Tag Archives: Indiana

Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

Whatever the merits of, or problems with, charter schools, those schools at least are public.  Schools that benefit from the voucher programs so beloved by our Governor and legislators are not, and the public dollars going to such schools are not necessarily being used to educate children.

I have lots of problems with vouchers, many of which are detailed in this article I wrote several years ago. I won’t bore you with the whole list. Read the article if you’re interested. But a warning from voucher opponents that has consistently fallen on deaf ears is that families who would opt for private or parochial schools in any case–families whose children already attend such schools–would be beneficiaries of a windfall. They would take money intended to enable poor kids to opt out of nonperforming public schools.

Evidently, that’s exactly what is happening in Indiana.

Father Jake of St. Jude parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana, indicates that, thanks to the impending influx of tax dollars, the church will soon be getting a repaired air conditioning system, redecorating the church, new paint, and repairs to the church steeple.

The link above the quote will take you to a fairly lengthy post in Education Week Teacher by a woman who listened to Father Jake’s speech. As she also reported (emphasis in the original):

I was appalled when he said that most of the students who are accepting vouchers are already attending St. Jude’s (minute 40:57).  Wasn’t one of the selling points of “opportunity scholarships” to reach out to economically disadvantaged students so that they could attend the private school of their choice?  Weren’t students to qualify for vouchers based on the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Guidelines?

Father Jake says with a chuckle that scholarships must be based on need, but the parish is free to determine what this means (minute 39.47). He says that since the Indiana Supreme Court says that vouchers are constitutionally allowable because the money goes to the tax payer, so the Indiana Choice Scholarship comes essentially with no strings (minute 42:00).  Father Jake goes on to say that he doesn’t see the program going away because the state of Indiana is saving millions of dollars a year by taking $4700  off the top of the funding formula to give to voucher kids rather than spending the $7000 per public school child in the state formulation.  So, the state saves over $2000 per student, but at what cost to our community schools?

Somehow, it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy to know that Indiana is saving tax dollars by shortchanging children and re-roofing Father Jake’s church.

How Sweet It Is….

Yesterday, the Indiana State Senate voted for the version of HJR 3 that previously passed the House–a version without the legally ambiguous second sentence.

Because a constitutional amendment must pass two consecutive legislative sessions with identical language, the vote will keep the measure off the 2014 ballot. If the single-sentence version passes the next legislature, that version will go on the 2016 ballot.

If I were a betting woman (and I’m not, because I’m wrong about nearly everything), I’d wager we’ve seen the last of this retrograde effort to let “the gays” know that they just aren’t worthy of that pesky “equal protection of the laws” thing. By 2016, even the “God told me my marriage will be worthless if you get to have one too” folks will recognize that this battle is over. 

If I may, I’d like to share a few reflections on the campaign that has now (mercifully) ended:

  • Megan Robertson is awesome. The campaign she directed was brilliant, bipartisan and virtually flawless. (It’s almost enough to make me forgive her for Greg Ballard.) We will hear more from and about this young woman.
  • The GLBT community demonstrated its maturity and civility. When I first became involved in working on gay rights issues, some twenty years ago, it could be very frustrating. There were factions and “hissy fits” and unhelpful public behaviors. Those behaviors were nowhere to be seen this time around. The community was unified, dignified and focused, laser-like, on what needed to be done. GLBT folks shared their stories, made their case, and stood up for their rights as citizens, as taxpayers and as Americans.
  • The so-called “allies”–PFLAG moms and dads, pastors of welcoming churches, business leaders, bloggers and editorial writers, and hundreds of Hoosiers who just care about fundamental fairness and decency–shook off their usual apathy and made their opinions known. They swarmed the Statehouse, they wrote letters to the editor, they volunteered at phone banks, and they wrote checks.

And the democratic process worked the way it is supposed to.

In a bright-red state not noted for progressive policies, in a Statehouse dominated by Republicans accustomed to doing the will of their rabidly conservative base, the good guys actually won.

As my husband likes to say, campaigns matter.

I’ll drink to that.

“Clarifying” HJR3

The Indiana General Assembly has re-introduced the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage previously known as HJR6–it is now HJR3–and in an effort to blunt mounting criticisms of the measure’s “what the hell does that mean?” second sentence, they’ve introduced a “clarifying” companion statute.

As a number of lawyers have pointed out, the “clarification” is a legal non-starter: legislative bodies don’t get to tell judges how to interpret constitutional language, and efforts to do so raise substantial separation of powers issues. The lawyers serving in the Indiana General Assembly undoubtedly know how meaningless this legislation is, but then, its purpose was political, not legal.  HJR3′s second sentence is a disaster, and this is just a lame effort to obscure that fact.

Attempts at distraction aside, here’s what mystifies this recovering lawyer:

Over and over, its proponents insist that a state constitutional amendment is needed because Indiana’s current statute defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman isn’t strong enough. We’re told a constitutional amendment is needed to protect Indiana’s existing ban from “activist” judges.

This is utter horse poop. (I am trying to watch my language.)

In Indiana, “activist” state court judges have already upheld Indiana’s legislation banning same-sex marriages. So there is no threat from the state bench. And a state constitutional provision would be utterly useless should the U.S. Supreme Court affirm a right to marry. In such a case, a state constitutional measure would be just as unenforceable as the existing statute.

Let me spell this out slowly, for those crack legal minds (or was that legal minds on crack?) in the General Assembly: passage of HJR3 will not “protect” Indiana’s current ban on same-sex nuptials.

That isn’t to say that passage of HJR3 would be meaningless. It would do several things: send a signal that Indiana is a backward, intolerant state; invite lots of litigation inviting those “activist judges” to figure out what the hell the second sentence does or doesn’t mean; encourage members of Indiana’s creative class to consider relocation; and make it far more difficult for Hoosier businesses to recruit “the best and brightest.”

Those consequences are clear enough.

 

 

Dollars and Sense

This morning, I was scheduled to participate in a statehouse rally intended to urge the Governor and General Assembly to exhibit rational behavior, also known as Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. (Of course, this is Indiana, where rational political behavior can be pretty rare.)

The weather required organizers to reschedule, but I’m posting my prepared remarks, which centered on dollars and sense.

___________________

Many of us have just wished our friends and loved ones a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. In Indiana, those are going to be elusive goals.

According to a report issued in December by the respected Kaiser Family Foundation, Indiana stands to forego17.3 billion dollars between 2013 and 2022 because we are refusing to follow the lead of surrounding states (including those governed by Republicans) and implementing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

Indiana is refusing to accept the federal dollars that would pay for expansion of Medicaid despite the fact that over half a million Hoosiers have lost employer-sponsored coverage since 2000, and despite the fact that Indiana has seen the nation’s largest loss of health insurance coverage for children. More than eighteen percent of Indiana children have lost coverage since 2000.

Let’s talk dollars and sense.

Under the ACA, the federal government will pay 100% of the costs of expanded Medicaid for the first three years and 90% thereafter. Expansion would actually save Hoosier taxpayers money, since some of those federal dollars would pay for services we currently provide.

Since there is no rational reason to forego billions of dollars and deny a quarter of a million Hoosiers access to affordable coverage, some Indiana officeholders have resorted to deliberately misleading their constituents. One legislator recently sent out a survey seeking “input on legislative topics”.  The Medicaid question read as follows:

 ”Currently, one out of six Indiana residents is on Medicaid, or about 1.1 million Hoosiers. Medicaid makes up about 14 percent of the state’s budget. Under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), Indiana can expand Medicaid to cover more uninsured Hoosiers at a projected cost to taxpayers of more than $1.4 billion by 2020. This expansion would allow one in four Indiana residents to enroll in the program. Do you support full Medicaid expansion for Indiana under Obamacare guidelines?”

The question clearly–and dishonestly–implies that Indiana taxpayers would foot the bill for expansion. (Of course, he might get an answer he doesn’t want if he explained that new federal dollars would cover the costs.)

The question we need to ask our Senators and Representatives is pretty simple: Why are you refusing to allow the federal government to pay the entire cost of expanded coverage for three years and 90% thereafter—especially when those dollars you are rejecting would create an estimated 30,000 Hoosier jobs and, according to health economists, would reduce premiums paid by those of us who do have private insurance?

The only response I’ve heard is weak and highly speculative: the federal government might stop paying the full 90% at some future time. But if the feds cut payments, we could cut services, so that excuse just doesn’t pass the smell test.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Indiana is leaving 17 billion dollars on the table, leaving more of our citizens uninsured, costing Hoosiers who are insured more money, and refusing to cover Indiana’s most vulnerable children simply because our governor and state legislative leaders will oppose anything and everything proposed by this President, no matter how that opposition affects the citizens they were elected to serve.

Here’s a news flash: you don’t have to like this President—and you don’t have to like the Affordable Care Act—in order to accept billions of federal dollars that will save lives and money and create jobs for the people of Indiana.

Thanks to Governor Pence’s refusal to implement  Medicaid expansion, Hoosiers will pay higher state taxes, higher health insurance premiums and higher out-of-pocket expenses. And those costs will fall most heavily on those who can least afford them.

Our politicians may be aiming at President Obama, but the people they are hurting are the Hoosiers who elected them.

 

The Kids Are Definitely NOT All Right….

I recently attended a briefing that left me physically sick to my stomach.

Consider the following statistics from DCS: between July 2011 and June 2012, there were 3,214 cases of substantiated sexual abuse of Indiana children. There were another 1,992 cases of substantiated physical abuse, and 14,802 cases of substantiated neglect.

These are just the cases that were reported, investigated and substantiated. The CDC estimates that fewer than half of rape and sexual assault crimes ever get reported, and it can be very difficult to substantiate those that do get reported. Even when we are counting only substantiated cases, however, in 2009, Indiana females in grades 9-12 had the second highest rate of forced sexual intercourse in the nation. (Indiana’s rate is 17.3% as opposed to the national rate of 10.5. Both rates are scandalous.)

Welcome to Indiana, where our elected officials talk a lot about our low taxes and not at all about our abysmal social health indicators.

Most of the abuse that occurs is what the reports delicately label “partner” or “intimate” violence–meaning that these young girls are being exploited by boyfriends, fathers, stepfathers, “funny” uncles and others within their homes and communities. In some of our more rural precincts, these behaviors are tacitly accepted or shrugged off. “Boys will be boys.” (I should note here that young boys are by no means safe from sexual assault, although fewer males experience it, and we should be no less outraged by their exploitation.)

The consequences of this behavior are costly for both the victims and society. Research suggests that victims of sexual violence are likely to suffer mental and physical ailments in later life: anxiety, post-traumatic-stress disorder, fear, depression…They are also more likely to attempt suicide.

Nationally, health costs attributable to rape and sexual assault have been estimated at $4.1 billion.

The familial environments within which these assaults occur makes this an incredibly difficult behavior to prevent. But there is at least one thing Indiana lawmakers can and should do pronto: commit the state to the crime data collection program certified by the FBI. Currently, Indiana has no state legislation requiring the collection of crime data. Approximately 30% of Indiana law enforcement agencies voluntarily report their statistics for inclusion in the UCR (Uniform Crime Report), but Indiana is one of only three states that lacks a centralized crime reporting program.

It’s bad enough that only a small percentage of rapes are ever reported; the least we could do is keep track of those that are.

Here’s a thought: how about we ask our lawmakers to divert some of the time and energy they are spending trying to marginalize GLBT citizens to efforts that might actually protect Indiana children?

Here’s another: Governor Pence has certainly been willing to name new “commissions” and “panels” to take over duties that were previously the responsibility of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Perhaps he could take a rest from trying to undermine the election results, and appoint a commission to address the ongoing, scandalous exploitation of Indiana children?