Chris Douglas

Now THERE's an issue....

Filed By Chris Douglas | July 03, 2006 9:06 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics

Indiana, a state with a Republican House, Senate, Governorship, and DECADES with a Republican Superintendent of Education has the highest high school dropout rate in the nation. According to a columnist in the New York Times today, high dropout rates are not such a problem among white teenage boys as among African American and Hispanic youths, so one suspects that Indiana's problems in addressing issues of race and class contribute its high dropout rates.

Perhaps this is an area in which the Democratic Party can be making hay. (The Party would first need to spend some time in a huddle, for if it has offered any serious solutions in the past, those solutions appear to have lacked focus, voice, or publicity.) Whatever, Indiana has such problems that we can't even claim to be mediocre.... it would take improvement to claim that.

In my opinion, Daniels' importance as a candidate and governor has been his seriousness in taking on some strategic issues that have impeded Indiana's economic development. The administration has had its problems (FSSA for instance...) which can be the basis of legitimate criticism. But Daniels has been attacking core issues of time zone, transportation infrastructure, and business promotion, without all of which, I suspect we would not have gotten the Honda deal or the expansion of the shipping hub in Indianapolis.

Indiana's best interests depend on the Democratic Party pursuing matters of serious government, not in becoming House Republican Caucus Lite by playing to and indulging Indiana's most backward and xenophobic instincts. By all means, criticize the Governor's administration on obvious shortcomings, fair and appropriate always, but seek areas of genuine Hoosier decay, and run on serious proposed solutions. THEN moderates and business will see some advantage to Democratic legislative control, beyond just stopping the idiocy of conservative Republicanism. THEN there would be valuable legislative programs to pursue and realize, and the foundation for some pride as a Party.

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Rick Sutton | July 6, 2006 1:15 PM


Education today has become a political football. The game continues, the arguments ensue, and the kids, almost always, lose.

Some school systems have tremendous success with under-graduating populations. When they have success, it involves intensive low-ratio intervention...fewer teachers per pupil. It's expensive. You know the old line, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

Two or three constants run across these arguments: 1. lower class size is absolutely required. 2. students cannot be promoted to a higher grade until they master the skills of their current grade level. Again, each of those constants requires money.

I'm not one who thinks education gets too little money--in most cases. For the most part, I think they get enough money to do the job. But look at the choices made with that money. It's incredibly wasteful in many instances.

And then we get caught up in silly arguments like the ISTEP calendar. Sue Ellen Reed became my hero when she stood up to this nonsense and said, basically, "it's expensive to test, and moving it will cost money. Until we can prove it makes sense, let's direct that money to classrooms, not political calendars." She spent a lot of political capital to win that battle...and there are some long knives out for her in the overall war.

The bottom line with this governor and his Shane-led crowd: they don't care for public education. As long as they're in charge, it's a no-holds-barred assault on public education just to stir the mess. The chair of the House Ed Committee is a joke, and Dems are not in power...but when they are, their solutions aren't always thoughtful. But they try--much harder.

I'd support more money only for two things: normal inflation, and full-day kindergarten and other innovative pre-K interventions. All good reearch proves FDK works, and prepares kids better.

Other than that, can school districts perhaps delve into their central office budgets, and their outdated budgetary process that rewards "business as usual" Pentagon mentality? Until we do, 15-20% of most school budgets get wasted on redundant oversight functions. That's a lot of money.

Marla R. Stevens | July 29, 2006 4:36 AM

Good piece and superb response.

The political bottom line, though, is no different than that of which neighborhoods' sidewalks get attention depending on the party in charge. The ruling party rewards those that vote for it, plain and simple, and the parents of the children most in need of public educational assistance overwhelmingly don't vote Republican.