Indy Star: Dems should awaken to their history, and their national leadership, on education reform

Indianapolis Star associate editor Russ Pulliam continues to highlight the Democratic heritage to voucher-like education reforms and charter school initiatives, especially so since Indiana Democrats have boycotted their Capitol to put pressure on Republicans to water down a voucher proposal. Last month, Pulliam focused on the story of one former Democratic candidate for mayor of Indianapolis who made school vouchers for the city’s most disadvantaged students part of his platform (With that proposal, the teachers union threw its support behind the candidate’s Republican opponent). Now, Pulliam broadens his focus to highlight the growing schism in the party when it comes to education reform:

It’s hard to tell why the House Democrats mixed up worker rights with opposition to education reform. In staying out to protest charters, Indiana Democrats have put themselves at odds with national Democratic leaders such as President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

State Democrats also object to private school choice for low-income families. Yet that idea originated in Milwaukee with a Democratic mayor, John Norquist. A Democratic candidate for mayor of Indianapolis, Louis Mahern, advocated the idea in his campaign 20 years ago.

Where were these Democrats when Mahern was running for mayor? Where are they now when one of their own, former Mayor Bart Peterson, has helped lead the charge for charter schools?

“There’s a schism in the Democratic Party around education reform,” notes David Harris, founder and CEO of a local reform group, The Mind Trust. “A new generation of Democrats, led by the president and Secretary Duncan, is demanding we remake public education even though that means upsetting the teacher unions. But we don’t have enough Obama/Duncan-style Democrats in Indiana.”

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit