Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

August 27, 2013

PUBLIC FORUM: Letter from Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013

The real problem remains after Bennett’s departure

The recent articles regarding the tenure and actions of Dr. Tony Bennett clearly provide the basis from which one can understand the animus and distrust of educators across Indiana and beyond. But, my guess is that Tony Bennett didn’t dream up the changes he advanced for Indiana schools. Several brain trusts across the country write legislative proposals for legislators, programs for Governors and action plans for state education leaders.

And, special interests fund both the organizations and the political campaigns of those who advocate their thinking. Spend time in the Indiana Secretary of State’s Indiana Election Division reviewing the campaign finance reports of Dr. Bennett, Governor Daniels and numerous legislative leasers and you will soon learn why Dr. Bennett was so passionate about moving charter schools forward. Contributions of such large amounts to anyone’s campaign have to bring pressure and expectations of access to the elected official and action from that official when desired.

The financial demands to win an election are huge. Dr. Bennett spent $1,866,743.43 in his campaign during 2012. And he lost.

Contributions of $65,000 from Ms. DeHahn, $55,150 from Hoosiers for Economic Growth (which also donated large amounts to legislators positioned to impact educational legislation; and was itself the recipient of large amounts of money from an organization in Washington, D.C.), and $49,965 from the American Federation for Children Action fund were necessary for the $1.8 million 2012 campaign. Large contributions can twist and conflict their recipients. And, they would twist and conflict most of us.

So, with Dr. Bennett gone, is the special treatment for charter schools over? Hardly. Not known to most Hoosiers is the fact that the 2013 Indiana Legislature, with the Governor’s signature, enacted into law the HB1001 budget bill including a provision added in the Senate that forgave all Common School Fund debt owed by charted schools in Indiana. Based upon a printout dated Jan. 2, 2013, that provision forgave charter schools $81,828,253.30. Some reports have placed the value at $93 million. With the passage of this legislation, the forgiven debt and the assets purchased by the borrowed funds became the assets of the individuals and/or corporations that sponsor the charter schools. An eighty million dollar gift to charter school sponsors.

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