The Indiana Republican Party is very upset with Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick.
Who also happens to be a Republican.
McCormick agreed to be part of a listening tour with Indiana Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary. Melton is sizing up a 2020 run for governor.
The news that McCormick would be traveling around the state listening to Hoosiers set Indiana GOP Chair Kyle Hupfer’s teapot to full boil.
“After being on stage at our Republican Conventions in 2016 and 2018, running on GOP ideals in 2016 and accepting campaign aid from thousands of Republican Party supporters across the state, it begs the question whether Jennifer McCormick is still a Republican,” he said in a press release. “I’m sure someone will ask her that soon.”
Hupfer also accused McCormick of auditioning to be the Democratic Party’s lieutenant-gubernatorial nominee next year.
McCormick’s response was little more than a scoff.
“I expect that at the federal level, just because of the political allegiance games being played,” McCormick said of Hupfer’s fulminations. “At the state level, it’s disappointing. I think we have to do better than that. For me, it’s not about a political party. It’s about kids.”
To be fair to Hupfer, he may have been angry about something other than McCormick sharing a stage with a Democrat.
He also might be hot and bothered about the fact that she plans to listen to people.
When it comes to education, listening is not something Hoosier Republicans like to do.
To their eyes — and ears — listening isn’t just bad.
Listening might encourage Hoosiers to start questioning.
They might start asking why an Indiana education reform movement that began as a quest to increase accountability in schools now has been transformed into a therapeutic campaign to make parents feel better about how their children are doing in the classroom, regardless of what the scores may say. It’s a kind of new entitlement.
Normally, Republicans aren’t thrilled with entitlements, but in this case they’re okay with the idea.
If the listening continues, Hoosiers also might inquire about why, as taxpayers, they now are paying for not one but two systems of public education. One provides funding for the traditional public schools, which must educate every child who walks through the school doors and must comply with all laws banning discrimination.
The other, though, uses parents to launder tax money through vouchers and funnels millions of dollars to schools such as Roncalli and Cathedral, which fire people for having legally sanctioned marriages. This makes taxpayers party to discrimination.
Last, but perhaps most damaging, this listening tour on which McCormick will embark might encourage Indiana’s citizens to start asking when the GOP’s grand education strategy will start working.
Republicans have guided the state’s education policies for nearly 15 years now. At the beginning of their crusade to dismantle traditional public schools, they promised to bring about stunning increases in student achievement.
It hasn’t happened.
Hoosier test scores and other standards of measurement at most have remained static. About the best that can be said of Indiana student progress is that we haven’t lost ground as fast as some other states struck by the market-driven education-reform fever.
At some level, Indiana Republicans may grasp this. That’s why they have worked so hard to remove charter and voucher schools from many of the accountability standards and processes imposed on traditional public schools.
Accountability, for the GOP, is essential for traditional public schools.
For other schools that receive massive amounts of state aid, not so much.
It’s also why, in the name of empowering parents, they stripped those same parents of the right to vote for the state’s top educator by making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed rather than elected position.
You see, an elected superintendent such as McCormick might do something dangerous.
Such as listening to people.
And that would be bad.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.