First Posted: 9/30/2012 9:15:20 PM | Last Updated: 9/30/2012 9:31:55 PM
LAFAYETTE – Republican Indiana State Rep. Randy Truitt said he looks back at his decision to run for the statehouse four years ago with no regrets, despite criticism from local Democrats about his voting record and their efforts to try to unseat him in November.
“It’s been a humbling experience and I’ve been honored to represent the area I was born and raised in for four generations of my family,” said Truitt, who has represented District 26 since 2008 after serving two terms on the West Lafayette city council. “I’m living on the street my mom grew up on and now my kids are growing up on, so District 26 is literally my home.”
Truitt is being challenged by former Lafayette city councilman Rick Cornstuble. Cornstuble has criticized Truitt on his education budget votes. Truitt, though, defended his record stating that Indiana not only in good shape education-wise and his votes were prudent, but he has even pushed back against his own party when needed.
Truitt pointed to his letter to co-chairs of the Indiana Select Commission on Education in May about Republican education reforms. In the letter, Truitt raised concerns about teacher evaluation rules, the A-F grading scale, the school turnaround model, the student growth model, the state's No Child Left Behind waiver and IREAD-3, all measures supported by his party.
“I think it’s important that if legislation is not running as it was intended, it’s our job as legislators to step up and say it’s wrong,” Truitt said. “I still get email from teachers about the letter and standing up for teachers. Education is critical to our success and economic development of job creation.”
Truitt also pointed to his endorsement by the Indiana State Teachers Association, where Cornstuble worked, to his support among educators.
“I have the ISTA’s endorsement and he does not,” Truitt said. “That goes back to my mantra of listening, learning and then leading. That’s what I did with the teachers. I listened and learned their concerns and I went back to be a change agent for them.
“Indiana ranks No. 1 in the nation in regard to money spent on k-12 education with about 55 percent of our budget going to K-12 education. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and be critical. I’m okay with it but it needs to be more specific.”
Truitt said he is proud of the additional endorsements from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Right to Life and Indiana Manufacturers Association. Truitt, president of Main Street Management, LLC in Lafayette, said his experience as a small business owner has helped him make hard decisions in voting for the Indiana budget, something he said he believe his opponents don’t get.
“They don’t understand the big picture and don’t understand the principles of business where you only have so much and the pie is only so big,” Truitt said. “We have state agencies that are operating at 25 percent below from where they were during the Great Recession. Education was the last thing the governor chose to cut. Something has to give and it’s a very common sense process that you can lose sight of. Early in the process it was frustrating. I want to try to do what is right and make a difference but I know everyone has own opinion about what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Truitt said ISTEP scores have grown significantly over last four years, another sign that Indiana is on the right track.
“English scores are up 70 to 79 percent, math from 71 to 81, science 62 to 71 and social studies 59 to 69,” Truitt said. “In all of these areas, the trends are going up. Some 55 percent of our high schools increased their graduation rates from last year. I still would like to see us pump more money into K-12 and see early childhood education come to fruition. I’m not sure mandates are the right move but I want to give parents that option.”
Truitt, who sits on the Ways and Means, and Government and Regulatory Reform committees, said in the end, voters will decide on his race, and other races, based on if they believe Indiana is going in the right direction.
“They will vote based on if they think Indiana is in good position and is on the right track,” Truitt said. “When you look at where Indiana stands right now compared to where we were four years ago, you’ll see we are in an incredible position compared to other states fiscally. We have a $2 billion in surplus, compared to our neighbors. Our credit rating is the envy of other states. Indiana is going down the right track and I’m pleased with the poll results I’ve seen.”
While he’s not out campaigning, working at Main Street Management or with his constituents, Truitt said he still enjoys time on the boards of the West Lafayette Little League, Red Storm Athletics and supporting his children, who attend West Lafayette schools.