The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. October 9, 2020
Schools’ transparency on coronavirus stats helps families make informed decisions
When parents send their sons and daughters to school, the teachers, administrators and staff assume responsibility for the children’s well-being. The relationship works well when school officials openly share information and are held accountable.
Indiana officials allowing schools to opt out of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard undermines that relationship by shrouding the information parents need to monitor their children’s safety. State officials should rethink their stance on voluntary participation.
In the meantime, local school officials can choose to disclose how many students, teachers and staff have tested positive for the corona-virus. Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools have shared their statistics with the Indiana State Department of Health’s website.
“Fort Wayne Community Schools has been communicating with affected staff and families about COVID cases since the spring,” spokeswoman Krista Stockman said in an email. “Our goal has been to provide necessary information to those who need it.”
Stockman added that the dashboard “provides a public platform where case numbers are reported in a consistent format across the state.”
Most schools in Southwest Allen County Schools were among 1,067 statewide that had not shared their confirmed coronavirus case statistics as of Monday, the last time the dashboard was updated. Deer Ridge Elementary was the exception. Officials with the school system couldn’t be reached for comment.” Data was shared by 1,755 public and private schools, including 811 that had no reported cases. New numbers are posted at noon each Monday.
The decision to keep those numbers private isn’t irreversible. Every week offers a new opportunity to share this vital data.
When public and private schools decide to deny the public access to the number of confirmed cases in their buildings, they do a serious disservice to parents and staff.
Families must decide which situations pose too much risk. They might deem a dentist appointment essential but in-person education an unnecessary risk for children who do well with remote learning. Each family’s situation is unique, and what’s considered acceptable one week might seem unthinkable the next.
By being transparent, school officials can also disrupt the rumor mill. When students, teachers and staff miss school – for any reason – people will notice and inevitably spread the news. It’s naïve to believe otherwise. Every absence is bound to be blamed on the coronavirus – regardless of the actual circumstances. When accurate information isn’t shared, imaginations can run wild.
School officials shouldn’t interfere with parents’ ability to make decisions based on accurate data. Teachers and other school staff deserve the same access to information. More school officials should see the state’s coronavirus dashboard as the important communication tool it is.
In a public health emergency, it is reasonable for the state to require public and private schools to share information about COVID-19 cases. Families will make the best decisions when armed with the most complete information.
Kokomo Tribune. October 9, 2020
Ongoing inequity in wages
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Though the pandemic has driven hundreds of thousands of American women out of the workplace since March, women who work, especially Hoosier women, have always struggled.
A recent study by Zippia, an online job search site, ranked Indiana No. 8 out of the 10 worst states to be a woman. (West Virginia, Louisiana and Oklahoma took the top three spots.) Researchers examined economic opportunity for women in each state, and calculated the wage gap between men and women. On average, women earn just 65% of what men earn. Not surprisingly, 27% of Indiana’s women live in poverty, and just 23% of Hoosier companies have a female CEO.
In 2018, the American Association of University Women ranked Indiana 46th in the country for paycheck equity. But understanding the wage disparity issue isn’t easy.
Rachel Blakeman, who directs the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne, believes that studies of the wage gap between men and women often blur the distinctions between how men and women approach work.
“This is a rather opaque look at how this is,” she said. “They don’t distinguish between full-time and part-time work. Women tend to work part-time more than men. When you put them all together, women’s earnings are going to be less because part-time workers make less money than full-time workers.”
Manufacturing is a big part of the Hoosier economy, she added, but women tend to choose jobs that are more flexible, and they don’t tend to take jobs where they can’t work with a lot of other women.
For those reasons, women tend to avoid manufacturing work.
Women often choose occupations that pay less than occupations chosen by men. “We don’t value the work that women do because they do child care and men take construction jobs,” Blakeman said, “and construction jobs pay far more.”
“No state has gender parity in pay,” she added. “It’s not that other states have figured this out. It’s true that we’re lagging behind other states, but we’re lagging more. If this was easy, we would have solved it already.”
In 2018, this page pointed out some of the structural and legal barriers to wage parity, including a wage parity bill sponsored by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, that never even got a hearing.
Overall, Hoosier wages tend to be lower for both men and women, and state lawmakers seem to still view lower wages as the way to assure businesses that it costs less to do business in Indiana, even though all Hoosier wage-earners bring home less bacon than their neighbors in other states.
Hoosier lawmakers would do well to think long and hard about how the wage economy works, and look at fostering a more equal playing field for everyone.
(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. October 9, 2020
Early voting is heavy, but a long way to go
Vigo County and other Indiana communities should not assume that heavy flows of early voters means the overall final turnout will be large, too.
Certainly, the long lines of Hoosiers waiting to vote early as that process began Tuesday are encouraging. Still, three weeks remain until Election Day on Nov. 3. A lot can happen in the meantime, and several factors could be leading people to visit the polls early.
The polls opened Tuesday morning to long lines of voters outside vote centers and precinct polling sites across the state. Of course, the length of the queues is somewhat exaggerated because those waiting were generally observing social distancing protocols to limit spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Still, reports of opening-day record turnouts cropped up in the affluent Indianapolis rim counties, as well as sizeable numbers in other locations.
A total of 3,825 Vigo Countians had cast early votes at three vote centers, as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, according to LeAnna Moore, the chief deputy clerk. That total includes an initial burst of a combined 1,137 votes cast in the first 5 1/2 hours at The Meadows and Haute City Center shopping malls, and the Vigo County Annex.
One poll inspector at The Meadows termed that first-day turnout as “crazy good.”
Once all the votes are cast and counted, Moore said a final turnout of 40,000 is expected.
To get there, another 36,000 residents must vote in person or by absentee ballot. As of Thursday afternoon, the county’s pool of registered voters stood at 72,760, with another 1,393 pending (folks whose registrations were received on time but are awaiting final verification). If early voting continues to be steady, various motivations could be involved.
Typically, early voters are people who would have voted anyway on Election Day, if that early option did not exist, according to Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne.
“We’ve taken Election Day and turned it into Election Month,” Downs said. And, that’s a good thing, he added.
More options can keep voters from skipping. If a tentative voter sees a line too long on one day of early voting, that person can choose to come back another day.
Some voters, weary of the brutal campaign atmosphere, cast ballots early out of “simply not wanting to pay attention anymore,” Downs said.
With the country deeply divided and entrenched in Republican or Democratic camps, many Hoosiers already had their minds made up on Day 1 of early voting and wanted “to get it over with,” as several Vigo County voters put it. In most election years, 25% of the electorate had not decided on a presidential candidate with just two weeks before Election Day, according to Downs. Not so in polarized 2020.
Then there is the pandemic factor. The state’s ruling Republican leadership opted not to open an absentee vote-by-mail option for all Hoosiers, as 44 other states have done. So, people who do not meet any of the state-approved excuses for voting by mail must go to the polls in person. Public health officials urged citizens to vote early to avoid being clustered in long lines on Election Day. That concern could be influencing the big early turnouts, too.
The turnout on Nov. 3 could be mild, with most voting already exhausted through the early voting or absentee options.
A turnout of 40,000 would be par for Vigo County. Totals in recent presidential elections were 40,677 in 2016 and 40,357 in 2012. In 2016, Donald Trump carried Vigo County - the nation’s bellwether, dating back to 1888 - but the county’s 51% turnout of registered voters ranked third-lowest in Indiana. By contrast, 43,706 voters (62%) turned out in 2008, when Barack Obama won Vigo.
As for the state, Downs expects total turnout may only slightly top 2016. Many voters in this reliably Republican state figure it is a foregone conclusion that the party’s top-of-the-ballot candidates - Trump, Gov. Eric Holcomb and the congressional incumbents - will win. That leaves state and county level offices as the drawing cards.
In reality, those offices affect Hoosiers most directly. County commissioner and council seats, School Board spots and state legislative positions should stir potential voters to follow through.
So, for those yet to vote, go early, mask up and keep a 6-foot distance in line and at the vote centers. Vote.
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