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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Kudos to local legislators, thumbs down to IPS parents

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Oversight is good for everybody – especially in business and politics.

Tuesday, members of Indiana’s General Assembly made a significant step in the right direction by voting unanimously on an ethics bill authored by House Speaker Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend). Included in the legislation are mandates that prohibit legislators from receiving compensation for speeches or appearances, text that requires universities to report gifts and tickets that they distribute to lawmakers, and a measure that denies state officeholders from using public funds for advertisements that include their name and face.

Lobbyists were hit hard with the ethics reform bill. In addition to not being able to pay for out-of-state travel for legislators, lobbyists will also have to report any incentives – including meals, gifts, or entertainment – that exceed $50.

Another stipulation to the bill, which passed 97-0, was forbidding state representatives from working as lobbyists until a year after they leave office. While some in the State House disagree with this aspect of the legislation, it makes perfect sense to me. As a matter of fact, such limitations exist in other industries who have non-compete clauses.

Bauer’s bill promotes transparency – something that’s needed in all levels of government. I commend Bauer and the other 96 legislators who were proactive in their approach to ethics reform by tackling the issue before a scandal or any sort of misappropriation of funds surfaced. Hopefully HB 1001 will motivate lawmakers to get back to the basics of politics by proposing legislation and voting on issues that are best for their constituents, rather than the officeholder’s personal interests. The limitations of this bill will keep big money from influencing politics. Kudos to all the legislators for their bipartisan support.

The next step is for Gov. Mitch Daniels to sign the bill into law.

While Bauer received tremendous support of his bill, the same can’t be said for Indianapolis Public School Superintendent Eugene White, who announced a proposal that would cut $27 million from the school district’s budget.

White suggested reducing the number of school police officers from 85 to 65, cutting the athletics budget by $835,000, eliminating various positions in the central office, and having kindergarten and first grade teachers instruct their students on music and art rather than trained specialists.

White also suggested a $666,000 cut from the technology office, which concerns me, given the ever-increasing technological advancements of this country. It’s important that students are equipped with the resources needed to compete nationally and globally. Enhancing the technology budget would do that, not reducing it.

Surprisingly, I received a couple of calls from IPS teachers who were in favor of the cuts, particularly the ones made to an over/under program that focused on overage students who were undereducated. The teachers I spoke with said they didn’t think that specific program’s approach was effective. One unidentified man left a message upset that IPS continues to have budget problems when other districts (he mentioned Pike) are thriving.

“I don’t understand why IPS has so many problems when they get the most hand-outs. They also got that special referendum passed recently,” he said.

I’m not sure how IPS’ budget woes will end, but one thing is for sure: the district is in the midst of some major changes and parents need to be more involved so that they have a voice in their children’s education. While IPS does a good job of holding public meetings in various district neighborhoods, a dismal number of parents show up.

Perhaps IPS’ parents can take a hint from legislators in Indiana’s General Assembly by being more proactive in their approach to pertinent issues…doing so is the most productive way to tackle problems.

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