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Thursday, March 05, 2015
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Thursday, March 05, 2015 9:12 AM

MUNCIE - Nationwide, student enrollment in colleges of education has plummeted over the past few years. This trend is playing out here in Indiana, with multi-year double digit enrollment declines yearly for the largest programs at IU, Purdue and Ball State. Not surprisingly, this has caused much worry among deans, whose first inclination has been to look outside their own halls for the problem. So, a plethora of news articles blame low teacher salaries and a general lessening of respect for teachers as root causes. That is hogwash.

I do believe teacher salaries are on the low side and could use a legislative boost. Still, low wages cannot explain the recent and rapid decline in enrollment in teachers colleges. In fact, public sector employees, including teachers, are among the few occupations to see wage growth over the past decade. The drop isn’t due to wages.

The debate over plunging enrollment often turns to the lessened respect the teaching profession has today. That is a convenient and emotionally fulfilling argument for someone in a teacher’s college, but it is also wrong. There are many pools of the most respected professions, and teachers always rank in the top ten and mostly in the top three. In contrast, teachers colleges have seen a drop off in enrollment that is greater than among military colleges during the height of the Vietnam protests. The notion that teachers have lost the respect of Americans is counterfactual nonsense.
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    ELKINSVILLE – This once was a Hoosier town. Located in southern Brown County, the 20 or so families were bought out by the government when Lake Monroe was created half a century ago, cutting it off from nearby Bloomington. The poor soil and shifting economy created an unsustainable existence for this town in the shadow of Browning Mountain. This spectacular ridge about 1,000 feet in elevation, was once home to an ancient people who created what the locals now call “Stonehenge,” with car-sized chiseled rocks dotting the highlands. The Hoosier pioneers repurposed them for foundations for their cabins that have long disappeared. The Hoosier prairies are pock marked by other towns that may have thrived on the original pioneer roads, or during the canal period, or with the railroads and the Interstates. Over the coming decades, more small towns will join this ghost gallery, particularly those without access to high-speed Internet. Even as this occurs, the Indiana General Assembly is in the process of making it harder for cities and towns to annex which will crimp their ability to grow and prosper. 
    INDIANAPOLIS – State Sen. Jean Leising went to a local Farm Bureau breakfast expecting to be quizzed on a complicated tax relief bill for farmers. Instead, the Republican from a rural district was bombarded with questions about why her GOP colleagues appeared dead set on stripping power from the Democratic state schools’ chief, Glenda Ritz. “That’s all they wanted to talk about,” Leising said. A few days later, Leising joined a group of seven Republican senators (out of 40) who voted against a measure to remove Ritz from her high-profile role as chairwoman of the state Board of Education. “I do think the board makeup needs to be dealt with,” Leising said of the politicized and dysfunctional relationship between Ritz and the board, whose members are appointed by the governor. “But the timing is all wrong.” 
    KOKOMO – As a service to my overworked and underappreciated wife, the other day I volunteered to go to the grocery store to pick up a few items. Normally, my wife and I go to the grocery together and I rarely have the opportunity to turn the visit into a learning experience. However, this visit to the grocery was eye opening. My wife had requested that I pick up toilet tissue. This is not an item that I would normally spend much time ruminating over, just grab it and toss it into the cart. The bigger and fluffier rolls the better!  I can honestly say that I have never considered the price of a roll of toilet paper. I place it high on a list of necessities that render price irrelevant. This trip down the aisle of paper products was different.  Standing in the middle of the aisle was a couple deep in conversation about the relative economy of several brands, quality and quantity. These folks looked like people who needed to make every penny count in their budget. I felt a little embarrassed that I don’t have to labor over unit pricing or always look for a generic alternative. To these people trying to do the math in their heads, the simple purchasing choice of toilet paper was a well-thought-out, necessity-driven exercise. 
    MERRILLVILLE – There is one thing that separates Northwest Indiana Republicans from their colleagues in the rest of the state. When it comes to issues dealing with unions in general, the area Republicans tread lightly. While Northwest Indiana Republicans usually don’t win the endorsements of unions, they also don’t want to anger the members of the myriad of unions that populate this corner of the state. And the building and trade unions in Northwest Indiana rarely endorse a Republican over a Democrat, although it does happen. Such was the case with former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and the International Union of Operating Engineers. The Operating Engineers endorsed Daniels during each of his campaigns, largely because of his support for the construction of an interstate highway from Evansville to Indianapolis. The Operating Engineers also appreciated Daniels for his Major Moves program that was funded with the lease of the toll road. 
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Gov. Pence's Gridiron Video
Just IN: Gov. Mike Pence's video for the Gridiron Dinner.
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  • Some doubt Pence presidential bid, but he's keeping options open

    HILTON HEAD, S.C. – The $64 million question in Indiana today is whether Gov. Mike Pence is going to seek reelection, or run for president. On Monday, the National Journal and the IndyStar gave us reasons for why the first-term Republican won’t run. It came after Pence struck a bellicose stance at CPAC, then met with big roller donors at a Club For Growth presidential cattle call in Florida. His Club For Growth appearance generated some buzz, though his CPAC speech didn’t generate much national coverage. Generating the belief that Pence might really be angling for a vice presidential nomination are things Howey Politics Indiana has been reporting for months: That Pence is raising money for his reelection, not for a national race; that he is waiting too long; that the other campaigns are staffing up and raising money; that other candidates such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have seized the “Midwestern governor” station; and that Pence didn’t show up in the CPAC straw poll. The reality is, only Pence, First Lady Karen, and a small number of political allies really know what the Pence’s ultimate plan is.
  • Card counter could have predicted session at crossover
    INDIANAPOLIS — The hand dealt during the first half of this budgetary session fell in line with the probability an expert card counter might have predicted. Based on what we knew going into the first week in January, observers around the table should not be surprised how most major items have played themselves so far to the crossover point. We knew by then the school funding formula, governance of the State of Board of Education (SBOE), Sunday sales, casinos, religious liberty, community corrections, non-partisan redistricting, and House ethics changes would be addressed.  The details of reforms to alcohol sales and gaming were seen as extremely touchy (and, perhaps, iffy); as it panned out, only the latter made enough traction to get out of one chamber.
  • Probable governor candidate Baron Hill nearing decision
    INDIANAPOLIS – Former congressman Baron Hill told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that he will be a likely gubernatorial candidate. “I’m encouraged by what I’m hearing,” Hill said. “If I had to make an announcement today. I’d probably be in. That’s where my head is.” Asked if he had been approached about the U.S. Senate race against Sen. Dan Coats, Hill said there had been some discussions. “I always said I’d keep an open ear, but my intention has always been running for governor. That’s where my head is.” Unless Hill and John Gregg cut a deal with one of them opting for the Senate race, Indiana Democrats have no challenger lined up for U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, who has yet to announce whether he will seek reelection. Asked if there was any truth to the  “rumors” in The Cheat Sheet that he was in talks with Supt. Glenda Ritz about running with him as lieutenant governor, Hill responded, “Not a bit.”
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  • Scalia questions Verrilli in King v. Burwell
    “You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue? Congress adjusts, enacts a statute that takes care of the problem. It happens all the time.” - A question and statement from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, during King v. Burwell arguments on Wednesday. The Obama administration’s lawyer, Donald Verrilli, replied, “This Congress, your honor?”

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Should the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction be elected, or a gubernatorial appointment?


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