- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Herald-Times, Bloomington. March 26, 2014.

Disruptive week in IU men’s basketball should raise concerns

Herald-Times columnist Jeremy Price analyzed the Indiana University basketball situation well when he wrote in a column published Tuesday that the Hoosiers will survive the transfer of three players and the loss of Noah Vonleh to the NBA draft.

Other players will step in for Vonleh, Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington and Jonny Marlin. Those new players will compete hard.

Vonleh’s move was predictable. He’s projected as a top 10 draft pick, which means he’ll start his career making $1 million-plus at the age of 19. No one should blame him for taking the money instead of risking injury to return to IU for another year.

Still, this illustrates the problematic one-and-done phenomenon brought on by a change made by the NBA a few years ago.

With high school players such as Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James going straight to the pros, former NBA commissioner David Stern called for setting an age limit of 20 for entry into the league. He said he believed too many young urban kids saw the NBA as a path to fame and fortune when they weren’t nearly ready to compete at that level and instead could continue getting an education while honing their skills.

Most players opposed Stern’s idea, but the league and the players union agreed in 2005 to require players starting in 2006 to be at least 19 and one year removed from their high school graduating class to be eligible for the league. That forced a lot of players such as Vonleh to go to college for a year before they would be eligible for the NBA.

The continuity of college basketball would be helped if the league reconsidered Stern’s original idea so that players would need to stay in college two years, presumably working their way at least halfway to a degree. The counter argument says the marketplace should decide; if a player can earn a spot in the NBA when he’s 18, he should be allowed to.

A good compromise would follow the lead of Major League Baseball, which says players can enter the draft right out of high school if they don’t go to college. But if they enroll in a four-year college, they must complete their junior year or be at least 21 years old before being eligible to enter the draft. MLB also has a strong minor league system, which the NBA needs, so those not ready for prime time could make a living developing their game at a lower level.

Those rules would be irrelevant for 99 percent of college players, including Hollowell, Etherington and Marlin, who don’t have the skill or evident potential to jump to the NBA. It’s their departure - three former Hoosier high school basketball stars - that should concern even the most casual IU fan. Those three players should understand better than most what Coach Tom Crean means when he says, “It’s Indiana.”

But they’ve now each seen “it” up close for at least two years and have decided - like another player, Luke Fischer, did in the middle of the season - they’ve seen enough. More than Vonleh leaving for the NBA, those players’ desire to leave Indiana should trouble Hoosier Nation.

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The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne. March 26, 2014.

An education on inequality

Access to equal education for all Americans was never just a question of fairness. It is, now more than ever, a matter of survival. Students who get shortchanged in school will get shortchanged in life, as workers compete for good positions in a world of increasingly specialized and demanding jobs.

But recent research provides strong evidence that inequality remains.

A study released last week by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights showed that black students are significantly less likely than whites to attend a school that doesn’t offer a full range of math and science courses.

Black students are also more likely to have first-year teachers. And in districts with multiple schools, teacher salaries at the school with the most black and Latino students were $5,000 less than the salaries at the school with the least black and Latino students.

Black students are far more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled from school, the study showed. And the disparities begin far earlier than might be imagined - at the preschool level.

“While black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment,” wrote The New York Times, “close to half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once are African-American.”

Earlier this month, a group of academic experts in social science, education and law published uncannily similar findings about school discipline disparities.

Indiana University-Bloomington professor Russell Skiba, who headed that three-year national study, thinks the similarity of both reports’ conclusions adds to their credibility. It’s long been clear that there are disparities in the way minorities are treated in schools, he said. But “I think it’s encouraging that we’re seeing so much attention to this now.”

Skiba is particularly encouraged that the federal government is taking a serious look at school disciplinary problems. He’s also seen some hopeful signs that Indiana is taking the problem seriously.

Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis, introduced a bill in this year’s legislature that would require schools to examine their rates of suspensions and expulsions and would allow the state to assist schools in developing more positive discipline policies.

The measure wasn’t seriously considered during the short 2014 session, but it was referred to a study committee, and Skiba is hopeful that it will get more attention next year.

“Some districts have reframed their discipline codes to focus on school climate,” Skiba said, noting that Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the most progressive in the state on this issue.

Indiana’s focus on the issue is certainly merited.

The DOE reported that Indiana was one of five states that “reported male suspension rates higher than the nation for every racial/ethnic group.” The others were Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

“Far from making our schools safer or improving student behavior,” Skiba said in releasing the results of the study that he headed, “the steadily increasing use of suspension and expulsion puts students - especially students of color and other targeted groups - at an increased risk of academic disengagement, dropout and contact with juvenile justice.”

“Poverty, single-parent homes, other factors do contribute,” Skiba added this week. But, he said, the disciplinary treatment students receive in school can even be traced ultimately to a life of crime.

“It’s sometimes termed the school-to-prison pipeline,” he said.

Blacks, Richard Gunderman wrote in The Atlantic magazine last year, are jailed six times as often as whites. “And if current trends continue, nearly 1 in 3 black males born today can expect to be incarcerated at some point in life.”

Maybe some of that begins in Indiana classrooms.

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The Times, Merrillville. March 31, 2014.

Lay financial tracks for rail expansion

The ball is rolling on local funding for the South Shore extension to Dyer. So far, nearly half of Lake County’s municipalities have made a financial commitment, as has Lake County government, through their new County Economic Development Income Tax revenues.

Together, they have come up with about $3.1 million of the annual amount needed to repay the bond for extending the South Shore.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and some of his supporters have worked tirelessly to get Lake County’s 19 municipalities to chip in for the South Shore extension.

Think of it as a fraction of a fraction. The CEDIT tax is 0.25 percent of the incomes of Lake County residents and non-Hoosiers who work in Lake County. Visclosky is asking for about one-third of that 0.25 percent.

Last fall, he set Monday as the deadline for coming up with the local match.

We commend Dyer, Griffith, Highland, Hobart, Lake Station, Munster, Schererville, Schneider, Whiting, Winfield and Lake County officials for seeing the wisdom of backing one of the region’s biggest economic development projects in history.

Yet to sign on are Cedar Lake, Crown Point, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Lowell, Merrillville, New Chicago and St. John. They should do so with haste. This train needs to leave the station.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she has promised to inform Visclosky of her city’s intentions by his deadline.

“This isn’t just to extend the South Shore to Dyer and St. John,” Freeman-Wilson said. “It also contemplates investment in the existing line.”

That’s key, because improvements will help those cities as well.

Of the cities along the existing route, Hammond - which has yet to make a commitment - stands to gain the most, because the northern terminus of the new route would be in Hammond, bringing riders to a new train station.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which has done much for the shoreline cities, has pledged $8 million a year for the South Shore expansion.

On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence showed his commitment by signing Senate Bill 367, which sets aside $4 million a year to amass money for the first five years of operating costs.

Momentum is building for the biggest economic development project to hit Lake County in decades. The remaining communities now need to add their support.

Let’s get this rail line built to tap into Chicago’s vast job market.

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The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. March 28, 2014

New scooter law represents appropriate action

As the dust settles around the big issues that dominated the recent session of the Indiana General Assembly, some of the more mundane yet important results of the session are coming to light.

Among the significant positive changes pending is a law that places tighter regulations on drivers of motorized scooters.

The new law, which will take effect next January, will require scooter operators to obtain license plates from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, have a valid state ID and pass a road sign test.

The law keeps the minimum age to operate scooters at 15, while raising their maximum speed to 35 mph and banning them from interstate highways.

More stringent regulations on scooter operations have been a goal of police agencies, and some legislators, for years. This year, however, brought consensus on most of the issues. Only one major change that was sought - that scooter drivers have insurance - did not make into the final law.

While some may decry this measure as a further erosion of freedom and of government regulation run amok, this is a common-sense law that addresses a legitimate public safety concern. Our roadways, and people who use them, will be better off for it.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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