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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

By The Associated PressJuly 2, 2019

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. June 30, 2019

Rushed sports gambling bad bet

Gambling has been a part of life in Indiana for decades - slot machines, table games, horse-race parlors and lottery tickets are available to Hoosiers who want to try their luck and risk their money. But soon, anyone in Indiana who is at least 21 years old will be allowed to bet on pro- and college-level sporting events - not only at a casino or racino, but from a computer or smartphone.

That raises new concerns. Will access to betting online create more problem gamblers? Will sports wagers tempt players or coaches to share inside information with gamblers or even throw games?

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states could decide whether to implement such gaming. This spring, lured by the prospect of more jobs and more public revenue, the Indiana legislature and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed up.

The incentive is to capture some of the huge sums now bet illegally - as much as $50 billion to $60 billion nationally. The California-based Eilers & Krejcik research firm estimated last year that within five years, sports gambling could have a $1.7 billion direct and indirect economic impact on Indiana, and create 2,281 jobs.

Monday, the Indiana Gaming Commission begins processing applications from casino companies that want to offer sports betting at their sites or online. One or more companies could be up and running by Sept. 1. But commission officials, anxious to avoid potential problems, are stressing they won’t be held to that date.

“We are certainly not going to roll something like this out until at least one operator is ready,” Jenny Reske, the commission’s deputy director, said Thursday. “We’re still in the beginning stages.”

Grandfathered in by an earlier law, Nevada and Delaware were the only states to offer sports gambling until the Supreme Court’s decision. Now several other states have programs under way, and Indiana is taking advantage of their experience.

Reske said the regulatory agency is working to ensure problem gamblers get the help they need and that online systems effectively block minors and people who ask to be “self-excluded” from access to gambling.

“We know the (online) demographic is different from the demographic of the traditional casino gambler,” Reske said. “We know that creating more resources and more outreach online is important.” The agency has set up a website to direct people to help if they think they may have a problem and plans to ensure that each of its applicants to operate a sports-betting operation has its own problem-gambling programs.

Chris Gray, executive director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling, said most people won’t be hurt by the new betting opportunities. “Ninety-five percent can gamble responsibly,” she said in a recent interview. But there are others who find the lure of gambling irresistible, and “there is the possibility that it will increase the number of people who have a problem with gambling,” Gray said.

“One percent has a problem that affects every area of their life,” she said. Four percent have milder gambling problems.

Gray’s group and others work to see that those who have a problem can get help by steering callers to treatment providers in their area. One concern, Gray said, is that those without health insurance may not be able to pay for treatment. “I can tell you right now, people who have a gambling addiction have no money because they’ve spent it gambling.”

In such cases, Gray said, she may try to connect people with Gamblers Anonymous groups or arrange to have one or two former problem gamblers who have volunteered speak with them. The state sets some funds aside for work with gambling addicts, but Gray says there should be more spent in that area.

Americans have been leery of mixing gambling and sports for at least a century. Every baseball fan knows the story of the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, when several Chicago White Sox players plotted with gamblers to throw the World Series.

It will still be illegal to bet on high school and youth sports, and Reske said the commission is working hard to ensure pro and college programs aren’t tainted by legalized betting.

“The integrity of these activities is our top priority,” she said. “The staff sat down with representatives from colleges and universities to get their viewpoints. We’ve met with professional sports leagues.”

The commission has also begun working with the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association, a nonprofit agency funded through gambling companies that will watch for unusual betting patterns that could signal problems.

According to Eilers & Krejcik, the most popular pro and college sport for gamblers is football. But the Gaming Commission should ignore critics who say the new arrangements have to be ready for the fall football season. The pitfalls of online and sports gambling may be headed off by good planning and good technology. The commission should take all the time it needs.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune Star. June 29, 2019

Lawmakers keep piling on unfunded mandates

Without a doubt, Vigo County and other Hoosier communities need to enhance efforts to prevent teen suicides, child abuse and neglect, and the bullying and human trafficking of children.

More people should learn CPR and how to handle a child suffering a seizure, too.

Also, every teenager’s path toward a productive work career should include expert adult guidance. And along the way, those young people — who deal with increasing societal pressures and disrupted home lives — should have access to counseling for their social and emotional needs.

If that sounds like a lot to handle, it is. The sheer breadth of those accumulating problems would seem to signal an all-hands-on-deck response involving towns, cities, counties and the state to join nonprofit and private entities already trying to alleviate each individual dilemma. And, of course, it is reasonable to expect Indiana government to provide adequate funding and resources to address all those crucial problems facing the youngest Hoosiers.

Or, state officials could just pile all those responsibilities on the schools and teachers. The state has chosen that option.

The Legislature rolled out 53 new public education laws this spring, adding to the 21 school laws enacted last year. (2018 was a short session. They have only so much time.) Several of those laws include “unfunded mandates.” In other words, the state orders the local schools to absorb yet another social services duty without providing enough extra resources to do it.

Many of those added duties fall to teachers — folks trained to teach kids math, science, English, history and technology, but now also required to be trained in seizure awareness; suicide prevention; detecting child abuse, neglect and human trafficking; and administering CPR.

Meanwhile, those same teachers must teach their academic subjects well enough to merit a pay raise, assuming their students and their school score highly enough on state-mandated standardized tests. That is the basic structure imposed by conservative reformers through the past 15 years. That ideological block continues to dominate the Legislature, which this past session opted not to directly fund teacher pay raises. On that one point, lawmakers left that call up to the local schools by freeing up $150 million in pension liabilities — on a one-time basis, of course — that districts could then shift toward teacher pay.

A 2019 report by the Rockefeller Institute found that Indiana teachers had received the smallest average pay increase from 2002 to 2017, compared to their colleagues in the other 49 states.

Legislators did assure teachers of one increase during this year’s session — 15 hours of professional development related to their community’s workforce needs, just to renew their licenses. One option to fulfill that burden would be to, say, work another job for 15 hours somewhere in the community. Kind of like community service, but for law-abiding citizens, such as kindergarten teachers.

It is no wonder that many school districts, such as Vigo County and others outside of Indiana’s affluent areas, cannot attract enough full-time teachers to fully staff their classrooms.

Like schools and teachers, the Indiana School Boards Association is concerned about the mounting number of unfunded mandates and public education laws. The ISBA’s annual compilation of state laws and regulations is now nearly 1,700 pages, or about 500 pages longer than most versions of the Bible.

“That’s a lot for school corporations to keep up with,” ISBA executive director Terry Spradlin told the Tribune-Star earlier this month.

Legislators are on the case, though. The top two Republicans on the Indiana House Education Committee, Rep. Bob Behning and Rep. Tony Cook, plan to send a letter to the Indiana Legislative Services Agency, which can then create a study committee to “eliminate, reduce or streamline mandates placed on schools” and “streamline fiscal and compliance reporting to the General Assembly.”

A House act, passed this session, requested a summer study committee to assess the problem over a period of years. But that topic did not make the cut for this summer. Maybe it should have been mandated.

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The (Muenster) Times. June 27, 2019

Don’t let kids go hungry when summer tables are already set

Patricia Urbanczyk helps children select food items for lunch at Irving Elementary School in Hammond, one of more than 100 free meal locations in the Region this summer. Irving Elementary serves free breakfast and lunch to kids ages 18 and under through early August.

The challenges faced by Northwest Indiana’s working poor are very real.

Too many families teeter on the edge of a financial brink, risking health and livelihood.

As a result, some of our communities rank among the highest in terms of enrollment in school-provided breakfast and lunch programs, with many children getting some of their only balanced meals this way.

Now that the school year is over, eligible families should know help remains in this regard.

Schools, churches and other community centers in the Region are participating in the 2019 Summer Food Service Program, which offers breakfast, lunch and snacks in some locations for children who need it.

The program seeks to bridge the gap of nutritious meals that otherwise would exist when school free lunch and breakfast programs close down for the summer.

Area food service departments are trying to spread the word.

An estimated 15% of students who rely on free school lunches end up taking advantage of the summer food program, according to the national No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Nearly 250 school and community organizations statewide offer the summer meals, which served nearly 2.7 million meals last year, the Indiana Department of Education reports.

In Sunday’s Times, education reporter Carley Lanich revealed elementary schools throughout Hammond are serving up a rotating menu of beach-themed lunches and other fare this summer.

The Hammond programs are open to any child under the age of 18, regardless of residency or school enrollment.

If you have a hungry child in Illinois or any other Region city or town, Hammond’s doors are open for the program, which is funded by the USDA.

Hobart Food Service Director Nancy Smith estimates her school district serves about 800 summer meals per day in its version of the program.

The Hobart program uses three mobile food trucks to bring food to schools and parks during summer months.

Summer student food programs also exist in East Chicago, Gary, Griffith, Lake Station, Merrillville, Whiting, Portage, Valparaiso and Michigan City, among other municipalities.

You can learn more about the hours and locations of summer food programs for kids by texting the word “Food” to 877-877.

Financial struggles are a reality of our Region, but children don’t need to go hungry in the process.

Take advantage of this worthy program, or do what you can to spread the word to people who may need it.

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