Terre Haute Tribune-Star
Let’s try to figure this out. It’s not easy, unless you’re a Republican legislator in Indiana.
The Statehouse’s ruling political party is proposing a bill aimed at removing politics from Hoosier school classrooms. In reality, Senate Bill 167 is part of a national Republican Party effort to inject culture wars into the 2022 election cycle, hoping to inflame more anger to win votes. It also continues Indiana Republicans’ history of disrespect for public school teachers by heaping more government red-tape onto their already difficult jobs at a time when the state faces a serious shortage of educators.
Still, if the bogus rationalizations in the bill are accepted at face value, it claims to remove politics from the classroom. SB 167 would prohibit teachers from promoting any concept “that an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by the individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”
Moral character has no relation to political affiliation, the legislation implies.
Yet, the Republican Party also is pushing House Bill 1182, which would end Indiana’s long history of conducting school board elections on a nonpartisan basis. School board candidates would have to declare a political party affiliation. Indiana currently is one of 42 states with nonpartisan school board elections.
HB 1182’s author J.D. Prescott, a Republican from Union City, explained in a House Election Committee hearing that his constituents expressed to him a desire for more transparency in school board elections on where candidates sit on the political spectrum.
“School boards handle one of the largest budgets with our elected offices,” Prescott said. “I think you can rank and even tell the difference between financial responsibility (and) moral character … just having that extra indication on the ballot will help share to voters a little bit more about the candidates on the ballot.”
So, to recap: Moral character isn’t determined by a person’s political affiliation when they’re inside a school classroom. Yet moral character is determined by a person’s political affiliation if they’re trying to become a member of the local school board.
Neither do we.
The power party’s circular logic only clarifies one reality — it needs to begin building a healthier approach to improving Indiana schools by listening to and respecting Hoosiers that teach our kids, and spending more energy and resources on supporting those schools and less time turning nationally cooked-up ideas into state laws. Neither of these bills would strengthen the education of Indiana’s young people.