by Félix Pérez
Long before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, Joe Donnelly’s first foray into public office was as a member of his two children’s local school board from 1997 to 2001. He served as president of the Mishawaka Marian School Board in 2000 and 2001.
Fast forward to today, when Donnelly is locked in a tight race against Mike Braun, a former state legislator and multimillionaire who fails to include education as one of the issues on his campaign website.
The fact that President Trump won Indiana by 19 points is not lost on Donnelly. Nevertheless, Donnelly voted against the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Explaining his vote, Donnelly said:
After reviewing her record, I share the concerns expressed by many Hoosier educators, students and families that Mrs. DeVos lacks the commitment to public education needed to effectively lead the department of education. . . While I will vote against her nomination, I will continue fighting for our students, because ensuring they have access to good schools and teachers not only lays a solid foundation for our students to reach their potential but also helps increase economic opportunity.
Sen. Donnelly’s commitment to Indiana students and public schools is why he earned an ‘A’ on every legislative report card issued by the National Education Association since he took office in 2013. Among his recent votes was opposing the Trump tax cut plan, which risks nearly $949 million in state funding for Indiana public schools over 10 years and 990 educator jobs this year alone, according to an NEA analysis.
Donnelly has been recommended by the Indiana State Teachers Association in his re-election bid. Nearly 40,000 members — from college students to retired educators — comprise ISTA, a collective voice for the education profession and public schools in Indiana communities.
An advocate for affordable higher education, Donnelly introduced bipartisan legislation to help students understand the financial implications of student loans and educational debt. The Empowering Student Borrowers Act would require colleges and universities to send a letter to students every year detailing each student’s total loan debt, projected monthly repayment amounts, and the estimated interest rate for each loan.
Donnelly said, “We need to take steps to better inform student borrowers and empower them to make the best decisions for their financial situation. This is a commonsense, bipartisan effort to improve the financial literacy of students so they know how much they are borrowing, how long it will take to repay, and how much it will cost each month to fulfill their obligations.”