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  • A bounty of thanks
     For sewer, bridge and road projects throughout the city.
  • A questionable 'no'
    The legislature is used to paring or turning down requests for more money. But the Indiana Department of Child Services’ decision not to ask for increased staff next year merits further examination.
  • Ethics cloud hangs over new lawmaker
    If legislative leaders are serious about raising the ethical bar in the Indiana General Assembly, they suffered a setback with the election of Jon Ford on Nov. 4. He arrives at the Statehouse with some considerable baggage.

Furthermore …


Teacher-prep analysis slammed as dishonest

An advocacy group established by a right-leaning think tank gives the nation’s teacher preparation programs low marks. But the dean of Indiana University-Bloomington’s School of Education gives the National Council on Teacher Quality’s report an even lower mark.

“Put simply, the NCTQ study is fatally flawed and its conclusions fundamentally invalid,” writes Gerardo Gonzalez. “It is not worthy of serious consideration by anyone interested in an honest assessment of teacher education program quality.”

And that’s from someone whose graduate and undergraduate programs received generally high marks.

Education historian Diane Ravitch offered this critique of the NCTQ report:

“There are professional associations that rate the nation’s education schools, based on site visits and clear criteria. NCTQ is not a professional association,” Ravitch writes. “It did not make site visits. It made its harsh judgments by reviewing course syllabi and catalogs. The criteria that it rated as most important was the institution’s fidelity to the Common Core standards.”

You can follow the money to see where NCTQ was headed with its report. The funders include several foundations known for pushing vouchers, charters and other education privatization measures.

Tony Bennett, Indiana’s former superintendent of public instruction and a Common Core cheerleader, was on the technical panel for the NCTQ report.

Recusal is appropriate for justice with close ties to pending Leucadia suit

As the Indiana Supreme Court prepares to take up a case involving a controversial coal gasification plant, one member stands too close for comfort.

Justice Mark Massa, who was legal counsel to then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, is a longtime friend of Mark Lubbers, a top official with Indiana Gasification, the company developing the $2.8 billion plant. Massa, in fact, praised Lubbers during the justice’s robing ceremony last year as “the first of many who inspired me to aim higher in the Daniels tradition.”

Leucadia, the coal gasification plant’s owner, signed a 30-year contract with the state during former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ second term. The deal requires the state to buy gas from Rockport at a set price rather than market rates. Natural gas provider Vectren and other opponents say the deal will increase utility bills for Hoosiers by as much as $1 billion over the first eight years.

The developers dispute the estimate and claim ratepayers will save money over the course of the 30-year contract.

The Court of Appeals struck down the contract because of problems in one clause.

The General Assembly, demonstrating second thoughts on the state’s involvement, passed a bill to impose stricter ratepayer protections if the court sends the bill back to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for review.

“To give the public confidence that this decision is based on the law and sound public policy, and not political cronyism, Justice Massa should recuse himself,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, a party to the case.

Charles Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University and national expert on judicial disqualification, told the Indianapolis Star that the relationship between Massa and Lubbers “represents a serious, legitimate concern.”

A spokeswoman for the court said Massa did not recuse himself earlier this month when the court decided to hear the case. It’s not known whether he’ll step aside before oral arguments in September.

Good money is tossed after bad

Indiana officials’ zeal to take away a funding source from a charity that helps gay teenagers is likely having the opposite effect. State efforts to ensure the Indiana Youth Group does not get its specialty license plate reinstated are very likely boosting the charity’s bank account while increasing the costs to Indiana taxpayers.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday. The lawsuit followed BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell’s decision not to reinstate the plate despite a ruling from a BMV administrative law judge saying the charity should get the plate back.

The ACLU claims the commissioner violated due process by asserting himself as the final authority despite an independent review that approved specialty plates for non-profit group that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in Indiana.

The Indiana Youth Group was granted a specialty license plate in 2012, but quickly lost it for auctioning off low-numbered plates to donors. The group sold more than 800 plates in the 10 weeks it had a specialty plate, bringing in $20,000.

The effort and legal fees the BMV are expensing are not worth the fight.