Editorial Roundup: Indiana

 
 
Updated 12/14/2021 2:00 PM

Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Dec. 10, 2021.

Editorial: Keep partisanship out of school board races

 

Among all of the wrong-headed pieces of legislation concocted by the extreme partisan wing of the Indiana General Assembly's ruling Republican Party, it is hard to label the GOP plan to politicize Hoosier school board races as the worst.

It faces stiff competition, after all, making it hard to choose just one.

There is RFRA, the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act - the antithesis of Hoosier hospitality. And the 2005 photo ID law, heralded as a remedy to a nonexistent voter fraud scourge, more than a decade before the nonexistent voter fraud scourge went national. Then there is the enactment of a 2019 law that took away Hoosiers' ability to choose their state superintendents of public instruction, making it a governor-appointed position instead of an elected office, as it had been for 166 years.

That is just a sampling of nearly two decades of extremism in the Legislature. There, Republicans hold 71% of the Indiana House seats and 78% of the Indiana Senate seats, even though the party's candidates in statewide races receive a more modest 53% to 57% of the vote, on average - a distorted advantage perpetuated by the legislative districts strategically drawn by the GOP legislators themselves.

Such dominance allows them to forward detrimental ideas, like politicizing Hoosiers' local school boards.

And this plan is indeed bad. It has no redeeming qualities. None.

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As with all of these schemes, the Republicans give this party-serving idea a shiny coat of rationalization to cover up the real motives of political expediency within.

By introducing a bill requiring school board candidates to declare a political party, Republicans will be 'ensuring that parents have more insight and input into the curricular materials and surveys being used in their schools,' said Todd Huston, Republican speaker of the Indiana House.

Wrong. In reality, the placement of an 'R' or 'D' or 'L' next to a school board candidate's name does not provide more insight to that person's probable behavior in office than the current nonpartisan system. Instead, it would simply empower party bosses to recruit and fund candidates willing to serve the politicos' election-driven objectives.

Under Indiana's nonpartisan system, school board candidates are often the most carefully chosen by voters. The lack of a party label leads voters to study the choices, attend candidate forums by groups like the League of Women Voters, and read pre-election interviews in the local newspaper. Those choices cannot be made by simply finding the 'R' or 'D' or 'L.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the 2020 election, 56% of Vigo County voters favored Republican incumbent Donald Trump for president. Almost half of those votes came from voters casting a straight-ticket ballot for all Republicans. Thus, the top vote-getters in Vigo for most of the partisan state and countywide offices - like clerk, treasurer, auditor and recorder - were Republicans who won by totals similar to Trump's, give or take a couple percentage points.

By contrast, the straight-ticket voting did not apply to the nonpartisan 2020 school board races. Voters had eight total candidates from which to choose for three seats in two districts. Voters decided to make a change, ousting two incumbents - a rarity in partisan elections. Those were thoughtful selections, not automatic reflexes guided by party labels.

The real motivation for injecting politics into hometown schools is to expand a political party's influence.

Republicans are seizing on unrest over the no-win decisions school boards are having to make to keep kids safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. A partisan election would let state and national party leaders dictate the substance of candidates' campaigns, pressuring them to inflate issues that appeal to people's emotions in the voting booth, but are of minimal relevance in their community. School board candidates who normally are not overtly political would have to get overtly political.

Would a school board dominated by one party approve contracts of teachers who requested a ballot for the opposing party in an Indiana primary?

The toxic atmosphere in Congress and statehouses needs fixed, not spread further and into Hoosier schools. Keep control of schools in the hands of independent local residents, not a political party machine.

___

KPC News. Dec. 12, 2021.

Editorial: Instructional materials rule would burden schools, teachers

State Republican lawmakers appear to be looking to add a significant burden to teachers and schools with a possible law that would likely provide little benefit to parents but mountains of hassle to educators.

In response to a vocal minority of parents who claim their K-12 students are being taught critical race theory, legislators are polling constituents about a measure that would be certain to do little else but waste time and effort.

Ahead of the upcoming January short session of the Indiana General Assembly, some GOP lawmakers are including this question on their constituent surveys available now:

'Would you support legislation requiring schools to post online any instructional materials used in the classroom so parents can easily access the content being discussed?'

That question appears on surveys from Rome City Rep. Dave Abbott and Auburn Rep. Ben Smaltz.

There's a slightly different version on Indiana Senate surveys, asking 'Do you support or oppose requiring schools to make their educational materials available for parents to inspect?'

That question is on LaGrange Sen. Sue Glick and Auburn Sen. Dennis Kruse's surveys.

Although these questions are similar in spirit, the version asked by the House representatives appears to foreshadow a much more onerous regulation on public schools.

There's a vast difference between making materials available to inspect versus a requirement to post them all online to inspect.

The latter begs the question, what would be required? Does the school just need to post a list of textbooks or educational software that it is using in the classroom, or does it need to provide full access to those materials?

In terms of time, what is the cost of uploading every piece of material for every class in every grade K-12 onto the school's web servers? Who is going to be responsible for doing that? Who is going to be responsible for updating it every year if/when classroom materials change?

And, perhaps the biggest question, how many parents are actually going to browse through all of those materials?

Even a parent who spoke out at a recent East Noble School Board meeting angry about some of the content he felt was inappropriate in a book being read in the classroom admitted he didn't have the time to read a whole book to know what's in it.

Are average parents going to research every book being taught in literature class, review every math and science lesson, read through their students' entire history curriculum?

Outside of those few parents who are convinced - and are unlikely to be unconvinced regardless of what's made available - that there's something rotten afoot in their public school, the answer is obviously no.

Parents already have access to inspect much of what their students come into contact with from their students anyway. It's already your right as a parent to check your child's book bag, textbooks, school laptop, etc. to see what they're up to.

If parents want to learn more about what their students are learning in the classroom, teachers and building administrators are likely more than happy to get them more involved in their child's education.

As your local newspaper, we're always supportive of increased transparency in government. But even Indiana's public records laws have reasonable limitations on access to prevent undue time or expense spent on frivolous or overly burdensome requests.

A requirement for schools to post 'any' instructional materials online rings of an overly broad and wasteful requirement that would offer little real benefit to the public for the labor that would be required to comply with it.

Lawmakers should not spend time on this type of wasteful legislation.

___

South Bend Tribune. Dec. 12, 2021.

Editorial: When misinformation blocked out science and reason

A story in last week's Tribune sounded a familiar theme of misinformation in the midst of a public health crisis blocking out science and reason.

This one happened during the 1980s.

The article, about old TV news tapes saved from the Dumpster, reported that among the local, state and national TV footage unearthed was 10 minutes about Ryan White. Just the mention of the Kokomo teen, who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion, brings back memories of another time.

A time when a poorly understood virus brought out the worst in many people. For White, who died in 1990, that meant other parents who didn't want him in the same classrooms with their children. Banished from school in the pre-Zoom era, White struggled to learn by phone. Fellow students marched outside school with a sign reading 'Students Against AIDS.' And Ryan, directed to put his lunch trays in the trash, endured the stares and talks about how it 'makes you feel kind of like you're all by yourself.'

A time when the public didn't fully understand how the virus was and wasn't transmitted. Bob Sargent, who served as Kokomo mayor from1988-95, later reflected that his city might have reacted differently if residents had better understood AIDS.

A time that was several decades ago, but feels like yesterday.

It's difficult to read about the ignorance and misinformation that surrounded AIDS and ostracized Ryan White without thinking how much it resembles the current situation with the ongoing COVID pandemic.

As part of a retrospective film about White, Sargent talks about the learning process the public went through with AIDS, and asserts that things 'would have been different today.'

Or perhaps, considering the last 20 months of living with another virus, history would repeat itself.

END

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