Conflicting Messages: Lay off ISTEP; Full speed ahead on toll road

In Tuesday’s Star, Gov. Daniels was quoted as saying, “(Hill) comes from the empty promises crowd. Delay is so often a disguise for defeating something.” This was in response to a comment from former US Representative Baron Hill accusing Daniels of using road projects as leverage. Many Democrats are complaining that Gov. Daniels’ bid to lease out the Indiana Toll Road is being fast-tracked through the statehouse without adequate time for debate.

In today’s Star, Dr. Suellen Reed, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, was quoted as saying, “I believe we should slow down, we should think about what our priorities are,” in response to a proposal to move ISTEP testing from fall to spring. Dr. Reed claims that moving ISTEP testing would cost the state $45 million over four years. Interesting.

Let me see if I understand this. When it comes to leasing out a toll road for 75 years in a deal that has not been tested over time, we should rush into it and blindly trust that Gov. Daniels and his team knows what’s best. But, spending $45 million over four years deserves a more thorough investigation. I see.

I happen to agree with Dr. Reed that we should look more closely at this question of moving ISTEP testing. While the arguments for moving the ISTEP testing to spring are quite compelling, I have to admit that I’ve never studied this issue enough to be able to say whether I agree. However, when a professional such as Dr. Reed steps forward and suggests that it might not be the best move, I have no problem with deferring to her professional judgment. This is what she does for a living. If she says it may not be a good idea, then I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

So what about the toll road? Something tells me that Gov. Daniels doesn’t know that much about managing toll roads. I do, however, get the impression that he is very adept at making deals. In the world of deals, creating a deal to lease out the toll road should probably win an award. It’s very creative and complex. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should do it. Quite to the contrary, because it’s creative and because it’s complex are the exact reasons we should spend some time analyzing it. I’m not deferring to Gov. Daniels professional judment on this issue because, in my opinion, the profession of crafting deals is not synonymous with doing what’s right for this and future generations of citizens of the state of Indiana.

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