Stepping into the House
Writer / Janelle Morrison . Photos / JJ Kaplan . Styling / Mary Duerdon at Pro Soto Beauty School
Editor’s note: Former Rep. Steve Braun recently resigned from the Indiana House of Representatives to join Gov. Mike Pence’s administration as the Indiana Workforce Development Commissioner. Because Rep. Schaibley was chosen by the Republican caucus to replace Rep. Braun and has not gone through a general election, we thought it important to introduce her to her constituents in Carmel and Zionsville.
There is a “new kid” in the Indiana House of Representatives this session that is proudly representing House District 24 that serves portions of Boone and Hamilton counties. Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, joined the House in December 2014 after winning the Republican Caucus election. Schaibley, an Indiana native born and raised in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, graduated from Purdue University with a B.A. in political science and social studies education. After college, she married her husband, John, and moved to Washington D.C. where he is originally from.
Schaibley worked at George Washington University managing the employee benefits program. Her husband then decided to attend law school at Indiana University and so they moved to Bloomington. Schaibley accepted a position at IU managing the math department office, scheduling classes, handling grants, etc. After her husband started his career as a lawyer, she became a stay-at-home mother raising their son and daughter. Today, she is also a grandmother of a beautiful 10-month old granddaughter.
At that time, her husband’s work moved them back to Washington D.C. where he clerked for the Supreme Court. She continued to focus on her career at home with their children during that time. They mutually decided to move back to Indiana and plant more permanent roots in the Midwest.
They moved to Indianapolis in 1984 and to Carmel in 1992. Their children attended the Orchard School and Schaibley became heavily involved with the school. She joined the school’s Board of Trustees and served for six years. She volunteered with several events and programs associated with the school. She was also substitute teaching at the elementary schools in the Carmel Clay Schools, focusing on special education classes, a subject that is close to her heart.
She also worked at the Voter Registration office in Hamilton County and volunteered for Mitch Daniels’s campaign during his first run for governor. She was twice elected into the Central Committee in the Hamilton County Republican Party where she advised candidates and worked in several campaigns. “When this position opened up, several people urged me to run,” Schaibley said. “I thought to myself that I have already been engaged in public service with my work with the Republican Party and I am aware of the current issues. I decided that I would like to continue my public service, in this position, if I were to be elected and so I ran.”
Schaibley ventured out to meet with her district’s committeemen, totaling 52 in this district. She personally met with over 40 of them.
“It is a really good opportunity in that you sit with the committeemen and talk to them extensively about yourself and your background,” she said. “They want to get to know you and ask about your political philosophy. I was able to ask questions from them and learn about the most important issues to them. I learned a lot during these conversations and respect the committeemen a great deal.”
Originally there were seven candidates vying for the position. By the caucus, there were five candidates representing Carmel, Westfield and Zionsville. After a close vote, Schaibley emerged as the victor.
“I am very humbled and honored to have been elected into this position,” she said with sincerity.
After moving into her new office, she had little time to appreciate the view before attending a “boot camp” where she was introduced to the legislative assistants and processes. With much work to be done, she had to acclimate quickly and joined committees such as the Environmental Affairs, Financial Institutions and the Statutory Committee on Interstate and International Cooperation.
With a great focus being placed on the school funding formula this session, Schaibley shared an update on the progress made during the first weeks in session.
“This is a very important topic,” she stated. “When I spoke to the committeemen during the pre-caucus, this was the number one topic. School funding was the most important issue to over 90 percent of them. The state now funds all of the operations of the schools, that used to be different but they fund the operations through a foundation grant that is equal for everyone and a complexity grant that is in addition to the foundation grant. The complexity grant used to be based on the number of students who were in the Free and Reduced Lunch program. However, they are changing it to the number of students who get free textbooks. Because Carmel, Zionsville and Westfield – schools that are located in my district – don’t have many children who are in those programs they are being funded at a greatly reduced rate in contrast to many other school districts.
“Carmel is the lowest in that state of Indiana per pupil funding. Everyone understands that children who come from disadvantaged areas need more funding, but our schools need to be funded more sufficiently and that is not that case now. Our schools have had to have operational referenda in order to operate. They will need to go through this process again in the near future. Right now, the Ways and Means committee is looking at this. Speaker Bosma (R-Indianapolis) stated that he wants to improve the equity and the members of the Ways and Means are currently hard at work, adjusting the funding formula so that the high and low are not so separated and to bridge that gap.”
Schaibley is optimistic that there will be a resolution that offers some relief to our schools and for the taxpayers. “If you’re trying to have work force development for the 21st century, you have to have curriculum that supports that education and training,” she said.
Schaibley is a co-author to House Bill 1125 that is authored by Rep. Robert Cherry, R-Greenfield. “This is a huge issue in Zionsville and really all over the state for landowners and farmers,” Schaibley said. “We are hoping to address that in this bill and give some piece of mind to the farmers and people who have agricultural land. It will also give some guidance to the assessors. This bill states that if a farmer decides not to farm for a year it cannot be reclassified.”
She explained that her reason for co-authoring this bill is to protect the farmers and the landowners from having to sell their land because they can’t afford to pay their taxes due to re-assessment. Schaibley and her co-authors hope to see resolution in this session and provide the necessary relief for landowners statewide.
“What I have come to admire about the communities in my district, while all three have their own unique qualities, they share their conservative values,” she concluded. “I feel that we are extremely lucky to be here and I am very appreciative of these communities in what they offer and what they represent.”
For more information on House and Senate bills go to iga.in.gov.