Dear Indiana Republicans: Oh, say can you act like true conservatives…for once?

by Jim Lang

Dear Indiana Republicans:

As an educator and conservative, I have watched as you have embraced educational “reform” policies in the last two years that have expanded the power of the Indiana Department of Education, added more bureaucracy than ever to the everyday jobs of our hardworking educators and administrators, and removed local control from our school corporations.

I have listened as some of you have called on our school corporations to operate “like businesses”  while passing overreaching legislation that makes it impossible to do that.  You now require schools corporations to lease or sell empty buildings to charter schools for only $1. Some of you have even chastised corporations seeking to charge for transportation to help offset Indiana budget cuts. How does a school corporation operate like a business when it doesn’t have the freedom to do so?

And, of course, we have all watched as you have deluded yourselves into thinking that a constitutionally questionable voucher program that mixes public funds with private schools will actually improve our public schools, when, in reality, it will only weaken the private schools foolish enough to buy into this charade.

As a conservative, I remember when Republicans supported more local control, less bureaucracy, a clear separation between church and state, and, most importantly, the idea that liberty begins with the individual, and that real freedom lies in the ingenuity and commitment of local communities and neighborhoods to solve their own problems together.

So, after two years of watching many of you forget your conservative roots and embrace a national education agenda that really hasn’t improved much of anything, I really shouldn’t be surprised that at least one Indiana Republican now wants to create “performance standards” to ensure we all sing the national anthem correctly.

Yes, your colleague, Sen. Vaneta Becker of Evansville, has introduced legislation that would properly regulate the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at events sponsored by public schools, state universities, and private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds and vouchers. Musicians violating these regulations could be fined $25.

Apparently, tuneless Hoosiers are making a mockery of the national anthem in gymnasiums all over Indiana, so these atrocities must be stopped (by the government, of course).  The proposed legislation calls for “acceptable” standards to be determined by the State Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education. We can only imagine what that rubric will look like.

As conservatives who value liberty and abhor too much government control, you will all oppose this bill, right? Surely you see the irony in attempting to regulate the singing of an anthem that includes the words, “O’er the land of the free…”

Of course, judging from much of your legislation in the last two years, many of you doubt your local educators’ abilities to freely evaluate their own personnel, determine their curriculum, manage their finances, impact the lives of children, or make any intelligent decisions without your “help.”

Likewise, you seem to have forgotten that schools really only succeed when committed parents, community members, and educators work collaboratively and freely together to resolve issues and make their local schools better. No amount of legislation makes this happen.

And, you also seem to doubt some of your constituents’ abilities to work hard, sacrifice, and embrace the freedom they have to pay for a quality private school education for their children without a financial gimmick from the state like a voucher. A financial gimmick, by the way, that would give you the power to foist your “Star-Spangled” performance standards onto any private school accepting vouchers. A skeptic might question whether your intrusion into these private schools would stop merely at regulating the national anthem.

So, sadly, considering the lack of faith many of you display in your local schools, educators, and constituents, it does not surprise me to see a Hoosier Republican proposing such legislation. After all, if we need the Indiana Department of Education and state government to regulate every other aspect of education, how can we truly entrust our local schools to properly regulate the “correct” way to sing the national anthem?

Of course, true conservatives trust that local communities can resolve such issues themselves without such ridiculous legislation.

But then again, I haven’t seen many true conservatives among Indiana Republicans for quite a while.



To read today’s Courier-Journal article, click here:

Standards would be set for schools performing ‘Star-Spangled Banner’


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