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What a difference an election makes

Legislation targeting collective bargaining rights for teachers is a key provision of the agenda supported by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and state Superintendent Tony Bennett.

But Republican lawmakers were intentionally vague when asked as candidates about a possible repeal of Public Law 217. Senate Bill 575, approved Tuesday, doesn't go as far as House Bill 1337 in stripping contract rights, but it levels a solid blow.

Here are what some northeast Indiana lawmakers had to say before Election Day 2010, in response to a written questionnaire from The Journal Gazette:

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle: "I believe there are some changes that need to be made with collective bargaining for teachers, however, I don't believe we will see a repeal of the collective bargaining law. There is a tremendous lack of trust between teachers unions, superintendents, schools boards and the DOE that would only be worsened by an effort for complete repeal."

Sen. Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne: "I am not aware of any discussion by anyone to repeal the teacher's collective bargaining law. There may be changes which are appropriately determined, so that salaries and benefits are the basis for negotiations rather than any issues which are truly non-germane."

Rep. Dick Dodge, R-Pleasant Lake: "I'm less concerned with the demands of the teachers union than making sure excellent teachers are being well paid."

Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City: "My first focus in education is to ensure that teachers who are performing well receive good pay…and that the funds that come from the state to schools actually get pushed down to the classroom. I think the teachers' union should be encouraged to support these goals and shown appreciation when they do. Our goals should be parallel…to improve the quality of education for all the children of Indiana."

Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven: "There are aspects of the collective bargaining law which should be looked at without 'throwing out the baby with the bathwater.' "

Rep. David Yarde, R-Garrett: "No, however there are certain narrow issues that need to be discussed. In a layoff situation, factors other than seniority should be reviewed. In certain subject areas where it is difficult to find teachers, the hiring criteria needs to be reviewed."

Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, did not respond to two requests to complete the questionnaire, but in an interview with our editorial board, he said he supported repeal of the collective bargaining law.

We endorsed his opponent, teacher Evan Smith.

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 kfrancisco@jg.net.

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