- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Evansville Courier & Press. March 2, 2014.

With Common Core gone, new standards had better succeed

Despite the good efforts of those who supported Common Core educational standards for Indiana schools, the Indiana Legislature has shut the door on the new standards adopted by most states.

Instead, Indiana will be adopting its own homegrown school standards. Although this newspaper and others backed the state’s adoption of Common Core, opposition from various factions, among them tea partiers, persuaded a majority of Indiana lawmakers to drop the plan in favor of one drafted within the state.

Although Common Core was drafted under the leadership of the nation’s governors, many critics believed it to be a federally written program, due perhaps to its support by President Barack Obama. Some 45 states, including Indiana, approved Common Core and launched its use in primary grades. However, it wasn’t long before distrust of Common Core developed, and a few states took the same course as Indiana.

Consequently, this past week the Indiana House voted 67-26 to end Common Core’s use in the Hoosier state. It was a bipartisan vote.

According to The Associated Press, the bill requires new college and career readiness standards to be ready for the 2014-2015 school year. And it defines college and career readiness standards as standards that provide high school graduates with knowledge and skills to transition without remediation to post-secondary education or training. Democratic state Rep. Kreg Battles of Vincennes had attempted to delay the testing deadline for students, but it failed.

A similar bill has been passed by the Indiana Senate. As a result, a July 1 deadline was set for the State Board of Education to write new standards outlining what students should be learning at each grade.

In fact, the state Department of Education last month proposed new education requirements for students. The AP said the standards combine national standards, former Indiana policies and benchmarks from other states. Probably those new Indiana standards would include some similarity to Common Core guidelines, as well as to current standards in Indiana. Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Danielle Shockey noted the similarity and said teachers could likely use the same textbooks they now use.

Of course, we are disappointed that Indiana did not stick with Common Core. Given that it is being utilized by most other states, it could be an advantage to students in those states as they take standardized tests such as SAT and as they attend college.

Also, Indiana has had its own standards in the past, with academic performance measured for many as mediocre. Will new state written standards improve that performance?

We hope they do. That is the bottom line on this whole mess. Whatever it takes - Indiana written standards or Common Core standards - Indiana students must be helped. We trust those who are adopting these standards and dropping Common Core know what they are doing.


Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. March 2, 2014.

New attention on sex assaults

Youth sexual assault in Indiana is a troubling issue that has not received the attention it deserves. That’s about to change, thanks to the persistent efforts of Indianapolis Democrat state Rep. Christina Hale and a willing Legislature.

The Indiana House of Representatives is backing a plan to study the number of youth sexual assaults and rapes in the state. House members voted - unanimously! - on Wednesday in favor of the measure.

The strong legislative support clearly indicates that Hale was effective in her session-long campaign to raise awareness about the high number of youth sexual assaults in the state and convince fellow lawmakers the time had come to find out why this is happening.

The statistics, as Hale states, are shocking. Indiana is ranked among the worst states in the nation for sexual assaults of young people. In a Flashpoint essay on the subject published in the Sunday, Jan. 26, issue of the Tribune-Star, Hale cited a 2008 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing the rate of Indiana high school-age girls that had been raped or sexually assaulted was 17.3 percent. That’s almost one in six Hoosier girls. In contrast, the national rate was 10.5 percent.

The CDC also states that the statistics don’t fully reflect the scope of the problem because up to 50 percent of all sexual assaults are never reported.

Hale calls the situation “outrageous and unacceptable.” We couldn’t agree more.

This summer, a House committee will study the issue and examine the causes of these crimes. It will try to determine who commits them and where they are committed. It’s a complex issue that is begging for answers.

We commend Hale for her aggressive approach to this issue. Being a Democrat in a legislature that has super majorities of Republicans in both chambers, as well as a Republican governor, means there was no guarantee her plea for action would get a hearing. But this is not a partisan issue, and should not be treated as such.

Therefore, we also credit GOP legislative leaders for not allowing party affiliation to get in the way of doing the right thing.

It’s time to attack this ugly problem. The House study committee’s work cannot start soon enough.


Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Feb. 26, 2014.

A dangerous line on religious discrimination

“I didn’t quite understand the firestorm it would create.” - State Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero

Leaders in the Indiana House, who apparently had been reading the papers lately and understood what Turner didn’t, this week pulled the rug out from under a proposal that would have allowed schools, universities and religious organizations to reject employees based on their religion.

That was only after the provision was slipped into a property tax bill with little notice. Once chatter started, fueled by national news of a broader measure passed in Arizona, House Speaker Brian Bosma sent the bill back and it was stripped of Turner’s amendment.

The official line was that Turner’s amendment would have cleared up questions about a workforce training contract between the state and Indiana Wesleyan University. But did anyone really think grinding equal employment opportunity laws into the pavement outside the human resources office was going to pass muster?

Imagine the new checkbox on job applications: “Are you saved?” Be careful how you answer that. The follow-up question - “Explain why?” - could divide the pool into denominations sliced a lot thinner than anyone can imagine.

In other words, the bill would have left a long line of sinners and saints prone to be cast aside, starting with Jews, gays, Muslims, Baptists, Lutherans, atheists, Presbyterians . we could go on.

Arizona is going at this desire to discriminate according to religious freedom another way, looking to allow businesses to refuse service based on grounds of faith. That measure is meant to protect businesses from having to provide services connected to same-sex marriages. (Is it merely coincidence that Turner also sponsored House Joint Resolution 3, Indiana’s proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage?)

On its face, any law that allows a business to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs would seem to violate the spirit of the Civil Rights Act: “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities and privileges, advantages and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Both approaches, the one in Arizona and the one in Indiana, are dangerous. If only state lawmakers could figure that out from the start.


The Tribune, Seymour. Feb. 26, 2014.

Moped registration good move for safety

Motorized bicycles, or mopeds, are popular among riders who want maximum fuel savings for local errands and also among those without a driver’s license.

But currently, there is no requirement that the riders know even the rudiments of traffic safety laws; and the mopeds aren’t licensed, which makes tracking them nearly impossible when they are stolen.

Both problems would be resolved by a bill co-authored by Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus. The proposal would require moped drivers across Indiana to take written driving tests and get license plates starting in 2015.

Smith said he hopes the law will make moped drivers and other motorists safer by ensuring moped drivers know basic traffic laws.

He’s been arguing for tighter moped restrictions ever since he noticed an acquaintance driving a moped after losing his license after a drunken driving conviction. He said he thinks it is wrong for a person who broke traffic laws to drive on the streets.

His research has shown the bikes to be dangerous, with increasing accident rates. Last year, a 15-year-old Greenwood boy died after a motorist didn’t spot him on his moped and turned in front of him. The boy didn’t have a driver’s license and by state law wasn’t required to have one to drive his moped.

Previous efforts to stiffen moped laws included a requirement that owners obtain insurance, just as car, truck and motorcycle owners must do now. But this idea drew strong opposition from legislators who emphasized that mopeds represent the only transportation alternative for people whose licenses have been suspended and for whom insurance would be prohibitively expensive if not impossible to obtain.

So the current bill represents a compromise, and the insurance question can be addressed in the future.

Smith said the changes he is pushing for this year still allow people without driver’s licenses to drive mopeds but would regulate the use of the motorbikes more.

The law would require all motorized bikes with engines smaller than 50 cubic centimeters to be registered and have license plates. Drivers also would have to take a written test to prove they know basic traffic laws.

The number of people killed or injured while driving mopeds has increased statewide between 2008 and 2012, according to data from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. In 2008, 16 moped drivers were killed and 547 were injured in accidents. Statewide in 2012, 23 moped drivers were killed and 888 were injured.

Registering and getting license plates for the mopeds also will make them easier to find if one of the small bikes is stolen. Currently, missing mopeds are hard to track because they aren’t registered and don’t have license plates, although they do vehicle identification numbers on them, as Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said in a story last weekend.

Smith’s proposal on enhancing safety for moped riders and registering their vehicles is a common-sense step. It’s not the comprehensive change Smith and many law enforcement leaders would like, but it’s a solid step.

We urge the Legislature to approve the bill and for Gov. Mike Pence to sign it.

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