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Integrity and Character Shown by Democrats

Imagine two wholly democratic institutions directly connected to the future wellbeing of yourself, your neighbors, your community, and your state. Two social/economic/political powerhouses that have propelled millions into the ranks of the middle-class, the rich, the famous, and even the uber-wealthy. Then imagine a seemingly mindless assault on these institutions, a tearing and pounding at the foundation of America’s middle class. Of course I’m speaking of labor unions, public education and the recent unpleasantness known as the 2011 legislative session.

The Wayback Machine

Now, with Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman, let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and travel to February 21st, 2011. On that day, thirty-six Democrats of the Indiana House of Representatives participated in a walkout. Representative Sheila Klinker was one of those participants. On March 25th, the Journal & Courier published a guest column on that subject by Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb. I would like to speak to a few of the issues raised in that column.

Why the Walkout?

The “right to work” legislation proposed by the Republican majority was seen by Democrats and organized labor as an attack on the middle class. Some saw it as an effort to choke off support and funding to the Democratic Party. Many viewed this as “forced to work cheap” legislation. When it became clear that the Republicans intended to push this legislation through even against the advice of Governor Daniels, the Democrats exercised the only option open to them. They initiated a walkout.

The use of the walkout has been a legitimate tool of the minority for generations. It seems that much of the ire on the part of Republicans is due to the success of the Democratic walkout. “Right to work” legislation is off the table, at least for now. Representative Klinker chose to represent her constituency using a tool available to legislators of either party, and she did so honorably.

Character and Integrity

Chairman Holcomb remarked that Democrats refused to do the job they were paid to do. On the contrary, Representative Klinker and her colleagues did precisely that. In extending the walkout Representative Klinker and her fellow Democrats chose to represent the public schools in their districts by trying to eliminate or modify legislation introduced in the name of “education reform.” Many of these bills had nothing to do with education reform and everything to do with blaming and hurting teachers. Two of those bills, the vouchers bill and the charter schools bill, do not seek to improve the quality of education in our public schools, but instead siphon public funds away from our children, potentially creating two “separate but equal” education systems. If we can’t fund one, I wonder how we’ll fund two. I thank Representative Klinker for her stand on behalf of public education. I also honor the efforts of the few Republican legislators who stood up and were counted as supporters of public education. I am speaking in particular of Senator Ron Alting.

Chairman Holcomb further asserted that Hoosier taxpayers were double paying Representative Klinker during the walkout since she is employed by a state funded University. Representative Klinker is under an eight-month contract with Purdue. Purdue begins paying her on May 30th. And so she doesn’t begin to receive her Purdue salary until a full month after the legislature adjourns. This was an easily acquired piece of information. I wonder that Chairman Holcomb didn’t care enough to discover this on his own.

What “Education Reform”?

Toward the end of Chairman Holcomb’s guest column he stated that there is a clear directive from voters in support of various issues, among which is “education reform.” To my knowledge few, if any, candidates for the legislature ran on a platform of denying teachers the right to collective bargaining. I doubt that any legislators ran on the platform of denying teachers the right to have dues automatically deducted from their paychecks as the Republican legislature attempted to do with House Bill 1585. I feel certain that legislators did not run on a platform of publishing teacher evaluations on line as seen in Senate Bill 1, a practice not done in any other profession. And I cannot imagine that any legislator ran for office on the platform of minimizing the profession of teaching, of actually discouraging self-improvement, by denying financial advancement for additional degrees and graduate credit hours as the legislature partially succeeded in doing in Senate Bill 1.

For our sake, I hope Republicans will come back to their senses and back to their jobs, for this is not Republicanism. This is more big government, less local control, and more interference in the lives of Hoosiers. I’m a liberal Democrat and today I’m a better Republican than Chairman Holcomb.

Into the Wayback Machine and Back to the Future

Time moves on. Change will happen. And what’s done can’t always be easily undone. I wonder if we’ll continue our rush to join the ranks of the lowest performing states. I wonder if we’ll shake the dust off our Nikes, leave this land we’ve come to, and strike out for the future. This coming May is the Indiana primary and then on to the November election. We have that time to think about what we want, what our values really are, and what kind of Indiana we see for ourselves and for our children.

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