The Appalling Indiana Statehouse…

After a truly revolting episode in the Indiana Statehouse, a recent quote from Sacha Baron Cohen seems particularly apt. Cohen was quoted as saying “If you’re protesting against racism, you’re going to upset some racists.”

Which brings me to what transpired in Indiana’s Statehouse on Thursday.

During the House session on Thursday, a bill concerning school district boundaries that some are calling racist sparked an emotional and angry debate. Several legislators walked out of the chamber, GOP legislators in their seats booed and shouted “no” and “stop,” and some members even clashed in the halls after Black legislators spoke out against the bill. 

The confrontations broke out on a day when Black members were celebrating Black History Month by wearing traditional African garb. 

“We kind of felt like it kind of fed into how the members were acting,” said Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis. “I think having on the African garb and our members going up there stating how they felt about a bill, I think that just antagonized them even more.”

The bill would allow de-annexation of neighborhoods that are currently part of the South Bend Community School Corporation, which is mostly non-white, and move them to John Glenn School Corporation, which is mostly white. 

According to several media reports, the boos and jeers in the chamber were followed by confrontations in the hallways and the mens’ restroom. 

Among the lawmakers who got up and walked out was Jim Lucas, who has previously been sanctioned by the GOP Speaker of the House for sharing a racist meme. (Our daughter has told me that she sees Lucas’ Facebook page on occasion, and that it is an appalling collection of racist and conspiratorial commentary.) The chairwoman of the Black caucus has called for Lucas’s removal from several committees, pointing to his intransigence and hostility. She also called for the entire House to have bias training, noting that “his thinking and his behavior is enabled by the complacency of some of our colleagues.”

“Complacency” is a kind word for it. Thursday’s behavior certainly underscored her point.

Efforts of largely white school districts to break away from districts with significant numbers of  minority students, and to– not-so-incidentally– take their funding with them isn’t unique to Indiana. Both The Atlantic and The New York Times have reported on instances in Louisiana and Alabama in which white communities have tried to separate from minority communities.

“Laws in 30 states explicitly allow communities to form their own public-school systems, and since 2000, at least 71 communities across the country, most of them white and wealthy, have sought to break away from their public-school districts to form smaller, more exclusive ones,” The New York Times reported, citing a study by EdBuild.

Based on the United States Census, as of 2019, South Bend was 61.7% white while 48.5% identified as part of a minority group. 

Predictably, the author of the bill denied any racial intent, claiming the measure was based on concerns about transportation. If you believe that, I have some underwater real estate you may be interested in purchasing…but even giving him the benefit of the doubt, the unseemly reaction by many lawmakers to legitimate concerns voiced by their Black colleagues was the give-away. Booing, jeering and accosting lawmakers and witnesses who dare to raise an obvious issue is hardly the principled debate on the merits of a bill that taxpayers and voters have the right to expect.  

The bill passed the House with a vote of 53-42. Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats in opposition. It will now move to the Senate, where more optimistic Hoosiers can hope for more civil–and less revelatory–consideration. 

Episodes like this go a long way toward explaining the “brain drain” that keeps educated people from settling in the state. If I were thirty years younger, I wouldn’t stay in Indiana either. There’s a reason Indiana is called the buckle of the Bible Belt–or more colorfully, the middle finger of the South. 


  1. Trumpism gave the roaches full permission to crawl out from their hiding places. Their racism is now in full view and in full bloom. And they seem to be everywhere.
    So now we ….. ?

  2. Our schools are falling further behind, the funding has been cut for years. Our teachers are underpaid, what’s our legislative bodies solution. They are trying to outlaw the teachers Union ….

  3. Again, the state motto, “Honest To Goodness Indiana” needs to be changed to “WTF Indiana”. The only action to make that civil rights situation more obviously racist would be the Republicans wearing sheets and hoods.

    “The bill would allow de-annexation of neighborhoods that are currently part of the South Bend Community School Corporation, which is mostly non-white, and move them to John Glenn School Corporation, which is mostly white.”

    Can the above action be considered public education gerrymandering within a Republican gerrymandered district to return to segregation without using the word or naming the races affected by the bill?

    Indiana remains KKK at its center; semantics cover the meanings behind the bill but their lack of transparency is obvious to all who care to understand the obvious results.

  4. 61.7% + 48.5% = 110.2%. No wonder the Republicans are freaked out. They can’t do simple math.

    Nobody should be surprised by Republican racism. Just look at who their donors are. Since Republicans have no intention of governing, they are obliged to follow the fascist dictates of corporate/banking America, a white male bastion of bigotry.

    JoAnn: Love the spin on the motto. The answer to the “W” part is “member in fetid standing of Redneck Nation.” If it weren’t for Texas and Wisconsin, Indiana would look pretty the dumbest, most Republican ruined state legislature in the country.

  5. The part of the story not reported is that of the K-12 residents of Greene Township in St. Joe County, only 1/3 of them attend South Bend Community Schools. The rest all attend public schools in 2 surrounding districts (including John Glenn) as well as several charter and private schools in the area.  But today, South Bend Community School Corp gets 100% of the school revenue generated from the property taxes in Greene Township.

    This forms the next battle line between the people fighting to privatize Indiana public education and those, including me, who wish to retain the pre-existing model of public schools we’ve had since forever. I’m saddened to report that we are losing that battle and, yes, race is a big part of it. 

    I cannot recall its number but there is a bill being considered by the General Assembly that requires a school district to share a percentage of the incremental revenues from  special property-tax referendums conducted to help their districts obtain funds to make up for shortfalls that occur because the per-student tuition from the state is not keeping up with inflation.

    If the charter schools prevail it will not be the end of it. Sooner or later, the portion of ALL property tax revenue (50-60% of property tax bills) will be allocated the same way state and federal funding – backpacks full of cash. The term refers to the policy whereby the funding follows the student, and is not allocated based on where buildings happen to be. 

    At its most basic level this is not unfair. In fact, what IS unfair is that wealthy school districts like Southwest Allen County Schools (SACS) in Fort Wayne, enjoy a FAR greater revenue stream per student from property taxes than Fort Wayne Community Schools. That’s why SACS can afford a $200 MILLION project to renovate their single high school, which serves about 2,400 mostly white, middle to upper-class kids. This is a good example of systemic racism as I can think of, but that does NOT mean that SACS leaders and parents are racist! They’re doing what they feel is best for their students within the system they are given to work in. 

    The same applies to the Greene Township situation, where the parents of a minority of all K-12 kids in the township can get a bill passed in the General Assembly that allows them to move not only their kids but their property taxes from a racially diverse school district challenged with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged kids to a rural school district that is mostly all white and whose parents are is less economically challenged (but not necessarily wealthy either). This too is systemically racist for sure and it may even be a patently racist act. I think the conversation that needs to be had should make a clear distinction between the two.  

    But if property taxes become pooled together to be spread around like the basic per student tuition it may well be the tipping point that causes many more public schools and possibly entire districts to close or consolidate in Indiana (the latter not all bad an idea any for the states smaller districts).  And that is a clear objective of the architects and proponents of Indiana’s school choice powerful lobby. They KNOW there is an upper limit on what Hoosiers will spend on K-12 education and the more they can constrain starve traditional public schools to a performance disadvantage, the more self-fulfilling their vision becomes.  

    Dr. Michael Hicks of Ball State shared a tweet yesterday about Indiana K-12 funding. The link is below if you want to see the graphic he provided but I’ll repeat the text here: 

    “Revenue spent on these other programs (charters, vouchers and proposed education spending accounts) is a fraction of the total decline in K-12 spending in Indiana. If today we spent the same share of GDP on K-12 as we did in 2010, there’d be $1.5 billion (more) per year available for schools. Seems reasonable for a state ranked 38th in Education”. 

  6. Well played, Joanne!

    It must be comforting for those white people in South Bend to know they have a majority in Indy who will take their side in their racist efforts.

    Has Notre Dame’s football coach taken a stand against this racism? Hopefully, the local newspaper has reached out to him.

    Based on what I’ve witnessed from the Indiana Senate, I would expect the same racist support. As others have noted, the racist behavior exhibited is actually applauded by their constituents.

    The group looking to address systemic racism in Muncie/Delaware County has an education committee. They reached out to the county schools receiving a luke warm response. The two largest districts (90%+ white) did not even respond to them. I wonder why?

    I sent an FOIA request to the county school system, and roughly 250 students who live within city limits attend county schools. I could drill it down further to confirm my theory, but I went to school here, so I already know. Yorktown and Delta schools are over 90% white, and it’s a short drive from the city center to each district. Parents who don’t want their kids “mixing with the trouble-making black kids” drive their kids to Yorktown and Delta.

    It’s been this way a long time, but the growth of county schools and a second and third high school began in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. The first of the two high schools opened was named the Rebels and flew a confederate flag.

    We are proud racists.

  7. Sorry, Patrick, but Hicks is a Koch hack.

    He is only speaking out for the k-12 school systems because Ball State runs the city school system after it was stolen from the people without a fight. It was a designed coup.

    Neither he nor the local Oligarch-philanthropists raised a hand to assist the schools until they orchestrated the Republican-led coup. They stole prime land next to the football stadium. The taxpayers got the shaft. The CEO makes a cool $150K overseeing the school district.

  8. The bill I referred to above is HB1403, which says a public school district “may” (not “shall”) distribute a proportionate share of incremental revenue from a property-tax referendum with one or more charter schools located in the district. It has not made it out of committee, as they have been very busy promoting three other big education bills designed to expand the school choice (voucher) program, increase per student funding for charter schools and introduce an education spending account “debit-card” for parents to use to shop for education at the education store.

    Although “may” sounds like it’s voluntary it’s not really. This is because local charter school advocates might be able to gain enough signatures to keep the referendum off the ballot unless the district agrees to share the revenue – essentially holding it hostage.

  9. Before reading Patricks comments about how complicated the entire issue is, I was going to say if it looks racist, smells racist, and quacks with a racist bent, then it is most likely racists. But it also seems that Patrick said that Indiana is working hard to give parents the ability to vote with their feet, and if Parents can afford it, are going to shift their kids to richer non-poor, non-minority schools without ever changing any of the school system boundaries.

    I love the quote Shiela led with, and yes, it looks like the racists in the house chamber were upset. The worst part of it, is the house leadership and the rest of the Republicans in the chamber are enabling this kind of behavior because there appears to be no consequences to such abhorrent behavior.

  10. Todd, yes, I am well aware of Dr. Hick’s and who pays for much of his work but his observation is correct in this regard – if public school funding had kept up with inflation and/or GDP we wouldn’t be agonizing over charter schools and vouchers nearly as much as we are. I have no idea what his motive is nor do I care. The takeovers of public schools in Muncie and Gary were tragic. PW

  11. Evidently Republicans want to perpetuate racial bias in the next generation. Shame on them. If we are ever going to remove system racism from our country, it must start with the desegregation of schools. Red zoning must stop as well so that we live in neighborhoods reflecting the growing diversity of our country.

    From what I am reading about this bill, class is also playing a part in this racist bias as well.

    I think it would be beneficial to our country to require every graduating senior from high school, college to serve in something like the Peace Corps where they must encounter people of different races and culture. We could just send them to neighborhoods of poverty and Native American reservations. That might open their eyes.

  12. I agree, Robin.

    Now convince the parents in Carmel that their babies should serve people of different cultures. 😉

    Michael Hicks may be correct today, but he wasn’t remotely advocating to increase school funding when Ball State was strictly underwriting licenses for charter schools. He’s been a shill for hire his whole career. If only he’d talk about the racism occurring in his own backyard but I suspect the Republican board of trustees would admonish him for it.

  13. Please include Ohio arm and arm with interlocking state legislatures. Republicans hold SUPER MAJORITIES in both houses(about 3/4 R vs 1/4 D). School funding has been ruled unconstitutional 3 times in past 11 yrs by State Supreme Court. Ohio was big on charter schools, those creating charter schools have walked away with tens of millions of dollars unrecoverable except by the lying political mind. Some are honest and hard working but crooks can easily steal when no controls exist. On another issue, about 2 yrs ago, the FBI announced that the Speaker of the House had accepted $61,000,000 in bribes from 1st Energy to keep 2 nuclear power plants operational by having ALL OHIO RESIDENTS pay into a fund to support the plants. A referendum was passed(the lies were virtual fantasy within the ‘reasoning’ of how the state wide support of the utility would save tax payers money). The cost of electricity from the 2 plants was about 4 times more than coal/natural gas plants and 1st Energy was taking them off-line. There is plenty of excess power available w/o the plants. Of course not a single Republican legislator or the Republican state organization knows anything about the $61 million. Racial gerrymandering: 5 of 6 most populace counties have 20% to 30% African American population – the other has 15%. They make up over 1/3 of the state total population. Congressmen Jordan(5.5% Af/Am) and Davidson(3.35% Af/Am) represent the worst creatures of the Republican party. Don’t worry Indiana,other than Hamilton & Butler counties, the remainder of the counties bordering Indiana have less than 1% African American population. While Ohio legislators don’t beat on each other, they are equally contemptible.

  14. Whether it be school politics or tax politics or whatever, let’s not forget that the home office of the KKK in the Twenties was not Atlanta, Montgomery, Baton Rouge, or any other southern capital – It was Indianapolis. That’s not to say that racism does not exist in other states north of the Mason- Dixon Line, but it is to say that Indiana was (and perhaps still is) its northern epicenter.

    As to whether parents from Carmel would O.K. their kids’ service in the Congo before attending an Ivy League school, I think the day will come when a year’s service either amongst such as our Navajos or in some third world country will be a prerequisite to enrollment in college.

  15. Love it JoAnn: Again, the state motto, “Honest To Goodness Indiana” needs to be changed to “WTF Indiana”. Right on sister!

  16. Not sure why the Statehouse is involved in this matter to begin with although the reasons are pretty obvious. I have been absolutely appalled with what has gone on this session – the Republicans now have such a huge majority that they don’t even try to hide their corrupt behavior – passing legislation that will line their pockets and power grabbing in areas that are out of their jurisdiction. I for the life of me do not know how any of the handful of the Democrats serving don’t go screaming through the halls of the capitol. In addition to changing our state motto, we should also require them to take the “govern” out of government. They sure as hell are not doing any governing this session and I don’t imagine they will until we have a semi-balanced Statehouse (and good luck with that – we got some heavy gerrymandering coming up soon folks!)

  17. (Sadly for me, I am not much of a historian. So anyone, please correct my comments…)

    66 years, and counting, since Brown vs the Board. The tragic tales outlined today demonstrate the lengths people continue to travel to erase that ‘blot’. I believe that the rise of abortion as an issue can also be traced to attempts to get around Brown (Carter was attempting to change the tax free status of so called religious schools that arose in reaction to the decision). I am sure that many other reprehensible actions arise out of this desire to perpetuate white hegemony down through generations.

    It is heart breaking. Biden has apparently proposed a nationwide youth core as part of his infrastructure renewal planning. If it comes to be, a giant step toward renewal of much more than infrastructure. A reason to hope!

  18. Sorry, should have said – I «know that… reprehensible public education destroying actions…»

    And, we all recognize that these eternally nasty ideas somehow end up disguised or buried so deeply that their perpetuators can forget/ignore their racist roots and reality.

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