News and Tribune

October 25, 2012

News and Tribune letters: Oct. 25, 2012

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Duo say Bennett’s grading system gets an F

Tony Bennett’s plan to give letter grades to schools has turned into a fiasco. Last January, all 35 speakers in the only public hearing on his plan opposed it, including representatives of all education groups and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Bennett did not attend the hearing. Nevertheless, he pushed the plan through in February without any of the recommended changes, despite information from his own department that the plan would result in 22 percent D’s and F’s for Indiana schools. In comparison, Florida last year gave D’s and F’s to 6 percent of its schools. Indiana schools are not more than three times worse than Florida schools.

This fact is certifiably grounded in data from the National Assessment, which is a test taken in common by all states and is known as “the nation’s report card.” On the National Assessment, Indiana consistently outscores Florida in fourth and eighth grade math and in eighth grade reading, and Indiana consistently scores higher than the national average.

Tony Bennett’s A-F system has demeaned the performance of Indiana’s schools compared to Florida. Conveniently, low grades would feed more schools into his pipeline for state intervention, which in Indianapolis and Gary has resulted in for-profit corporations taking over schools, accompanied by discord, litigation and fragmented communities.

Mayors have complained that unfairly low school grades damage local economic development efforts to attract new jobs. The calibration of this A-F system is simply wrong. It will hurt our schools and our economy.

This fall implementation has seen major delays, the director of the program took another job in the midst of the roll out, and local school officials say they can’t get answers to their questions about the flawed growth statistics. We need a change.

We support Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction who stands for a revised system of grading our schools.

— Dr. Vic Smith, Indianapolis, and Erin Braune, Jeffersonville

Writer says policing, politics shouldn’t mix

The state of Indiana has invested the police officer with the right to enforce all federal state and local laws including the power of arrest, to issue a citation, the right to investigate crimes, etc. That is the way it should be.

But the question is when is the power enough? Should a police officer, like current President of the Floyd County Commissioners Steve Bush, have the power to decide how our tax dollars are spent? Should a police officer have the authority to control tax dollars such as the 911 fund, deciding which police department will receive those funds? What if one department does just what the officer likes or wants and therefore receives all the funds, while the other department decides it is not in the best interest of that department to go along with that officer’s wants and thus receive no funds.

Should a police officer, such as Steve Bush, control funds the prosecutor is seeking when the officer knows that all of his cases will be prosecuted, or not depending on how well he gets along with that prosecutor. Should a police officer be in a position that he could vote on a request from the prosecutor to pay for his private attorney? Is it healthy for a police department when one of its own holds an elective position?

Do police officers want politics in the department, or do they just want to do their job? How can we be supporting the police officers if we elect a police officer and the majority of officers don’t want politics in the department? Is it healthy for a community to have a police officer in an elected position deciding how our tax dollars are spent?

In November, you have to answer the above questions when you go to the polls to vote in Floyd County. The best way to support our police officers is to ask several of them what they think about politics in the department. Please do not take my word for it, just talk to several of them. I am sure you will discover the same thing. I can assure you the overwhelming majority do not want politics in the police department at all.

Steve Bush holds the power to spend our tax dollars for the things mentioned above and has voted to give one police department money in 911 funds while refusing the other department 911 funding. He supported paying a private attorney for the prosecutor and paying hundreds of dollars per hour more for an attorney in Indianapolis.

So when is enough too much?

A concerned citizen and U.S. Army veteran,

— Coleman Sumrall, New Albany