Education And The GOP

Yesterday, I posted about the continued effort by self-described  Hoosier”conservatives” to expand the state’s already massive school voucher program–a program that has failed to deliver the educational benefits that justified it in the first place, while deepening the divides between Americans of different races and religions.

A few days ago, I had coffee with one of Indiana’s most conscientious and effective state senators–Fady Qaddoura (who also happens to be a former, excellent student of mine)– who has introduced a bill to fully fund pre-kindergarden in the state. We discussed that proposal and several other education measures that have been or are likely to be introduced during the legislative session that just began.

In addition to the coffee with Senator Qaddoura, I’ve scheduled meetings with several other people who are knowledgable about both education policy and the Indiana General Assembly.  (My retirement allows me to dabble in matters that interest or infuriate me, and–with some prodding from my youngest son–I’ve decided to follow education bills in this session.)

In the course of our discussion, Senator Qaddoura pointed to a very interesting–and very revealing–aspect of voucher legislation that had not previously occurred to me.

The GOP’s voucher program classifies families that earn up to $145,000 per year as “poor” enough to qualify; so the state pays for their kids to attend private schools. When it comes to qualification for state-funded childcare and/or pre-kindergarden, however, families bringing home a mere $27,500 are “too rich” for their children to qualify.

This makes perfect sense–if the actual goal of the voucher program is to encourage an exodus from the state’s public schools, a goal that furthers other obvious goals of Indiana’s GOP: destroying the teacher’s union, and finding a “work-around” of the First Amendment’s prohibition against funneling tax dollars to religious organizations.

The difference in those definitions certainly sends a message about which Hoosiers our Republican legislators are there to serve.

The session has just started, but thus far, a proposall being referred to as the house’s “High School Redesign” bill has been introduced and given a low number (H.B. 1002), suggesting that it is is a GOP priority.  As another friend described it,

Basically, it is a new voucher-like program for high schoolers who would get some of their education through an employer/a company.  Student support dollars would follow the child to pay for this experience.

I haven’t yet read the bill, but if my friend’s description is correct, it looks like yet another effort to divert dollars from public school classrooms–at a time when Indiana ranks 41st among the states in teacher pay and the state’s public schools  have a massive teacher shortage.

Then, of course, there’s the culture war. Education lobbyists fully expect that an anti-CRT bill will be filed, and probably a “Don’t Say Gay” Florida rip-off.

One “culture war” effort that previously failed has already been refiled. It is back again in both the House and Senate (HB 1130 and SB 12). The bill’s synopsis reads:

Synopsis:Material harmful to minors. Removes schools and certainpublic libraries from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors. Adds colleges and universities to the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors.

I assume that the identification of “harmful” material includes any reference to the existence of LGBTQ Hoosiers, and that the inclusion of “performance” is aimed at those “grooming” Drag Queen Story Hours. (Can’t have someone in a costume reading Green Eggs and Ham…)

Also on the culture war front, there are a few bills that would turn Indiana’s currently non-partisan school board elections into partisan contests. (Wouldn’t want a Democrat sneaking onto one of those school boards…)

There is some good news. In addition to Senator Qaddoura’s bills (one of which includes tightening oversight of charter schools) there is evidently a possibility that Indiana will finally join the great majority of states that pay for textbooks.

I realize that many if not most of the people who follow this blog don’t live in Indiana–and may be uninterested in details about our regressive legislature.  That said, these efforts are hardly confined to Indiana. ALEC provides the templates for many of these bills to numerous states, and observers fully expect our General Assembly to “borrow” from states like Florida, where Governor “what Constitution?” DeSantis and his obedient minions in that state’s legislature continue to wage war on gays, “woke” corporations and academic freedom.

Unlike Vegas, what happens in The Backward States does not stay in The Backward States.Unfortunately.


  1. Very interesting and revealing…as if we needed any more evidence that the GOP is about currying favor with the richest among us while screwing everyone else. For these not-very-smart people to practice such cravenness is simply unconscionable. But that’s who and what Republicans are these days. Those misguided, upper-middle class donors are their target audience – exclusively. Guess who ends up paying for the largesse heaped upon those who CAN afford private education.

    It’s quite disgusting to read stuff like this. As a former educator who actually thought he had his heart in the right place, that heart is broken by the greedy, pathetic and anti-American politics of the Republican party.

    For Dr. Lightner: It isn’t the country, Stan, it’s the Republican party that chased you away. This is yet another reason.

  2. “The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which weeds out people who are too independent, who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”

    Noam Chomsky

  3. Rick,

    Why isn’t Noam Chomsky allowed on mainstream media?

    Fady is the man in Indiana. Sadly, he is a minority. I follow him on Twitter as well. Sheila may want to set up a Twitter account and follow all the people making legislation in Indianapolis. I don’t follow them because their policy proposals come straight from ALEC – a Koch-funded organization. There is a Soros-funded media outlet that covers ALEC specifically. This is a bill-making boilerplate for about 23-24 states in the USA. They are also behind the constitutional convention.

    Why not go to the sources?

    I cannot remember the dope Republican bureaucrat (Tony??) who ran the DOE for Mike Pence, but during his tenure, he used his office for campaigning, allowing me to access his emails. There were dozens of emails from Republicans asking this dope how they could get money from the Kochs.

    Fady talks a lot about ALEC on his Facebook page. The dark network of Koch funds ALEC but the meetings consist of lawmakers and the oligarchy.

  4. I read Rose’s response to my voucher comments late yesterday; I hope she reads Sheila’s GOP voucher and state-funded childcare and pre-Kindergarten financial qualifications today. These issues easily pass through Indiana Legislation “because the GOP said so”.

    I do have a question about Fady Qaddoura’s “bill to fully fund pre-kindergarten in the state”. Exactly what does pre-kindergarten provide for children of that age other than child care? It has been many years since I have needed child care but apparently that remains a major need in low-income and middle-income families but is an issue much ignored. I provided years of child care for neighbors to make a small income which added to the household account my husband provided. When I later needed child care I became fully aware of the need for qualified, safe child care as my neighbors had to find child care to replace me.

    My granddaughter home-schools her 2nd grade daughter; their “school” began at pre-kindergarten age with an organized home-school program which includes group activities to provide making friends and the necessary socialization which is missing from many home-school situations opted for based on religious or racial beliefs. There are nature hikes, field trips to historical places, museums, zoos, farm situations, swimming, other physical activities, park excursions and other social activities and they are a racially mixed group. They live in Flat Rock, IN, their small town, organized home-schooling appears to offer benefits not found in cities and they must meet state required education results. Most important, my great-granddaughter and her friends love learning.

    Now that education, public and private, is primarily a political issue, we can look forward to in-fighting, back-biting, misappropriation of public education funds as our future. Control is the targeted end and education is ill-considered as part of the political control of states.

  5. Todd, the Republican DOE henchman you mentioned was Tony Bennett, not to be confused with the beloved crooner Tony Bennett.

  6. JoAnn’s last paragraph says it for me. All I can add to this discussion is that I am glad I do not have school age children at this time in Indiana. What a disaster!

  7. Thanks to you and your son for taking a closer look at education issues. I’m a former teacher and often feel there is too much slipping by us.

  8. The historical and continued positive societal value of a K-12 public education is well documented by study after study. The legislative logic of the 5th paragraph is so stupid that it is completely indefensible. Recently the movie, Inherit the Wind, with Jack Lemmon and George C Scott, was on cable. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it, both for the acting and the message. We are returning to that argument.

  9. Thanks, Sam!

    Tony Bennett was a “henchman” for Mitch Daniels/Mike Pence in Indiana and Jeb Bush in Florida.

    As a journalist, I appreciated his ignorance because I got to dive deeply into GOP politics. The number of GOP’ers lining up to the Koch’s feed trough was amazing.

    Nearly a decade ago, I thought it was just the GOP, but I learned that the Republicans weren’t the only party screwing educational policies.

    I learned about Gulen being protected in PA and his private schools in the USA. I wrote this in 2017:

    “Our country has protected Fetullah Gulen since 1993 when former President Bill Clinton rescued the wanted terrorist. Since then, we’ve used this cultish-like figure to manipulate governments in the Middle East, specifically Turkey. Gulen is a protected intelligence asset living on a palatial estate in Pennsylvania, although this article in the Guardian refers to him as a preacher.”

  10. We need a taxpayer revolt from property taxes that go toward education. One thing that everyone forgets is dear Governor DeMentis’s Parents Rights bill, which also passed, along with the Stop Woke and Don’t say Gay. If you’re a parent and you can out shout everyone at the School Board meetings, you’re a winner. This bill was especially loved by Moms for Liberty (their liberty, not yours)!

  11. “Vouchers take money from all public schools,” a point that does not seem to register with the typical voter. While campaigning in the 20 and 22 election for State Rep, the concept of the state defunding public schools was just not taken seriously. The slow drip, drip, drip of eliminating budget increases from the public schools is a pain the general public does not feel, even more so when the voter does not have children in school. The best way that I know of to combat this lack of concern is to spread the message of “voucher impact,” a term made by Dr. Phil Downs, former Super of East Allen County schools and an absolute whiz as making school finance a little more understandable for non-educators. In Dubois County where I live (and home of some of the worst legislators in the statehouse) , the voucher effect, or the funds that taken from locals schools was $937,033. Nearly 1 million dollars that went to vouchers for those “poor parents” making $144,000. It is worth taking time to visit Dr. Downs website and read his blog as well as checking out his data on the Voucher Impact. You can see just how much every school in the state was shorted fund due to vouchers.

  12. Having, now, had the curtain of Oz pulled back even this much more brings a
    taste of disgust to me. it also reminds me why I have never been tempted to
    take on the challenge of running for any political office, and that is because
    strangulation would take so much effort…and it’s against the law.

  13. So, watching the Chomsky video it is easy to answer the ‘Why is Noam Chomsky allowed on mainstream media?” question:
    Because he is threateningly too intelligent, and questioning, for them. i might have mentioned this previously, button a conversation
    with a fellow I consider generally intelligent, although a die-hard old style Republican, I mentioned Chomsky’s name, and he
    said he’s never (even) heard of him. Yes, I said, because we live in different universes.

  14. It seems that some parents of means—and their representatives—are arguing that since they pay taxes earmarked for the public school system, they are entitled to some or all of that tax money if their children attend private or parochial schools. I could equally argue that, as I have no children in school, I should be entitled to a refund of those taxes. I am not a politician, but I do understand that we do not get back in equal value as what we put into the tax pot. It is not, and should not be, a “cash in = cash out” system.

  15. Establishing the precedent of using tax revenue to support religion based education opens a door to all. Christians are not the only ones who will stick their noses into the public trough. Ask those legislators voting for vouchers if they want to be identified as responsible for supporting the establishment of schools teaching Sharia law in their state. Better to keep the money going to public schools that are regulated, audited and transparent. No religion affiliated school is really going to keep its dogma out of its curriculum.

  16. As a resident of IN living in Dr. Phil Downs’ previous school dstrict (South West Allen County Schools), I continue to be dismayed by the decisions made by the state legislature. I make sure to communicate my discontent regularly. This legislative session is going to give me a lot of content for my emails and phone calls!

  17. The remaining Koch brother in re matters of concern to his accumulation of ever more wealth is (effectively) the governor of all fifty states and the lawyers who write up his ALEC model legislation are (effectively) the legislatures of all fifty states in re such matters of his concern, and apparently substandard education under the guise of religion, parental control etc. is one of such matters of concern in a “Keep ’em dumb and they’ll work for less” campaign of Herr Koch, the consummate capitalist.

    Republican legislators who believe in the amalgamation of church and state but would never admit it publicly are quick to pick up the talking points provided by Koch’s lawyers which accompany the “model legislation” in putting such aspersions to rest while raiding the public education trove to send money to non-public schools, parents et al.

    Perhaps we need to cut this snake off at its head, but I confess that I don’t know how to do it in view of the free flow of information guaranteed by the First Amendment to the remaining Koch, whatever his motivation(s). Perhaps we could start by labelling such “model legislation” as “Koch’s legislation” and for his benefit and not that of underserved students and Hoosier taxpayers. Ideas?

  18. Dani; those parents of means, their representatives and most Catholics do not understand why we pay taxes, what benefits our tax dollars provide for ALL people and that those low income people pay taxes and the same costs for everything that they do. An older lady in one of Kroger’s mobilized carts and hooked up to an air tank was ahead of me in line this morning; she didn’t have enough money for her food and the bagger began removing the bags from her cart basket. I told the cashier Rose that I would pay for her groceries but another woman I hadn’t noticed had handed her credit card to Rose. These are times when our tax dollars should be helping those in need; a specific percentage of our tax dollars are specified for that purpose and I strongly support that fact but NOT the school voucher rip off system.

  19. Todd,

    Chomsky used to make a few news/talk shows. He is not an easy person to follow. I used to discount much of what he said because his recall of facts seemed spurious. He was impossible to fact-check without the internet. After I could verify his comments, it turns out he has an incredible memory and recall.

    He also deals with issues he sees that are complex and that the public believes are only complicated. This is counter to most people’s thinking, IMHO. Most of the mainstream media is entertainment, and its target market is definitely not intellectuals

  20. My question on text books being provided to students free is, who will determine the textbooks? Will this be another ploy to dumb down students?

  21. I might add that the man bringing the political issue of school board members to light on bills is from Clay County. He is bought by the Republicans. He as other Republicans continue to do in our county are re-elected not because they are qualified to perform their job but because of the single button on the ballot voters can push. Many voters in our area can’t read! A person was recently elected that spoke about CRT at a form before the fall election. That was very scary and there were many more of them running for the school board that weren’t elected this time….but could easily be the next election…unless changes are made!

  22. In regards to Shelia’s blog yesterday:
    Thanks Joann, I didn’t realize that vouchers included higher income brackets. That’s why I glean more perspective reading Sheila’s blog and all the responses.
    If the legislature is so gung-ho on privatizing education, they need to make sure that the students don’t lose their rights and freedom when they go into those schools.

  23. @Sharon Lee-Harrison Stearley

    Making the cost of textbooks free to students won’t change who determines the textbooks. Years ago, when I was a MPA student at IUPUI, one of my classmates did a cost-benefit analysis on providing textbooks free to students, and actually found that it was cheaper to provide free textbooks. She had gathered real data from Indiana schools, and discovered that the administration costs associated with renting textbooks to students cost more than if the textbooks were provided for free.

  24. Wow! Since you retired as a professor you’ve really been drunk on the woke agenda!

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