The latest campaign mailing from GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence highlights press coverage from his recent statewide listening tour. From a stop here in northeast Indiana, Pence shared his views on education:
He would, according to the report, "continue what he called the state's education reforms, including the use of vouchers or scholarships for K-12 students. He also favors more emphasis on vocation and skilled-trades training in schools."
Pence's campaign contributors like school reform, too. Jeff Yass, an investment manager from Bala Cynwd, Pa., gave Pence $10,000. He's a voucher and charter school advocate who puts his money behind his views.
Another $10K contributor is James B. Nicholson, CEO of a Detroit chemical company and a member of the Michigan Association of Charter School Boards. Robert Luddy, a Raleigh, N.C., businessman who has started private schools and charter schools, gave Pence $20,000. And, of course, there's billionaire David Koch, who along with brother Charles funds a multitude of right-wing initiatives, including the voucher push. He gave Pence's gubernatorial campaign $100,000.
But voters concerned about so-called school reform might not find much difference between Pence and Democratic candidate John Gregg, who was recently named "National Reformer of the Month" by Democrats for Education Reform. DFER supports largely the same education privatization agenda as the GOP conservatives and hedge-fund managers.
Gregg shared a different message last month with the Indiana Association of School Principals, according to the Richmond Palladium-Item.
"Classroom teachers are professionals. Education is a profession and a noble profession, and (teachers and administrators) deserve respect," he said. "They have received no respect from the governor. We have done a horrible thing the last few years. We have demeaned them and demoralized them, and that's wrong."
But Gregg's profile on the DFER website touts his role as speaker of the Indiana House in passing the first charter school law and its K-12 accountability law – the foundation of the same law now being used to demean and demoralize Indiana teachers. Whether his actions and words can be separated will help determine the enthusiasm public educators have for getting him elected.
That would seem to leave the Libertarian ticket as the only hope for those concerned about the voucher/charter school push. Where's Rupert Boneham, "Survivor" alum, on school reform?
"I am fully in favor of the school choice movement, and have been encouraged by Indiana's progress in this area," he states on his campaign website. "Competition is good. If public schools have to compete for students and dollars, then all will benefit."