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A Voucher Victory in Indiana, a Lawsuit in Idaho

Indiana lawmakers have approved what may be the nation's most ambitious voucher program, one that will allow middle-income families to access taxpayer funds for private school tuition.

The measure was approved by the Indiana House on Wedesday by a 55-43 vote, and it will now go to the desk of Gov. Mitch Daniels, who supports it. In addition, Indiana lawmakers approved a separate measure to promote charter school expansion in the state. Earlier this month, they gave their blessing to yet another proposal, to judge teachers and school administators based on performance, including their ability to raise student test scores. (See my previous coverage of the Indiana voucher measure, and the wave of voucher proposals coming out of GOP-dominated legislatures this year.)

Political junkies are looking at those proposals and wondering if they'll serve as the education platform for presidential-candidate-Daniels, should he make a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination, as some GOP loyalists are hoping.

Whether that platform would be to Daniels' advantage is anyone's guess. President Obama has supported charters and merit pay, occasionally rankling teachers' unions in doing so. The clearest divide between them on school policy would seem to focus on private school vouchers, which Obama's administration has opposed, yet which have traditionally been a staple of the GOP agenda.

So fast-forward to debate night, 2012...Mitch Daniels is on stage, arguing that he has dramatically expanded choices for middle school families and allowed them to use their share of public money however they see fit. Obama, in theory, responds by calling into question why taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for middle-class families' private school tuition.

Meanwhile, in another state that has had a busy legislative season, Idaho, a new law that reduces teachers' collective bargaining rights is facing a lawsuit. The Idaho Education Association, a teachers' union that fought the measure, is suing to block the measure, claiming it's unconstitutional.

The union says the law violates existing contracts, and that it runs afoul of the law by rolling several subjects into the same bill. So tell me, all ye scholars of Idaho's constitution: does the union have a case?

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