Heaton covers up state responsibility 

State Rep. Bob Heaton sent in a letter entitled “More Questions to Answer on New School Taxes” which appeared in the Tribune-Star on Oct. 20. The piece was full of innuendo and blame shifting. First, Heaton suggests that Dr. Haworth was low-balling the amount of tuition support provided by the state, when he used the figure $6,362 per student as the 2018-19 amount of tuition support provided for each student. (The actual figure that VCSC is claiming is $6,510) The figures from the State Legislative Service of $7,145 has the amounts separately earmarked for special education and vocational education folded into the total. These are not technically part of tuition per student.

Next Heaton tries to imply that Haworth is inaccurate in saying that support of the schools by the state is not keeping up with inflation. He claims that “funding for VCSC increased 5.8% during a six-year period.” During that same period the actual amount of inflation was 10.05%. Heaton suggests that because enrollment has dropped during that period the school system should need less money. Actually, one reason that state school funding does not keep up with inflation is because the number of students is declining. Costs per student rise when the number of students declines. (Building maintenance, transportation, utility, janitorial service and course offerings will all cost more per student.)

The number of students is declining not only because of demography, it has declined largely as a result of Republican education policy, supported by Heaton. This policy, borrowed from the Jim Crow south, allowed states like Mississippi to fund two separate and underfunded school systems, one for whites and one for blacks. The Republican supported voucher system allows middle-class parents to send their children to private or religious schools and even virtual schools. This guarantees that enrollment and the funding which comes with it will decline. Although our Republican legislature calls it school choice, it is a mechanism for defunding and re-segregating our schools. 

Public schools retain a higher proportion of poor and disadvantaged students, as the middle-class students opt for private school vouchers. Funding does not keep up with inflation, due to rising costs and the diversion of funding to private schools. This same Republican policy requires a testing regimen, grading the public schools and teachers on how well they perform and pegs teacher compensation to the results. This focus on tests destroys creativity and prevents, in-depth teaching necessary for critical thinking. (These are the reasons that so few students want to pursue a career in education creating the teacher shortage).

Heaton goes on to say that under Republican stewardship, “the state is investing 7.3 billion statewide 2019-20 in K-12 tuition support” slated to increase to $7.5 billion the next year. This seems to imply that the schools are being adequately funded. This figure contains all spending for private school vouchers, charter schools and contracts for testing companies, which must be subtracted before real school funding can be ascertained.

He next implies that VCSC spends too much on administration by begging the question of how much VCSC spends on administration vs. teacher compensation, then moves on to suggesting that the number of administrators is bloated by citing statewide figures. Vigo County School Corp. with an enrollment of 14,722 has only 22 in its central office administration. In similar sized systems, the number of administrators is significantly larger — (Carmel-Clay 32, South Bend 32, Hammond 28, MSD Wayne Township 27). In addition, top administrator pay at VCSC is being cut as a cost-saving measure, with Dr. Haworth taking a $20,000 cut.

Heaton suggests that there may have been some contract irregularities in the past with which the VCSC must deal, left over from the tenure of the previous superintendent. He implies that this is a key reason for the current crisis, but is a smoke screen for the primary reasons for the shortfall of funding Republican education policy: vouchers, fostering declining enrollment — per student costs rising as a result, and a funding scheme which does not keep up with inflation because of diversion of funding to testing companies and private schools. (These in turn, fund Indiana’s Republican candidates.)

Good public schools are essential for a community to attract investment and are necessary to a cohesive and democratic society. Please support your school system’s request for a tax increase to prevent damaging cuts in programming, until there is political will in Indianapolis, to support, rather than destroy this essential civic asset.

— Robert Dodson, Centerpoint

Are we prepared for casino effects?

Having lived in Indiana most of my life, I am extremely cautious about decisions I make that will impact the future of my children and grandchildren, as well as the future moral, social and mental well-being of the citizens of Vigo County and the state of Indiana. I am 69 years old, and I remember well the Mayor Ralph Tucker era. Organized crime was rampant, police were taking bribes (as were judges), houses of prostitution openly operated just north of the courthouse, and the likes of John Dillinger and Al Capone frequented the area because of the laxity of the police force. A movie reference even has Dean Martin, sitting in a Chicago room, saying to Frank Sinatra, “Let’s go to Terre Haute and have some fun.” When I got my driver’s license, my mom cautioned me to avoid Terre Haute at all costs. It took three successive mayors to clean Terre Haute up. And now, are we really considering going down that filth-encrusted rabbit hole again?

Good for the economy? A recent newsletter from an Illinois watchdog group (Concerned Christian Ministries) stated that Illinois state gambling revenues from its casinos are on the decline and have been for the last 10 years. (Ironic that Gov. Ptitzker has OK’d the building of five more casinos.)

Increased school funding? Prove it. Have we forgotten that same failed promise from lottery promoters? Schools are struggling financially now more than ever.

Tourism and entertainment? Yes, perhaps at the beginning. But look at nearly every new restaurant that has opened in Terre Haute over the last 25 years. At first, there is a greater influx of patrons, looking for a new dining experience. But, then, customers become tired of the same-old, same-old and the restaurant fails. A few examples of this are Beef O’Brady’s, Garfield’s, Sam’s Steak House, Tumbleweed, etc., etc., etc. People are fickle, even in their gastronomic choices. 

Remember, too, that we are in competition with several nearby gambling institutions, and there are five more coming in Illinois. And, of course, the constant addition of video poker and electronic slot machines in bars, restaurants, truck stops and mobile phones makes gambling much more convenient than going to a casino with possible admission regulations.

Improved quality of life? During a panel discussion in Maywood Treatment Facility, an addiction recovery facility in Cook County, Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford said, “We want to make sure that those who are gamblers can get the help that’s needed if it gets out of control.” The Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary, at the same discussion, said, “We know that people who suffer from mental health issues are inclined to have gambling issues as well, so one of the things we are doing is, for the first time a thorough study of gambling disorders …” 

 For the first time? Where is the concern for the well-being of citizens? Studies have shown that more than $6 billion has been lost each year to gambling addictions. This problem is far-reaching and can cause both individuals and companies to panic and act in ways they would not normally act. Gambling addictions also place a severe hardship on prison systems, public assistance programs, and legal systems. There are many consequences of gambling addictions that result in community economic costs.

Yes, I know that many of the comments above are regarding Illinois, but perhaps we can learn from our close neighbor. Is Vigo County (and for that matter Indiana) prepared to pay the price of the negative effects of a hometown casino?

— Linda Helms, Terre Haute 

Vote the person, not the party

This is an exciting time in Terre Haute. Without a doubt, Pat Goodwin has played a huge role in sparking this excitement. His focus on public input and our city’s long-term future are exactly what our community needs right now.

Pat has a pulse on our current concerns. He listens to what community members are talking and writing about, conducts research to learn more, and then holds forums for us to discuss how to approach these ideas and issues. This method is similar to one that we see working right now in the school corporation, with our new superintendent. Imagine what this could look like in our top leadership position in the city. It is a possibility within our grasp.

Pat has put himself out there. By offering ideas to improve our city, he has put himself on the line. Yet he has always been open to others’ opinions and approaches. He has a way of presenting his findings while still being open to others’ ideas. I appreciate that he is willing to do this. He does not hang back. He is involved.

He was present during the discussion of the riverfront. He has advocated for riverfront development for years. What have the other candidates done to promote our valuable asset? He has been present during the talks about the new jail by taking a leadership role when others remained silent, at least until the very end, when the writing was on the wall. He has also been present during the talks concerning our schools, our community’s most important resource. Only recently have other candidates begun to talk of support. All of this shows that Pat is willing to take on the tough position of being a leader, which means putting himself on the line for the greater good of our community’s future.

I met Pat as a parent. Then he became my friend. From the beginning, I loved what kind of dad and husband he is. As I learned more about his involvement in our community and local government, I really appreciated what kind of citizen he is. So many people have told me that they really like the “Goodwin guy.” I only hope all those people will show up at the polls. A couple people have said, “I wish he had run as a Democrat,” or “I really wish he had run as a Republican and not as an Independent.” Why? If you like Pat, choose him. Not the party. You can always go back to your party, but you cannot always go back to a great candidate like Pat. Go with your instinct; choose the person, not the political party.

I like the other candidates and appreciate what they both have done for our community. However, I know that Pat is exactly what our city needs for our mayor at this time, and he just so happens to be an Independent. I am good with that.

Jamie Luna-Schatz, Terre Haute 

Sound ideas from candidate Goodwin

Our city has an opportunity to break away from the mold that we’ve all become accustomed to with our local politics. We have a chance to elect someone who is not only qualified, as a Rose grad, previous city engineer and local businessman, but sees (has) a path for a better Terre Haute. One that has a logical forward thinking plan for taking care of city streets, dilapidated buildings and our city’s trash/weed issues. Over the past almost two years Pat Goodwin has demonstrated his ability to offer sound ideas to move our city forward like we have not seen before. He doesn’t talk in generalities he talks specifics and is willing to talk to anyone about his plans.

Much has been discussed about public safety. My view of what I have heard him say, more than once, is that he would increase the police department and through attrition right size the fire department. Mayor Bennett himself has said, and I’m paraphrasing, that building more overpasses would allow him to downsize the fire department. I believe that Goodwin would look at any changes very hard and make the correct adjustments needed.

I believe Mayor Bennett is a good person, but it’s time to have some new energy from an individual that is not beholden to political parties or unions. Goodwin believes that unions are important but should not be involved in our city elections.

For me, voting for Goodwin is not a one-topic issue as some have made it to be. He has plans to grow our community relations with our local colleges. He has plans to grow our parks, trails and bike paths. He has plans to look at the budget like it never has never before been looked at. Budgeting for those areas that the community wants first. Plans to increase the quality of life that will also encourage businesses to locate here.

I’m very interested that he has brought up the idea of uni-gov for Vigo County. I believe this has the opportunity to expedite our growth through shared resources. By combining certain departments, we would have the ability to seek and retain the best people. Many good ones have left over the years simply because they can make a better living in a like-size community.

The point I’m trying to make is he has plans and they make sense. Please don’t miss this opportunity to see Terre Haute grow in a healthy, responsible, transparent way with all the community able to have a say in it.

Please vote for Terre Haute.

— Ron O’Day, Terre Haute

Voters misled on VCSC taxes

I want to thank State Rep. Bob Heaton on the letter he wrote concerning the school tax referendum published Oct. 20. Dr. Haworth stated that funding per student is not keeping pace with inflation, and he says the state’s spending in Vigo County in 2018 and 2019 was $6,632 per student. It was $7,145 in 2018-2019 (per Rep. Heaton).

The voters in Vigo County were misled by Dr. Haworth’s statement. Rep. Heaton’s article is a “must read” for Vigo County voters. To me the School Board does not know the meaning of “no.”

Anything Dr. Haworth brings before them their answer is yes. The board hired Dr. Haworth for one reason: to raise everyone’s taxes. Case in Point: Dr. Haworth was the superintendent of schools in northern Indiana and worked to successfully pass a referendum in that school system. Our school board knew that would happen here. The new school debate in 2021 will be asking $225 million for renovation of existing schools and $375 million for new schools. Unbelievable. That is over and above the $56 million they want now and over an eight-year period.

I was watching Channel 2 News and a survey was made in which 61 percent of the people have given the thought of leaving the state of Illinois. People and businesses are leaving by the millions. Why? They can’t afford the taxes.

— Jack Strain, Farmersburg

Another great school concert

Congratulations to Vigo County’s public high school and middle school orchestras (and their conductors) for yet another fabulous String Thing concert.

At String Thing, all those orchestras perform as one. Their conductors take turns leading a huge group of musicians at various levels of training through spooky music.

The young musicians and their conductors pour tremendous energy into this event. They start practicing the music months before — and planning costumes. The gym (no stage is large enough for a group this size) is full of energy during this unique event.

String Thing builds community as students from all over the Vigo County schools play together. These musicians, some of whom have only recently started to play, gain experience playing under the direction of various conductors, not just their own teacher. They are inspired by the fun, the attention of nine teachers, and the glorious big sound they all make. When they aren’t conducting, the teachers grab their own instruments and take their places in the orchestra alongside students, modeling behavior and sharing their love of music.

And the music is pretty good, too.

I can’t thank all the musicians individually, but I can thank and congratulate conductors Kayla Wentz, Eric Schatz, Chris Gelb, Robin Adkins, Dustin Roe, Kristy McPike, Rodney Foster, Brian Ingram (who hosted the event at Woodrow Wilson) and Jill Brewer (who started this Terre Haute tradition decades ago). Congratulations also to the Tin Man, Tucan, and String Thing, who won the costume contest.

— Ruth Fairbanks, Terre Haute

III

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