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Donnelly

Common Core foes enlist governor’s support

A group opposing Indiana’s participation in the Common Core education standards is ratcheting up pressure on Gov. Mike Pence to do what he can to dump the standards.

Hoosiers Against Common Core gave Pence a letter signed by 54 organizations and 860 Hoosiers throughout the state opposing the standards. And the group has called on Pence to follow through on a statement he made just before last November’s election:

“I opposed ‘No Child Left Behind.’ I was one of a small number of Republicans to do that because I think education is a state and local function.’ ”

The group apparently realizes that Pence cannot directly pull Indiana out of the Common Core himself. But the letter asks the governor to publicly declare support for a bill to drop Indiana’s participation and to appoint members of the Indiana Board of Education who will vote to withdraw from Common Core. It was the board that decided to accept the standards in a little-publicized vote.

So far, opposition to the Common Core has come from across the political spectrum, with progressives worried that the standards are lower than what Indiana already has and conservatives wary of supporting nationwide education standards. But the groups that signed on to the petition are mostly right-wing groups affiliated with the tea party, 9/12 organizations and Eagle Forum.

Keeping the economy afloat

Hoosiers should raise a toast to a recent economic development study outlining the importance of beer to Indiana’s economy.

According to the study commissioned by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute, beer contributes $3.3 billion annually to the state’s economy. Beer is also responsible for 38,690 Indiana jobs, which generate $1.1 billion in wages and benefits.

The Indiana beer industry also paid $456.3 million in taxes in 2012.

Nationwide, there are more than 1.1 million people employed in beer-related jobs earning $31.8 billion in wages and benefits.

Joe McClain, president of the Beer Institute, said the study results demonstrate the role beer, an alcoholic beverage synonymous with middle class America, plays in supporting the middle class in “an otherwise struggling economy.”

The study, Beer Serves America, is available at www.BeerServesAmerica.org.

Donnelly draws bead on gun-law loophole

Sen. Joe Donnelly’s decision to support background checks at gun shows, the widest loophole in the nation’s gun regulations, is good news for Hoosiers who believe in common-sense measures to reduce gun violence. It’s also a political calculation that the first-term senator should have had no trouble making.

“I want to make sure that people with, say, a felony or dealing with mental illness cannot get their hands on weapons that can cause so much destruction. And so we’re trying to put together a piece of legislation that will reflect that,” Donnelly told The Journal Gazette’s Brian Francisco.

Yes, the pro-gun-rights Donnelly holds an A rating from the National Rifle Association, but the Granger Democrat is unlikely to earn anything more from the powerful interest group. The NRA spent more than $500,000 trying to elect Richard Mourdock, Donnelly’s November opponent, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Donnelly received no support from the NRA. Nor is the organization likely to support him in 2018, when Indiana Republicans will inevitably tap a candidate with an even-more attractive gun-rights record.

A quick victory for vouchers

Emboldened by an Indiana Supreme Court ruling released Tuesday, the General Assembly’s Senate Education and Career Development Committee voted 8-4 Wednesday to expand the state’s school voucher program.

Sen. Luke Kenley’s amendments slightly rein in the sweeping expansion, but the bill still holds great costs for taxpayers and devastating implications for public schools.

Kindergarten students from income-eligible families whose neighborhood school earns a grade of F would qualify for a voucher. In Fort Wayne, for example, a student in the F-rated Harrison Hill Elementary district could use a voucher to enroll in the F-rated Cornerstone Christian Prep School, where about $500,000 in tax dollars has flowed this year.

Kenley could have killed the bill outright by requiring its approval in the Appropriations Committee, which he chairs.

Its route through the Senate’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee suggests tremendous political pressure to expand the voucher program quickly.

The election of voucher opponent Glenda Ritz as superintendent of public instruction clearly rattled the school choice supporters.

The 8-4 committee vote Wednesday was along party lines, with northeast Indiana senators Dennis Kruse and Jim Banks, both Republicans, supporting the voucher expansion. Kruse is a co-sponsor of the voucher bill.

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