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Ed reform's lame ducks

An election loss hasn't grounded high-flying state Superintendent Tony Bennett. He's off to Washington next week to serve as a panelist at Jeb Bush's annual Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform. Bennett attended the same conference in San Francisco last year, along with at least nine members of his staff. Tracking the expenses and who traveled there wasn't easy – the Indiana Department of Education was hardly forthcoming with information. The same trip included a campaign fundraiser for Bennett, hosted by Bush.

At next week's conference, Bennett is on a "strategy session" panel, "How to Prepare for Common Core Assessments." He is on the governing board for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC), the state-led panel overseeing development of the Common Core national test.

Next week's conference is a who's who of education privatization supporters, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whose association with the overwhelmingly Republican reformers somehow escapes the attention of the White House.

The keynote speaker on Wednesday is Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose own education record took a beating with Bennett's defeat. Coincidentally, that's the same day the school voucher lawsuit goes before the Indiana Supreme Court.

Both Daniels and Bennett were likely scheduled to participate before the Nov. 6 election. Their presence might serve best as a cautionary tale for politicians intent on pushing vouchers, virtual education and more over the objections of constituents. What happened here was without a doubt a referendum on their education agenda.

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