- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Times, Munster. Jan. 20, 2014.

Indiana needs more school counselors

Indiana has one of the nation’s worst ratios of school counselors to students.

The Indiana Youth Institute said the ratio is 539-to-1.

It is difficult to imagine counselors being readily available to all the students who might need their assistance when there are so few counselors.

It’s hard enough for the counselors even to know the students’ names, let alone their personal situations.

Too often, school counselors are too busy with other responsibilities, from testing duties to supervising the lunchroom, to spend adequate time counseling students.

“Counselors don’t have enough hours in the day to take care of all the responsibilities they have to take care of,” said Glenn Augustine, vice president of advancement for the Indiana Youth Institute.

Even worse, counselors say they don’t know what they should about other career options besides college.

A four-year college trajectory isn’t the right career path for every high school graduate. Some should get a two-year degree or a certificate to give them the additional training they need for a job in a factory, construction site or elsewhere.

Considering the big push to make students college or career ready, counselors should be well versed on all options to give proper guidance to students.

Students need help to succeed in life, and counselors need to know how to connect students with resources to help them thrive.

Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said her district plans to do more training for counselors to make them aware of career options available to students.

That will help, but that doesn’t address the shortage of counselors in Indiana schools. That’s an area where Indiana needs to invest more money.

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South Bend Tribune. Jan. 19, 2014.

Do the governor’s words match the agenda?

Gov. Mike Pence in his State of the State address last week revisited his call for the Indiana General Assembly to phase out the state’s business personal property tax. “But, let’s do it in a way that protects our local governments and doesn’t shift the burden of business tax onto the backs of hardworking Hoosiers,” he said.

How does the governor propose legislators pull that off?

His speech gave lawmakers no guidance. Pence’s supporters say that, as a former congressman, the governor’s manner is to lay out the agenda and let the legislators work out the plan to achieve it. If that’s his strategy on business personal property tax, he’s handed the General Assembly a formidable task.

Tribune reporters on Jan. 12 detailed the loss of $31.6 million to local units in St. Joseph County which would result if the tax were eliminated next year.

The biggest losers would be the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, which would stand to lose 8.4 percent and 6.3 percent of their budgets, respectively.

Both mayors said there’s no way the cuts could be absorbed because of the millions in revenues the cities forfeited in recent years with property tax caps enacted under Gov. Mitch Daniels. If we accept that, then one way out is for them to cut services — which many public officials and economic development officials say will discourage their ability to attract business growth. The only alternative the governor has floated in recent months is to replace the revenue through local option tax — in effect, shifting the burden from businesses to homeowners and pitting local communities against one another in the race to be cheapest.

The business personal property tax does appear to be outdated and inequitable. But for now, it seems that eliminating it will require homeowners to shoulder even more of the burden of educating workers and providing other attractive services and amenities in their communities. That doesn’t sound like what Pence called for in his State of the State.

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The Tribune, Seymour. Jan. 17, 2014.

Fund kindergarten for all Hoosier kids

The House Education Committee at the Indiana General Assembly last week heard a bill that would establish a pilot program to provide pre-kindergarten vouchers to 1,000 children beginning in 2015. The Senate scaled back a similar proposal last year.

This year’s proposal would establish the framework for the pilot program, but a decision on how to fund the program would wait until 2015, when lawmakers craft the next state budget.

“Indiana is one of only about 10 states that does not have some form of a state-funded preschool program,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said, “and we’re targeting on the most vulnerable population. The population that needs, in my opinion, the most opportunity in this regard.”

This is a worthy consideration. The value of a solid preschool education is clear. Youngsters are better prepared for the increasingly rigorous educational demands of kindergarten.

But there’s a gap in the overall education plan in Indiana. Kindergarten remains optional, rather than required.

That means youngsters could go straight into first grade without knowing the alphabet, how to count or how to write their names, let alone the social and educational behaviors needed in the classroom.

Yes, responsible parents should be teaching those and other skills; but not every youngster enjoys that kind of family.

If legislators are sincere about boosting educational opportunities for young Hoosiers, then they should start by requiring all students to attend kindergarten. That way, first-grade teachers can be assured that all of their charges each year will have some classroom experience and basic knowledge.

Second, state per-pupil funding for full-day kindergartners should be at the same level as students in Grades 1-12. As it is, not every Indiana school district receives full funding for kindergarten programs.

Kindergarten is not state-funded day care. The idea that it is little more than playtime for youngsters is far from the reality. Today it’s an integral part of the education system.

If we are to rely on the kindergarten year for basic education, then the state should be supporting it in the same way it does other grades.

Again, we support a serious examination of state-funded preschool. But we also urge the General Assembly to take the final steps to make kindergarten a full part of the education of Hoosier children.

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Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Jan. 16, 2014.

‘The pajamas test’ for Daniels and Purdue

In his first year at Purdue University, Mitch Daniels has spent a fair amount of time shedding his previous title - Indiana governor - and getting comfortable in his new title, that of university president.

To be fair, the period of settling in probably was being done as much or more by everyone around him than it was by Daniels himself. Not that Daniels had it all figured out from day one. But since January 2013, he’s done what he seems naturally wired to do: make it his job to be a quick study and get people itching - or at least willing - to make changes.

As he learned at the Statehouse at the start of his eight years as governor, wanting big changes quickly isn’t exactly the same as getting big changes quickly. It took Gov. Daniels some time there, too.

But give him credit for navigating the tricky halls of academia, particularly when he was picked apart by those looking for hints of the partisan political past he swore he’d leave behind.

But for all of the attention that came Daniels‘ way - from the bad in the remnants of comments made as governor about the work of historian Howard Zinn to the good with a two-year tuition freeze on the West Lafayette campus - one repeated concept never quite established itself as the social media hashtag it was born to be: #ThePajamasTest.

Daniels has been floating that catchphrase for months now without much traction. But how well he sells that point seems key in Purdue’s future and probably to the future of high education on a broader scale.

The idea is simple: What can universities do, faced with the promise of online learning and the mounting expense of a traditional four-year degree, to keep drawing students to campus? In other words, why should students come to a brick-and-mortar school when they could get a degree at home, in their pajamas?

In a six-page letter to campus last week, Daniels touched on that, playing to the university’s built-in strengths: extensive labs, campus leadership opportunities and undergraduate research projects. But he said Purdue needs to start retooling the classroom experience to take advantage of technology to free up time for teaching in closer quarters, encourage study abroad options and tout the benefits of living on campus.

What will help is Daniels‘ suggestion that Purdue is prepared to hold the line on tuition for a third consecutive year. How well Daniels sells the rest of that Pajamas Test concept will go a long way to shaping Purdue during his second year.

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