Indiana’s Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, was careful to speak in non-partisan terms when she visited Fort Wayne last week. She didn’t call out one specific party for its anti-public education legislation, even though everyone in Indiana knows that the Republicans are doing their best to privatize and skimp on funding for public education.
McCormick is a Republican.
McCormick’s predecessor, Glenda Ritz, was also a Republican before she ran for the Superintendent’s position in 2012. She took office, however, as a Democrat…and ran into the wall of the Republican Supermajority for everything she wanted to do for public schools in Indiana.
In the 2016 election, Ritz and McCormick had similar platforms. McCormick, however, said that she could get things done because she was a Republican. She could talk to the members of her own party and get them to understand what public schools and public school teachers needed. She tried, but she was also stopped by the Republican legislators.
It doesn’t take the logic of Spock to deduce that the Republicans in the Indiana legislature are against public education. For the last dozen years the Republicans in the Indiana House and Senate have introduced and passed legislation aimed at funding vouchers and charters, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession, and starving public education.
But Glenda Ritz was a Republican before she was a Democrat, and she supported public education…and Jennifer McCormick is a Republican and she supports public education. Obviously not all Republicans, then, want to privatize the public schools.
As a retired teacher in northeast Indiana, it’s been clear to me that many, if not most, of my former colleagues, have been Republicans. As public school educators, I assume that the vast majority of those same colleagues have been supporters of public education. For them to be otherwise would indicate a serious case of cognitive dissonance.
Are Republican public school teachers the only party members who support public education? Again, I’m doubtful of that. Many of my students’ parents were also Republicans and they were, on the whole, very supportive of their children’s schools.
Perhaps it’s only those Republicans who have no connection to public schools who support the legislators who are so intent on funding vouchers and charters at the expense of the constitutionally mandated public schools.
Or maybe it’s something else…maybe it’s money.
I’m not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. I’m an ardent and enthusiastic Independent Education Voter. I understand that Democrats can be just as dangerous to public education as can Republicans.
Rahm Emanual in Chicago has worked hard during his tenure to privatize public education.
President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued the punishment of public education started by Bush II and No Child Left Behind. In some ways, Duncan was worse than current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
There is little doubt that campaign donations from pro-privatization organizations would transform at least some currently pro-public education Democrats into pro-privatization Democrats.
Because there’s a lot of evidence that it’s the money.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Hoosiers for Quality Education (H4QE), formerly Hoosiers for Economic Growth, is a pro-privatization group in Indiana. H4QE is funded by the DeVos family (American Federation for Children), Alice Walton (of the Walmart billions), and the Freedom Partners (The Koch Brothers). They support School Choice Indiana (aka The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, now known as EdChoice) (For more information on this convoluted set of relationships see Hoosier School Heist by Doug Martin). Suffice it to say — H4QE supports school privatization.
And they donate freely to Republicans during statewide elections.
H4QE donated $88,750 to Republicans on the House Education Committee
The Republican members of the House Education Committee received approximately $88,750 in 2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Bob Behning received $3000 and Chuck Goodrich got the largest donation, $36,000.
H4QE donated $99,500 to Republicans on the Senate Education and Career Development Committee
The members of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee received approximately $99,500 in 2016/2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Jeff Raatz pocketed a $9,000 donation. Member Linda Rogers accepted a whopping $50,000.
(On the other side, Democratic members of the House and Senate committees also received approximately $10,600 and $17,300 respectively from Indiana teachers’ unions, ISTA and IFT, a small amount compared to the privatizers.)
Republican members of those committees also received contributions from other groups such as Stand for Children, funded by the pro-privatization Walton Family and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations.
Privatizers donated $170,000 to Governor Eric Holcomb
Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana, also received 2016 contributions from privatizers…most notably the DeVos family. Holcomb received $15,000 from each of the following for a total of $90,000: American Federation for Children, Richard DeVos, Richard DeVos Jr (Betsy), Doug DeVos, Daniel DeVos, and Cheri DeVos-Vanderweide. Holcomb also received $50,000 from charter school operator Christel Dehaan, $100,000 from Jim Walton (of the Walton Family), and $20,000 from Walmart.
Is it possible that Republican politicians feel obligated to support privatization — vouchers and charters — because of the amount of money donated to their campaign coffers by pro-privatization groups and individuals?
One only has to look at the nomination and confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see how a billionaire donor can have an impact on the way politicians vote on issues.
WHICH CAME FIRST, DONATIONS OR IDEOLOGY?
When our local representative, Dave Heine, ran for the first time, he came to talk to our public education advocacy group, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. He was a Republican, but seemed very receptive to listening to us and agreed with us on many aspects of supporting public schools. In 2018, however, he joined ALEC, and received a $1000 campaign donation from H4QE. He votes in line with the Republican supermajority on public education legislation.
Would Rep. Heine have voted with the pro-privatization forces in the legislature if he had not gotten any campaign donations from privatizers? Which came first, the donation which has obligated him to support the positions of H4QE, or his willingness to defund public schools and deprofessionalize public school teachers?
In my corner of the state, the nine Republican House members and the five Republican Senators received 2016/2018 campaign contributions of $48,100 from H4QE.
HOW CAN WE FIGHT THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS GOING TO PRIVATIZATION?
Millions statewide, that is…billions nationwide.
Public schools don’t have the resources to donate thousands of campaign dollars to compete with billionaire-funded organizations like H4QE, the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and the DeVos family. Neither do teachers’ unions. Neither do public school parents.
So what can Republican teachers, who still want to support the Republican party and vote for Republican candidates do? What should you do if you don’t want to vote for the Democratic candidate — assuming there even is one?
Become an Education voter. Learn the education positions of your candidates. If they support private school vouchers and charters, tell them your position…and tell them you expect them to support public schools if they’re elected.
Just because you vote for someone doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything they do.
Get to know your local legislators. Invite them into your classroom and let them see how public education works. Some Republican legislators have never set foot in a public school…never attended public school…never sent their children to public school. Tell them the stories from your school. Tell them how much you donate to your own classroom each year to help your students learn. Be an advocate for your students, your classroom, and your school.
Follow bills in the legislature. Pay attention to how your local Representatives and Senators vote. Let them know if you disapprove. Thank them when they support public education.
Support for public education doesn’t have to be partisan. Jennifer McCormick has proven that a Republican can support public schools. We need Republican citizens to support their public schools as well. We can change the balance if we work together.