before a panel of Indiana lawmakers Tuesday? His education “reform” partners far from Indiana think so, and they are rallying support for his agenda.

Patricia Levesque, a lobbyist and top adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, put out a call for letters backing Bennett’s policies to be sent to members of the Select Commission on Education.

“Tony Bennett, Indiana’s incredible reform-minded leader in education is getting a lot of ‘friendly fire’ pushback on Indiana’s education reforms,” Levesque wrote in an email to school choice supporters. “While the public message is that this Select Commission is to get an update on the state of the reform policies and the implementation process, behind the scenes we have learned that the legislature will likely rake Tony over the coals.”

She goes on to describe an interesting wrinkle in Indiana’s school-reform environment: The same lawmakers who dismissed concerns about unfair accountability requirements voiced by traditional public schools now are hearing the same complaints from their charter-school allies.

The state’s new grading system, for example, brands 22 percent of Indiana’s public schools with a grade of D or F. A good portion of the state’s charter schools – hailed as innovative and effective – fall in those categories, prompting an outcry from a segment that previously supported all Bennett’s agenda.

“Would you take a moment to email the commission members? The message should be focused on policy, not the person of Tony Bennett,” Levesque writes. “They must stay the course. Indiana’s students need them to; other states who want to follow Indiana’s lead need them to.”

The targets of her email campaign are members of the House and Senate education committees, including Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn; Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City; and Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City. Don’t look for any major policy change from the Republican-controlled panel that approved the laws now being implemented by Bennett’s staff, but the lawmakers should be aware of where the out-of-state support originates. Levesque is executive director of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group that paid for several of the dozen-plus trips Bennett took last year to promote vouchers, charter schools, merit pay and limits on collective bargaining.

Tuesday’s commission meeting is the first of at least five sessions.

New name for building

County officials will have a dedication ceremony today to christen the former City-County Building with a new name: The Edwin J. Rousseau Center in honor of the late county commissioner.

The county commissioners and Mayor Tom Henry will attend, and members of Rousseau’s family will unveil a plaque honoring him. Rousseau’s public service spanned 40 years and included terms as a city councilman and county councilman as well as commissioner.

The new name comes as renovations near completion at the building, which now houses city police and other public safety agencies as well as the county assessor, auditor, recorder and veterans’ services offices.

I&M public hearing

Area residents can comment on Indiana & Michigan Power’s proposed 22 percent rate increase in a public hearing today before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor will hold an informational session about the regulatory process a half hour before the beginning of the hearing.