Dick Lugar, school board member

Sen. Dick Lugar got his start in politics as a member of the Indianapolis school board in the 1960s. So it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of language about education on both his Senate and campaign websites.

Or that much of it is eminently reasonable.

Sure, there’s the usual conservative rhetoric about how parents and local school officials know best and we need to eliminate federal red tape and regulation. But most of the Indiana Republican’s positions on education are pragmatic and civic-minded.

He supports “innovative and evidence-based” practices, like making effective use of technology and collaborating with businesses and community organizations. He argues that a “strong K-12 system with high standards, full accountability, and a rigorous curriculum” should be a national priority. He calls for emphasizing math and science education.

He even sponsors awards for schools and educators and touts partnerships with the Indiana State Teachers Association to recognize favorite teachers and distribute books to needy children.

Partly because he has been too moderate for the Republican base, Lugar faces an uphill battle in Tuesday’s primary contest with state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a tea-party favorite.

Mourdock doesn’t mention education on the “issues” page of his campaign website. It’s all about his opposition to Obamacare, government bailouts, illegal immigration and abortion and his support for guns. He has, however, called for eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, along with the departments of commerce, energy, and housing and urban development.

To get a sense of hard-right Republican orthodoxy on education, check out the campaign sites of a couple of candidates for Congress from Indiana: David McIntosh in the 5th District and Travis Hankins in the 6th District. Their priorities are private schools and home-schooling. Hankins wants to completely end the role of the federal government in education; presumably that means repealing federal lunch subsidies, the Individuals with Disabilities Act and the Title IX gender equity law.

Most of Lugar’s ideas about education, by contrast, reflect the sort of commitment to the public good that you would expect from your local school board — nothing flashy, nothing dogmatic, just a nonpartisan willingness to support schools and teachers and encourage them to do well.

It’s one more reason that it will be a shame if Lugar’s own party shows him the door on Tuesday.

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