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:
- Under the House budget plan, suburban districts would get more money while some urban districts would get less
- Schools would have more control over their money under GOP plan, but it’s unclear whether students would benefit
- Indiana could see a push to stash state money in school choice ‘savings accounts’
- Wealthiest schools thrive under new state budget while poor ones mostly get less
- Poor districts still losing aid as state budget nears completion
- State budget chiefs still pushing to dump ISTEP
- State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools
- Funding panel discusses fairness, adequacy of resources to Indiana schools
- Pence’s 2015 education plans on funding, flexibility raise questions