- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. August 26, 2016

Candidates will now take your questions.

Had your fill of this year’s seemingly endless presidential battle? Turn your attention to a key race closer to home. Better still, join the discussion.

On Sept. 27, just a day after the first presidential debate, the three Indiana gubernatorial candidates will have the first of three statewide debates.

The event at Lawrence North High School will be webcast live to schools throughout the state by WFYI-TV and will be available to TV stations around the state for later broadcast. It will feature Democrat John Gregg, Republican Eric Holcomb and Libertarian Rex Bell in a town hall format with students, teachers and administrators.

The session, sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission, the Indiana Bar Association, the Indiana Secretary of State’s office and the Indiana Department of Education, will focus on education but may include questions on other topics.

The IDC, a nonpartisan, non-governmental organization, plans two more gubernatorial debates in October, though the dates and sites for those meetings haven’t been finalized

If you’re wondering where the candidates stand on a particular issue, these sessions offer a chance to find out. Submit questions on any issue to IndianaDebateCommission.com.

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The Bloomington Herald-Times. August 18, 2016

Diverse class back in town.

Preliminary statistics released last week for the Indiana University class of 2020 tell a positive tale based on numbers and statistics.

These measures are somewhat important. It’s much more positive for the median GPA and average SAT scores to be the same or higher year after year than to be going the other direction.

But it must be noted that grade point averages have some subjectivity in them, and test scores aren’t always the best indication of intelligence or potential academic success.

Still, IU’s freshman class does have lofty numbers, with the median high school GPA of 3.76 and an average SAT score of 1,223.

Another academic measure worthy of note is that 70 percent of the incoming class has already earned college credit through dual-credit courses they took in high school. Nearly 1 out of 10 of the incoming freshman have enough credits to be considered sophomores.

Other aspects of classes that enter IU each year provide other fascinating snapshots into the environment and culture on campus.

It’s always fascinating to see where IU students come from. In this year’s class, 91 out of the state’s 92 counties are represented, which makes us wonder about what’s going on in Switzerland County, the single outlier. About one-third of the class comes from out of state, with 41 of the other 49 states besides Indiana being represented. We have to wonder why IU doesn’t appeal to high school students from West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and Oregon. That last state is the most curious. Bloomingtonians talk about Portland a lot; apparently, Portlandians don’t return the favor.

With 36 different countries represented, the freshman class is a mini UN. But that’s a relatively small representation when you consider the number of nation’s represented through the entire student body.

The numbers may be preliminary, but this much is sure: a smart and geographically diverse class will be confirmed when the official class of 2020 figures are calculated next week.

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The South Bend Tribune. August 25, 2016

Failing grade to protect Hoosier students.

It’s a failing grade that Indiana must work - posthaste - to improve upon.

According to USA Today, the Hoosier state is one of 12 to earn an F on its teacher background checks. A joint investigation by USA Today Network and the Indianapolis Star highlighted a number of areas where the process of vetting teachers breaks down - including weak mandatory reporting of teacher misconduct, very little information available online about teacher disciplinary actions and teachers’ misconduct not being shared with other states.

The analysis also showed that deep background checks on teachers in Indiana aren’t made until three months after those teachers have already been in the classroom.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how such a system could fail the students it should be protecting. At a recent meeting of a study committee, officials with the Indiana Department of Education asked the committee to propose making it easier for the agency to suspend or revoke the license of a teacher who is arrested or convicted of misconduct. They also suggested implementing state licensing for school athletic coaches to better know who is working where and enable timely reporting and tracking of potential misdeeds.

The study committee follows a a string of recent high-profile cases involving school staff. Legislators are considering making it state law that schools must check references, and making changes that would require all school staff - including coaches and volunteers - to undergo criminal and child abuse background checks.

Currently, Indiana law only requires background checks at time of employment and only for fully licensed educators. Local districts determine how to check the histories of non-licensed staff, including coaches, custodial workers and volunteers.

Next month, the committee is set to recommend policies for the General Assembly to consider adopting next year. We urge them to strengthen the state’s background check system, including all those entrusted to work with students in Hoosier schools.

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The Munster Times. August 26, 2016

Porter county poll books burn taxpayers

Imagine placing $150,000 in the center of a room and lighting it on fire.

Most of us would gasp at the atrocious financial waste of this hypothetical situation. Many would rush to the pile of money and attempt to snuff out the flames before all bills were consumed.

Unfortunately, something very much like this is occurring in Porter County right now. About $150,000 in electronic poll books are being relegated to a virtual scrap pile rather than being pressed into service in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

A debate - primarily along party lines - regarding the accuracy of the machines means they’ll collect dust rather than be used.

The poll books are supposed to encourage efficiency and accuracy when voters check in to polling locations on Election Day. The electronic devices replace more cumbersome, traditional paper poll books.

The electronic books were used in Porter County’s 2015 municipal elections, and Democratic voter registration director, Kathy Kozuszek, argues they created a discrepancy of 400 between the number of ballots cast and the number of voters recorded as participating.

She compares that to a discrepancy of just 13 during the May primary election, when the county went back to its traditional paper poll books to check in voters.

However, Republican Election Board Member Karen Martin said the amount of error linked to the electronic poll books is much smaller than Kozuszek claims.

Proponents of the electronic poll books argue they keep voters from signing on the wrong lines and are more efficient than the four weeks it takes to sift through paper ballots after elections.

It doesn’t take a vote to determine that whether it’s politics or actual deficiency keeping these devices shelved, Porter County taxpayers are losing.

And the county’s election officials have to answer for it.

Was the equipment properly vetted before its purchase by the elections board? Why did the Porter County Council vote to pay off the bill in February if there were questions about the equipment’s proper function?

Now county officials are faced with trying to minimize losses, considering a possible trade-in value for the equipment or using their troubles as leverage with the equipment vendor when new contracts are sought.

It’s no way to conduct business on the taxpayer dime.

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