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Enough with the critics

The Indiana Select Commission on Education allotted more time to education reformers at its hearing Tuesday, but the reception was anything but friendly.

"If your organization is going to be nothing but another critic – we don't need that," Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, told a representative for Stand for Children, a corporate-reform booster. "What we need is an organization to help identify needs and offer help."

But it wasn't just the Democratic panel members pushing back. Indianapolis Republican Cindy Noe sounded a theme that's gathering steam among the two GOP caucuses.

"We have done significant and profound education reform in Indiana," she said. "Would it be good to take a breather? Incubate those reforms that have been made?"

Committee members listened politely as the young reps for Stand for Children, Teach for America and Rocketship Education described their work, but there seemed to be a growing impatience in the lawmakers' response.

And why not? Why should elected Indiana officials – many of them from communities outside Indianapolis – continue to be lectured by 20- and 30-something professionals with a handful of years of experience in education? Their insistence that Indiana's schools must change and that they know best how to change them is backed by limited, anecdotal evidence in isolated classrooms or schools. None have a broad knowledge of public education in Indiana – including its many suburban and rural districts. And not a single one has replicated success on a statewide scale, as they seem intent on trying in Indiana. Their talking points come from Ivy League-schooled education entrepreneurs or Gates-funded foundations.

The key education players in the General Assembly continue to buy into the corporate-reform talking points, but the rank-and-file members are clearly growing restless.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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