The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Election 2012

October 26, 2012

House candidates talk education

Schools the key topic for Anderson-area lawmakers at debate

ANDERSON, Ind. — Candidates for state representative whose districts will include all or part of Madison County spent more time talking about public education than any other issue at a forum Thursday night.

With good reason.

Education reforms enacted in 2011, school vouchers, school choice, the value and effectiveness of standardized tests, school funding formulas and teacher evaluations are all the stuff of hard conversations in the state legislature.

And candidates for state representative in Districts 35 and 36 attempted to address them all at a forum sponsored by The Herald Bulletin and Madison County League of Women voters.

Republican state Rep. Jack Lutz, a product of Anderson schools, praised the school corporation for making great strides to improve student success over the past couple of years.

He said he supports the idea that parents and students should have a choice of what schools to attend. And he said he supported a new school funding formula in which money “follows the students.”

He said he supports current standardized tests, although he realizes they’re not perfect, and supports the need for teacher evaluations that stress accountability.

His challenger, Daleville educator Melanie Wright, had a different take on some of those issues.

She said school choice coupled with the funding formula is problematic because if a child changes school after attendance is certified, the money stays with the first school.

Wright said that she, too, believes in accountability, but said current testing methods focus on assessment, which has the effect of taking creativity out of the classroom.

She also supports effective teacher evaluations, but said the current methods used have what she called “massive errors.”

Democrat state Rep. Terri Austin said that Indiana is headed in the right direction and that she “strongly supports public school choices,” but she expressed concern that some school districts are picking and choosing the student they will accept from neighboring districts.

She also agreed that standardized tests are important and that Indiana has been a leader in developing effective tests, but as reforms have taken hold, the tests haven’t changed to reflect the new expectations.

Austin’s challenger, Republican Jim Lycan, said he believes Indiana is headed in the right direction.

He believes school vouchers, charter schools, tests and teacher evaluations and accountability have created a competitive environment that has been good for education.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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