Shake-Up: What Will Happen if House Changes?

Indiana political reporter/commenter Brian Howey asks some relevant questions in his latest column about what Gov. Daniels will do should Republicans overtake the Indiana House tomorrow — namely regarding issues very near and dear to the Indiana Chamber: education and township government reform. Howey Politics Indiana reports:

A Republican majority in the House will mean that the thrust of reforms will return to the legislative theater, with education taking center stage. "America is about to make big changes and the forces defending the status quo are pretty isolated," Daniels said in an interview Wednesday in his Statehouse office. He emphasized that he, President Obama, U.S. Education Sec. Arne Duncan and Indiana Supt. Tony Bennett are all on the “same page." States that drag their feet on education reforms will "get left behind," Daniels said.

In the 2011 Indiana General Assembly, Daniels said of his first educational mission, "I would organize it as teacher quality. This means paying the best teachers more, paying the teachers in the most important subjects more. Or at least have the freedom to do that. And teachers earning job security because the kids learn, not because they’ve been around for years. Pure seniority doesn’t work. We have teachers of the year who get laid off.”

The State Board of Education has changed the ways schools will be graded, going to an A through F format. He said it would not be fair to hold schools accountable without taking down "all sorts of mandates and handcuffs, whether it’s by statute or regulation."

The governor wants to "take the lid off charter schools" so they don’t struggle. This would mean ending a six-month delay in payments from the state. He added that school corporations won’t sell or give charter schools empty school buildings that taxpayers have already paid for. "We’ll address that and give them a fair shake," he said.

"I’m going to propose that Indiana students can graduate in less than 12 years," Daniels said, adding that he’s been approached by scores of students who tell him they had amassed enough credit hours to have graduated one or two semesters earlier. He said seniors frequently tell him "I’m cruising" at a cost of between $8,000 and $10,000 per year to taxpayers.

He said the state had "accidentally" created a competitive environment between public schools when the state assumed all K-12 school funding, taking it off the property tax rolls. "There are now billboards where schools are saying, ‘Check out our test scores.’"

"We should say schools can’t charge tuition," Daniels said, suggesting that if an Indianapolis Public School student wants to enroll at Ben Davis, "there will be more freedom and more options." Essentially, the money should follow the student.

"We don’t tell people where they have to buy their groceries," Daniels said, "but we tell them where they have to go to school."

Some Democrats have charged that Daniels is intent on destroying public education. "That is somebody who is thinking about adults and not the kids,” he said. “We’re going to shape it around the kids."

As for the Kernan-Shepard reforms on local government, Daniels said he would like to start "with the four bills that passed the Senate twice." Those deal with nepotism among public employees, conflicts of interest (such as police and firefighters and other municipal employees serving on city and county councils that set pay), eliminating township advisory boards and moving from three county commissioners to a single county executive.

Daniels added, "I will raise the issue of township trustees."

Howey Highlights Township Assessor Issue in Governor’s Race

Hoosier scribe/pundit Brian Howey recently penned a thoughtful article on township government and the gubernatorial race. The piece is worth a read, and our own Mark Lawrance is quoted:

Mark Lawrence [sic], senior vice president for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, is part of a consortium that includes the Indiana Association of Realtors and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership that is pushing a “yes” vote on the referendum.  He said the coalition would have limited resources, though he expects some direct mail campaigns in the coming weeks.  He called the assessor referendum “a bump on the road on the way to Kernan-Shepard.”

The fact that the referendums come in each township, as opposed to countywide, means the “deck is stacked against us,” Lawrence said. The problem is that poor assessing in one township can impact property taxes for the entire county.

“We hope there will be enough interest in having fair assessments,” Lawrence said. “You want to make sure your house is assessed fairly as well as the neighbor’s down the street,” noting what he called the current “fragmented system.”

“If people understand it under those terms, they’ll see it impacts their pocketbooks,” Lawrence said.

An influencing factor may be the recent Washington and Warren township fire mergers with Indianapolis. “That went very smoothly,” Lawrence said. “It is saving millions of dollars. There has been no decrease in services.”