Bad bills may get better – or not

Two of the worst bills filed in this year’s Indiana legislative session are on the agenda Monday morning for a meeting of the House Education Committee. At least, they started out as two of the worst.

The authors of the bills have said they will offer amendments Monday to remove the most egregious provisions. But advocates for public schools and their students need to make sure they do that – and that the provisions don’t return somewhere later in the legislative process.

House Bill 1641, as introduced, would require public school districts to share the proceeds from property-tax referendums with local charter schools. It would also force public districts to sell unused building to private schools, most of which are religious schools, for half their value. Vic Smith of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education has a good explanation for why both are bad ideas.

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School shooting trend hits Indiana

It was Indiana’s turn. An incident last week at Noblesville West Middle School brought the plague of school shootings close to home. We’ve had school shootings here before, of course; but following closely on deadly incidents in Florida and Texas, the Noblesville shooting grabbed national attention.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

The odds of a shooting in your child’s school are extremely low. School shootings are so horrifying and get so much media coverage that it seems they’re happening everywhere, all the time. But there are 50 million students attending over 100,000 schools in the United States. Very few of them will experience a shooting at their school.

As Harvard professor David Ropeik writes in the Washington Post, the odds of a child being shot to death at school on a given day are roughly 1 in 614 million, considerably less than the odds of dying from a serious disease or being killed on the way to or from school or from a sports injury.

I’m hearing stories of parents who are thinking about homeschooling their children rather than risk sending them to school. Of course, parents have every right to worry and make decisions about their children’s safety. But for most children, schools are among the safest places they can be.

It’s the guns. The United States has more mass shootings, including school shootings, than other countries for one reason: We have a lot more guns and put few restrictions on them. As Max Fisher and Josh Keller report in the New York Times, Americans are 4.4 percent of the world’s population but own 42 percent of the guns. Nearly one-third of gunmen in mass shootings are Americans. Continue reading