[r79] Education reform gives kids a chance (4/1/2011)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Start Date: 4/1/2011 All Day
End Date: 4/1/2011
Webster's Dictionary defines 'normal' as "the usual standard, type, or custom."  Within the narrow confines of this definition, the Indiana General Assembly returned to normal Monday.  After five weeks of wandering throughout Urbana, Illinois, the Democrats reluctantly found their way back to the House chambers.

The 'business as usual' atmosphere on the House floor made it seem as if the Democrats never fled the state. Reflecting on the walkout, it is surreal to think that five weeks really went by the wayside. However, despite the minority party's refusal to debate, defend, and vote on the issues over that time span, the House got back to work with gusto this week.  The House passed House Bill (HB) 1001, the State Budget, and House Bill (HB) 1003, School Choice Scholarships, after considerable debate Wednesday.  Moving forward, the General Assembly is now faced with an up-hill battle to complete ten weeks of work in five weeks time in order to avoid a costly special session.

With a couple of fourteen hour days behind us, we finally finished all the house bills on the calendar and can begin working on Senate bills.  With the large amount of legislation that moved through the House this week, I want to touch base on one of the key bills, HB 1003.

I voted for HB 1003, the School Choice Scholarships bill, as it passed the House 56 to 42.  I have received a myriad of e-mails and telephone calls on education reform and how the changes will affect our teachers, parents and children.  School Choice Scholarships give low-income families an opportunity to overcome monetary boundaries by providing the educational tools necessary for the development of their children. There are some places across Indiana where public education is failing to meet the needs of children by inadequately preparing our kids for the future. 

The education debate has intensified this session over the Charter School bill and School Choice Scholarships bill.  If one lesson is to be reverberated from the last five weeks, it is the ever-increasing importance of fully participating in the democratic process. During the Democrat walkout, union rallies took place every day at the Statehouse, and I commend the manner in which most of these protests were conducted.  I encourage all Hoosiers to come to the Statehouse to have their voice heard as it is a vital part of the democratic process.

On Wednesday, there was another rally at the Statehouse.  It was a rally for school choice.  The supporters for school choice were just as boisterous as the union members who had rallied in the weeks prior.  The only  difference was that I was not looking at disgruntled adults, but into the faces of kids who were looking for hope.  I talked to parents who wanted nothing more than for their kids to have the best education possible.  The status quo was not going to save their children from a school that fails to graduate half of their student body.  For five weeks I heard that this was a bill to help "rich white kids", but at the school choice rally, I saw students stemming from all economic and ethnic backgrounds. 

When I returned to my desk on the House floor and listened to the debate begin, I heard two clear positions.  Protect the status quo because we are afraid of what impact this may have on our schools or step up and give parents a louder voice in their child's education. I voted to give parents a greater say so their children can experience a great education.