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Freck
Gongwer
File
Rush

GOP vendetta on teachers reaches a new low

Indiana’s teachers’ unions, bruised and battered after several years in the crosshairs of Republican state lawmakers, took another hit with a bill affecting union dues.

As filed, House Bill 1334 addressed liability insurance for Indiana teachers. But an amendment stripped the authority of local school districts to withhold dues payments from teachers’ paychecks. It was changed Thursday to allow deductions but prohibits the money being used for political purposes. The largest share of political contributions made by the teacher unions go to Democratic candidates.

The provision would not have blocked deduction of United Way contributions, pension payments or any other deductions, just union dues.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly has made no pretense of its disgust for teacher unions, but the latest swipe at education professionals could be a step too far. Teachers pay dues voluntarily, expressly offering prior authorization for the deductions. School districts already have the option not to make the deductions, but they routinely make them along with the automatic deductions for health insurance premiums, taxes and more.

GOP lawmakers picked an unnecessary and unwise fight with Indiana teachers – this time without the cover of doing it “for the students.” The bill, still facing final approval in the House, represents union-bashing, pure and simple.

Openness subjected to new blows

Huntertown Council members are stubbornly upholding their tradition of poor government and lack of transparency.

On Tuesday, Huntertown resident Dave Garman asked the council questions about a pending permit request with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that would allow the town to dump up to 6,000 gallons daily from a proposed drinking water plant into Geller Ditch, which flows into Eel River.

But the council refused to answer.

Councilwoman Pat Freck was the only member who urged the council to answer the questions.

“I don’t understand this board’s reluctance to be open and transparent with the public,” she said.

Council President Sue Gongwer said the council did not have the authority to answer because the permit is an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of the town utility board.

But the decision to request the permit was made by the previous utility board, which included all five members of the council.

Clarifying resource officers’ role

For the Indiana Supreme Court to leave it up to the legislature to clarify a law is not unusual, but rarely does the court ask the General Assembly to act as directly as in a decision this week.

In her first opinion written since joining the court, Justice Loretta Rush explained the court’s unanimous ruling that reversed a student’s conviction for resisting law enforcement in an Indianapolis school. There was no evidence, Rush wrote, that when the student walked away from a police officer preparing to handcuff the student that the student “forcibly” resisted, as the law requires for a conviction.

But Rush and her colleagues went further, expressing concern about the roles performed by police officers assigned to schools as resource officers.

The court was “reluctant to risk blurring the already-fine Fourth Amendment line between school-discipline and law-enforcement duties by allowing the same officer to invisibly ‘switch hats’ – taking a disciplinary role to conduct a warrantless search in one moment, then in the next taking a law-enforcement role to make an arrest based on the fruits of that search,” Rush wrote.

“We also invite the Legislature to consider whether to bring school-resource officers – police officers privately employed by schools for school security and disciplinary purposes – within the ambit of the resisting-law-enforcement statute,” Rush wrote. “The current statute applies to law-enforcement officers only when they are engaged in law-enforcement duties, which does not always apply to the different, though important, duties of a school officer.”

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