I suppose its perfectly befitting a school whose mascot is the “Senator” to see ethics and academics take a backseat to personal gain. Washington Township Middle/High School prominently displayed the political message, “No To Vouchers,” on its (undoubtedly high priced) electronic marquee along State Highway 2 last week. The semi-rural school sits just outside of Valparaiso, Indiana where it straddles the border between the very blue northwest and the mostly red remainder of the state.
The school’s message is directed at the Republican legislature who aims to pass H.B. 1003 this session, a private-school voucher bill. The bill would give students unhappy with their public school a voucher to take some of the money that would have been spent on them to a private school. Most studies of the voucher system have found marked success for both the private and public school students. Signs like these are a product of a labor unions hell-bent against reforms, which has made the passage of these bills impossible in any state to date. With that in mind, research is still somewhat speculative and the gains that market innovation would bring haven’t even remotely been realized.
Especially confusing is that this school rates well above the state and national averages in most every academic category. Its principal, Jerry Hale, has no reason to be concerned about a voucher plan. In fact, the teachers at schools like these stand to make significant pay gains when the monopoly of public education is opened up.
To many this Washington Township sign might seem like a symbol of teacher solidarity, or a protection of public schools. To me, it’s a political interest group displaying a political message using my tax dollars. Our staff lawyer was quick to point me to this part of the Indiana code:
Influencing political opinions or actions of employees in the workplace
Sec. 21. A person who:
(1) pays employees the salary or wages due in pay envelopes upon which there is printed or in which there is enclosed a political motto, device, or argument containing threats intended or calculated to influence the political opinions or actions of the employees; or
(2) exhibits in the workplace of the person’s employees a handbill or placard containing a threat, notice, or information that, if a particular ticket, candidate, or public question is elected, approved, or defeated:
(A) work in the person’s place or establishment will cease in whole or in part;
(B) the person’s establishment will be closed; or
(C) the wages of the employees will be reduced;
or that is otherwise intended or calculated to influence the political opinions or actions of the employees;
commits a Class D felony.
How quickly do you think the school would have made national news if the marquee had been the opposite message?