The Superintendent of our Indiana schools – and I use the word “Superintendent” lightly – Tony Bennett has been anointed to attempt to placate the fears of Hoosier teachers, parents, and supporters of public education as he and his boss move toward dismantling the state’s public school system.  The Daniels and Bennett three-legged “stool” of educational reform is nothing more than a thinly veiled – and not too thinly veiled at that – effort to weaken Indiana’s public school system.

The hostile “quasi-privatization” takeover plan asks the Republican-controlled House and Senate to rubber stamp various elements that are aimed at restructuring Hoosier public education.  Daniels prefers to work at privatizing everything that can be turned over to big business, and, in Bennett he has found a comrade in arms.   Of course, sometimes the plans go awry – the IBM welfare privatization scheme, for example.  That one must have caused the Guv a great deal of anguish in the evenings as he tried to figure out what went wrong.

Public education is a function of the government – as it should be.   But, Daniels and Bennett see Indiana’s public school system as ripe for takeover by private entities – through two separate channels – voucher programs and charter schools.  Both will divert students and funding away from our public schools.  A necessary third prong to Daniels and Bennett is to weaken the collective bargaining power of the teachers’ unions.


Vouchers are nothing more than payment from taxpayer funds to allow parents to avoid the public school system and select a private school in which to enroll their children.  The concept sounds really great until a list of private schools is perused.  In Indiana, 82.5% of private educational institutions are affiliated with a religious denomination (136 of 166).

Indiana’s Constitution, in two separate sections of Article I, our Bill of Rights, prohibits the mixing of state and religion.

Section 4. No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.
(History: As Amended November 6, 1984).

Section 6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

The push for vouchers violates both of these sections, yet Daniels and Bennett seem determined to ignore Indiana’s constitution in their push to divert public funds from public schools.

Although the Indiana Constitution would appear to prohibit such a voucher system, the United States Supreme Court, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002), upheld an Ohio plan to allow the use of school vouchers.  The decision did not impose a mandatory requirement of using vouchers, and, in fact, some state supreme courts, including Florida and Arizona, have since determined that the use of vouchers in their state public school systems was unconstitutional.


For 60 years, the state of Indiana has been on a bender to reduce the number of school systems by mandating school consolidation under the theory that consolidations cut expenses and provide greater resources. Establishment of charter schools is in direct contradiction to that 60-year policy, yet Bennett and Daniels are determined to throw that policy out the window in their rush to tear down the Indiana public school system.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are schools which are given the right to exist but are given their existence in a different way than the traditional schools.  They are “chartered” or created by an entity distinct from yet under the control of the state. In Indiana charter schools can be proposed by a sponsor, by a governing body of a four-year state educational institution, or by an executive of a consolidated city.

The purposes of chartered schools are no different than the public schools.  The following is the list of purposes set forth in I.C. 20-24-2-1:

IC 20-24-2-1

Purposes of charter schools

Sec. 1. A charter school may be established under this article to provide innovative and autonomous programs that do the following:

(1) Serve the different learning styles and needs of public school students.

(2) Offer public school students appropriate and innovative choices.

(3) Provide varied opportunities for professional educators.

(4) Allow public schools freedom and flexibility in exchange for exceptional levels of accountability

(5) Provide parents, students, community members, and local entities with an expanded opportunity for involvement in the public school system.

No differences exist, and the public school system was created for the very same purposes listed for charter schools.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools also have an advantage in the review process.  They need to be reviewed once within a five-year period of time.  Thus, theoretically, a charter school could go for eight or nine years without a review.  For example, if the school were reviewed in the first or second year that would satisfy the review requirement for that five-year period.  Then, perhaps the school would not be reviewed until the ninth year of the next five-year period.  The charter school has been given a pass and does not have to be reviewed nearly as often as the public schools.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools also do not have the stringent requirements for teacher licensing that are required of the existing public school systems.  Charter school teachers do not need licenses when they are hired – the requirement is that the teacher needs to be “in the process” of obtaining a license and has three years to complete the process. The teacher could spend three years without a license and then move on without ever having obtained a license while at the charter school.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools come in two varieties:  those that are created and those that are converted.  Those created are new schools and do not start with collective bargaining agreements.  The teachers are allowed to organize if they want to and have the ability to do so.  Those existing schools which are converted must recognize the existing collective bargaining agreements.  Given this difference, Daniels and Bennett will more than likely go for more new schools than converted schools.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter school conversion requires 60% of teachers to agree and 51% of parents.  It doesn’t take much math to figure out that Bennett and Daniels will go for new schools.  Conversions will be few and far between.  Why use conversions that need approval when new schools can be created without the bother of teachers and parents?

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools take public funding from already existing schools.  The pie is just so big, and, by increasing the number of schools, the pie gets smaller.  Our existing public schools get less of everything with the creation of more schools.  This decrease in public funding assures that our existing schools will only continue to receive less and less, spiraling down ward with less and less to serve their existing students.


This one is a no-brainer.  Charter schools can be established without collective bargaining agreements.  Vouchers can go to private religiously-affiliated schools without the worry of unions.

Bennett and Daniels primary goal is to weaken the public educational system by the use of vouchers, by increasing the creation of charter schools, and by dismantling the ability of teachers across this state to enter into collective bargaining agreements.

How is it that Bennett and Daniels justify the creation of additional schools when the last 60 years has been spent decreasing the number of schools – all in the effort to save money and increase resources?

Their goal is simple – Bennett and Daniels are using a completely controlled Republican General Assembly to weaken the public education system in Indiana.


Bennett’s wife, Tina, recently resigned from a position that put her squarely in a conflict of interest.  While her husband was pushing to increase charter schools, Tina Bennett was employed by a company that worked with charter schools.  Tony Bennett had the audacity to suggest this was not a conflict of interest.


Bennett and Daniels have a vendetta against our Hoosier public education system.  By using several avenues, they hope to eventually dismantle the public school system in Indiana.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Education, Government, Indiana General Assembly, Mitch Daniels, Religion, Republicans, Supreme Court and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to BEND IT LIKE BENNETT

  1. JC says:

    First off on vouchers, I don’t think the religious affiliation matters in light of the statutes you cited. The reason I say this is because my son went to St. Francis and got Federal and State financial aid paid directly to the school.
    What do you say to parental responsibility being the biggest factor in failing schools? All my kids are in public schools (FWCS) and I see the biggest problem has been ignoring the higher achievers by concentrating on the low achievers.
    The ESL kids end up being bi-lingual when they graduate because they get one on one help in a second language. My kids taking Spanish make burritos in class and can’t conduct simple conversation. That is the path we are on. Charter schools aren’t the answer, but I’m all for vouchers now. I’m ready to pull mine out because the future in public education is bleak.

  2. The aid your son received probably is not in the form of vouchers. He probably received student loans and grants. The federal and state governments have set up programs for those purposes. Not knowing the names of your son’s assistance, it makes it hard for me to say from where the money came.

    Students loans typically are paid directly to the school and have to be paid back, so they are not public money being given to your son or you to decide which school to choose. The grants do not have to be paid back. Pell grants are one form, and these are federally funded – not funded from state property tax money.

    The voucher system would take money from the public school funds and would probably give it directly to the parents to decide, not to the school itself. If our public schools are in trouble now, how can it possibly help to pull money out of that overall budget and to provide it for vouchers and also to create new charter schools?

    I agree that parents are failing their children when it comes to parenting in schools. But you will notice Daniels and Bennett do not address this issue – much of their focus has been on punishing teachers for not being able to get children to succeed. In fact, Mark Mellinger asked Daniels about this issue several weeks ago in an interview, and Daniels avoided answering. He changed the subject and despite Mellinger asking him more than once, he would not address the issue.

    Daniels and Bennett have found it much easier to place blame on teachers than to deal with the numerous issues involved in parenting, neighborhoods, economic conditions in poorer neighborhoods, etc.

    The first five years have been shown to be critical to a child’s development, and parents are the biggest role models during those years.

    My four boys and I are products of public education. All four of my sons went on to college and received their degrees. One went further and has a master’s degree as well. I earned two degrees. I am proud to have graduated from the public school system, and I am proud that my sons did so too.

    Just a point of clarification – the citations for the vouchers are for our state Constitution – not statutes. The Constitution takes priority over statutory law. Although both are considered primary sources of law, the courts end up interpreting statutory law.

  3. Evert Mol says:


    We obviously don’t see eye to eye on this topic. What bothers me most is your(and the teachers’) assertion that the Republicans are out to destroy the public (i.e. government run) schools. These schools still work reasonably well in the affluent suburban areas and those areas will hardly be affected by any of the proposed reforms. Nobody in Aboite is clamoring for charters or vouchers. It’s the urban districts like FWCS, the one I went to that is now a basket case south of Coliseum, that are unable to adapt to their demographics that need to be changed. They are doing a pretty good job of destroying themselves.

    That change will not come from within, so it will have to be imposed on them. The reforms may or may not work but doing nothing will just allow the inevitable downward slide to continue like it has in every other urban district in the state.

  4. Evert:

    Yes, we do disagree. I noticed that Daniels had no response to Mark Mellinger when Mark asked about parental responsibility. Daniels and Bennett would rather blame teachers than look at additional underlying reasons for urban school failures or below standard performances.

    In reviewing the statutes for charter schools, they have the same purposes as public schools yet the teachers can teach without a license for three years, the schools get a pass on any timely and meaningful review, and they pull money form existing public schools.

    How is it Daniels, Bennett, and the Republican led legislature can justify creating additional schools when no one knows if they will resolve any problems? To boot, we have been told for decades that consolidation is the solution and now Daniels, Bennett, and the Republicans are reversing course.

    This is a vendetta against public education, but, even more than that, against the teachers and their collective bargaining powers. Recall that within hours after Daniels took office in 2005, he took away collective bargaining rights of state workers.

    This is about collective bargaining and moving the public school system as close to privatization that he can get. An entire industry of private for-profit companies have sprung up to offer management services to the new charters. In fact, until it raised ethical issues, Tony Bennett’s wife worked for one of those companies.

    Your statement that “the reforms may or may not work” is terribly disturbing. Data available so far on charter schools is that they are doing no better in urban areas than the public schools – in fact, I have seen data that shows graduation rates in Indiana charter schools as low as around 30%.

    By the time everyone figures out these schools will do no more than public schools, Daniels and Bennett and the Republican assembly will have achieved their goal of weakening the public schools.

  5. Evert Mol says:


    Charter schools are public schools run by someone other than a government entity. They may be run by for-profit organizations or non-profits. Government doesn’t have a magic formula for managing things better than the private sector. All other things being equal their academic results are about the same as government run schools. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.

    What should happen is for the best charter schools to survive and the worst ones to disappear. That’s what should happen with government run schools as well, but never does, at least not for academic reasons. They only disappear through attrition. So the best charters will end up drawing enough students from some of the government schools forcing some of them to close. And losing those students and their funding is the only thing that will motivate change in the govermnet schools. They consider themselves as mankind’s greatest creation, immune from public criticism and economic realities.

    Sorry but the hysteria about tryng to “kill, destroy, ruin,…pick your favorite word” public schools reminds me of the scare tactics about “death panels”.


  6. Evert:

    When a governor of a state says he cannot restructure how he wants with collective bargaining in place, and then gets rid of collective bargaining rights, most people would see that as an attack on collective bargaining.

    Note Daniels said “he could not restructure” like he wanted too.

    It isn’t hysteria when all signs point to a policy of weakening public education. The three items Daniels is using are geared toward taking away from public education.

    And by the way, last year’s graduation rates of the lowest schools were charter schools. Of the lowest 25, 21 were charter schools yet Daniels and Bennett are hell-bent on creating more of them.

    Let’s face it, Daniels and Bennett are after the collective bargaining rights of teachers. What better way to do it then increase new schools where collective bargaining doesn’t exist?

    And, as you noted, it isn’t the virtually minority-free suburbs in Fort Wayne that will be hurt. It is the urban area.

  7. cw martin says:

    Other than my hatred of the waste of resources called unions, and my thought that a parent sending their kids to private school or home schooling shouldn’t have to spend THEIR tax money on MY kid, we agree more than usual. If the teacher’s union upper echelon wasn’t using the unions as a democrat PAC, I would have less of a problem there too.

  8. Mark Andrews says:

    Well Evert the “Death Panels” ruse worked very well Aren’t the local Imagine schools free?
    And when the talk turns to vouchers I have said this repeatedly but no one is listening…your voucher should only be for the amount of property tax that you paid for your local school district. The rest of the money should be paid by the parent who makes a decision to place their child/ren in a Charter School.

  9. JC says:

    It’s not the schools, it’s substandard parenting. Why should parents care if their kids can count on receiving handouts for food, housing, medical care, etc. There is no incentive for education being a priority when your belly is full and CANI is paying your gas bill.

  10. Evert Mol says:

    Mark- yes I was listening. But since the legislature changed financing for the general fund to the sales tax, 90% of school funding comes from Indianapolis. What does that leave coming out of property taxes and is that significant enough to help anyone with school tuition? And not everyone pays property taxes directly, so how to handle renters?.

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