Education creates improbable allies

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It’s clear to even the most casual observer that President Obama and Gov. Mitch Daniels don’t agree on much, but the two leaders have found some common ground over the last three years on an issue that affects every American: public education.

When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visits Indiana, he shares the stage with Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, and while there are marked differences in the specific priorities pushed by each administration, the overarching goal of improving our schools is universal.

Politics isn’t gone from the education debate, but the push for reform and innovation has created unlikely allies across the aisle—and a resulting bipartisan consensus that new policies must be forged.

This brave new bipartisanship was well represented in the IBJ’s [Oct. 3] “Who’s Who in Education” section, which included heads of school, elected officials, advocates, Republicans and Democrats who all serve as established leaders in the field of education.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a watershed charter schools movement supported by Democratic mayors and game-changing education reform legislation championed by Republicans.

This perfect storm of bipartisan cooperation even brought the two of us, former spokespeople for our respective state political parties, together on a project called Hoosier Ed, an interactive website dedicated to Indiana education news and original content from those closest to the issue.

We can both, as a proud Republican and a proud Democrat, firmly believe that no issue is as intertwined in our future as the quality of our kids’ education.

Think about it: What would a 90-percent high school graduation rate mean for our quality of life in Indianapolis? How much more attractive would our city be to those thinking of locating their business here? How much more safe would our streets be?

Our country and political parties historically have been united by events such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Now is the time to unite around another cause: education.

If politics can stop at the schoolhouse door, Republicans and Democrats can not only improve the quality of education in our schools, but perhaps also teach each other a lesson—that no matter how important party loyalty is, the future of our country and our students is dramatically more important.


Robert Vane
Jennifer Wagner

Vane, a Republican, and Wagner, a Democrat, are local communications consultants who formerly served as spokespeople for their respective state political parties.

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