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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

January 8, 2019

The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. January 4, 2019

And another thing

Congratulations and good luck

The swearing-in ceremony for public officials at the Monroe County Courthouse on New Year’s Day was filled with smiles, laughter and high hopes.

We’d like to add our congratulations to all the elected officials, both new and returning, who were sworn in Tuesday. The voters have placed their confidence in all of you to serve with honor, integrity and fairness during their terms.

Our hope is these elected officials do just that, making sure to remember always that they are in place to serve the people, not the other way around. We trust they all understand that and look forward to watching them work hard for the benefit of all the residents of Monroe County.

Bowl game woes

While Indiana University football fans were understandably disappointed the Hoosiers didn’t play in a bowl game this season, fans of the two Indiana-based schools that did must be disappointed about how their teams fared.

Purdue was crushed in its game, falling behind 56-7 at halftime — halftime! — before losing to Auburn by a final score of 63-14. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame didn’t come close in their game, either, losing by a 30-3 score to Clemson. Indiana’s Big 2 bowl schools lost by a total score of 93-16.

Was it really better to play and lose badly than never to have played at all? Yes, probably, but that doesn’t mean the actual games were much fun for the fans of the Boilermakers or the Irish.

Farewell to a true fan

Purdue’s No. 1 fan, Tyler Trent, became a national sensation as he lived his last weeks in a spotlight cheering on his beloved team. Trent was Purdue’s honorary captain when the Boilers played in Bloomington Nov. 24 for the old Oaken Bucket game and again at the Music City Bowl Dec. 26 in Nashville. Less than a week after that game, the young man who displayed such courage, resilience and grace died on New Year’s Day.

The 20-year-old fought a rare form of bone cancer the entire time he was a student at Purdue. His fervent support of his university’s football team made him a household name from coast to coast.

Purdue’s athletic department aimed this statement at his family and friends after his death:

“While there are no words to ease the hurt at times like this, we hope some comfort can be found in knowing what an inspiration Tyler is to our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans. The entire Purdue Athletics family has been touched by his courageous battle, positive spirit and unwavering faith. Tyler was the embodiment of a true Boilermaker who will live on in each of us. We will forever be #TylerStrong.”

His story touched more than the Purdue family, including the staunchest IU fans.

Help for Shalom?

Money doesn’t last forever. That’s why the folks at the Shalom Community Center once again need financial supporters to step forward to help secure the facility’s efforts to stay open seven days a week.

In the wake of serious issues downtown in 2017, government and local businesses pooled resources to allow Shalom to give people somewhere to go during the day on weekends rather than to just hang out on the streets. The expansion of hours was a recommendation from the Downtown Safety, Civility and Justice Task Force. While this isn’t the only reason, downtown’s problems have dissipated — and 70 to 80 individuals are being served at Shalom on weekends.

Funding is in place through September of this year, but the need for the weekend services won’t end then. We encourage city and county government, as well as businesses that have the resources, to invest again in keeping Shalom open seven days a week.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. January 4, 2019

Quality crackdown

If the state’s newly released high school graduation rate report serves just one purpose, it should be as impetus for a crackdown on virtual charter schools, including one which more than doubled in size after graduating only 22 of its 1,009 seniors last spring.

Senate Bill 183 would serve as a check on Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, which posted a graduation rate of 2.18 percent, compared with a state average of 88.1 percent. The legislation would terminate the charter for Indiana Virtual Pathways and Indiana Virtual School at the end of their current terms and would limit the enrollment of other online schools.

For now, the schools serve as cash cows for their authorizers and operators. Daleville Community Schools, a small district located between Muncie and Anderson, will collect $1.16 million as authorizer for Indiana Virtual Pathways, which enrolled 6,266 students this year, including 128 students who live in Allen County. The school, operated out of an office suite in suburban Indianapolis, opened with about 3,000 students in 2017, drawing most of its enrollment from its sister charter, Indiana Virtual School. The original school received its third consecutive F grade from the state in the fall, but the two schools are expected to collect more than $35 million in student tuition support this year. Online schools receive 90 percent of the per-student tuition support paid to traditional schools.

A 2017 investigation by Chalkbeat, an education news website, found the schools had just one teacher for every 222 students. Not surprisingly, academic performance was dismal. The report also found questionable business practices, including state money flowing from the virtual charters to AlphaCom Inc., a for-profit company created and once led by the schools’ founder.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat, cited the Indiana Chalkbeat investigation during a June congressional committee hearing on charter schools, calling out Indiana Virtual School as an example of the failed promises of online charter schools. Her remarks followed comments by Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, who boasted of Indiana’s charter school laws as a model for other states and praised the schools for creating more opportunities and lifting academic achievement.

Banks’ accolades for Indiana charter guidelines contrast with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for changes. The governor called for “immediate action” after the Chalkbeat investigation.

“The state shouldn’t allow schools that have that poor of performance to continue,” Holcomb told Chalkbeat in 2017. “I look forward over this next year, with the state board of education, to help put in place measures that hold schools accountable for poor performance. Poor performance would be putting it lightly.”

The General Assembly failed to act in the last session, but Holcomb told Chalkbeat reporter Shaina Cavazos “the stars are aligning” this year to tighten restrictions and oversight of online schools.

After months of hearings by a subcommittee, the Indiana State Board of Education adopted a resolution outlining legislative recommendations on virtual schools, including a recommendation to eliminate the financial incentives that have fueled the enrollment growth. The resolution also addresses general guidelines for online education, as a growing number of public schools add virtual classes.

SB 183, sponsored by Gary Democrat Eddie Melton, is the only legislation now posted that would restrict virtual charter schools. It’s a good place to start. Indiana lawmakers must be called to account for their embrace of school choice over school quality.

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South Bend Tribune. January 2, 2019

Toughen penalties for drivers who ignore school bus stop arms

Anything that helps keep students safe as they board their school buses is an idea worth trying.

So count us among those who support Republican state Sen. Eric Bassler when he said he plans to introduce a bill to lawmakers this month that would stiffen penalties for school bus stop arm violations.

Under the bill, those who don’t stop for buses with their signs out would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor instead of a Class A infraction. The difference means violators could be arrested and spend time in jail as opposed to just being issued a ticket.

Bassler introduced a similar bill a few years ago, but it never went anywhere. Bassler hopes things will be different this legislative session following the deaths of three children who were killed at their bus stop near Rochester. The driver who struck the students was charged with three counts of reckless homicide and a misdemeanor count of passing a school bus causing injury.

Drivers ignoring stop arms has been a problem for years and continues to frustrate school and law enforcement officials.

The Indiana Department of Education conducts a one-day count each year to track violations. On April 24 last year, 3,082 stop arm violations were voluntarily reported by 201 districts across the state. Multiply the number of violations by 180 school days and it’s estimated that the number of stop arm violations for the school year would be 554,760.

A year earlier the number of violations reported by 145 districts for the one-day count was 2,280.

There are other steps that can be taken to try and improve school bus boarding safety, including increased enforcement by police, the installation of cameras on buses and the relocation of school bus stops from busy streets or highways to less traveled neighborhood streets.

Add to those measures tougher penalties for violators and maybe drivers will finally get the message that ignoring a school bus stop arm is against the law and, quite possibly, deadly.

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