[r54] Rallying 101 at the Statehouse (2/17/2011)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Start Date: 2/17/2011 All Day
End Date: 2/17/2011
Two weeks ago, a snow and ice storm closed the Statehouse, meaning we had last week to make up for lost time. If that alone wasn't going to make for a busy week, some of the controversial bills we heard would.

I was fortunate to have a page, Addison McKown, come visit me on Tuesday, which was the highlight of my week. I always enjoy having pages, because it gives students a chance to learn more about the legislative process and interact with their state legislator. The House page program is offered to students between the ages of 13 and 18 to give them a chance to come into the Statehouse and get a firsthand experience of what a full day is like involving legislative activity.

Applications for the program are still being accepted, so if you know a student that would be interested, please visit my website at www.in.gov/h54 and click on "Student Opportunities."

While Addison was here, she had the chance to assist on the House floor during session and see a little bit of the legislative process. I enjoyed having her here, but to be honest, I was glad she left when she did because of the event that was about to take place.

One of the major bills we heard was House Bill 1002 concerning charter schools. We debated the legislation for hours on Monday and Tuesday before a final vote was taken late Tuesday evening. Adding to the commotion was a teachers' union rally outside the House chamber on Tuesday. By some reports, more than 1,000 teachers were present.

There were no teachers from our community at the rally on Tuesday. This didn't surprise me because I have been meeting with several school corporations around our community to get their thoughts and opinions on the whole idea concerning education reform, which included charter schools.

I always applaud those who show passion for something and rally to show it, whether it be for a profession, a cause or a movement, because there is nothing stronger than our freedom to voice our opinion. But I also agree with being professional without being disrespectful or disruptive for the greater good - or in our case, the legislative process.

Things got out of hand on Tuesday, and it's a shame that some teachers conveyed the message that they were more concerned with bullying the legislative body than the quality of a child's education. If they were concerned about the quality of education, they would have conducted themselves in a professional manner so that we, the legislature, could have heard their message - as well as hear the legislators debating the bills.

The teachers were so loud that they had to be asked several times by the Speaker to please be quiet. One teacher even shouted "Liar!' from the public galley after the final vote was held, causing a state trooper to escort that person out while he continued to chastise supporters of the charter school bill.

HB 1002 gives Hoosier families an additional option for their students' education. It's an option that isn't necessarily needed for our community since our schools are performing above the state average, but as a state legislator, I have to vote not only for our community, but for what's best for the entire state.

I have read numerous reports proving the success of charter schools and the need for them in communities that want them - HB 1002 is simply trying to make it easier for communities to obtain them and to help students learn in an alternative setting.

As we continue through session, I encourage you to keep voicing your opinions, your concerns and asking your questions. Even if you wish to come to the Statehouse with 1,000 of your friends - I encourage you to do so. But please be mindful that this is our place of business, so a professional demeanor will "get your point across" - much more so than a screaming one. If not, I can assure you that your message will only fall on deaf ears.

I am sure that if my page would have been able to stay and see the protesters' behavior, she would have been shocked to see teachers behaving in a way that students get sent to the principal's office for.