Indiana House Approves Governor's 'Project Excel'

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The Indiana House has approved a package of education initiatives proposed by the state's Democratic governor, while defeating several school reforms backed by the Republican state school superintendent.

The House endorsed the $31-million "Project Excel" program of Gov. Evan Bayh, which would add funding for an existing state program for ''at-risk" students, authorize a 13-member "professional-standards board" with seven members as teachers, and establish various grant and scholarship programs. (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1989)

An amendment added on the House floor would permit teachers with 30 years of service to retire with full benefits as early as age 55.

In addition, the House passed a bill that would allow districts to use two days of the 180-day school year for parent-teacher conferences. It also would allow districts to count additional time for exams, inservice training, and inclement weather toward the required number of days of instruction.

The measure represented a setback for Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans, a key architect of the "A+ Program," the 1987 education-reform law that extended the school year by five days.

The House also altered a $10-million "performance awards" program Mr. Evans had sought for districts with high attendance rates and test scores. It combined that proposal with Mr. Bayh's "challenge-incentive grant" program, which is intended to help districts launch innovative education, parent-involvment, and after-school programs.

A measure that would limit the number of schools receiving funds under Project PrimeTime, a component of the A+ Program that provides grants to districts to reduce class sizes in the early grades, was also approved.

Under the bill, school districts would be rewarded for the number of classrooms within a grade level that meet the specified class-size limits. The current law allows districts to receive funds for all classrooms in a grade if the average class size meets the state rules.

The House also approved a proposal that would give districts more discretion to determine whether students who score below the 16th percentile on statewide standardized tests should be required to attend summer school. Mr. Evans has proposed toughening the testing criteria to permit more students to qualify for remediation.

"The state board of education did not fare very well in the House of Representatives," said Mr. Evans's spokesman, Joseph DiLaura.

Mr. DiLaura added, however, that Mr. Evans and the board "will be looking to restore many of the programs" backed by the superintendent in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.--dc

Vol. 08, Issue 26

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