Indiana Legislature Approves Sweeping School Voucher Bill

SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Indiana lawmakers sent Governor Mitch Daniels a gift Wednesday in the form of the nation's most expansive school voucher bill, the Indianapolis Star reports. Vouchers have been a top Daniels priority this year, and his victory on this issue could give him some momentum as he ponders whether to run for president in 2012. While most voucher programs in other states are aimed at low-income students or those with disabilities, Indiana's plan would make it possible for middle-class students in well-performing public schools to apply state funds towards private or parochial educaton. Democrats generally oppose the scheme, arguing that it will take money away from public schools. The voucher bill was held up for five weeks this session when Democrats fled to Illinois in an effort to block it, along with other Republican legislative proposals.

PRE-K CUTS: Georgia is getting ready to reduce the number of pre-kindergarten classes it offers, loading more students into the remaining classrooms and cutting teachers' salaries, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution . The reduction is expected to save $54 million, although it will preserve the program, which is funded largely through lottery revenues. Georgia was once considered a leader in pre-K programs but a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research last week found that the state had fallen to 20th place in money spent per pupil. Georgia's Pre-K system is serving about 83,000 children this year, roughly half the four-year-olds in the state. Another 10,000 children are on waiting lists. 

COLLEGE APPLICATIONS: An Oregon lawmaker is pushing a bill to require high school seniors to apply to college, sign up for the military or attend a work-training orientation session in order to graduate. Representative  Tobias Read, a Democrat, says the measure is intended to make students think about their future in a way that won't cost the state much money, according to The Oregonian . The bill cleared the House 26 to 22. Its critics, many of them Democrats, said making students apply for college won't do any good if they get rejected. According to the bill, enforcement of the new measure would be left up to school districts.

NEW COURSE MATERIALS: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working with a foundation tied to education publisher Pearson to create online courses in English and math for states to adopt. The courses will be aligned with the Common Core standards that roughly 40 states have already approved in an effort to create consistency across state lines in what's expected of students. The Gates Foundation has been an enthusiastic supporter of the new standards and Bill Gates has pushed for more online courses. According to The New York Times , the partnership is the most ambitious effort so far to put together course materials that mesh with the new standards.

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