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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

The Associated PressMay 28, 2019

The (Munster) Times. May 22, 2019

Hanover voters will get the education they’re willing to pay for

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels once said Northwest Indiana was entitled to all the bad government it was willing to pay for.

The voters in some recent Region public school referendums have unwittingly added a new verse to that summation: Residents are entitled to shoddy public schools, and all the social and economic woes that follow, when they’re not willing to pay for anything more.

Daniels, now president of Purdue University, delivered this prophetic quote in 2009 while visiting Griffith public schools as governor:

“I see so much opportunity, but we shortchange ourselves when we have, for decades, a reputation for terrible government, abusing taxpayers,” Daniels said. “I believe in home rule, and you are entitled to all the lousy, crummy graft-ridden government you are prepared to pay for. But if you are ready to do better and believe in this state like I do, a good starting point would be to take some of the steps ... recommended.”

The sentiment of Daniels’ quote applies to more than a perennial batch of Region leaders ushered into office by voters only to be convicted of crimes against the taxpayer.

A version of what he said also applies to Northwest Indiana voters who’ve nixed recent public school referendums — saying no to crucial funding for their schools to remain competitive, or in some cases just to keep the lights on.

The most recent example came in the primary election earlier this month at the hands of Hanover Community School Corp. voters.

Voters narrowly rejected the referendum during the May 7 primary election.

But what were they voting against, and do they even realize it?

Hanover officials sought a $44 million construction referendum to help fund an expansion to accommodate increasing enrollment in the growing Cedar Lake-based district. The measure failed by just 68 votes, with 51.56% voting against and 48.44% in favor.

The population within the Hanover school district is growing — and the tax base along with it. That’s good for everyone there.

But it won’t be for long if residents aren’t willing to invest in quality schools, which attract and retain population and feed a brighter future for all of us.

The school district anticipates an imminent 250- to 300-student rise in enrollment.

Hanover enrollment growth has been on a steady rise for years in one of the fastest-growing areas in the state, seeing a rise of more than 250 students since the 2014-15 school year, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

And this growth is expected to continue. More than 1,000 new homes are expected to be built in Hanover Township’s boundaries in the coming year, Hanover Director of Business Services Adam Minth said in an April community meeting.

The district already consolidated its fifth-grade classes into Hanover Central Middle School as a result of the growth.

Now, it could see the placement of mobile classroom units, or trailers, reminiscent of those used in the Lake Central School Corp. after its failed 2009 referendum.

Portable outdoor toilets to supplement existing indoor plumbing also are on the table.

By a thin margin, Hanover voters opted against investing in a school district and the future of youth living within district boundaries.

They also voted against a school district that already has been proving itself a sound investment.

Hanover schools, which serve Cedar Lake and portions of St. John and Crown Point, are growing in more ways than population.

Hanover boasts a stellar 94.9% graduation rate, exceeding the state average of 88.1%.

The Hanover Central High School graduation rate is up more than 5% since 2011, so the standards continue rising there.

In return, a slight majority of voters said no to important school funding.

Under Indiana law, the defeated referendum means Hanover will not be allowed to seek another substantially similar referendum for 700 days following the May 7 vote. That is, unless the district can secure 500 property owners’ or 5% of its constituents’ support in a petition submitted to the county auditor. Then the district will only have to wait a year to take another run at it.

Let’s hope they can do so and that enough voters wake up and realize quality schools require investment.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. May 24, 2019

State’s wellness spending still near the bottom

First, a bit of good news from a report by the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health on support for public health efforts nationwide and state-by-state. Indiana’s per capita spending on public health rose by 9.7% from 2017 to 2018, according to the Trust. But that increase didn’t change Indiana’s ranking as 49th among the states in public health spending.

Indiana devoted $17.58 per person to such tasks as fighting infectious disease, giving citizens the information they need to avert chronic illness and helping local health departments respond to foodborne illnesses, weather emergencies and the rise in deaths from suicide, alcoholism and drug misuse. By comparison, Alaska, which ranked No. 1 among the states, spent $63.28 per person.

Mindy Waldron, Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health administrator, said Indiana’s public-health-spending rank has been at or near the bottom for perhaps 20 years.

Health Commissioner Deborah McMahan isn’t surprised the state remained so comparatively low. Most states are scrambling to add resources to deal with the drug epidemic, she said; Indiana just isn’t increasing its spending as fast.

Though Allen County received a grant for its syringe-exchange program, Waldron said area health departments haven’t seen increases in state funding that would help them keep up with core local functions, such as inspection of food facilities; inspection of residential and commercial septic systems; maintenance of birth and death records; managing general environmental challenges such as bedbugs and mosquito control; and immunizations and other efforts to deal with infectious diseases.

The core work gets done, Waldron said, but it’s a struggle.

“We don’t have enough money to do the programs we’re required to do,” she said.

Not that underspending on public health is just a Hoosier problem. Efforts to fund prevention, preparedness and other community health efforts are chronically underfunded nationwide, the Trust reported, representing just 2.5% of all health care spending.

“Such underfunding flouts overwhelming evidence of the life-saving cost-effectiveness of programs that prevent diseases and injuries and prepare for disasters and health emergencies,” the report said. “Public health interventions, such as childhood vaccinations, school-based violence prevention programs and indoor smoking bans, improve health outcomes and prevent illness and death.” And, the report adds, “such interventions save money.”

Indiana, which also has disturbing rankings on such problems as obesity, tobacco use and the prevalence and availability of treatment for mental illness, could have taken on a number of those deficiencies by raising the tax on cigarettes and e-cigarettes. But that effort went nowhere during this year’s legislative session.

A proposed $2-a-pack tax increase not only could have discouraged smoking - the state’s No. 1 health problem - but could have raised revenue to funnel back to embattled local health departments. Indiana, with its myriad funding needs, could have gained ground on spending without cutting other programs.

“It’s embarrassing,” McMahansaid Thursday of the state’s continued poor ranking. “What a missed opportunity.”

Unless, of course, you’re OK with remaining in 49th place.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. May 26, 2019

AHS should review portrayal of ‘Indians’

An article published Tuesday with the headline “AHS mascot believes it may be time to change symbolism” spurred dozens of emotional responses on social media.

Anderson High School has a rich tradition in sports, and the school’s teams have been known as the Indians for decades. So it’s natural that some reacted strongly to the notion that there might be something wrong with using “Indians” as a mascot.

But it’s important to consider what Paige McKnight, the senior who represented AHS as the Indian Maiden this school year, had to say in the Tuesday article.

“I loved being mascot, but I do understand that it may be time to switch it out,” she said, responding to news that Maine’s governor had signed into law a bill prohibiting use of Native American symbols as mascots at the state’s public schools.

Local Native American tribes who felt the use of such symbols was “a source of pain and anguish” had petitioned the Maine legislature and governor to pass the law.

The use of Native American names and images by professional and college sports teams have come under scrutiny in recent decades. Some, such as the Washington Redskins, have resisted pressure to change.

Others have made modifications, such as the Cleveland Indians’ decision to discontinue use of the cartoonish “Chief Wahoo” image. For the first time in 70 years, the Indians took the field this spring with no trace of Chief Wahoo on their uniforms.

Here in Indiana, high schools with Native American mascots have not been immune to changing perceptions of Native American mascots. In 2015, Goshen High School changed its mascot from Redskins to Red Hawks.

At Anderson High, there are no outward signs that Native Americans object to the school’s use of the Indians mascot. And it seems intuitive that the Indian mascot name is patently less offensive than the term Redskins.

Still, McKnight raised valid points in the Tuesday news article.

“Although I do fully respect and love my school, I do feel like it’s time to come to terms with the cultural appropriation of the Native American culture,” she said. “Our school was founded from an Indian man himself, but the people who are elected to be mascot are not of Native American descent. My late grandmother was a full-blooded Native American herself, and I can fully imagine the offense she would find in our mascot.”

McKnight’s opinion should be heard and respected. Those who would shout her down should listen instead, and then join in an open discussion.

A school’s mascot should be a source of pride but it should be inoffensive, so that all people feel welcome and comfortable in the halls of the school and at sporting events.

Should Anderson High find a new mascot?

Certainly not, but the school and its stakeholders should review the way the Indian and maiden are portrayed to assure that the deepest respect for Native Americans and their culture is exercised.

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