The latest email message from Indiana's superintendent of public instruction seems to push the limits for electioneering on the taxpayers' dime. The Department of Ed message includes a headline and link to Indianapolis Star political columnist Matt Tully's recent interview with Tony Bennett. The account from their coffee shop chat generally makes Bennett out to be a fearless crusader for Indiana schoolchildren.
Tully suggests Bennett's re-election is a given because "Democrats are still wondering who will fill the ballot spot against Bennett in November."
That must be a surprise to Justin Oakley, the Martinsville teacher who filed paperwork with the Indiana secretary of state's office in November and is working hard to emerge from the Democratic state convention as the party's nominee.
Tully faults Bennett for neglecting early childhood programs – an issue The Journal Gazette raised repeatedly in the 2008 campaign – but mostly gives the first-term superintendent a chance to boast of his administration's "bold legislation" and to claim that indicators show "Indiana is moving in the right direction."
The columnist cites Bennett's "gregarious" nature and gives him props for contributing to "a higher level of debate about public education."
"Antiquated laws and restrictions on districts have been eliminated. Families have more school choices than ever before. And (Indianapolis) is debating a plan, funded by Bennett's department, to restructure Indianapolis Public Schools," Tully writes.
No wonder the superintendent is eager to share the column with an e-mail distribution list of thousands of voters.
Tully is correct, however, about Bennett's re-election chances. Follow the money in the state superintendent's campaign coffers and you'll quickly see that anti-union types and corporate interests – many of them far from Indiana – have put up major bucks to see that he remains in office.