AP NEWS

Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

June 25, 2019

The (Munster) Times. June 18, 2019

Bailly educators violate rules of grammar, spelling, human decency

‘Most Annoying Male’ award given to Bailly Preparatory Academy fifth grader

Gary parent Rick Castejon says this award was given last month to his 11-year-old son, who has autism, at a Bailly Preparatory Academy awards lunch.

It’s bad enough some Gary public school personnel showed an extreme lack of judgment in allowing a “most annoying” award to be presented to a student with autism.

At its best, the year-end student awards ceremony demonstrated tone-deaf and shameful negligence.

But the educators behind the ceremony also showed a lack of command of basic grammar and spelling — including misspelling the name of the school on at least one trophy presented to a student.

Bailly Preparatory Academy — and the entire Gary Community School Corp. — should be dripping with embarrassment.

The first in this series of blunders became a national story after The Times education reporter Carley Lanich broke the story in recent weeks.

Outrage rightly spread as people learned teachers had presented an 11-year-old boy with autism a “most annoying” trophy in a superlative award ceremony to end the Bailly school year.

Three teachers since have been fired, and the school district has announced the process has begun to fire the school principal as well.

But insult is added to injury when considering other aspects of the awards program.

Other award categories included “Most Friendliest” and “Most Sleepiest.”

The problem there is one of grammar — something that should have been elementary for teachers who are supposed to be instructing students in becoming literate citizens.

The words “Friendliest” and “Sleepiest” already are superlatives by themselves, meaning they convey the highest degree of friendly and sleepy. Putting the word “most” at the beginning was a grammatical gaffe.

Shouldn’t educators, charged with instilling literacy in students, execute their craft better than this?

Then came a spelling error of the most basic variety.

Each day, Bailly teachers and administrators are no doubt surrounded by signs, marquees and other clear evidence of how to spell the very name of the school at which they work.

Yet on at least one of the year-end trophies, Bailly was misspelled “Bailey.”

There’s no saving grace to any of this, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Gary schools already are under the auspices of a state-appointed emergency manager following years of fiscal mismanagement and plummeting education performance and standards.

Now the Bailly fiasco — and all of its embarrassing asides — can be added to the list.

Students and their parents certainly deserve and should be demanding better.

But such blunders shouldn’t instill confidence that better is reasonably possible in the Gary public school system.

The entire Region should feel insulted.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. June 23, 2019

Good stats on jobs shouldn’t slow area’s steady push

There is positive news in the preliminary numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment remains low, and wages in six of 11 northeastern Indiana counties rose at a higher percentage than the state and national averages.

But the good news can’t disguise a problem: Wages in our region and state are too low. In Allen County, private-sector wages grew by almost 4% last year, to $46,380. That’s just over 81% of the national average wage of $57,198. Some area counties were even lower. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers aren’t broken down by gender, other analyses consistently show that women make significantly less than men - and that women in Indiana are among the lowest-paid in the nation.

The numbers wouldn’t carry the same sting if the cost of living were correspondingly low. But it’s not. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’ latest available price-parity numbers show the three-county Fort Wayne Metropolitan Statistical Area at 89.1% of the nation’s in 2017; broken out, the cost of services is 92.3% and the cost of goods is 96.2% of the nation’s average.

When you make a purchase or pay for a service, in other words, you may be paying less than you would in some localities - but not as much less as you may be earning.

Ah, but what about Fort Wayne’s famously low rents - which are included in the bureau’s price-parity calculations - and home-ownership costs, which are not? In 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, home ownership costs with a mortgage in Allen County were just 67.1% of the national median; the median gross rent was 73.2% of the nation’s. This can be a big point of attraction for people contemplating a move here.

But over the long run, housing costs, which should be less than a third of a family’s expenses, are viewed by some as a symptom of lower wages - not the cure. “If we want to be a competitive economy,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of PFW’s Community Research Institute, “low housing costs coupled with above-average wages would be a real differentiator.”

The fissure between this area’s wages and the nation’s began to appear decades ago, and state and local leaders have resolved many times to close it.

“There’s been some recovery in the last three to four years,” said economic-development specialist John Stafford. “But over the long haul we’ve lost ground to the nation and to the state. ... Trying to change those numbers is a very long-term endeavor.”

Two efforts are key to that long game for making up lost ground on wages, Stafford said. One is to continue to improve the quality of life in northeast Indiana. “The Riverfront Project is an example of that,” he said. The other is to develop and nurture a well-prepared workforce to attract and fill higher-paying jobs.

The problem, though, is tricky - if those better-paying opportunities don’t materialize, and the region’s improvement efforts stall, skilled young workers who could help change northeast Indiana’s trajectory may continue to look, and move, elsewhere. They used to call that brain drain.

As we continue to reinforce and celebrate the many ways this city and this region are improving, it’s tempting to become complacent, or to conclude that trying to turn longtime problems around is just too hard.

That would be a mistake.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune Star. June 23, 2019

Focusing greater attention on our community’s health

A community’s quality of life can be measured in a number of ways. None is more important than the health of its residents.

When assessing the overall health of Vigo County’s citizens, the news is not good.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box was in Terre Haute last week to discuss health, wellness and ways communities can work together to improve them both. Box is a former Terre Haute resident and graduate of North Vigo High School. She knows the city and county well, and as a physician of more than 30 years, she understands the impact poor health has on individuals, families and the wider community.

When examining the people of Vigo County’s health, Box sees the issues in stark fashion. Surveys list the county 83rd out 92 counties in Indiana in overall health of residents. That’s primarily because of high smoking and obesity rates, as well as the abuse of drugs and alcohol. And while Vigo County is among the worst areas for unhealthy living, it certainly has lots of company.

“Terre Haute is a microcosm of what the state overall has and that is a lot of poor metrics when we are compared to other states,” Box said. “When you look at a lot of the surrounding areas of Terre Haute there is increased substance use disorder, higher smoking rates, some areas higher obesity rates, all of those things that contribute significantly to health.”

Vigo County is not alone in its struggles with poor health. Smoking rates are high all over Indiana, with more than one in five Hoosier adults now using tobacco, one of the highest rates in the nation. Meanwhile, the number of youths using vaping products — e-cigarettes — is raising concerns that a new generation of smokers is ready to replace the current one when they become adults.

With smoking a key issue in assessing individual health, ways to target and lower tobacco use are being pursued by health advocates. On the public policy front, they haven’t made much progress. But key leaders keep trying.

Among advocates on the state level is the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which is pushing to lower Indiana’s adult smoking levels to less than 15% of the population from the current 21.8%. The positive impact on reducing smoking would be enormous. The Chamber estimates that smoking currently costs $6.2 billion in health care and lost productivity in Indiana.

Among the proposals being pushed on state lawmakers by advocacy organizations such as the Chamber are increasing the cigarette tax and raising the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21. Both measures failed to advance in the recent legislative session. That’s unfortunate.

While action doesn’t seem imminent on the state level, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, and allies on Capitol Hill are proposing a federal law raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21. Hopefully that idea will gain more traction on the federal level than it has on the state level.

While smoking appropriately commands much time and energy when trying to improve the health of a community or a state, other problems exist as well. Obesity is a tougher issue than smoking. Opportunities to understand nutrition, eat healthy foods and exercise routinely can be enhanced. But pitfalls abound. It takes persistence, as well as a blend of awareness and good public policy.

Substance abuse is also a major public health issue. It promotes unhealthy lifestyles for abusers and their families. Vigo County has long suffered from this scourge.

As Dr. Box told her local audience, substance abuse has a ripple effect and creates adverse childhood experiences.

“Children are growing up with violence and being exposed to a lot of poverty in certain areas,” Box said of Vigo County as well as other parts of the state. “And those adversely affect their health as they go forward then and grow into adults.”

It’s not easy or pleasant to read all these reports on the poor health of our county and state. But knowing about and understanding these social problems and the impact they have on a community is a fundamental necessity when engaging in a discussion and planning a strategy for making things better. Many people and organizations are seeking ways to improve the health of our communities. They need our encouragement and support.

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