Inexplicable Endorsement

I’m stunned.

The Indiana State Teachers’ Association has had an uncomfortable relationship with efforts to reform education. ISTA’s purpose, after all, is to represent the interests of public school teachers, and in a time when many public schools are not performing, even teachers disagree about what their interests are and where the Association’s efforts should be directed. So I understand why ISTA might decide not to endorse State Representative Mary Ann Sullivan, who is running for the State Senate this year, even though it endorsed her in earlier campaigns. Mary Ann has been a passionate and articulate advocate for education reform, and some of those reforms aren’t consistent with ISTA positions.

But rather than staying out of the race entirely–which would have been understandable–ISTA has endorsed Brent Waltz, the incumbent. And that makes no sense at all.

Waltz is a far-right Republican who defeated Larry Borst–the long-time “Dean” of the Senate and moderate Republican whose budgetary expertise was legendary–in a culture-war primary campaign. Waltz came at Borst from the Right and emphasized his anti-abortion and anti-gay positions–positions antithetical to ISTA’s.

When I heard about the endorsement, I thought perhaps Waltz’s tenure had modified or educated him, or that he had taken some position that would explain an otherwise inexplicable decision to support him, so I did some research.

Here’s what I found:

  • TV 6 reported that Waltz was the director of a company called Indianapolis Diversified Machinery; when it closed, employees discovered that the company had failed to pay into the state’s unemployment insurance fund. Terminated employes who needed unemployment were just out of luck–and were also unable to collect several weeks of back pay. (Interestingly, as TV 6 pointed out, Waltz had voted against measures to “fix” problems in Indiana’s Unemployment Insurance program. Guess he didn’t see the point of fixing something he was ignoring anyway.)
  • Waltz co-authored Indiana’s version of “stand your ground” legislation. The bill authorized the use of force against public servants.
  • Waltz supported a constitutional amendment to entirely¬†repeal residential property taxes. Aside from the fact that tax measures do not belong in the state’s constitution (as we are already seeing with the disaster that is the tax caps), and aside from the equal protection and economic issues involved in shifting the entire tax burden to businesses, residential property tax payers are the largest source of funding for our public schools.
  • Unlike Sullivan, Waltz supports vouchers–not just charter schools, which are public schools, but the use of tax dollars to send “children of all income brackets” to private schools.

I can understand why ISTA might disagree with some of the reforms championed by Mary Ann Sullivan. I can understand why parochial considerations might lead them to stay out of this race.

I don’t understand why ISTA would endorse a culture warrior who supports measures that would be disastrous to public education if enacted. That one is beyond my comprehension.


  1. I’ve admired Ms. Sullivan determination to put education reform before party lockstep or union intimidation. I wish both parties had more like her.

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