VALPARAISO | Both the challengers for the Indiana Senate District 5 and the State Representative District 4 are teachers, so it was no surprise that much of Tuesday's candidate forum dealt with education.
The forum, sponsored by the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, featured Republican Sen. Ed Charbonneau and his opponent, Democrat Debora Porter, as well as Democratic challenger Greg Simms, who is running against Republican Rep. Ed Soliday. Soliday was attending a speaking engagement in Denver and could not attend the forum.
Porter, a teachers union president, described herself as having a passion to represent the people of the district and said her three highest goals if elected would be to maintain good communication with the people, develop good paying jobs and restore the state's public education system, which lost a lot of state funding during the recession.
Charbonneau cited his 100 percent voting record during his five years in the Senate as well as his experience as head of a hospital and the Northwest Indiana Forum, among other positions. His goals would be to create legislation to improve the lives of residents, increase revenue and develop a first class education system.
Simms served 14 months in the House and has taught special education before becoming a high school teacher. He said his priorities would be creating jobs, improving public education and being active in community affairs. All said they would be willing to work with members of the other party to get things done.
The trio all favored increasing state funding for the schools, and Charbonneau said that effort was started in the last session. Charbonneau said he supported the voucher system for providing state funding to families who want their children to attend private schools, while Porter and Simms opposed it as being detrimental to the public schools because it reduces the money available to them.
All three said they would not cut funding for Planned Parenthood programs, and they all opposed the state's right to work law.
Charbonneau said he voted against it all the way through the legislature and tried to get amendments to ameliorate the effects. Simms said, if Democrats win a majority in the legislature, he will work to repeal the right to work law, and Porter said it never should have been brought up because it will take the state backward.
Removing the restrictions against unions in the law would be one way for the state to increase wages and bring in more revenue, Simms said. He said low interest loans to help businesses grow would create more jobs, and Porter said the program of temporary salary subsidies for businesses also should be revived. Charbonneau said the state needs to keep doing what it has been doing, calling Indiana's financial situation the envy of the nation.
About 35 people attended the forum.