The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 12, 2020 1:00 am

Education forum sees testy exchange

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

A 6-year-old recording sparked a short, sharp exchange between state legislators during an education forum at Carroll High School.

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, on Thursday disputed contentions by Republican lawmakers that school voucher money goes to students' families for use at the schools of their choosing.

“It goes to the school,” GiaQuinta said about state tuition funds. “And then what the school does with them – I assume they pay to remodel their buildings and do new steeples, which they did at St. Jude's” Catholic School in Fort Wayne.

“No, they didn't use ... ” Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, interjected.

“Yeah, they did,” GiaQuinta said.

“No, that's my parish,” Brown said.

“It was recorded,” GiaQuinta said.

“No,” Brown said.

“Yes, it was,” GiaQuinta said.

“No, they didn't,” Brown said.

“It was on a recording, and I heard it,” GiaQuinta said.

“Come on, Phil,” Brown said.

“And they were using the money to help rebuild the steeple at the church,” GiaQuinta said.

He then shut down the back-and-forth.

“We've had a long week, so maybe we're getting a little cranky,” he said about the first week of this year's legislative session.

The recording GiaQuinta referenced was posted to The Journal Gazette's website in 2014 and reported in a newspaper op-ed written by GiaQuinta's brother, Mark GiaQuinta, then the president of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board.

Mark GiaQuinta wrote in February 2014 that the Rev. Jake Runyon, pastor of St. Jude parish, had stated during a recorded presentation that increasing the number of voucher students would “ease the financial burden on the parish” and make it less difficult “to do some certain thing(s) on the church side of things like fix the steeple, paint the roof and maybe grow the ministries we can do, you know, on the church side of things.”

Under the voucher program, the state sends money to the school where the student is enrolled. Families of students never physically hold the money.

Anniversary kickoff

The Indiana Women's Suffrage Centennial Commissioners and state officials will kick off the 100th anniversary of women's constitutional right to vote with a celebration this week at the Statehouse in Indianapolis.

The event will be at the third-floor south atrium from 9 to 9:50 a.m. Thursday – the centennial anniversary of Indiana's ratification of the 19th Amendment, which became federal law when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on Aug. 18, 1920.

Participating in the kickoff will be centennial commissioners and their chair, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch; historian Anita Morgan; and state legislators. Partner organizations include the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana Humanities Council and the Indianapolis Propylaeum.

Also on Thursday, the Steuben County Historical Society will host a women's suffrage centennial open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cyrus and Jennie Cline Memorial Museum in Angola.

Braun advocating

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware announced Wednesday they have formed the bipartisan Senate ALS Caucus.

The senators said the caucus will raise awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, advance policies that improve the quality of life and expand the support network for those with ALS, and advocate for investments in research to identify effective treatments and find a cure.

ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no known cause, cure or effective treatment.

Braun said in a statement that the Senate ALS Caucus will “do everything we can to provide faster access to meaningful treatments and give hope to those struggling with this terrible disease.”

Congressional caucuses, also known as Congressional Member Organizations, are groups of legislators who advocate for various interests and causes on Capitol Hill. Braun and Coon said theirs is the first caucus to advocate for people with ALS.

To reach Political Notebook, email Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at

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