FORT WAYNE — Gubernatorial candidate John Gregg’s running mate made the rounds in Fort Wayne on Tuesday and ended up chatting at a coffee shop with a group of teachers.
Several members of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education were waiting to talk with Democratic state Sen. Vi Simpson at the Firefly Coffee House on North Anthony Boulevard.
Carrying bumper stickers endorsing Democratic superintendent of public instruction candidate Glenda Ritz, retired teacher Phyllis Bush asked Simpson point-blank whom she should address “to stop all of this craziness.”
The state superintendent and the state Board of Education are equally important, Simpson said, but the board has to approve the superintendent’s actions.
The group was particularly unhappy with the state of public education and with the state’s endorsement of vouchers and charter schools.
Simpson said people don’t understand that the public school system suffered $600 million in cuts and then $66 million more was taken out of the reduced pot to fund vouchers and charter schools.
“This really hurts all of the schools,” Simpson said.
The bigger question going forward, Simpson said, is that no one knows how much the state will need to cover those increasing costs.
Mike Pence, the Republican candidate for governor, likes vouchers, Simpson said.
“We are developing two paths of education – one for the elite and one for the rest,” Simpson said.
“The problem is that these legislators pass these laws and they have no idea what goes on in public schools,” said Bush, who taught 32 years, 24 of those at South Side High School.
Simpson serves most of Monroe County, which includes the Indiana University campus in Bloomington.
First elected to the Senate in 1984, Simpson was chosen as the Democratic leader by the Senate Democratic Caucus in 2008, becoming the first female legislative leader in the state’s history. She is the current minority leader of the Indiana Senate.