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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

November 23, 2019 GMT

The Munster Times. Nov. 19, 2019

Canceling class isn’t the best way for teachers to be heard

We get it.

Scores of Indiana teachers seek better pay, greater teaching resources and a better system of gauging school accountability.

We agree both state and local leaders should be regularly reevaluating and improving the measures and resources needed to attract and retain the best possible educators for our children.

But closing down schools in more than 120 school districts across the state today — even if only for a day, and even if that day is made up at another time — isn’t the best method for achieving this goal.

It flies in the face of the real reason why teachers teach — to further the education of Indiana public schoolchildren.

Teachers from districts throughout the state plan to rally in Indianapolis today in support of pay raises and a host of other issues as part of a national movement dubbed Red for Ed Day of Action.

The Hoosier-based demonstration is timed to the Indiana General Assembly’s Organization Day, which marks the beginning of the 2020 legislative session.

As a result, more than a third of the state’s public school districts are closing Tuesday and rescheduling makeup days or offering eLearning days as scores of teachers plan to call off work.

Make no mistake: There are a number of serious issues teachers are trying to spotlight in this demonstration.

Average teacher pay in the Hoosier state is behind that of neighboring states, meaning some of the best teachers don’t stay here — or never even consider teaching in Indiana.

A statewide teacher shortage results.

Many schools must turn to voters every few years via referendum to generate enough funding for needed expansion or renovation in our public school infrastructure or programming.

But is shuttering schools and walking off the job for the day the best way to drive home these very real concerns?

Is leaving student instruction up to eLearning via computer the best way for teachers to reinforce their worth to the public?

It’s not as if the state hasn’t already shown a willingness to work with public schools on better funding.

In the 2018 legislative session, the General Assembly grew funding for elementary and high school education by a total of $753 million, including $539 million in additional student tuition support, $140 million freed up for local school districts to spend as they see fit and $74 million more for statewide grant programs, including teacher appreciation and school security.

Democrats argued that the funding boost didn’t specifically direct any money to teacher pay raises.

But Senate President Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, said the significant education funding hike would give local school corporations the ability to raise teacher pay if they choose.

At some point, teachers should be turning to their school boards regarding how those resources are being spent.

Our nation is founded on the ability for groups to organize and peacefully protest or demonstrate.

But exercising this right at the expense of students and taxpayers isn’t the best tactic.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. Nov. 22, 2019

Early warning

State Rep. Matt Lehman welcomed about 500 people to the Early Learning Summit at Purdue University Fort Wayne this month. More than 350 people were on campus and dozens more watched by video feed from across the state to hear the economic development case for investing in high-quality child care.

Lehman, a Berne Republican, told educators and business leaders gathered for the summit that he was excited to see the interest in the issue and that he looked forward to hearing participants’ input on early learning.

And then he left – before an unsettling assessment of how a lack of child care resources affects the Indiana economy.

That’s unfortunate, because the statewide conference offered information Indiana’s leaders and policymakers need to hear. After boasting of the state’s economic strength, the House majority leader missed hearing a compelling case for why Indiana must step up:

• The state’s employers bear $1.8 billion a year in costs related to employee absences or turnover. The cost is related to the lack of access to child care and early learning resources. In this region alone, the cost is about $200 million a year, according to John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

• Of the 506,000 children age 5 and younger in Indiana, 64% live in households where all adults are employed.

• The average annual cost of high-quality early childhood programs is $7,903 a year – similar to a year’s tuition at Ball State University.

To their credit, other northeast Indiana lawmakers attended the session. Sens. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, and Andy Zay, R-Huntington, and House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, heard the important message. What they learned should surely inform their legislative work.

Jim Spurlino, president and owner of Spurlino Materials, a construction materials company based in southwest Ohio, told summit participants he became an advocate for early childhood investment after a workforce development council he served on came to the conclusion that a skilled labor force required starting with children in their earliest years.

“We were finding that kindergarten readiness was predicting our third-grade reading skills pretty perfectly,” Spurlino said. “So why weren’t the kids ready to enter kindergarten? Because we haven’t spent the time, the resources and the investment in the early years.”

“What we’re talking about is producing children who are happy and healthy and productive, and also hopefully talking about spending less money on things like special education and grade-repeating and recidivism, welfare and WIC and SNAP and TANF,” he said. “All of those things come into play and those are all these reasons why this is not just a science issue, it’s a dollar issue.”

Spurlino, a member of ReadyNation CEO Task Force on Early Childhood, said he and other business leaders became frustrated with Ohio’s rate of progress in early learning.

“A group of us came together and decided we are going to name a single entity to lead this and we’re going to make sure this is the voice and the place you go to for information,” he said. “We found the support; we found it in foundations, in high net-worth individuals, in corporations. ... We found the right opportunity.”

The group organized in time to have a voice in Ohio’s last gubernatorial election, securing a pledge for greater investment in early childhood programs.

In an interview, Spurlino said lobbying by business leaders was key.

“Right or wrong, sometimes it takes those who employ the most people – in Ohio, for instance, we have the Ohio Business Roundtable – In spite of it being a message (elected officials) have or should have heard many times before, sometimes it takes the business community. This isn’t always true, but business owners tend to be the largest contributors to political campaigns, and maybe that’s how you get someone’s ears, as well.”

Indiana’s first early learning commission was dissolved in 2004, leaving the state more than a decade behind where it should be today. Too many elected officials have ignored the value of investing in early learning to reap benefits in workforce development. Hoosier business leaders should follow Ohio’s lead to make the state’s leaders listen.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. Nov. 21, 2019

Participation is key to representation

The Indiana Civic Health Index group reports that the Hoosier state consistently ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in voter turnout, something the group seeks to remedy and with good reason.

Imagine if instead of all citizens voting for our leaders, we allowed half the country to make that decision for the other half. Unfortunately, here in Indiana, that is exactly what we’ve been doing.

The civic health index shows that 58.3% of eligible Hoosiers voted in the 2016 election, and 49.3 % voted in the 2018 midterm election.

In its report, the Indiana Civic Health Index Group suggests the creation of a civic education task force to identify reasons for low voter turnout and to create recommendations for improved participation.

Voter participation seems to be low across demographics, the report said, suggesting that civic education is the key to improvement.

We suspect this lack of participation stems from cynicism, apathy and a general lack of awareness of the role of government.

The proposed task force should take a nonpartisan approach to civic education and foster engagement at all levels of government.

Only through maximum participation can we ensure that the leaders we elect accurately represent us.

Our leaders are meant to be representatives of the people. We should not let them be representations of our apathy.

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