Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm •  Published: June 10, 2014
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South Bend Tribune. June 8, 2014.

Lawsuit the latest chapter in a sad story

Indiana could have -- and should have -- taken a step to fulfill both a promise to adoptive families and Gov. Mike Pence's talk of a "pro adoption agenda."

Instead, the Department of Child Services faces a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of families on a "waiting list" for money intended to help them raise children adopted from Indiana's foster care system.

The suit was filed last week against the DCS and Director Mary Beth Bonaventura on behalf of Debbie Moss, a LaPorte grandmother taking care of her three grandchildren without the subsidies promised her.

Moss, profiled in The Tribune earlier this year, would be due about $40,000 from the state based on payments she negotiated with the DCS, according to Indianapolis attorney Richard Shevitz.

Attorneys allege the DCS breached its contract with families by telling them they would be placed on a waiting list until the money was available -- while returning nearly $240 million to the state over a five-year period.

Moss is one of the 1,400 families on a waiting list.

It remains to be seen how this suit will be resolved, but one thing is clear: The General Assembly should have stepped up to restore the state subsidy that was cut in 2009 by then-DCS Director James Payne. Legislators had ample opportunity -- and good reason -- to do so. Yet last session marked the fifth year in a row that the issue has died.

Payne's fondness for declaring that people "should adopt for love, not money" overlooks the basic realities of the costs caring for children in need of support.

For several years now, Indiana has failed to live up to its obligation to 1,400 adoptive families. The lawsuit filed last week is the latest chapter in this very sad story.

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Evansville Courier & Press. June 8, 2014.

Turmoil over school testing is still with us

The turmoil that has marked Indiana education is far from over.

In a year that Indiana education and legislative leaders decided to drop the state's commitment to Common Core education standards adopted by more than 40 other states, it has been difficult at times to understand just what is going on. And just when it seemed that the issue was settling down with new state-written education standards, the federal Department of Education stepped in and said not so fast. In fact, Indiana is faced now with the possibility of losing millions in federal funds if it doesn't comply with a federal directive.

This past week, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said she had been informed by federal officials that if Indiana wants to keep its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act — and the money that goes with it — it must create a new ISTEP test. Indiana had planned to do that anyway, but not so soon as the feds want it done. This is happening in part because Indiana dropped out of Common Core.

Federal officials warned Indiana last month that the state's coveted waiver of NCLB was at risk — along with millions in Title 1 federal money because of concerns about problems in monitoring low-performing schools, as well as difficulties evaluating the performance of teachers and principals. ...

The state must provide Hoosier students with a new, more rigorous standardized test in the spring of 2015, a year ahead of when Indiana intended to introduce a new test. The state plan was to begin the new test in the spring of 2016, giving Indiana schools and students a year to prepare for the new test, which will require students to show how they reached an answer.

Ritz predicted the testing would show a drop in student performance because it is a more rigorous challenge. No doubt, some critics of public education will use that expected drop in scores as reason to claim that the new standards are a failure.

Regardless, Ritz encouraged the state board of education to follow the federal direction and go ahead with the test a year early, thereby hoping to keep the federal money which is used to help at-risk students.

Some among us will be tempted to tell the federal government to keep its money, but that is not realistic. Indeed, several school officials said Indiana schools need to keep the federal waiver and the federal money coming.

Although Indiana's experience with dropping Common Core has been a stormy process, we learned Friday that Oklahoma and South Carolina are pulling out of Common Core, as well. No doubt, had Indiana stuck with Common Core — a program created by the states, not the federal government — much of today's turmoil might have been avoided. Some who opposed Common Core felt the feds were telling Indiana how to run its schools. But Common Core is a state program, not a federal program. And yet we still have the feds telling Indiana schools what to do.

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The Indianapolis Star. June 6, 2014.

Indiana needs to reduce its dependence on coal

Take a deep breath. Despite proposed new EPA regulations, and despite the fears of business and political leaders and the hopes of environmentalists, coal-fired power plants almost certainly will not disappear in Indiana or elsewhere any time soon.

Here's why: In a nation as energy dependent as the United States, 68 percent of electricity still is generated by burning fossil fuels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

And the fossil fuel most often used to keep the lights on in factories, homes and businesses is coal. It's the source of 37 percent of the nation's electricity; wind and solar, in contrast, account for less than 4 percent combined.

The advent of fracking, used to unlock natural gas deposits, has put a dent in coal's dominance in recent years and now is the source of 30 percent of electricity production. But, energy analysts argue, the frequent use of gas to heat homes and other buildings in the winter limits its feasibility as the dominant source for electricity.

Aggressive steps toward better energy efficiency can help, and should be encouraged, but as the economy and population grow, the need to produce more electricity will remain. Nuclear energy, for a variety of economic and environmental reasons, is a non-starter. And while wind and solar generation are growing, they're likely to remain relatively minor pieces of the overall energy picture for many years to come.

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