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Mitch Daniels: Pro-National Standards, Anti-More Money

By Michele McNeil — May 04, 2011 2 min read
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If Mitch Daniels decides to run for president, his recent legislative victories on education as the Republican governor of Indiana foreshadow what his national K-12 agenda would be.

Private-school vouchers and public school choice. Limits on collective bargaining for teachers. An emphasis on content over pedagogy for teachers. An expansion of charter schools. Teachers evaluated, in part, on test scores.

In fact, aside from vouchers, this agenda looks very much like the Obama administration’s. And in a closely watched speech today at the American Enterprise Institute, where folks were looking for a hint into Gov. Daniels’ presidential aspirations, he acknowledged as much.

President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he said, “have had the courage to, in many cases, irritate some of their allies.” He went so far as to “salute” and “commend” them on most of their education agenda.

As for what a President Daniels administration would look like, at least on the education side of things, he said he supports a more modest role for the federal government, and a tighter rein on education spending. “There’s a lot more of it than we need,” he said of the federal education bureaucracy.

However, he said he supports “national standards,” and using the Education Department to help share best practices. And this very thrifty governor and former OMB director under President George W. Bush said he even supported the $4 billion Race to the Top, but only as a one-time endeavor to “try to jar the system into motion.” He viewed the idea of Race to the Top as “not bad.”

But he also said, “there’s been an incredible explosion of spending. We don’t need all of that.”

Interestingly, Gov. Daniels didn’t seem to support that much of a role for the federal government in education research and development, which has been a priority for the Obama administration. “We think we know enough to make big, big improvements,” in Indiana, he said.

Whatever his education agenda, it seems fair to speculate that education wouldn’t necessarily be the centerpiece of a Daniels administration. It goes without saying that Daniels—whose gubernatorial campaign and early first term I covered while a reporter in Indiana—is all about getting the country’s fiscal house in order, at least at first.

But his speech today offers a glimspe into what’s in store for us in the education blogsphere should he decide to run.

And on a side note, consider this the Politics K-12 election 2012 kickoff. Let the campaign blogging begin.

Photo: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, left, is applauded by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and others after signing legislation that ties teacher pay and promotion to student performance. (AJ Mast/AP)

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