Gov. Mitch Daniels' educational reform accomplishments during his second term as governor are not unlike those in the second term of former Gov. Robert Orr of Evansville in terms of dramatic effect.

Each of the Republican governors engineered radical changes to K-12 education. Each believed that Indiana needed to break the mold if public education was to truly help Hoosier children become world competitors.

With Orr, it's not exactly clear how much students were helped; with Daniels, it will be some time.

Daniels absolutely shattered the mold this year, achieving approval of the nation's broadest private school voucher program, a greatly expanded charter school program and merit pay for public school teachers.

Very likely, Indiana now becomes a model for other states not quite ready to jump with both feet into school reform. Of course, Daniels had the support of an overwhelming Republican majority in both houses of the Indiana Legislature and the support of Tony Bennett, a state superintendent of public instruction committed to change.

Orr was lieutenant governor for two terms and then governor for two terms, ending in 1989.

He also had the support of a strong, progressive education chief, H. Dean Evans, who helped write much of Orr's school program.

It wasn't until Orr's second term that he cashed in his political chips and pushed ahead with his A-plus educational reform program.

Orr thought it was important that Indiana schools be accountable for the students they educate, so he created a statewide standardized test known today as ISTEP. In addition, today's accountability process for overall schools started under Orr.

A world traveler and a one-time ambassador to Singapore, Orr thought Indiana children were not in the classroom long enough compared to children in other countries. He fought for years to extend the number of classroom days from 175 to 185 a year. Alas, the most he could get was 180 days, the current level.

Perhaps Orr's toughest sell with the legislature was something we doubt Daniels would attempt. In a very un-Republican-like move, Orr convinced the legislature to approve a series of tax increases to pay for his school programs, which included summer school and tutoring help for children who showed from ISTEP results that they needed the extra help.

Daniels encountered resistance from minority House Democrats, especially those who fled Indiana for five weeks in Illinois, but he had the votes all along once the Democrats returned and gave the Republicans a quorum.

Daniels voucher bill is initially geared to lower-income children. The first year up to 4,500 children from lower-income families could qualify for vouchers to attend private schools. The cap is 15,000 children the second year, with no cap the third year and beyond. It is a dramatic development, giving lower-income parents the opportunity to send their children to private schools.

As for the charter school bill, currently only school boards, public universities and the mayor of Indianapolis can authorize new charter schools, which are public schools that do not have to adhere to all the rules that govern traditional schools. Under the new legislation, more organizations are authorized to create charter schools.

Orr's programs were created more than 20 years ago, and it remains unclear today just how his accountability measures improved education. However, few would argue with the premise that accountability is a key part of any evaluation system.

We might add that Orr's creations led to that infamous phrase, "teaching the test."

Meanwhile, it will be some years before any beneficial results of Daniels' creations — vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay — become clear. Daniels will have moved on, but he will have left behind a number of smart tools. It will be up to others to decide how they are used.

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