Editorial Roundup: Indiana
Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Nov. 12, 2021.
Editorial: Feeding the pipeline toward higher education
A compelling effort to encourage young people to continue their education beyond high school unfolded this week at Indiana State University.
The cornerstone of ISU's reputation as a institution specializing in first-generation college students provided an entry way with teenagers on the brink of a crucial life decision. Their choice - whether to pursue a college degree or enter the workforce. The speakers in ISU's inaugural First Generation College Student Celebration on Monday in Tirey Hall were themselves first-generation college graduates, meaning their parents had not received a college degree.
About half of ISU students fit that first-generation demographic. University staffers told the 80 high school youths that ISU possesses the services and resources to specifically help such students succeed. They also told their personal stories. The daughter of a single mom with three kids and limited income became an ISU dean. A Chicago native who lacked the money to attend college after high school, worked in retail for five years, then got his degree and now serves as ISU's executive director of residential life.
Those speakers delivered a powerful message to the teens, who would also be their families' first college graduates, if they chose to continue their schooling.
'I know that you've struggled. There have been times you wanted to give up, because we have college students (at ISU) who feel the same way,' said Kale Walker, a training specialist and human-resources generalist at the university. But those high schoolers should not let those struggles stop their aspirations of becoming a doctor, lawyer or public servant in their hometowns, Walker added. 'Please do not let anyone take your dream from you.'
That plea matters greatly in Vigo County. Only one of every four (25.1% to be exact) adults ages 25 and older in the county hold a bachelor's degree or higher. By contrast, 32.1% of adults nationwide hold at least a bachelor's degree. On top of that, state leaders have maintained a goal for most of the past decade to get 60% of Hoosiers to attain a two- or four-year college degree or qualification certificate in skilled trades by 2025.
Right now, only 48.3% of Indiana adults have that level of education or training. The year 2025 is less than four years away.
Two million Hoosiers need additional training or schooling to reach that goal and fill existing employers' needs and the one-million-plus jobs that will open through retirements and new business in the state, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education's 'Reaching Higher in a State of Change' strategic plan.
State leaders, colleges and technical training institutes statewide should reach out to Hoosier adults in the same way ISU did with those Vigo County teenagers. That pitch should include tangible paths for adults lacking a degree or skills certificate to get one, with details about low-cost or free tuition offerings such as Ivy Tech Community College's 'Achieve Your Degree' program.
COVID-19 has disrupted the traditional pipeline of high school graduates flowing directly into tech training or college classrooms. The pandemic has also driven adults out of the workforce for a variety of reasons, including a lack of child care. And, the school- and college-age population through much of Indiana is projected to dwindle through the coming decade. All of those realities should rekindle the state's efforts to give Indiana's 25-and-older population compelling opportunities to earn a degree or certificate. Those folks are out there.
As one speaker said Monday, 'Getting a college degree does make a difference. It helps you be more confident in your ability to guide your own lives and to be happy in your life.'
Young Hoosiers deserve to hear that message and the opportunity to act on it. So do their elders.
The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. Nov. 13, 2021.
Editorial: Prison time for 2 Hoosier ex-mayors
Former Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler becomes the second former Indiana mayor to be sentenced to prison in recent weeks.
Tyler, a retired firefighter, former state representative and two-term Democratic mayor, pleaded guilty in May to a count of theft of government funds. He accepted a $5,000 bribe to steer city projects to a city contractor.
Six others were also charged in the federal corruption probe involving the Muncie Sanitary District. The former city building commissioner was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.
'I stand before you so ashamed, sorry and absolutely scared to death of what might happen next,' Tyler, 78, told the judge before he was sentenced Wednesday.
Last month, former Portage Mayor James Snyder was sentenced to 21 months in prison and a year of supervised release after convictions on charges of federal bribery and tax violations. He was found guilty of soliciting and accepting a $13,000 bribe in return for steering a $1.125 million garbage collection contract to the Great Lakes Peterbilt company.
Federal prosecutors say Snyder also obstructed the Internal Revenue Service's efforts to collect unpaid taxes on a private mortgage company he ran.
The 43-year-old Republican has filed a notice of appeal. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly imposed less than the maximum sentence in Snyder's case, noting it appeared to be an 'aberration' in his life. But he said a prison sentence was necessary as a deterrent to public corruption.
At this rate, Indiana could soon overtake Illinois for the number of former elected officials behind bars.
Anderson Herald Bulletin. Nov. 12, 2021.
Editorial: School board meetings really should be civil
SÃ©amus Boyce, an attorney who represents school boards, had a question. To paraphrase, how can school board members keep meetings civil while allowing taxpayers the opportunity to offer perspective on education issues?
Boyce posed the question to Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke H. Britt. Britt's state agency has received complaints alluding to the passive presence of officers as an intimidation factor for the audience. But, Britt said, he had been offered no video or narrative supporting that allegation.
Britt typically issues two types of opinions: advisory opinions address formal complaints that have crossed his desk; the other type is in answer to informal inquiries. For example, last year Britt was asked in part about the leaking of information by a board member during an executive session. In an informal opinion, he offered, 'Executive sessions should be like Vegas: what happens there stays there.'
Britt, though not always the final word in open door matters, has rich insight into how elected officials can remain transparent and open to taxpayer concerns.
So, in answering Boyce, Britt offered an informal opinion, one that is nonbinding in the eyes of the law. Perhaps it could be adopted in principle by elected bodies in the state and maybe also by parents who have disrupted public meetings with incivility (and used by respectful parents who have not disturbed meetings).
'There may not even be a right answer. Anyone hoping for this opinion to be a talisman for civility will be disappointed,' Britt wrote to Boyce and, for that matter, to all of Indiana. 'Even still, this office has not escaped the impact of recent current events and we would be remiss to pass up the opportunity to weigh in with some professional guidance.'
Britt's well-researched advice includes:
- Governing bodies can choose whether to extend the courtesy of a comment forum, and revoke it if misused.
- The opportunity for meaningful public comment, when practical, is always a goal at public meetings. 'Ultimately, however, a public comment forum during a meeting is a privilege and a courtesy extended by a governing body to the public.'
- 'It takes thick skin to be a public official.' Officials holding a public meeting shouldn't immediately walk out due to constituent dissent. Their departure can be equally harmful to the integrity of a public meeting. 'Leaders should be respectfully assertive and firm when dealing with agitators.'
- Anyone has a right to seek disclosable information under Indiana's Access to Public Records Act. But there are rules for officials and the public to follow.
- With a nod to members of the public, Britt urged that they reach out for suggestions to have productive relationships with those who represent them.
Britt finished: 'Exercising kindness and civility is not weakness. It may not be required by law that anyone be nice when interacting with government, but I guarantee professionalism yields better results.'
Britt's letter is not a Mr. Manners etiquette edict. It is a set of positive guidelines and perhaps a state official pleading for decorum at public meetings and respect for one another.