EDITORIAL: Governor’s plan to fix education violates Indiana Constitution

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We agree with Gov. Mitch Daniels’ assertion in his State of the State Address last week that the state has no more critical a duty than educating its children.

We disagree, however, on one of the methods he touts as an improvement to public education.

“Indiana has lagged sadly behind other states in providing the option of charter schools,” he said. “We must have more of them, and they must no longer be unjustly penalized. They should receive their funding exactly when other public schools do. If they need space, and the local district owns vacant buildings it has no prospect of using, they should turn them over.”

The state’s responsibility is clearly stated in Article 8 of the Indiana Constitution:

“… it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to … provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of common schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”

Public education is based on the idea that all children should have the same minimum opportunities to learn, and in so doing, to work their way into jobs and lives they can enjoy. Opportunities have always existed for some to select different paths, based on financial, religious or other criteria of their choosing.

Charter schools are another way education can be provided along a different track. A Webster’s definition puts the origin of the term at 1992 and explains they are tax-supported and established through charters “between a granting body (as a school board) and an outside group (as of teachers and parents) which operates the school without most local and state educational regulations so as to achieve set goals.”

The wrongs contained in that definition are immediately obvious. If a need exists to step outside educational regulations to achieve the mission, why would that need, and why should that ability, not belong to every school system? More simply, why not change or eliminate the regulations? Why would we not adhere to the Constitutional requirement to provide education uniformly?

Instead of upholding the Constitution, which he swore to do, the governor is telling us the S.S. Indiana Education is sinking, and every family should scramble to the best of their ability to find safety. This is from his State of the State transcript:

“Widening parents’ options in these ways will enable the vast majority of children to attend the school of their choice. But one more step is necessary: For families who cannot find the right traditional public school, or the right charter public school for their child, and are not wealthy enough to move near one, justice requires that we help. We should let these families apply dollars that the state spends on their child to the nongovernment school of their choice.”

Our recommendation is that resources earmarked for the education of the state’s children be distributed in a fair manner to public schools as the Constitution requires. We also recommend that the governor cease all efforts to undermine those schools and work instead toward ensuring they have the resources they need to help make our children dynamic contributors to their own and the state’s livelihood.

If charter schools are somehow better, let’s make every student a charter-school graduate.

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