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Excerpts of editorials published recently in Indiana newspapers

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The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. August 26, 2015

School dangers haven't waned — but funding has.

Indiana lawmakers acted responsibly two years ago when they rejected hysterical calls to arm teachers and instead gave schools the money they needed to take sensible safety measures. But deep budget cuts this year suggest the legislators' commitment to safer schools has diminished.

As The Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly reported Sunday, the state has cut the school safety grant program by 65â percent, endangering funds used to pay police officers working in schools as resource officers.

"If there is no state money, we will have to evaluate where to find $50,000 in the budget and cut somewhere else," Parrish Kruger, principal at Whitko Middle School, told Kelly. "We wouldn't cut a teacher. At that point we would do without the school resource officer. I do believe it's a safer school with him."

So does Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who in 2013 urged schools to use a share of the $20 million grant program to hire resource officers instead of spending it on one-time investments in security equipment. Now a member of the seven-member committee selecting the grant recipients, he maintains resource officers in the schools should be the priority.

Zoeller didn't jump on the school safety issue after the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings. His office had surveyed administrators, teachers and parents before the December 2012 tragedy, learning that administrators gave high marks to school resource officers in promoting school safety and also as role models.

It's sad to suggest that a deadly school shooting made the 2013 legislation a top priority, but how else to explain why the commitment waned in just two years' time?

The administration's assertion that a $474 million increase in K-12 tuition support alleviates the need for school-safety grants is wrong. Indiana school districts are still struggling to overcome a $300 million cut in funding in 2010. Along with growing expenses, they've also faced a shrinking share of tuition support as money flowed to a growing number of charter schools and to private-school vouchers.

In truth, school districts continue to need money for school safety. Some, including Northwest Allen County Schools, used grant dollars to buy security equipment, resisting calls to hire resource officers because they knew the funding commitment might change. Ideally, schools would have the resources to expand mental health services for students and to offer preschool, given that investments in early childhood education have a proven correlation to lower crime rates.

Lawmakers and Gov. Mike Pence hailed the school safety legislation when it was approved. There's no evidence to show its resources are no longer needed.


The Bloomington Herald-Times. August 26, 2015.

Will downtown slow growth of Chinese student numbers at IU?

Our Sunday graphic on the number of foreign students at Indiana University and their countries of origin was quite dramatic.

It shows the Chinese student population on campus, already on an upward curve in 2006, steepening dramatically in 2008, growing faster than any of the other four countries that make up the top five foreign contributors.

In 2014, the latest year the count is available, more than 3,000 Chinese were on campus. Six years earlier, that number hovered at about 500.

India is the only other country of the top five contributing countries that showed increasing numbers of students over the past two decades, but its growth curve was nothing compared to that of China, with an increase in the number of Indian students only about 100 over that same stretch.

Similar growth in the number of Chinese attending American universities is happening across the country, officials say. Some of the increase here is no doubt also attributable to the emphasis IU President Michael McRobbie has placed on making IU a strong presence on the international stage.

But as noted in the Sunday article, the huge growth of China's economy also has been a big contributor. More families have climbed into the upper and upper middle classes in China, and what once would have presented an insurmountable financial obstacle is now not only reasonable but relatively easily managed by many.

Foreign students pay about $17,000 a semester, the same as students from other U.S. states. A full academic year for a student from China — or any other country — could easily top $50,000 when housing and other living expenses are included.

That seems not to have been a significant problem for Chinese students in recent years, at least if the number of high-end cars and luxury SUVs on Bloomington's streets that have a Chinese student at the wheel is any indication.

It is unclear how or even if the dark financial news out of China over the past week or so will affect enrollment of Chinese students. Certainly, it could if China's economy continues its downward track. Whether the crop of almost instant billionaires that the world's most populous country has produced will be mowed is unclear. But China's middle class, who have invested heavily in the Chinese stock market, likely will see their money shrink.

The current news from China may actually be too recent to affect this year's foreign enrollment numbers — a final count should be available in the next few weeks — but a lengthy downturn in the Chinese economy may reduce the appeal of an expensive overseas education for Chinese families whose wallets have shrunk.

That could translate into fewer tuition dollars to IU and a bit less cash for Bloomington's own economy. World events do indeed affect us Hoosiers. As much as some might distrust the notion, we are part of the bigger world and must not ignore it.

____

The South Bend Tribune. August 27, 2015.

Apply equal standards to properties.

An unkempt vacant lot is a neighborhood nightmare.

Grass, weeds and other unsightly brush tend to grow in reverse proportion to the moods of neighbors living near the lot. The longer the weeds, the shorter the tempers.

So it's no surprise that neighbors of a vacant lot near Dubail Street near Twyckenham Drive on South Bend's southeast side are angry that a small piece of land has grown into a gnarly patch of bushes, grass and weeds. To make matters worse, records from the St. Joseph County assessor's office show it is owned by St. Joseph County.

This is not unique to the county or South Bend. Local governments have long struggled with maintaining vacant lots.

Issues such as property maintenance matter to residents of a city. South Bend specifically has acknowledged the need to improve the quality of life in its neighborhoods and is working to do so through programs such as the Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative. There has been some success, but more work remains.

Local governments have departments dedicated to making sure property owners maintain their land appropriately. South Bend has its Department of Code Enforcement and St. Joseph County maintains properties through zoning laws. But what about government-owned property? How can taxpayers be sure governments are maintaining their properties to the same standards required of them?

When Tribune staff writer Virginia Black first reported about the Dubail lot in a story Monday, she contacted the county commissioners first in an effort to determine the property owner. The commissioners referred her to the assessor's office, who referred her to code enforcement. County officials never responded to Black's inquiries about the property, which is troubling.

Part of the confusion is that railroad tracks and right of way also abut the property. The Tribune eventually determined the owner of the property through a computer search of the assessor's office online database.

If local governments expect homeowners to mow their grass or face fines, then taxpayers have the right to expect the same of government-owned property, whether it be the city of South Bend or St. Joseph County or another entity.


The Elkhart Truth. August 27, 2015

Policing in Washington Gardens is working, but there's much to be done.

Elkhart Housing Authority officials are touting how police patrols at Washington Gardens housing development are making it safer and quieter.

Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore called for additional police presence at the end of January.

In May, the housing authority launched its own effort.

On Aug. 20, officials said it's working.

Let's hope they're right.

So far this summer, there hasn't been the same number of calls to the apartments on the south side of the city. There hasn't been a deadly shooting since Ontario Brown died Dec. 20, 2014, after being shot the previous day.

On Jan. 29, Dellvhon Brown was shot in the stomach. The next day, Moore called for additional patrols.

At the time, we said that turning Washington Gardens into a police state was a bad idea. We also said that turning attention to the area was long, long overdue.

So here we are months later, and the approach the city and EHA officials are taking seems to be helping.

At the Aug. 20 meeting, Kim Sindle, executive director, said that housing authority officials are getting information on potential problem areas and residents are communicating with authorities. Police, because of their relationships built from spending time in the area, are able to identify people who don't live in Washington Gardens.

It's progress. Let's call it that. Let's praise how officers are getting out of their cars and getting to know neighbors. Let's applaud how the city and the housing authority put additional resources into a neighborhood that needed them.

But let's be cautious too.

Washington Gardens is a place where people who get federal housing assistance are raising families, are hoping for safety.

Progress is tremendously important, but rebuilding a sense of calm doesn't come in a few months. It's long, slow work. The work is underway in this part of Elkhart. That work is important for the city and housing authority to maintain.

It's important because people in our community, in every community, deserve safe housing and feeling safe in their neighborhood. Citizens and how they behave play a key role in that. How a neighborhood encourages good behavior and works with law enforcement do too.

Washington Gardens isn't all sunshine and lollipops, but important work is happening. It's just a shame it took so long.

We'll never know if some of the violence could have been prevented if city and housing authority officials had acted sooner.

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