DOUG ROSS: A lesson on education, Obamacare, politics

2013-11-15T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: A lesson on education, Obamacare, politicsBy Doug Ross, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

Thursday's Political Roundtable discussion dealt with Obamacare and K-12 education in Indiana. You might think of those two topics as completely separate discussions, but I see some parallels between them.

In each instance, political ideology has hampered decisions on sound public policy.

There are so many things happening on the education front — so much political sparring — that it's safe to say this battle is going to continue for months, if not years.

There's no love lost between Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence. Ritz took a jab at Pence in her op-ed Wednesday, and today's op-ed by Pence shows deference to Ritz without backing down.

I'd hate to be an educator today in Indiana. There are essentially two departments of education, and it's hard to tell which one will ultimately hold sway over education in the state.

Ritz's agency, the Department of Education, traditionally has been in charge. The Indiana Constitution even requires the state have a superintendent of public instruction.

But Pence, a Republican, is doing an end run around Ritz, a Democrat. He set up the Center for Education and Career Innovation.

Ritz was so upset with the State Board of Education's plan to have Pence's agency, rather than hers, coordinate the board's review of Common Core education standards that she abruptly adjourned the board meeting Wednesday and walked out.

Ritz and Pence are far apart, ideologically, and any hope of getting them to see eye to eye is faint.

The same is true of the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives and the Democrats in control of the White House and U.S. Senate. And the issue they love to fight over most is the Affordable Care Act.

The only thing both President Barack Obama and the House Republicans agree about is that it should be called Obamacare. The GOP considers it a pejorative term, but to Obama it's a compliment — proof that beauty is in the eye, or maybe ear, of the beholder.

In Indiana, Inspector General David O. Thomas filed a complaint Thursday with the Indiana State Ethics Commission, accusing former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, a Republican, of using state resources to campaign for re-election.

That sideshow to this battle over the future of education has made Bennett's education reforms even more controversial than they were at the time. The progress he made while in office is threatened.

Lest we forget, Indiana students weren't keeping pace with their peers abroad. That's why there was a big push to align state education standards under Common Core and why schools and educators were beginning to be held accountable.

And remember, too, that Obamacare was intended to address problems with access to health care in the United States.

Even as the political battles are waged, whatever side you're on, don't lose sight of the underlying need for education and health care reform.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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