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Crowds Weigh-In On State School Superintendent's Bid

Last updated on Tuesday, November 3, 2009

(UNDATED) - State School Superintendent Tony Bennett’s bid to make it easier for non-educators to get jobs as teachers or administrators has drawn an overflow crowd of people eager to weigh in.

The state's Professional Standards Board meets November 18th to discuss whether business experience or expertise in a specific subject should be enough to offset the lack of an education degree.

Speakers at a two-hour public-comment session at the Indiana State Library split about evenly pro and con, but an audience of about 200 gave loud and prolonged ovations to skeptics, like Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents Executive Director John Ellis.

Other opponents accused the board of having already made up its mind, and charged Bennett is trying to ram the plan through without consulting with the state's schools of education or other stakeholders.

Supporters argue local school boards can and should judge for themselves whether an applicant is qualified to handle a class or run a school district.

They argue existing rules could prevent a Lilly scientist from teaching chemistry, and would even bar president Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, from seeking a superintendent's job because of his lack of an education degree.

The hearing is the last of three on the issue before the board considers whether to accept, modify or put off the changes.

Hearings were held in Rochester and Scottsburg last week.

The board could vote on the proposed changes at this month's meeting, but a Bennett spokesman says it's more likely to tweak the draft at that session and then vote at a later meeting.

Bennett's office is hoping for approval before the end of the year.

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