Monday, July 2, 2012

ISTA Waltzes Past Sullivan

Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan
Sheila Seuss Kennedy hit a home run on her website when she openly questioned why the Indiana State Teachers Association would endorse an Indiana Senate candidate like GOP Senator Brent Waltz over his Democratic challenger, Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan.

As Kennedy shows in her piece, Waltz is, in almost every way, against everything that most ISTA members would presumably stand up for. That said, it doesn't surprise me that the ISTA wouldn't endorse Sullivan, but it shocks the heck out of me that they would endorse Waltz.

Despite the headline, I don't want to make this an ISTA vs. Mary Ann post. I just simply want to tell you about a remarkable member of the Indiana House named Mary Ann Sullivan.

I am a friend of Mary Ann's, so I'll be honest about that up front. I am also a teacher that is a member of an association, but I am not a member of the ISTA. I write this as myself only, and I do not represent my association nor my school district with what I'm about to write here. This is Jon Easter's opinion only, and I'm sure that a few of my union friends are going to be mad at me when they read this.

With my disclaimers out of the way, I can say this: you won't find too many people that care more about public education in the Statehouse than Mary Ann Sullivan. It's her issue, and it's her passion. She may vote against the traditional Democratic Party line on many things in education, but she does it on principle.

Mary Ann Sullivan and I have our STRONG differences on education. Despite that, she never stops asking my opinion. She never shuts down. She never stops trying to learn. I think that's important. Mary Ann Sullivan arrives at her personal principles on education not because some party boss told her to vote a certain way or because she knows that she'll gain favor with a union, but she arrives at her principles because she thinks it's the best thing for Hoosier students.

I have had the privilege to bend Mary Ann's ear at many functions, political and otherwise. At times, we've separated off to our own table to continue the discussion. When she doesn't have an answer or when I can stump her, she admits it. Then, she comes back with an answer by e-mail or by phone call. I am proud to have that kind of relationship with a friend. It's a challenging relationship, for sure, but it's one I value.

Despite the fact that she is on the North Pole and I am on the South Pole when it comes to teacher evaluation policy (she favors merit pay, and I loathe it), we can nevertheless discuss our differences. Despite the fact that she's on the Tropic of Cancer, and I'm on the Tropic of Capricorn when it comes to charter schools, we can carry on a conversation. While these two issues generally dominate our conversation on education, we have found the Equator on several other issues. We both disagree strongly with the idea of vouchers. We both agree that there are some pretty destructive outside forces at work when it comes to education policy in Indiana. We also want what's best for Hoosier families when it comes to education. We agree far more than we disagree.

Mary Ann Sullivan is a big thinker. While I don't agree with her in every way, I give her credit for thinking the big thoughts. If you live in that Senate District 36, I can't tell you who to vote for because that's your decision. I can tell you that a vote for Mary Ann Sullivan would be a lot better for Indiana's public schools than a vote for Brent Waltz.


Lawyer said...

Amen, brother.

Anonymous said...

I, too, like Mary Ann Sullivan. We differ greatly on education. I cannot fathom why ISTA endorsed Waltz. I understand why ISTA would not endorse Mary Ann but would have expected no endorsement. Mary Ann will not address the perception that she is anti public education. She is not and has been involved in public education but when there is a widespread perception, it has to be disproven. I did not see it but she recently mailed a large post card and on the back was a list of wonderful educational programs in her district. Several people have mentioned it and it was not well received. Reportedly all were private or charter schools. This isn't good. Mary Ann, show your voters that you SUPPPORT public education.