‘It’s Time to Use our Outside Voices’

November 20, 2019

SOME YEARS AGO two officers of this foundation sat down with a powerful GOP committee chairman. We were there to discuss a year-long study that explained why teachers were concerned about Indiana education and how the Statehouse could make teachers’ lives better and their classrooms more effective places to learn.

The committee chairman read the executive summary over coffee and then pushed it back across the table. “I couldn’t get this out of committee,” he said. So much for GOP leadership.

The study bore the title, “Education Without the Romance,” signaling that it was based on the work of Nobel Laureate James Buchanan and his school of Public Choice economics. It was thick. It was bold and promising. Largely unread by the legislative leadership, it still is both.

Several years later, on two occasions, the foundation gathered leading Republican legislators in luncheon seminars at the Statehouse to hear our adjunct Lisa Snell explain a related plan to systemically reform Indiana education.

Snell considered Indiana particularly well suited for the plan because of its relatively balanced district funding. The reform was called the Weighted Student Formula back then. Now it is known as the Student Based Budgeting and it is drawing the praise of teachers, parents and administrators throughout the country.

Again, nobody was willing to put an Indiana Republican name on any measure that would set the necessary reforms in motion. The foundation even distributed sample legislation to get them started. And whenever GOP political aspirants came around to discuss the issues, we always asked them if they would sponsor the reform measures. Nothing.

Yesterday, a crowd of utterly fed-up teachers, 16,000 of them, filled the Statehouse grounds and overflowed into the surrounding streets. Gov. Eric Holcomb, always politically astute, was in Florida for a Republican Governors Association conference. House Speaker Brian Bosma chose the day to announce he would not seek reelection.

Good enough, the teachers will be back; don’t bet on the governor. For it will soon be clear to him and the remaining career politicians that yesterday the options to reforming Indiana public education gravely narrowed. Nobody — teachers, legislators or parents — is going to be happy with the “solutions” to be introduced in coming months in the name of “Red for Ed.” They will be politically generated, timid in scope, superficial and compromised into ineffectiveness. Look for a slight percentage increase in the money thrown into the administrative maw.

If all this means that Republicans’ hopes of holding on to legislative power are to be buried, so be it. The tombstone can read: “We Couldn’t Get It Out of Committee.”

Craig Ladwig

An Education Reform Reading List

Lisa Snell. “Decentralizing Education: Student Based Budgeting.” The Indiana Policy Review, Fall 2016.

Hang La. “An Alternative to Unionism: Teaching as a Profession.” The Indiana Policy Review, Fall 2012.

Snell. “A Better Way: The Weighted Student Formula.” The Indiana Policy Review, Winter, 2007.

Charles M. Freeland. “Public Education Without the Romance.” The Indiana Policy Review, Winter 2001.


Leave a Reply