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From Left Field

July 3, 2012

By BOB SHRALUKA
    For a perfect example of the huge problems that can be created by lawmakers blindly following the party line, look no further than the South Bend-Fort Wayne Diocese's recent attempt to purchase an empty Monroeville school building.
    East Allen Schools closed the Monroeville elementary building prior to the start of the just-completed school year. Then, recently, the East Allen board struck a deal with the diocese to purchase the building for $273,000 and move its students a couple of blocks from the diocese's aging St. Joseph Elementary building into the onetime high school.
    East Allen unloads an empty building which is likely to cost it $28,000 or so a year and the diocese is able to provide a better environment for its Monroeville-area students. So everyone is happy. Well...
    Republicans have this thing about charter schools saving all the world's educational problems and have been pushing the notion for years. That includes the Daniels Administration in Indiana. Controlling both houses of the Indiana General Assembly, it was able to push through legislation which now has charter schools operating in a number of locations in the state.
    In 2011, the General Assembly approved legislation that requires public schools to make closed school buildings available for a charter school to buy or lease for $1 for at least four years after they close. The idea, it was said, was to prevent public school officials — usually unhappy with the idea of charter schools — from not allowing charters to purchase/lease their buildings.
    Once again, we unmistakably have an example of people at the state level telling people at the local level how they can operate their school systems.
    Soon after the sale of the Monroeville building was announced, though, an official of a charter school organization pointed out that the Monroeville building had been empty only one year, not the required four, and so now the East Allen-diocese deal is dead in the water.
    Apparently, no charter school is interested in the building. But due to the new law, East Allen loses some needed cash and must let the building stand empty for three more years — or give it away for $1 if a charter school is interested!
    The law was written by House Speaker Brian Bosma who, after learning of the East Allen situation, said, “It would seem under these circumstances that people should be able to get together and come to a reasonable conclusion that serves children.”
    That makes as much sense as the reaction of the guy who wrote the law preventing local governments from writing gun-banning ordinances. When some character raised a fuss to pack his piece in a zoo, the lawmaker said something like, "Well, I thought people would act responsibly."
    Yeh, they always do.
    It's all too obvious what went on here. The Daniels Administration wanted to push charter-school legislation and the party people in the Legislature blindly went along, with little or no consideration of the possible effects of what it was doing. Believing in charter schools and seeking to create reasonable, well-thought-out ways to create them is one thing. Blindly toeing the party line — and rushing to do so — is something entirely different.
    So now East Allen is stuck with a building for three more years, having to pay for its upkeep and at the same time losing the revenue it would have generated from a sale. And the lawmaker who wrote the four-year bill says everyone should just get together and do whatever — including, apparently, breaking the law he wrote.

'Just plain stupidity fires'
    So far, Decatur's annual Fourth of July fireworks show still has a green light, and city officials, along with fireworks organizers, are vowing to do everything possible to make sure the show goes on. But with dry conditions Fire Chief Les Marckel says are more extreme than he's ever seen, there may come a point where common sense must prevail.
    Of course, common sense doesn't always prevail. Amid these severe conditions, people continue to burn.    
    Peru Fire Chief Chris Betzner said it best: ‘‘There’s been brush fires, wood fires and just plain stupidity fires, and it’s taxing our resources."

 

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