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Fiscal Forecast Expected To Shape Ind. Reform Proposals

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A forecast of Indiana's fiscal prospects to be released this month is expected to play a key role in shaping major school-reform proposals for consideration by the legislature next year.

Both Gov. Evan Bayh and Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans have been working this fall on wide-ranging education programs to be submitted to lawmakers.

At a time when many states are holding the line on school reform in the face of severe budgetary restraints, Indiana may be one of the few to promote major education initiatives in 1991.

But uncertainty over the state's budget picture has led Mr. Bayh to hold off making public his program until a panel of economists releases its fiscal report.3

Revenue figures for November placing the state budget about $100 million shy of projections for this year are "discouraging" and could temper Mr. Bayh's plans, according to his press secretary, Fred J. Nation.

But Mr. Nation and others pointed to the overall strength of the state's economy and noted that Mr. Bayh, as a member of a panel of governors, White House staff, and members of the Congress monitoring progess on the national education goals, has Lplaced a high priority on reform.

The state board of education, meanwhile, decided late last month to postpone consideration of an education-reform package backed by Mr. Evans while awaiting the Governor's proposals.3

The delay has highlighted the tensions involved in forging consensus between a Democratic Governor and a Republican school superintendent, who have alternated between conflict and cooperation ever since Mr. Bayh took office in 1989.

The board is chaired by Mr. Evans, who was elected on his own, but its members were chosen by Mr. Bayh. Initiatives to expand early-childood education and prepare students to "meet the challenges" of a changing workplace are expected to receive "considerable attention" in the Governor's legislative plan, Mr. Nation said. Mr. Bayh also has pushed bolstering teacher education, classroom technology, school restructuring, and programs for at-risk pupils.

Mr. Evans has been promoting a series of recommendations developed by the state education department with input from various task forces, public forums, and the state board.

Mr. Evans's main priorities for re form, according to Robin W. Fritz, ex-affairs specialist for the department, include revising the school-funding formula to distribute state aid more equitably, identifying and improving the assessment of "es sential skills," extending a cash-awards program currently for schools that show improvement to also in clude those deemed excellent, and ex panding early-childhood education and programs for "latchkey" children.

Although spokesmen for the su perintendent and the Governor have voiced confidence that there is much "common ground" between them and that a plan endorsed by both will emerge, the two men have traversed different routes to develop their agendas.

Mr. Evans convened several task forces to study reforms, for example, while Mr. Bayh has worked with consultants in crafting his plan.

Tensions heightened last month when Mr. Evans voiced dismay that he was excluded from some educa tion briefings the Governor's staff held with state-board members.

"The Governor has an entire de partment here of experts--I would think he would want to rely on some of their expertise," Ms. Fritz said David Dawson, Mr. Bayh's deputy press secretary, said the briefings were requested by board members seeking the Governor's input on re, forms and were not intended to by pass the superintendent.

"In retrospect, I don't think there would have been any harm in includ ing the superintendent," he said. But he added that the Governor's office has kept in "constant communication" with the education department and that members of the two staffs re cently met to discuss reforms.

Mr. Evans is concerned that the delay in releasing the Governor's agenda will not leave enough time to prepare and build support for a joint proposal, Ms. Fritz said.

But, while there is "a lot of support" for Mr. Evans's proposals, many state-board members "felt it would be inappropriate to adopt a legislative posture without having seen the leg islative program the Governor had put together with his consultants," said David Dixon, a member of the panel and the superintendent of the Hammond city schools.

"We feel what we need to do is put together a program taking the best of both," he said.

Mr. Dixon and others noted that despite initial disagreements between Mr. Bayh and Mr. Evans, the two leaders eventually steered a joint reform plan through the legis lature's 1990 session. (See Educa tion Week, March 21, 1990.)

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