Indiana State Representative Nancy Dembowski said, “After this year’s speech, we now know what Gov. Daniels considers his priority – education reform. We also know that he did not address what most Hoosiers consider their top priority – finding and keeping a good-paying job.”
Dembowski commented in a talk that lasted about a half-hour, the governor barely discussed several of this year’s hot button issues. Local government reform, legislative redistricting and continued reforms to Indiana’s bankrupt unemployment insurance fund received only the briefest mentions.
The Representative said, “Still, that was more attention than he paid to offering new ideas to get Hoosiers back to work. This governor chose to say nothing about reducing our number of unemployed — which continues to hover around 300,000 — or improving the earning power of Hoosier families, which has dropped since this governor took office.”
What the governor did talk about was a host of reforms in our state’s education system, including expansion of charter schools, limits to contracts for teachers, and providing vouchers that would enable parents to use state tax dollars to pay for their children to attend private schools.
Nancy said, “I look forward to thoroughly debating the merits of all of these proposals as they work their way through the House. Before that debate even gets started, though, two points need to be made.”
She continued, “The first is that I will insist upon full participation in this debate by the local people who will be affected the most by these ideas. If these ideas are needed to improve the quality of the schooling our children receive, then we need to hear from the people who will experience it first-hand: school superintendents, school board members, teachers, parents, and above all, our kids.”
Dembowski commented on the details behind these proposals and questioned: How will they be implemented? Who will be able to take advantage of them? Most importantly, what will they cost?
Nancy spoke about the situation from last year where the governor cut $300 million in state support from our schools. She said, “At the time, most of us were led to believe that $300 million was for one year only, and that support would be restored in the second year of the state budget. It now has become obvious that $300 million is being cut from the second year of state support as well. That means the governor cut $600 million from our schools, and our schools will have to fund operations for a second straight year with less support.”
She also noted that the next state budget will not be propped up by federal stimulus dollars and that revenues collected still are not meeting projections. “Now you can understand why people are worried about the truth behind any guarantee that schools will not see additional cuts in financial support in the next state budget.”
If schools must scramble to fund basic services for children, can we afford to pay for programs that will erode that support even more and decrease the quality of education for kids who cannot afford to consider the alternatives proposed by the governor?
Dembowski’s report also commented on her concern for more jobs. She said, “What makes the governor’s reluctance to discuss any kind of job creation proposal so disappointing is that it ignores how all of these factors – jobs, the budget and education – can be tied together.”
She continued by saying, “If we can get more Hoosiers back to work, and our economy begins to turn around, then our state can afford to fund our schools properly and we can give our children a chance to pursue the kind of education that will help them get jobs in Indiana that pay a decent living wage. That is the goal I will pursue in 2011.”
She closed by reminding area students about the Indiana House Page Program, which gives children 13 years of age and older the chance to visit me at the Statehouse for a day and see the Legislature in action. If you want to get more information about the House page program, or if you simply want to talk to me about some of the issues that will be addressed during the 2011 session, here are a few ways to stay in touch.
You can call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-382-9842, write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204, or send a message to my web site at www.in.gov/H17. While visiting my web site, you also can sign up to receive regular e-mail updates from the Legislature.