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'I meant work with unions, not drive them out'

The newest member of the Indiana General Assembly heard from plenty of educators and union members after he made what many would consider an inflammatory statement at the GOP caucus election.

Bob Morris, the newly selected representative for House District 84, told precinct officials in his introductory statement that "we need to get our test scores up and the unions out."

After plenty of phone calls and dinner with the governor, Morris is -- not surprisingly -- backing off the anti-union rhetoric.

"That's been the most-asked question after the election as far as these state teachers' unions," he told me this morning. "I believe it would be excellent to work with these teachers' unions, and sitting down with them and discussing their wants and their needs and then the needs of the kids -- the children.

"Unions have their time and place," Morris said. "If these teachers are being abused, and not being treated correctly, that's the purpose of a union. ... The way it was quoted in the newspaper, in wanting these unions out -- I want to work with these unions."

Morris was sworn in at a ceremony last week, filling Randy Borror's seat, but he faces a challenge on Nov. 2. Democrat Evan Smith, interestingly, is a teacher. He was laid off in the staffing upheaval at Fort Wayne Community Schools, but rehired for a post at North Side High School.

Another interesting aside: Morris' parents were both teachers and union members -- his father at Northwest Allen County Schools and his mother at East Allen County Schools.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at