Superintendent Tony Bennett is one of my favorite state elected officials. I admire him for taking on the education establishment and making waves. Why I don't agree with everything he has attempted to do, or even the approach he often takes, Bennett is moving Indiana in the right direction when it comes to education reform.
A month or so ago, I saw where Bennett and Attorney General Greg Zoeller were going to work together on each a compromise on the dispute over how civil forfeiture proceeds are to be split. Indiana law says that the prosecutor can deduct law enforcement costs from a civil forfeiture action and the rest gets paid to the Common School Fund. For years prosecutors have been ignoring the law and simply pocketing all the money as law enforcement costs. During the past three years, only $95,500 was paid to the Common School Fund as a result of civil forfeiture, by only five counties. Marion County, which makes about $1.6 million a year on civil forfeiture, hasn't paid anything to the Common School Fund in years. Marion County doesn't even attempt to figure law enforcement costs. Indianapolis officials have struck a deal locally where the civil forfeiture "booty" is split up among various law enforcement agencies with nothing going to the schools.
The last few weeks, I've suspected the AG, prosecutors and law enforcement types were working behind the scenes to refashion Senator Bray's introduced bill, SB 215, into one more favorable to law enforcement. At today's Senate Judiciary Committee my suspicions proved correct. SB 215 had been changed from a reasonably fair, albeit complicated split of the civil forfeiture proceeds to one with law enforcement getting 85% across the board, with the remaining 15% going to law enforcement in the schools.
The shocking thing is that Superintendent Bennett signed off on the 85-15 deal as apparently did the state superintendents association.
While I applaud Senator Bray for tackling the issue, he didn't have an answer for a colleague on the committee when asked where the 85% in law enforcement costs came from. Later, Steve Johnson of the Prosecuting Attorney's Council suggested that it had to be that high because the county prosecutor could just "federalize" the forfeiture and the federal take for law enforcement is 80%. It is apparently this 80% claim that convinced education types to take 15%.
The so-called "federal adoption" option is so legally flawed that a first year law student, with a basic understanding of federalism, could shoot it down. Unless there is a violation of a federal criminal law, the civil forfeiture action can't be turned into a federal one. Federal courts and federal prosecutors have limited jurisdiction; they would need a violation of a federal criminal law for the feds to act on a civil forfeiture.
What are the actual law enforcement costs, if not 85%? While it is a small sample, we do have a county that actually zealously complies with the current civil forfeiture law, determining law enforcement costs on every case. Wayne County had 13 cases civil forfeiture cases in the three year period we looked at, with checks cut to the Common School Fund. On average, the split for those 13 cases was 26% for law enforcement with 74% of the proceeds cut back to the Common School Fund. While the 26% figure for one county is not a big sample, nonetheless it clearly demonstrates that 85% is most certainly not an accurate figure for law enforcement costs.
Superintendent Bennett would have been well advised to hold out for a 50-50 split at least. Instead he got absolutely rolled by Zoeller and law enforcement types, caving in unnecessarily to an 85-15 split. The deal Bennett helped strike takes the current unenforced law that favors education and turns it into one that all but cuts out schools while giving law enforcement the incentive to police for profit. Bennett had a great chance to do something for the schools and instead took a pass. Fortunately today's hearing is only the first step in the legislative process. Bennett will have a chance to redeem himself as the process moves forward. Let's hope he does.
If the people think they have a voice in their government, they can guess again. You just described a scenario that exemplifies the way laws are hatched, created, and passed through the legislature.
Out-of-state lobbyists have more influence with state officials than does the average Joe.
Thank you, Paul, for having the courage to bring this issue to the forefront. Had it not been for your lawsuit, they'd still be getting away with 100% of the assets.
I also agree with your views on Dr. Bennett. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him stand up to the self-serving teachers union. No one before him has had the intestinal fortitude to take on that one-eyed monster. I never thought I'd see the day, but Hoosiers are finally seeing the union for what it is -- a bunch of whining, selfish, greedy educrats who care more about a particular political agenda than they do about children and real education.
Thanks for your comments.
I think Tony Bennett would have been wised to go outside the circle of law enforcement types and talk to other people about how the system worked. Bennett said when the issue first came out that he had no idea the School Fund was entitled to any money from civil forfeiture. If he would have called me I would have explained to him that his 15% deal was much, much worse than the current law.
In my humble opinion both Mitch and Tony have their agendas and then select the data that fits their agenda and ignore the data that refutes it.
Here is a link to a journalist's view of education.
When you read Tony's rebuttal look to see if he refutes any of the data. (I do not have that link).
I don't really need to look at a report. I've taught at the college level for most of 24 years, teaching literally thousands of students I'm certain that our Indiana K-12 schools are failing to educate.
I would add that liberal and conservtive college professors all regularly bemoan the poor education kids get in K-12 schools in Indiana.
Do we need to get some folks to those hearings?
Read the article! If you don't like the facts then refute the data with data.
HFI- Paul's experientially anecdotal dat-uh is observable within the population.
I looked at the article. I also know how data is constantly manipulated (by both sides) in the education debate. For example, when the SAT scores got too low years ago and it appeared they would never get back to average,, they "recentered" the scores so the average would be 1000. The author at least appears to recognize that which is better than most.
Another trick some use is to look at the ACTs where Indiana does quite well compared to the SATs. Of course in Indiana, only a small percentage of students take the ACT (compared to the SAT) and they're generally the top students. The numbers are skewed.
Frankly I've seen so many numbers on both sides of the debate, they don't mean a lot. I believe what I've experienced first hand.
I've taught college for almost 24 years. I regularly have students come to my class who can't put together a sentence, that have no reasoning skills, that don't know the first thing about how our government operates.
The students today are much worse than when I started in 1987. All the college profs say the exact same thing. It doesn't matter if it is a liberal or conserative prof, we all talk about how the students come to college so much less prepared than they used to be. I can't think of a single college professor I've ever met who thinks kids are well educated K-12 in this state.
You're trying to convince me that what I've experienced consistently first hand for nearly a quarter of a century and know is simply not true. That's hard to do.
The good news is the last few years, there does seem to be some improvement. There's a long ways to go though before they get back to 1987levels.
And for the record, I don't blame teachers. I think we tie the hands of teachers, turning them into babysitters instead of educators. I've been in K-12 classrooms. Trying to educate someoen in that often chaotic environment is an incredibly difficult task. I know I wouldn't want it. The chief problem in school is discipline and lack of parental and administrative support for teachers.
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