It was hardly a surprise that Indiana took home the Education Reform Idol trophy today. Pundits from across the ideological spectrum have lauded the Hoosier State for its comprehensive reforms enacted this spring?including a best-in-the-nation teacher bill, an expansive private school choice program, and a serious effort at collective bargaining and benefits reform.
But why 2011? Mitch Daniels has been in office since 2005; Tony Bennett since 2009. While they haven't been twiddling their thumbs (last year, Bennett enacted new regulations revamping teacher professional development, for instance), legislators didn't get religion on reform until now. How come?
The answer is obvious: The 2010 elections, which gave Indiana Republicans control of the House and a super-majority in the Senate. The same thing happened in Ohio, where the House and governor's office both switched from blue to red. Big GOP victories in Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and other states led to similar dynamics. Though it's not an ironclad law, it's still generally true that when Republicans take power, reforms take flight.
This point might be obvious, but it bears repeating, because so much of the energy within the reform movement today is about moving Democratic legislators toward more reform-friendly positions. That's certainly worthwhile, and the work of groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children deserve support and encouragement. But let's not be na?ve: Getting rank and file Dems to...