ILNews

Civics program cuts staff

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The staff of the civics education program of the Indiana Bar Foundation will be restructured due to decreases in IOLTA funding available for next year, the IBF announced today.

Overall, Interest on Lawyer Trust Account funds, which have been accumulated from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, and will be distributed for budgets that will cover Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011, are down 55 percent in Indiana compared to IOLTA funds available for programs for the 2010 budget year. It has not yet been announced how the funds will be distributed to Indiana’s 14 pro bono districts.

Starting Jan. 1, 2011, the three-person civics education staff will be restructured to be run by one person who will receive additional support from other members of the IBF staff, including IBF executive director Chuck Dunlap.

In the last two years, the program has seen its IOLTA funds go from $160,000 to $90,000 to $0 for 2011, he wrote in a memo to educators in the civics program.

The current staff of Erin Braun, Eric Steele, and Kyle Burson has run the program as a team for the last two years. In that time, the We The People mock congressional hearing team representing Indiana has consistently placed in the top 10 in the country. Since the program moved to the IBF six years ago, it has placed in the top 10 five times.

The organization has also enjoyed a strong reputation among We The People programs around the country.

Because of this loss of funding, the program will also no longer organize institutes for teachers from Indiana and bordering states to teach educators about how to bring civics education programs to their classrooms, including We The People and Project Citizen programs.

As for the three team members, as of Sept. 10, Steele will begin a position with the We The People program in Washington, D.C.

While memos from Braun and Dunlap to educators involved with the IBF’s civics education program said it was not an easy decision, Braun and Burson have decided to leave rather than continue in the newly restructured program.

While Braun and Burson were unsure where they’ll be after Dec. 31, both have expressed an interest in continuing work with civics education. For instance, earlier this week, Braun started a graduate program at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School for Public and Environmental Affairs and has already started work on a project about civics education.

Educators will have a chance to weigh in on how the program can be restructured during a conference call with the IBF civics education staff Sept. 7.

How the decrease in IOLTA funds for 2011 will affect other programs, including pro bono districts, is not yet known but will be reported in a future issue of Indiana Lawyer.


Rehearing "IBF provides classes for educational programs" IL Aug. 4-17, 2010

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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