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I just finished a conversation with Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma on the state’s nation-leading set of school reforms Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law in early May. The interview will be online in about a week (listen and subscribe in iTunes here), but until then, here’s a preview of Bosma’s remarks concerning lessons he’s learned from the historic state session.
As background, do remember that Indiana House Democrats fled the state to prevent these school reforms and labor-related legislation from moving forward in the Republican-controlled statehouse. They were gone for five weeks at a hotel in Illinois, refusing to return the House to quorum until Bosma and Republican leaders met their demands on curtailing or eliminating these bills entirely.
Instead, they returned a bit ashamedly to modify the legislation a bit before nearly the entire package passed and set Indiana at the forefront of education reform. The bills “created the largest voucher program in the nation, expanded charter school authorization, tied teacher pay and retention to a new evaluation system, limited collective bargaining to wages and benefits, and allowed high school seniors to receive a voucher for college tuition if they graduate a year early.”
Here are Bosma’s top four recommendations for reformers and legislators.
1. “Make sure you have a group of tough minded reformers willing to stand up in nearly insurmountable circumstances for reform.” The Speaker discussed training candidates and new legislators in market-oriented education reform, and taking a decade himself to reorient his caucus.
2. “Close communication and working with our senate colleagues. In 2005, our Senate leadership was not likeminded. Now if we were willing to stick our neck out, they were too.”
3. “Lots of well-thought-out plans, lots of data and information, and the willingness to go out in the public and sell it.” Bosma conducted 12 public forums around the state to discuss education reform with Hoosiers, and cultivated that same ability to explain the data within his colleagues and caucus freshmen.
4. “Be steadfast even in the face of strong opposition… You have to have leaders passionate about change [and] willing to stake their futures on it, because the forces that oppose these ideas are strong, and you have to be willing to stand and do what is right and let the politics shake out for itself.”
Image by Alan Levine.