power players

Who’s who in Indiana education: Rep. Bob Behning

PHOTO: Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican representing District 91, covering parts of Marion and Hendricks counties. So far, has served 25 years in the legislature. Formerly the owner of a local florist, Behning now is the director of external affairs for the educators college at the private Marian University.

What makes him a power player: Behning is easily recognized as one of the most high-profile choice-based education reform advocates in the Indiana General Assembly.

In his six years as chairman of the House Education Committee, he has helped push through many of the sweeping reforms that have allowed charter schools and the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher system to proliferate, making Indiana a leader in the nation.

A career cornerstone: In 2011, Behning authored the bill that established the state’s voucher program, one of a large collection of bills that included expanding charter schools and other reform measures supported by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels and then-state superintendent Tony Bennett. The changes modified much of the state’s existing education policy, including teacher pay, testing and accountability. At the time, Behning was also a supporter of the now-controversial Common Core standards.

Since then, Behning has authored or supported legislation promoting early childhood education, charter schools, innovation schools and teachers evaluations. Recently, he has championed the bills that repealed, and now, could replace, the state’s ISTEP exam.

On school choice: Behning has held leadership positions with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative not-for-profit lobby group that pairs legislators and business owners together to write model legislation. ALEC’s education legislation tends to advocate for vouchers, charter schools and other methods of school choice. Because Behning has worked closely with ALEC, as well as other school reform groups, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education gave Behning an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card highlighting who it thinks has been supportive of public schools.

Behning has supported the new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, particularly because of her advocacy for increasing access to charter schools and vouchers.

Who supports him: Over the course of the past few elections, Behning has received campaign contributions from Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers; Stand for Children, a national organization that supports education reform and helps parents to organize; Students First, another pro-reform lobbying group created by former head of D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee; Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country; and Bennett’s campaign.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Also check out our list of bills to watch this year.

Who's who in Indiana education

Who’s who in Indiana education: Sen. Ryan Mishler

PHOTO: Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican senator representing District 9, covering parts of Elkhart, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, for 14 years. President of Mishler Funeral Homes and Bremen Monument Company.

What makes him a power player: Mishler replaced long-serving Sen. Luke Kenley as the head of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, making him one of two main budget-writers in the General Assembly. In addition to helping put together the state budget, which includes money for schools, Mishler’s committee also considers bills that could have a financial impact on the state.

Before he took center stage: Mishler was involved with education legislation, mostly through his close relationship with Kenley, even before he took the helm of the appropriations committee. Mishler was a co-author on one of the first bills urging lawmakers to scrap the state ISTEP test, and also played roles in past years’ school funding bills.

Here and now: This year, Mishler is making a big push for the state to rectify its school funding gap, a result of higher-than-expected public school enrollment.

Who supports him: In recent years, Mishler has received campaign contributions from Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education, assessing legislators’ support for public schools, gave Mishler an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Also check out our list of education issues to watch this year.

education power players

Who’s who in Indiana education: Rep. Tim Brown

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos and Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican representing District 41, covering parts of Montgomery, Boone, and Tippecanoe counties. So far, has served 23 years in the House of Representatives. Brown had a career as an emergency room doctor in Crawfordsville, retiring in 2015.

Why he’s a power player: Brown is chairman of the influential House Ways & Means Committee, one of the main budget-writing bodies in the Indiana General Assembly. In addition to helping craft the state budget, which includes money for schools, Brown’s committee also considers bills that could have a financial impact on the state. Any proposal involving money — including testing, school choice and preschool — has to pass muster with him. In recent years, Brown has supported funding increases for students with special needs and virtual charter schools.

Money follows the child: Brown has pushed for changes over the years to how Indiana funds schools, favoring plans aimed at equalizing the base funding allocated for students across districts. Historically, the state had padded the budgets of districts that were losing large numbers of students — helping them adjust but leading to disparities between schools across the state.

Brown finally achieved his goal of having the same basic aid for each district in 2015. Enrollment is now the driving factor in how much money schools get, as opposed to where they are located or what kinds of students attend.

On school choice: Brown served on the House Education Committee in 2011, the year the legislature passed a number of major education reform measures dealing with charter schools, teacher evaluation and vouchers. Since then, Brown has continued to support school choice options, working on bills about “education savings accounts” and other choice programs that would let students take individual classes outside their public schools.

Who supports him: Brown has received campaign contributions from Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country; and Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers.

Given his support for choice-based reform, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education gave Brown an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card highlighting who it thinks has been supportive of public schools.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Also check out our list of bills to watch this year and where they were halfway through the session.