Thank Goodness They Went Home…

Can you stand one more diatribe about the pathetic Indiana legislature that has finally and mercifully departed? 

During the past session, I posted several times about the GOP super-majority’s deliberate rejection of evidence about the state’s woeful performance in education. (I could have focused on a large number of other deficits, but who has the time…?) 

The GOP’s persistent efforts to privatize education–while ignoring the state’s increasingly critical shortage of the public school teachers who teach 90% of Hoosier children–required legislators to ignore the years of highly credible academic research rebutting justifications for vouchers. 

I have previously posted about the many problems with privatized and other forms of “alternative” schools that researchers have identified. Among those numerous problems is the distressingly high percentage of such schools that close within 4 years of their founding. A May 4th article from the Indianapolis Star confirms that Indiana is not exempt from such closures. It appears that a third of charter schools close each year.

Proponents of charters and vouchers claim that these closures are a “feature, not a bug”–that the closures are evidence that “the market” is working. Tell that to the distraught parent for whom these closures are disruptive at best. As the article notes, those disruptions create yet another barrier for students who are already vulnerable to low student outcomes, and particularly for students of color.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle took a look at the legislature’s education policy failures during the just-completed session–and published an analysis with which I entirely agree.

As demonstrated by the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly, the Republican supermajority is more concerned with creating problems rather than solving them. 

If we are not able to attract and retain teachers and education support professionals because of low pay, lack of respect and inadequate funding, it’s the students who lose out.  

Too many students are in schools where decision-makers have driven away quality educators by failing to provide competitive salaries and support, disrespecting the profession and placing extraordinary pressure on individual educators to do more and more with less and less.

Additionally, too many potential educators never go into the classroom in part because of appallingly low starting salaries and record wage gaps between teaching and professions that require similar education – gaps that get worse over the course of educators’ careers.

So, what did our elected leaders do to solve these problems? 

    • They silenced teachers by eliminating a 50-year right to discuss students’ learning conditions with school administrators. 
    • They threatened educators with a level-six felony and two-and-a-half years in jail if they recommend certain books to kids. 
    • They trampled on the ability for local schools and educators to work collaboratively with parents addressing individual students’ mental health needs. 
    • They continued to drain public schools of scarce funding by siphoning a billion dollars to wealthy Hoosiers so their kids can attend private school for free.

As the commentary pointed out, it was Republican lawmakers who ignored testimony from educators and parents, and doubled down on what has become a GOP “anti-woke”  obsession. They focused on appeasing the Republican culture warriors who are determined to attack teachers and librarians in our public schools, employing misinformation and lies.

They listened to wealthy corporate donors who gave their campaigns hundreds of thousands of dollars to privatize our schools.

This agenda may benefit their political donors, but it hurts local communities which cherish and rely on their local schools – where 90% of Hoosier kids attend. 

It wasn’t just education, of course. The GOP super-majority ignored environmental concerns, thwarted efforts to improve building codes, spit on medical professionals and went to war against trans children–among many, many other things.

To call them “representatives” is to misuse the term.

Poll after poll confirms that Indiana’s legislature does not represent the policy preferences of Hoosier citizens. Thanks primarily to gerrymandering–which is the most effective of the GOP’s various efforts to suppress the votes of rational Hoosiers–Republican members of the General Assembly represent the most extreme elements of the Republican base. 

Since the Supreme Court has refused to notice that extreme gerrymandering is inconsistent with democracy and “one person, one vote,” the only way Hoosiers will ever get a truly representative legislative body is by massive turnout. Redistricting lines, after all, are based on turnout numbers from prior elections; if the people who have given up going to the polls because they’re convinced they live in a district that is “safe” for the other party were to vote in sufficient numbers, a lot of those “safe” districts wouldn’t be so safe.

I wish I knew how to get that message across.

I wish we didn’t have a legislative super-majority fixated on making Indiana the peer of a third-world country.