Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 27, 2014

Jan. 27, 2014: Weekly wrap

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Indiana needs more school counselors

Indiana has one of the nation’s worst ratios of school counselors to students.

The Indiana Youth Institute said the ratio is 539-to-1.

It is difficult to imagine counselors being readily available to all the students who might need their assistance when there are so few counselors.

It’s hard enough for the counselors even to know the students’ names, let alone their personal situations.

Too often, school counselors are too busy with other responsibilities, from testing duties to supervising the lunchroom, to spend adequate time counseling students.

“Counselors don’t have enough hours in the day to take care of all the responsibilities they have to take care of,” said Glenn Augustine, vice president of advancement for the Indiana Youth Institute.

Even worse, counselors say they don’t know what they should about other career options besides college.

A four-year college trajectory isn’t the right career path for every high school graduate. Some should get a two-year degree or a certificate to give them the additional training they need for a job in a factory, construction site or elsewhere.

Considering the big push to make students college or career ready, counselors should be well versed on all options to give proper guidance to students.

Students need help to succeed in life, and counselors need to know how to connect students with resources to help them thrive.

Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said her district plans to do more training for counselors to make them aware of career options available to students.

That will help, but that doesn’t address the shortage of counselors in Indiana schools. That’s an area where Indiana needs to invest more money.

— The Times, Munster

Do Pence’s words match the agenda?

Gov. Mike Pence in his State of the State address last week revisited his call for the Indiana General Assembly to phase out the state’s business personal property tax. “But, let’s do it in a way that protects our local governments and doesn’t shift the burden of business tax onto the backs of hardworking Hoosiers,” he said.

How does the governor propose legislators pull that off?

His speech gave lawmakers no guidance. Pence’s supporters say that, as a former congressman, the governor’s manner is to lay out the agenda and let the legislators work out the plan to achieve it. If that’s his strategy on business personal property tax, he’s handed the General Assembly a formidable task.

Tribune reporters on Jan. 12 detailed the loss of $31.6 million to local units in St. Joseph County, which would result if the tax were eliminated next year.

The biggest losers would be the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, which would stand to lose 8.4 percent and 6.3 percent of their budgets, respectively.

Both mayors said there’s no way the cuts could be absorbed because of the millions in revenues the cities forfeited in recent years with property tax caps enacted under Gov. Mitch Daniels. If we accept that, then one way out is for them to cut services — which many public officials and economic development officials say will discourage their ability to attract business growth. The only alternative the governor has floated in recent months is to replace the revenue through local option tax — in effect, shifting the burden from businesses to homeowners and pitting local communities against one another in the race to be cheapest.

The business personal property tax does appear to be outdated and inequitable. But for now, it seems that eliminating it will require homeowners to shoulder even more of the burden of educating workers and providing other attractive services and amenities in their communities. That doesn’t sound like what Pence called for in his State of the State.

— South Bend Tribune