In a quick-paced address to the American Enterprise Institute today, Mitch Daniels showcased his wonk side and talked about the educational reforms he had succeeded in passing during Indiana’s just completed legislative session.
Daniels tried to downplay the talk, joking that “some pajama-clad blogger turned it into a major policy address.” But it was clear that if he runs for president, he can now point to an impressive education reform record.
“We believe that we have done some things that will make a profound difference in the lives of children in the state,” Daniels said.
His reforms include vouchers for low-income and lower middle class students; tying teacher pay and retention to classroom results; limiting teachers’ collective bargaining to wages and benefits (which means they can’t bargain on matters such as class size or whether teacher evaluations can exist); and making it easier for charter schools to start and expand.
With most of his talk centered on Indiana, there was little discussion of federal education policy. Daniels praised President Obama and secretary of education Arne Duncan for showing a “lot of leadership” on education in the Q & A after the talk, but added that he would have pushed things father. He said that he supports national education standards, and viewed the Department of Education as too large. “It’s like the rest of the federal budget, it’s ballooned up so much in the past two or three years,” Daniels said, suggesting that the education budget could be cut.
Daniels also spoke a little about the difficulties of passing such controversial reform. While he didn’t directly talk about the Indiana legislators fleeing the state for nearly six weeks, he did note how intense the pressure had been to abandon the reforms. Students, for instance, were given homework assignments of writing to Daniels in protest of his proposed reforms. And the rhetoric didn’t spare Daniels: “I was never a watcher of [Star Wars], but I’m told that Darth Vader’s really not that bad a guy compared to me,” the governor joked.