I believe an important question that needs to be asked is, “How did Indiana go from a limited voucher system, proposed by former Governor Mitch Daniels, as a way for students in low performing public schools to secure a better education to, in 10 years over 400 non public schools and more money spent on vouchers than any state in the United States?”
I believe the answer to that question is answered by following the money to our present Governor, Eric Holcomb, and key members of the state legislature leadership team. Simply put, money is donated by people, groups and organizations. In many cases is a staggering amount of money and in many cases hard to track. But we need to start somewhere. Let’s take a look.
First, I would encourage you to verify my numbers and to look at the legislators who represent you. I was shocked at the amount of money that is being raised, where it comes from, in state and out of state and how hard, in some cases, it is to track. If you have a computer and internet connection, you can do what I have done. I used www.votesmart.org to track contributions. When you type in an elected official, it will appear below, just click on the name, then go to the top of page, right side “funding” and click on it. A page will appear listing those who donated money in the last election cycle. From there I used Google to learn more about some of the people and organizations who donated. Just a hint, don’t overlook and organization or group with a warm fuzzy name. In some cases, when you look at what they stand for and what their vested interest is, they are not so warm and fuzzy. Keep reading, in some cases you don’t find their motive until reading a few minutes.
Let’s start at the top, Governor Eric Holcomb. First thing that jumped out at me was the staggering amount of money raised for his election, and the amount that came from out of state sources. The money from the Republican Governors Association and former Governor Mike Pence, I would have questions about, but I can’t trace sources. I think we should all be concerned about large sums that we have difficulty tracing, I believe that few give money without expecting something in return.
That being said, let’s move to a $50,000 donation from Christel DeHann. This lady and her husband started a very successful company called Resorts Condominium International (RCI), she has been a strong supporter of charter schools, started 2 herself, in Indianapolis. You might remember Tony Bennett, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, who was defeated for reelection and took a job in educational leadership in the state of Florida, then resigned abruptly. There was much written about Tony Bennett altering the performance of Christel DeHann”s school grades to make it look as it was performing better than state scores indicated. Clearly a major supporter of non public schools. $50,000, I’ll bet the Governor knows her name.
Next, let’s look at Brian Bosma. Mr. Bosma is Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives. He appoints chairmen of committees and has control of what bills reach the floor of the House. Let’s look at a couple of interesting campaign contributions. Again, Christel DeHann, this time contributing $75,000 to the Bosma campaign. Another is from Hoosiers For Quality Education (HQ4E) started by Fred Klipsch. Remember Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, his company had the naming rights for a time. HQ4E donated $20,000 to the Bosma campaign, this group supports lawmakers who support non public schools.
How about a look at Mr. Bob Behning next. Mr. Behning is a member of the Indiana House of Representatives, and co-chairman of the House Education committee. First, his largest campaign donation, came again from Hoosiers For Quality Education (H4QE) in the amount of $3,000 and another $2,500 from Red Apple Development LLC. Red Apple is a Fort Lauderdale, Florida based company that is a national developer of charter school facilities. Mr. Tony Cook is also a member of the Indiana State House of Representatives and co-chair of the House Education committee with Mr. Behning. His largest campaign donation in the last election was from Hoosiers For Quality Education (H4QE) in the amount of $2,500.
Let’s go to the Indiana Senate side.
First, Indiana State Senate Pro Tempore. Much the same bill assigning power as the Speaker on the House side. His name Rodric Bray. Campaign donations of interest, $500 from Hoosiers For Quality Education (H4QE) and $500 from Indiana Virtual School. Indiana State Senate Majority Whip, Mark Messmer. Mr Messmer received a campaign donation of $2,500 from Hoosiers For Quality Education (H4QE). And finally, Jeff Raatz, Indiana State Senator, Chair of the Senate Education Committee and the State Senator that represents me in Randolph County. No surprise, Hoosiers For Quality Education (H4QE) in the amount of $4,000.
We haven’t even discussed the evening wine reception at the Conrad Hotel, in early January, for state legislators, that was reported in the Indianapolis Star. Or a trip for supportive legislators to warm climates, prior to the beginning of the legislative session, to insure support for non public school agenda issues and finances. To me, all of this is not what the citizens of this state expect from their elected governor and legislators.
If we do not speak up this will continue and get worse.
I hope you will join me in voicing displeasure at this swamp.