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School vouchers, culture of athletics

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers:

Lafayette Journal & Courier:

Indiana’s private school voucher system, touted as the broadest in the nation, is here to stay.

On Tuesday, the Indiana Supreme Court knocked down a challenge — one that included four people with ties to Lafayette School Corp. — ruling that the two-year-old voucher system was within state constitutional bounds. ...

The case revolved around the plaintiffs’ contention that the voucher system violated the Indiana Constitution “both because it uses taxpayer funds to pay for the teaching of religion to Indiana schoolchildren and because it purports to provide those children’s publicly funded education by paying tuition for them to attend private schools rather than the ‘general and uniform system of Common Schools’ the Constitution mandates.”

The court disagreed.

In a 5-0 decision, the court found that “so long as a ‘uniform’ public school system, ‘equally open to all’ and ‘without charge,’ is maintained, the General Assembly has fulfilled the duty imposed by the Education Clause.” The court also ruled that “the school voucher program does not replace the public school system, which remains in place ... in accordance with the dictates of the Education Clause.”

On questions of state-funded religion, the court ruled that the voucher program did not compel anyone to attend a religious school.

“The direct beneficiaries under the voucher program are the families of eligible students and not the schools selected by the parents for their children to attend,” the justices wrote. “The voucher program does not directly fund religious activities because no funds may be dispersed to any program-eligible school without the private, independent selection by the parents of a program-eligible student.”

In other words, the voucher system is considered voluntary, as supporters have contended.

But note the disclaimer the court included early in its ruling: “... we emphasize that the issues before this court do not include the public policy merits of the school voucher program. ... Our individual policy preferences are not relevant. In the absence of a constitutional violation, the desirability and efficacy of school choice are matters to be resolved through the political process.”

That’s an important distinction as Indiana considers whether to expand the voucher system. Vouchers are legal, but does Indiana need more of them so soon?

Last week, in debate over a bill that would lift some conditions placed on vouchers, state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, suggested a five-year break to be sure what was working and what wasn’t. While five years might not be the right time frame, the notion of taking a breather to let the voucher program supply the metrics to truly prove itself is the right idea.

The Herald Bulletin, Anderson:

The culture that surrounds youth sports typically promotes the positive development of young bodies and minds — 99 percent of the time.

Then there are the cases of young minds and bodies that prey upon the culture and prestige of being an athlete. Athletes are near celebrities in sports such as basketball in Indiana or football in Ohio.

And an athlete’s status can change in a moment.

The recent rape case involving two Ohio high school football athletes and a 16-year-old girl understandably outraged the nation. The two athletes were sentenced to a year in juvenile detention facility after being found guilty of sexual assault.

The attacks took place at various parties in Steubenville, Ohio — functions attended by more than 50 people. Videos and photographs were taken. Social media was used to “report” what was happening to the unconscious girl.

The verdict also outraged a nation. Was the boys’ sentence too light? Should the girl ever have claimed rape? Why aren’t the partygoers facing a judge? Should they be barred for life from using social media?

Here’s what every parent should reinforce with their teens, whether they are male or female: being drunk and unconscious is not in any way the same as consenting to sex. This applies to a victim, an attacker, and to the 50 or so people knowing what was happening. ...

A sad culture existed that night in Steubenville. But it could happen in any community where teens drink, athletes feel privileged and youths tweet tragedies.

But mostly, members of this particular culture seem to share one sad element: rape is misunderstood. Awareness of the crime can’t be stressed enough with its immediate impact on victims and its lingering effects on all involved. ...


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