- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Indianapolis Star. Nov. 27, 2015.

On LBGT rights, state can learn from Indy.

Ten years ago and four blocks to the east of Indiana’s Statehouse, the fight to protect LGBT citizens against discrimination was centered on the chambers of the Indianapolis City-County Council.

There, on Dec. 19, 2005, after months of emotional debate, the council voted 15-14 to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s human rights ordinance.

Supporters heralded the vote as a historic milestone. The state’s capital city had taken an essential step forward in protecting the rights of LGBT citizens and in sending the message that Indy welcomes people of all backgrounds.



But opponents predicted disaster. Businesses, they claimed, would be inundated with frivolous lawsuits. People of faith, especially conservative Christians, would be forced to betray their beliefs. The city’s image would suffer in the state and in the nation.

A decade later, it’s obvious that opponents’ fears were unfounded.

The flood of frivolous lawsuits never came. In fact, several Indy-based corporations and business organizations are now among the strongest proponents of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights law. They understand that fostering a climate where people of all backgrounds are comfortable living and working is essential to attracting and retaining world-class talent. Civil rights expansion, in short, is good for business.

There’s also no evidence that the protection of civil rights has intruded on religious liberty. Conservative Christians and other people of faith still freely live, work and worship in the city. Members of The Star’s Editorial Board recently asked pastors with congregations in Indianapolis if they could point to incidents where they or their parishioners had suffered harm because of the human rights ordinance. They could not.

And Indy’s economic vitality and national image are stronger than ever. Since 2005, the city has become an even bigger magnet for major conventions and sports events, and young professionals are moving to the city in large numbers. Many people want to work, live and play here precisely because Indy is a welcoming, inclusive city.

So there’s much that state leaders can learn from Indianapolis’ experience as they consider the proposed expansion of Indiana’s civil rights law. The evidence that a strong human rights law has been overwhelmingly a net positive for the city is clear. The same almost certainly would be true for the state if legislators and Gov. Mike Pence do the right thing by expanding the civil rights law this winter.

Unfortunately, lawmakers may instead weaken Indianapolis’ law. As introduced this month, Senate Bill 100 would block local governments from enforcing local civil rights statutes that provide stronger protections than state law. And SB 100, as it stands now, is significantly weaker than local laws in several Indiana communities, including Indianapolis.

It’s imperative that state lawmakers strike the local override from SB 100 while expanding the state’s civil rights law.

Indianapolis provides a compelling model for the state on civil right protections, and legislators would be wise not only to protect the city’s ordinance but also to use it as a blueprint for shaping the final version of SB 100.

We’ve learned a lot in this city in the past decade about becoming an inclusive community. We can proudly say that today all are welcome in Indy. All are free to flourish here.

We are all stronger because of it.

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The Evansville Courier & Press. Nov. 27, 2015.

Dual-credit issue should be decided by state.

In another controversial issue involving Indiana education, state lawmakers will attempt to stop the Higher Learning Commission from setting new requirements for dual-credit teachers. Of course, Indiana has had a year of infighting over various education issues, this being the latest.

The Higher Learning Commission is a regional accreditation organization designated by the federal government for Indiana and 18 other states. The council was created to figure out how to address a new requirement policy.

The commission serves multiple states throughout the Midwest as an accrediting body for Indiana’s colleges and universities. And it recently announced new requirements for dual-credit classes, which can give students both high school and college credits.

According to a news story by Zach Osowski of the Courier & Press, the policy requires teachers of university-level classes to have a master’s degree and 18 credit hours in the specific field they are teaching. More than 22 percent of current dual-credit class teachers do not have a master’s degree.

But Indiana lawmakers serving on a dual credit advisory council are frustrated about the new rules. As a result, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Rep. Wendy McNamara R-Mount Vernon, have plans to co-author a legislative resolution condemning the commission.

McNamara said, “Our teachers don’t have any problem with accountability. The HLC is putting us in a position that does more harm than good.” She said she will write a bill that will denounce the commission’s decision, which would leave 70 percent of the Indiana dual credit teachers uncertified.

Osowski’s report said the new HLC policy could leave Indiana with a dearth of qualified teachers unless programs are established to help teachers get the education they need.

The council is looking at several options, including doing a better job of providing incentives for teachers to get their master’s degree.

Indiana could also apply for an extension with the commission, which would push the start for the new requirements back to the 2022 school year.

And really to the point, Kruse said it does not seem fitting that the commission should have more power over Indiana education policy than the General Assembly.

We’ve been here before on other education issues, but it strikes us that this one should rest in the hands of the Indiana Legislature.

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The South Bend Tribune. Nov. 25, 2015.

This takes college credits off course.

Enrolling in dual-credit classes is becoming a popular and inexpensive way for students to take college credit courses while still in high school.

That’s a good thing if you consider only 34 percent of Indiana adults hold a two- or four-year college degree, well below the national average, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Making college credit classes more affordable is an attractive option for students who may not have considered a college education otherwise. Students can earn up to an associate degree by the time they graduate high school and are likely to receive more support because early college students tend to move through the process together.

But there’s an issue that threatens to set back the pursuit of early college credits for Indiana students.

The Higher Learning Commission, an organization that accredits colleges and universities in Indiana and other states, has revised a long-standing expectation: Teachers of general education courses must have a master’s degree with at least 18 graduate credit courses in the subjects they teach. Without those additional graduate-level credits, many teachers will be unable to teach those early college classes.

The commission recently backed off a bit, giving dual-credit teachers more time to meet the agency’s new guidelines. The commission now is considering granting an extension to teachers up to September 2022. The commission is right to delay implementing the new guidelines, but a better solution would be to scrap them altogether.

Most teachers in dual- credit classes have been teaching those subjects for years. They have a broad knowledge in a particular area of study, not to mention years of classroom experience. Mandating teachers meet additional requirements with no guarantee that students will be better served is a disservice to both teachers and students.

If the goal is to increase the number of Hoosier students receiving associate degrees, this is the wrong way to go about it. Janet Boyle, executive director of the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis, told The Tribune’s Kim Kilbride that revising teacher credentialing guidelines could result in fewer credentialed teachers and fewer dual-credit offerings.

For a state that’s already lagging when it comes to college degrees, that’s a step the state simply can’t afford to take.

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The Bloomington Herald-Times. Nov. 25, 2015

Lawmakers need to listen to school officials over ISTEP mess.

Administration of ISTEP tests in Indiana have been problematic since 2011, when the state signed a new contract for computerized testing. Finally, this year, local school officials throughout the state have had their fill as they await public release of test results they don’t trust.

State officials need to listen to area school superintendents, who are much closer to the action than they are. And what the superintendents in this area are saying with unanimity is that the 2015 ISTEP testing process was flawed beyond repair and thus is a worthless measure of the achievement of students and teachers.

All the superintendents in Greene County and all the superintendents in Morgan County released letters last week to their districts’ patrons with just that message.

“We do not believe that our communities are below standard; we do not believe that one test measures our children. We do believe this process to be a flawed attempt to implement a legislative agenda,” wrote five Greene County superintendents.

The Morgan County letter said the test scores “are reflecting a false reality for our county and the entire state.”

The idea is to take the message to the people, so legislators will hear from their constituents instead of just lobbyists and other politicians.

They’re far from alone. MCCSC Superintendent Judy DeMuth called the situation a debacle earlier this year and recently said in response to legislation proposed by State Sen. Mark Stoops that would address the issue: “Given the tremendous controversy surrounding the validity and reliability of the test, let alone testing standards that were put in place just prior to the test, it is imperative that students, staff and schools not be penalized for the difficulties caused by adults. Stoops’ proposal recognizes that the outcome of the test in no way represents student ability or achievement, nor does it guide instruction,” she said.

And R-BB Superintendent Mike Wilcox said: “It’s not fair to our teachers. It’s not fair to our kids. It’s not fair to our parents.”

In short, schools received new standards late, too late for effective teaching to students; there were computer glitches with testing that have become maddeningly predictable; a new scoring standard was introduced late; school corporations have just received their preliminary scores too late to adjust for the next tests in March; and the fallout from low scores is huge through penalties for schools and evaluations of teachers.

These administrators know what they’re talking about, and state officials should heed their concerns.

It’s questionable just how fair it is to label students, teachers, schools and corporations based on standardized testing in the first place.

It would be ridiculous to label them based on a testing process that’s unfair and results that aren’t reliable.

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