INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Journal Gazette. Oct. 7, 2013.
State school board degenerates into partisanship, incivility
Susan Brace served six peaceful, productive years on the Indiana State Board of Education. The contentious, divisive meetings she's now watching from the sidelines make the retired teacher worry for the future of Indiana classrooms.
As the Fort Wayne Republican's board experience showed, a state superintendent of one party and a board of education controlled by members of the other party doesn't need to impede the progress of schools.
"When I was on the board, I couldn't tell you who was Republican and who was a Democrat," Brace said. "It was never obvious. We discussed things from the perspective of what is best for kids. It was all about the kids and what's going to help them become the most competitive in a global economy, in becoming world-class citizens."
Those might be the talking points for board members today, But the tension between most members and Superintendent Glenda Ritz makes the meetings uncomfortable to watch. Board members challenge the state superintendent's authority as much on parliamentary procedure as on school policy. Board member Daniel Elsener, in particular, challenges Ritz at nearly every turn, interrupting her presentations, challenging her and asserting the board's authority to act without her support.
He's been assisted in his approach by Gov. Mike Pence, who used budget language that was quietly inserted in this year's spending plan to give the appointed board control over functions formerly assigned to the elected state superintendent.
Of the 10 members, nine represent their respective congressional districts, while one member serves at large. Under state law, no more than six members can be from the same political party, but all 10 were appointed by either Gov. Mitch Daniels or Pence. Each appears to support the charters-and-choice movement Ritz has questioned.
Brace represented the 3rd congressional district on a board led by Republican Superintendent Suellen Reed, who served all but four of her 16 years as schools chief under Democratic governors and with Democratic-controlled boards of education. Brace said the members did not engage in partisan politics or ideological battles.
"There was never any kind of lobbying or discussions behind the scenes," she said. "The atmosphere was one completely of working together, at looking at the same goals to make progress."
Brace said decisions were based on research-backed information, with data guiding the board and measurable progress in student achievement the result. That's not what she believes the board is doing today.
"It's amazing that people can treat other people in such a way as the board is treating Glenda," Brace said. "She's working hard and she has a great perspective. She doesn't get the respect she deserves, and no collaboration is going to happen without respect."
It's been nearly a year since Ritz was elected with a 140,000-vote margin over Tony Bennett. Her victory doesn't give the long-time educator the right to single-handedly determine the state's education policy, but nothing in her actions has shown that to be Ritz's intent. She has attempted the same collaborative approach as Reed with none of the support Brace and her board colleagues afforded the board chairman.
In terms of civility and democracy, it's a poor model for Indiana students and a discouraging sign for continued education progress.
The Indianapolis Star. Oct. 4, 2013.
Indiana's neglect of children in day care centers is shameful
It's utterly shameful that state leaders have for decades ignored the many dangers facing thousands of children who spend day after day in unlicensed, often unsafe, day care centers in Indiana.
A new Indianapolis Star investigation ... has found that at least 20 children have died in day care centers in the state in the past four years. Fifteen of those children lost their lives in unlicensed or illegal day cares that are off the state's radar. The unlicensed places aren't required by law to meet even minimal standards for supervision, cleanliness, safety precautions or staff training in how to respond during emergencies.
In 1991 — 22 years ago — The Star revealed in another investigation that Indiana was one of only 22 states at the time that exempted home day cares that take in fewer than six children from licensing requirements. Since then 14 of those states have acted to better safeguard their children with higher standards.
Sadly, outrageously, Indiana still has not.
How many unlicensed home day care centers operate in Indiana? The state doesn't have a clue about even that basic fact.
That's because if the centers don't receive federal dollars, Indiana doesn't bother to track them. As a result they don't face inspections to determine if food is handled safely, if electrical outlets are covered and other dangers addressed, if basic standards of sanitation are maintained, or even if staff members are on the Sex Offender Registry.
"They are totally off the radar," said Ted Maple, former director of education with United Way of Central Indiana and now CEO of the Day Nursery Association in Indianapolis.
Off the radar, until something goes horribly wrong.
Five-month-old Conor Tilson is one of those 20 children who have lost their lives in an Indiana day care since 2009. According to police reports, he was found on Jan. 24 of this year cool and stiff after being placed in an "unsafe sleep environment" — a broken play pen — in a Carmel home-based center called Stacey Cox Child Care.
State inspectors already were well aware of problems at Cox's operation. After a complaint last fall that the center staff was not adequately trained, an inspector discovered children left unsupervised and sleeping in the home's basement. The inspector also found seven children in the home on the initial visit, a violation of state law. Cox escaped the state's scrutiny, for a time, by agreeing to take in only five children. That simple move took the heat off of Cox until Conor's death.
Incredibly, the state still allowed Cox's center to continue to operate for three weeks even after the infant died in her home. The business was finally shut down after, police say, Cox told an undercover officer that she planned to seek a state license. She also is accused of telling police and parents that she was a former nurse and had CPR certification. Neither assertion was true. Cox and a day care employee are awaiting trial on charges associated with Conor's death.
Unfortunately, the story of Stacey Cox Child Care isn't rare in Indiana. In addition to the deaths, more than 2,100 children have been injured in day care centers in the past four years. At least 19 centers have been shut down since 2009 because an employee was found to have committed child abuse or neglect.
And the problems aren't isolated to home day cares. Hundreds of child care ministries, each of which can take in dozens of children, are not required to meet standards for child-to-staff ratios or to provide nutrition. Ministries that don't take federal money aren't even required to provide constant supervision of children.
Indiana has failed — for far too long — to provide sufficient oversight of how tens of thousands of vulnerable children are cared for in our state. It's long past time for the General Assembly, with prodding from Gov. Mike Pence, to tighten licensing requirements, to insist on regular inspections of all for-profit day care operations, and to ensure that operations that fail to meet standards are shut down swiftly.
Kokomo Tribune. Oct. 4, 2013.
End shot hysteria
In spite of an overwhelming endorsement from medical experts, some folks continue to be skeptical about the flu vaccine.
That skepticism hasn't been helped by television and radio commentators, one of whom went so far as to say in 2010 his listeners would be idiots to get a vaccination.
Asked soon thereafter by CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" what she thought about such talk, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius didn't hesitate.
"Well, I tend to like to get my medical advice from doctors and scientists," she said. "And that's what we would urge people to do."
We join in that recommendation.
Part of the concern about vaccinations grows out of a federal program in 1976. Roughly 40 million people got shots, and about 400 developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a form of paralysis. Some died.
Scientists were never able to figure out what caused those 400 cases, but some say it might have had no connection to the shots. About 140 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the United States every week.
In any case, medical experts argue that not taking the vaccine is a lot more dangerous than taking it.
Some point out that for the vast majority of patients, the flu is no big deal. Its victims will feel lousy for a few days, and then they'll be back at work or in school, good as new.
Why, then, should people take the risk of getting the shots?
The answer, the experts say, is that in a very few cases, the flu can be a very big deal. It can be deadly. Influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans every year.
And the only way to protect yourself from becoming one of those victims is to take the vaccine.
Thus, the advice from the experts is straightforward: Get a vaccination.
Children under 6 months are too young for the vaccine, but everyone else under the age of 25 should get it. So should pregnant women and anyone caring for youngsters under the age of 6 months. The target groups also include health care and emergency medical service personnel, and anyone between 25 and 64 with a chronic illness or compromised immune system.
What will happen if people ignore that advice? Medical experts say the answer is simple: A lot more people will die.
If you want to be protected, get the shot.
The Madison Courier. Oct. 3, 2013.
It's time for annual deer safety warning
The roads of rural Indiana and Kentucky have their share of traffic dangers. None is more pronounced this time of year than that of deer.
The Indiana State Police remind motorists that fall is the peak season for deer-related vehicle accidents. Deer seemingly come out of nowhere to become a serious threat, so keen attention to driving defensively is about all you can do prevent an unfortunate accident.
The seasonal increase in deer activity is brought about by the approaching breeding season. Other factors contributing to accidents are deer density, crop harvesting, vehicle density, surrounding habitat, speed limits and time of day. A few other things to consider, according to the Department of Natural Resources:
— Fall is the most common season to strike a deer.
— Deer are most active between sunset and sunrise.
— Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one, another is likely nearby.
— Be especially careful in areas where you have seen deer before.
— Use high beams when there is no opposing traffic; scan for deer's illuminated eyes or dark silhouettes along the side of the road.
— If you see a deer, slow your speed drastically, even if it is far away.
— Exercise extreme caution along woodlot edges, at hills or blind turns.
— Never swerve to avoid hitting a deer; most serious crashes occur when drivers try to miss a deer but hit something else.
— Pay attention to traffic signs warning of deer crossings.
If you hit a deer, exercise caution. Don't approach the deer unless you're sure it's dead. Deer are gentle creatures, but their hooves are sharp and powerful.