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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne. Feb. 3, 2013.
Heed leaders' cautions on college funds
Imagine legislator compensation based on the volume and quality of bills each lawmaker passes. Then imagine the formula used rewarded some at the expense of others. That would certainly not be a simple process to design or implement, but easier to meet than the goals driving performance-based funding for public colleges and universities.
As the General Assembly crafts a biennial budget with higher education allocations based on such a funding formula, it should come as no surprise that university leaders take issue with its application to their schools. As the front line in Indiana's effort to increase the number of college graduates, their views shouldn't be overlooked.
Beginning in 2007, 65 percent of the new money allocated for higher education was distributed based on performance: the increase in number of degrees awarded, number of degrees completed within four years and more. Adjustments were made in 2009, with no new funds added and 2 percent of base funding tied to performance. The 2011-13 budget increased that percentage to 5 percent, again with measurement changes. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has recommended the percentage be increased to 7 percent by budget year 2015, with significant changes to the formula.
IPFW is facing more than an $8 million shortfall next year, $1 million of that due to the performance-based formula. Chancellor Vicky Carwein pointed out in a recent column that the calculation does not account for the high enrollment of first-generation or transfer students.
President Jo Ann Gora of Ball State University told legislators last month that a cumulative loss of $77 million is "unsustainable." BSU is punished for raising admissions standards, she said.
"We would like a greater recognition of the quality of the education experience," Gora said in an interview, noting that the university increased its graduation rate by 12 percent over the past decade. "We believe, and our trustees believe, in our approach. That is why we are so troubled that this formula does not recognize our success."
President Daniel Bradley of Indiana State, in a meeting last week with The Journal Gazette editorial board, said the major drawback with the formula is the overall lack of funding involved.
"The real issue with performance funding is that it's really difficult when there is no new money," he said. "When the money comes out of someone else's hide, it does nothing to encourage cross-campus cooperation."
And Indiana University President Michael McRobbie told the editorial board Friday that, while the university wholeheartedly supports the concept of performance-based funding, the challenge is tying it to the varying missions of the state's institutions.
"If one is to have a really workable formula, it needs to be tied more closely to mission and outcomes," he said.
Fortunately, higher education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers seems to recognize the need to invest more dollars.
"Yes, there will be a cost associated with increasing degree-production and education-attainment levels," she said in a State of Higher Education address last month. "But we must pay for what we value to keep pace with the growing workforce demand for skilled college graduates."
More money for colleges and universities will help meet the goals of performance-based funding, but so will changes made at the recommendation of experienced leaders who work each day to help students become graduates.
Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Feb. 1, 2013.
A test balloon for a secure ballot
To an extent, we're with state Sen. Mike Delph, a Carmel Republican who is looking for a review of the security of the electronic voting machines used in most Indiana counties.
Questions will always remain about just how secure computerized voting systems are simply because nearly all of us work with computers. And nearly all of us have been left to mop up the mess when hard drives give out and data disappear.
It makes sense, then, to find ways to press ahead with technology that offers the maximum security — whether in paper receipts or beefier backup systems — against a big Election Day failure.
But floating a provocative statement in the form of a test balloon bill? That's another matter.
Delph has county clerks and election officials in a tizzy over Senate Bill 357, which would eliminate the use of electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots. Delph says, though, he really wanted to just start a conversation about voting security and the chances of manipulation on Election Day.
Fair enough — though it might have been a better conversation if it didn't start as an accusation without a confirmation that it is happening.
If Delph is truly concerned about the will of the voter being thwarted, a better avenue would be efforts from the Statehouse to encourage more Indiana counties to adopt the vote center concept and more convenient early voting options. That's worked in Tippecanoe County. Other counties should be encouraged to be as fortunate.
Kokomo Tribune. Jan. 31, 2013.
Still not too late
If a family member falls ill with flu-like symptoms, keep him or her at home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone. No athletic event is too important. No job is so imperative.
The national flu epidemic rudely greeted Indiana's state health commissioner to public office two weeks ago.
On Dr. William VanNess' first day of work, Gov. Mike Pence asked the retired Anderson physician for a flu vaccination the following week.
"I said, 'No. You're getting one tomorrow,'" VanNess told the governor.
In the week Pence was inoculated, the state health department reported 17 deaths from flu-related illnesses. As of Monday, that number had climbed to 43.
Flu season struck early, and with great ferocity. The state typically sees between seven and 30 flu deaths a year. The 2012-2013 flu season now is the deadliest in five years.
We know you're as sick of hearing about flu vaccinations as many of your neighbors are from the bug itself. But we, and our new state health commissioner, will continue to say it: It's not too late to get that flu shot. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop an immune response.
"True influenza is a really harsh disease," VanNess told us. "It's a disease you do not want to get."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone 6 months and older should get a yearly flu vaccine. School-age children are at a high risk for contracting the flu. Ample supplies for influenza vaccine are available.
But remember, if a family member falls ill with flu-like symptoms, keep him or her at home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.
No athletic event is too important. No job is so imperative.
As a parent, you have a responsibility to this community to isolate a sick child from others.
Ensure your family washes their hands often with soap and water. And implore them to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Flu season is no fun. But if we all use common sense, we'll get through it with the least amount of pain possible.
The Herald-Times, Bloomington. Jan. 29, 2013.
Indiana's secondary gun market should require background checks
Calls for tightening gun laws aren't very loud in Indiana, and even if they were, they wouldn't get very far. Hoosiers believe strongly in the Second Amendment and interpret it to believe the government should keep its hands off an individual's right to firearms.
As such, Indiana has very few gun laws. A colorful chart accompanying a Time magazine special report shows Indiana has one of eight state gun regulations that can be found in the United States: requiring dealers to be licensed. According to Time, 14 states have one fewer gun law than that.
One state law the Indiana General Assembly should consider, though, involves the secondary gun market.
Licensed dealers must comply with The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. The FBI notes on its website that the system "is all about saving lives and protecting people from harm — by not letting guns and explosives fall into the wrong hands. It also ensures the timely transfer of firearms to eligible gun buyers."
The FBI site explains: "Before ringing up the sale, cashiers call in a check to the FBI or to other designated agencies to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record or isn't otherwise ineligible to make a purchase. More than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials."
But in Indiana, individuals who are not licensed gun dealers can sell firearms without going through any such background check with the purchaser. This includes individuals who sell at gun shows.
State law does try to address this, but current language won't keep people who should not have guns from purchasing them from unlicensed individuals. It states: "It is unlawful for any person to sell or give a firearm to any person whom he has a reasonable cause to believe has been convicted of a felony, or is a drug abuser or under the influence of a drug, or is an alcohol abuser or in a state of intoxication, or is mentally incompetent." If the state is serious about keeping guns out of the hands of people it describes in the law, then it should require the seller and buyer to run the sale through a licensed gun store where a background check would be done.
This really is not controversial. A Time/CNN Poll asked this question: "Would you favor a background check for a gun buyer who purchases from a gun show?" Eighty-seven percent said yes. Seventy-five percent said a background check should be required for a gun buyer who purchases from a private seller.
Opponents say most dealers at gun shows are already licensed. So what? This will require the others to follow the same rules as the majority.
They also say this won't stop people from buying guns illegally. They're right, but it will make it harder.
And they say this would be a burden on a grandfather who wants to hand down a hunting rifle to a grandson or sell one to a brother. Actually, it would be quite reasonable to exempt immediate family members.
We don't expect the General Assembly to do much to tighten gun laws, but this is one place it should act. And the Time/CNN poll indicates a vast majority of Americans, of which Hoosiers are included, agree.