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Tony Bennett's new BFF

If money talks, gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence just let out a loud shout. His campaign donated $25,000 to Tony Bennett's re-election effort, according to a just-filed campaign finance report.

The state superintendent of public instruction already has raised more than $1 million, so the contribution isn't so much a financial boost as an enthusiastic sign of solidarity.

It will work both ways – if Bennett overcomes a wave of educator anger to win a second term, he needs Pence to help champion his continued assault on public education. Likewise, Pence needs an unquestioning ally to carry out his agenda – "(supporting) high-quality school options by expanding choice, access to quality schools, and charter school innovation."

Lifting all restrictions on taxpayer-funded school vouchers surely is part of the game plan, but Hoosiers shouldn't be surprised if the accountability demands tied to voucher dollars at faith-based schools are eliminated. Pence, speaking to the far-right Advance America organization at its 30th anniversary celebration in Indianapolis last year, offered a fiery stump speech for church and state separation.

"When it comes to private schools and Christian schools and home schools, the government should just stay out of the way and allow us to raise our kids according to our values and according to our vision," Pence proclaimed.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, who cleared 16-year state superintendent Suellen Reed out of Bennett's path four years ago, offered up his own endorsement for Bennett's re-election with a $25,000 contribution from Aiming Higher, his political action committee. The contribution was made on June 21, the same day Daniels was named president of Purdue University and pledged to refrain from partisan politics for the rest of his term.

Teachers directing all of their wrath at Bennett should recognize that the state superintendent hasn't created upheaval in their schools without the enthusiastic assistance of the governor and a GOP-controlled legislature. They should also take note of who just gave his re-election a warm embrace.

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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