Mayor Greg Ballard's biggest defense so far against Melina Kennedy's education attacks is that the Mayor of Indianapolis and the city, in general, have very little to do with the public school systems in Marion County. Apparently, someone didn't tell Barbara Malone.
The At-Large City-County Councillor dropped a campaign-commercial-ready line at the League of Women Voters At-Large City-County Council Candidates Forum Saturday at the Central Library. After making a joke about smoking something with Bill Levin, she said that Marion County should consolidate all of its school districts, presumably into one school district.
"You want to go smokin' after this, or what?" said Malone to Levin before she dropped this knowledge making me think she actually was smoking something before the forum.
"I think that we should probably look at consolidating the school systems in this particular county. We have ten school systems, at best, if not more but ten public school systems. Half of our tax base is based on the school systems," Malone said. She goes on to cite some skewed history of education in Indiana that somehow Hoosiers didn't want public education and "good folks" from the East forced public education on us. I guess that's why it's prominently featured in the Indiana Constitution and has been since that document became the law of the land.
You can see the entire exchange at about the 1:15 mark here.
The Marion County Democratic Party put out a news release on Malone's statements.
INDIANAPOLIS - At the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum just days ago, incumbent Republican Councilor At-Large Barbara Malone announced the Republican Party’s support for the consolidation of all school districts in Marion County, including Speedway and Beech Grove.
A Tea Party Republican, a leader within the conservative Republican caucus and the sole sponsor of the unpopular 50-year parking deal, Barbara Malone has exercised significant influence within the Republican ranks. This newest proposal, which has no resistance from her fellow Republican candidates, continues to highlight the extraordinary disconnect between Tea Party Republicans and the educational challenges facing the city of Indianapolis and its students.
“We cannot continue to allow this type of reckless proposal to determine how we approach education in our city,” said At-Large Council Candidate and career educator Leroy Robinson. “These issues are far too complex. Mayor Ballard, Barbara Malone, and their Republican Party have bashed our public schools, taken money from the classrooms that need it most, and now they want a one size fits all school district. It is absurd, and we can do better.”
Marion County Democratic Party Chairman Ed Treacy also weighed in on Councilor Malone’s remarks.
“Even former Republican darling and then-mayor Dick Lugar refused to consolidate local school districts,” Treacy said. “But with the Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party, both nationally and locally, we are seeing the remnants of sound judgment all but vanish.”
I think calling Malone a Tea Party Republican is a bit of a stretch, but she has definitely been a loyal conservative vote for Mayor Greg Ballard and Council President Ryan Vaughn. Malone also has spent much of the campaign season seemingly avoiding the forum process altogether. Perhaps she wished she would have steered clear of this one, too.
While the Democratic At-Large candidates have done their absolute best to make every forum, Republicans sometimes have shown up with one or two of the four person cast of candidates and the others "representing the group at other events." Angel Rivera used this excuse at the Decatur Township Civic Council Forum last month when he was the only panelist. As the evening went on, Jackie Cissel showed up (and asked for forgiveness for getting lost) and Michael Kalscheur mentioned nothing about being somewhere else when he spoke briefly.
Consolidating Marion County's schools into one district makes no sense. Making one large bureaucracy would not improve education here.