- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Bloomington Herald-Times. Oct. 29, 2015.

Dual credit issue should be based on student results.

There must be a better way to continue to offer a wide range of dual credit courses than the new requirements established by the Higher Learning Commission.

As explained in an H-T story last week, the regional organization that determines accreditation for post secondary schools in 20 states including Indiana plans to strengthen degree requirements for high school teachers of dual credit courses - those which count as college or university credit as well as toward a high school diploma. Under the guidelines to take effect in September 2017, the teachers would need a master’s degree in the subject area of the course they’re teaching, or 18 hours in that subject if they have a master’s that isn’t in the discipline being taught.

The changes would appear to come from a worthwhile goal, that of making sure the college credit earned from high school courses comes from as rigorous a course of study as would occur on campus. But this is not the way to reach that goal.

Two key issues suggest better paths should be followed.

High school educators say the changes would greatly limit the number of dual credit courses that would be taught in the high schools. That could be a potential major setback to college affordability. Instead of getting hours of credit, for little to no money while in high school, the students would be required to pay for the courses after they arrive on campus. This will slow time to graduation for many students and cost them more to get a degree. New rules should help rather than hinder students in completing their degrees on time.

In addition, the new degree requirement won’t necessarily guarantee academic rigor when compared to years of experience teaching the subject matter. A high school teacher with 20 years experience transferring knowledge to students often will be much better equipped than a teacher who simply has earned a master’s degree in a particular subject but lacks the time in the classroom.

So what would be a better way? Output over input.

This is an area that should be evaluated based on student results, rather than teacher credentials. High school teachers empowered to teach students a college-level course should be measured based on how well the students do after reaching the post-secondary level. Teachers whose students stumble or fail when they reach the next level in the discipline they were taught should not be teaching dual credit courses no matter what degrees they have. Those whose students routinely succeed should be. Colleges and universities must have the means of measuring the differences.

That kind of teacher evaluation would be meaningful. Measure the results of the teaching, rather than specific degree of the teachers.

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The South Bend Tribune. Oct 28, 2015.

Reducing errors through transparency.

Data released from the Indiana State Department of Health show that medical errors at hospitals and health care facilities in 2014 reached a new high.

There were 114 of what the agency described as “preventable adverse medical incidents” last year. The incidents include everything from surgeries performed on the wrong body part to foreign objects retained in a patient after surgery to bedsores.

This year’s statewide count is three more than any of the other eight years since the agency started gathering statistics. Errors have topped 100 in seven of those years, with a previous high of 111 errors reported in 2013.

The fact that errors are being openly reported when they do occur is a clear sign of a changing culture. The focus, the state health agency says, has shifted from beyond placing blame to supporting patients’ safety.

Though the mistakes are concerning, The Tribune has long supported their public disclosure in the belief that over the long term the reporting would prevent future errors and save lives. The reports stem from a 2005 executive order by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels that at the time made Indiana one of only two states in the country with such a high standard for medical error reporting and accountability.

As with any change in reporting procedures, numbers are likely to increase as health care professionals become more familiar with reporting laws, the Indianapolis Star recently reported. That’s exactly what’s happened here.

But there is also a silver lining to this cloud. Incidents at area hospitals were just a small fraction of those reported statewide. Locally, there were eight preventable incidents - five at Memorial Hospital of South Bend and one each at Saint Joseph Health System’s Mishawaka Medical Center, Allied Physicians Surgery Center in South Bend and Indiana University Health in LaPorte.

Last year, there were only two reported local incidents of pressure ulcers, or bedsores, the most common type of incident reported. There were six incidents of foreign objects left in patients after surgeries, the second most common error.

As we said in an earlier comment, medical errors more often result from a system failure than from an individual mistake. As doctors and hospitals become more accustomed to having those mistakes disclosed publicly, steps can be taken to improve those processes and reduce the errors, which was the goal of the governor’s order 10 years ago.

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The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Oct. 29, 2015.

Overtones impossible to ignore in budget cuts.

Budgeting is tough work in any year; in an election year spending decisions are easily tinged with partisan overtones. But given his strong record as a fiscal watchdog, we’ll accept John Crawford’s strike at the city clerk’s budget as an effort to increase transparency, not to help the campaign of a Republican colleague.

The council president persuaded council to cut 75 percent of the clerk’s 2016 budget in the wake of allegations of electioneering in the office. Democrat Sandy Kennedy resigned Oct. 13, days after a former employee released a secretly recorded video that seemingly shows the clerk warning employees that their jobs are at risk if they don’t help elect Deputy Clerk Angie Davis as her successor.

Crawford’s plan cuts $414,454 from the clerk’s office. He said the remaining 25 percent will keep the clerk’s office funded for the first quarter of next year. After that, the newly elected clerk will have to ask council for additional funding, which will come from an unallocated cash balance. It’s not an ideal approach to budgeting because the Nov. 3 election could usher in as many as six first-time council members. At least four new members are assured.

The budget cut’s partisan overtones are reinforced by the party-line vote. Crawford’s five Republican colleagues supported his motion; Democrats John Shoaff, Geoff Paddock and Glynn Hines voted no.

Hines said the spending reduction will hamper operation of the clerk’s office, but Paddock noted Wednesday that the office is fully funded for the first quarter. The 5th District councilman, who is unopposed in his re-election bid, said he thought the best approach was to cut a smaller, specific amount from the clerk’s budget. The deputy clerk had recommended cutting two positions - the assistant parking supervisor position formerly held by Colin Keeney, who released the undercover video from the clerk’s office, and the assistant chief deputy clerk’s position.

Paddock said Wednesday that he agreed the council should acknowledge the alleged violations in the clerk’s office.

“I did not support (Crawford’s proposal) because I didn’t think it was the way to go,” he said. “I voted for the final budget, where the cut did survive intact. We’re letting the new city clerk come forward within a few weeks to tell us what changes will need to be made. It puts the new city clerk on notice. They are going to have to show the office is being run efficiently and following the proper ethical guidelines.

“The timing is unfortunate,” Paddock said of the budget vote. “But I know John Crawford well. I feel his motives were pure, not political.”

Crawford did, however, support an even more politically charged proposal - to cut funding for the public safety director position. Former Police Chief Rusty York, a candidate for the 4th District council seat, now holds the post. He will resign if elected.

The public safety director’s job remains in next year’s budget. Republican Tom Smith, who lost his primary bid for the 1st District seat, joined the three council Democrats in blocking the attempt to cut the job.

“This is a very important position,” he said. “I still don’t feel like I have had enough discussion about all public safety. We’ve talked maybe about 10 to 15 minutes’ worth of it here at the table, and I think it deserves much more discussion than that.”

Discussion is important when it comes to all spending decisions, so perhaps Crawford’s bid to buy some time on the clerk’s office budget will pay off. Still, it all would feel better in a budget season without an election.

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The Munster Times. Oct. 29, 2015

Grant alcohol permit to fund pavilion work.

Pavilion Partners LLC is appealing the denial of a liquor license for routine service at the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion, and for good reason. This is how the company would fund the needed repairs at the pavilion, which has been shuttered for 30 years, at no cost to the taxpayer.

The individual partners have liquor licenses that can be used for catered events at the pavilion, but not for daily use at the restaurant planned for the pavilion.

Opponents of the pavilion project have criticized the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for contracting with a private entity to refurbish the pavilion in exchange for the right to operate a restaurant there. A banquet facility is envisioned in the future. That proposed addition to the original structure has also been controversial.

There was a large outcry over Pavilion Partners’ request for an alcohol license to serve drinks at the new restaurant. Many voiced their concerns at a public hearing on the permit that restaurant patrons would get drunk, stumble into the lake, and drown.

Those arguments would hold water only if restaurants that sell alcohol often sent drunken patrons out to their cars, where they would drive drunk and cause accidents.

Other arguments suggested a restaurant doesn’t need an alcohol license to make a profit. That’s true. But the sale of alcoholic beverages would generate the revenue needed to renovate the pavilion. That’s the factor that many people seem to have forgotten.

The goal is to renovate the pavilion. That’s what drove the DNR to seek bids on potential uses. Pavilion Partners was one of two bidders, and the only one to have the financial wherewithal to get the work done.

Without the liquor license, Pavilion Partners could cancel its lease, pull out of the project, and put the state on the hook for money already spent by the private investor. And we’d still have a pavilion in dire need of rehabilitation.

Yes, the park is a moneymaker, and yes, some of that money is used for other DNR properties. That’s to be expected.

But the bottom line is that without the alcohol sales, the pavilion work might not get done. Grant the license. Create a pleasant dining experience at the beach while saving the pavilion from further decay.

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