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Ball State Plans New Degree In Computer Science Education

.Ball State University hopes to have its computer science education degree available by fall 2019.

Pixabay/public domain

Ball State University says it is creating a new degree to train more computer science teachers as part of a statewide effort to fill more STEM education positions in Hoosier schools.

President Geoffrey Mearns explains the proposed computer science education degree simply.

“The melding together of computer science as well as education, in similar ways that we do whether you’re going to be a math teacher or a history teacher,” he says. “We’re pretty confident that we can get students from the starting line to the finish line in four years.”

The plan’s details still need to be approved by the Ball State Board of Trustees and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.  Mearns says he hopes to offer it by fall 2019.

Until then, and if also approved by school trustees, students will soon be able to major in secondary or elementary education and add an already-existing Ball State minor or concentration in the foundations of computer science.

Mearns says he’s heard from the state that since 2010, only 130 teachers have received a computer science teaching endorsement.

Ball State University responds to Governor’s call for computer literacy in Indiana classrooms with proposed new …

Topic: College of Applied Sciences and Technology

December 8, 2017

To create a larger pool of workers who are prepared to meet the needs of a 21st century economy, Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb wants all Indiana students to have access to computer science instruction. Ball State University is answering his challenge by working to create a new undergraduate degree in Computer Science Education. A team of Ball State faculty and staff are working closely to develop a degree that aligns with the Governor’s vision to link education to workforce training. Ball State’s proposed Computer Science Education Degree will provide the requirements of a major in computer science with the core requirements of an undergraduate degree in education.

“To be prepared for the demands of our rapidly changing economy, Indiana students need quality STEM instruction throughout their K-12 educational journey,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Putting computer and information science in every Indiana school is a big part of that. A new degree in Computer Science Education from Ball State University has great potential to help us get more teachers with computer science training into our classrooms.”

The proposed degree will build on Ball State’s existing computer science curricula. Students majoring in secondary education will be encouraged to pursue a minor in Foundation of Computer Systems. This minor provides 22 to 24 credit hours in computer science, analytics, software and hardware, and it can also be packaged as a concentration in the Elementary Education degree.

“I’m proud of our team at Ball State University who saw a major gap in Indiana’s educational system and came up with a long term solution,” said President Geoffrey Mearns. “This new degree will continue Ball State’s commitment to increasing the number of Indiana students who graduate with basic computer science skills, making them better equipped to enter the workforce when they graduate high school. Although we have training activities planned for current educators this summer, we realized this issue cannot be fixed by simply having events. We knew we needed do something more strategically which led to this new degree. Eventually, this degree will have positive ramifications both here in Indiana and across the nation.”

Ball State also plans to offer computer science modules online to assist individual teachers throughout the school year and develop course-based outreach programs for elementary, middle and high school students.

The new program still must gain approval from the Ball State Board of Trustees, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and the college accreditor.

Internet not a great leveller yet in India: State of the World’s Children report

From a minuscule 0.53% of the population in 2000, internet usage among Indians has gone up to nearly 30% in 2016. However, this is much less than the global average of 48%, according to the State of the World’s Children report 2017.

Access to the worldwide web is hindered by various factors, including poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, displacement or geographic isolation.

There is a need to close in on this divide for creating a level playing field and equal employment opportunities for children across the globe, the report stresses.

In fact, it states that studies from the United States, Australia, Tunisia and India show that adults without any experience in information and communication technology, even if employed, were likely to earn less.

Even gender plays a role in internet access. In India, less than one third of the internet users are women, the report states. Globally, 12% more men use the internet than women.

Apart from the physical access to the internet, there are other barriers too.

“In a world where 56% of websites are in English, many children cannot find content they understand or that’s relevant to their lives. Many also lack the skills as well as the access to devices like laptops that would allow them to make the most of online opportunities,” the report said.

Safe Use of Internet

Just ensuring access to internet is not enough though.

Internet connectivity makes it easy for predators to get in touch with unsuspecting children through anonymous and unprotected social media profiles. New technologies such as the dark web and cryptocurrencies also encourage streaming of child sexual abuse and trafficking.

With one in three internet users being under the age of 18, it becomes imperative that children are taught safe online behaviours — protecting one’s identity, knowing what to share and what not to share online, not getting in touch with strangers, and refraining from using abusive language.

Apart from sexual exploitation, exposure to unwanted sexual content and violence are two things that bother people.

23% people between the ages of 13 and 24 disliked violence on the internet and 33% disliked unwanted sexual content, according to a poll conducted by the report that received 63,000 responses.

“Digital technology can enable or abet… violence on a massive scale that affects lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of children,” the report read, citing example of Myanmar, where violence against Rohingyas was incited this year.

Easy access to internet also raises the question about the harmful use and over-use of technology.

“While those with strong social and familial relationships are likely to use the internet to bolster these relationships — leading to improved well-being — children experiencing loneliness, stress, depression or problems at home, for example, may find that the internet compounds some of these existing difficulties,” the report states.

But this should not be the reason to restrict a child’s digital use. Instead, safe practices should be promoted.

“Smartphones are fuelling a ‘bedroom culture’, with online access for many children becoming more personal, more private and less supervised. More attentive and supportive mediation by parents and educators holds the most promise for enabling children to draw maximum benefit and minimum risk from connectivity,” the report said.

State retirement plans plot future health

The problem in Ohio isn’t perilous, as it is in several states, but concern about the long-term health of Ohio’s public pension funds has pushed fund overseers to seek a little more financial room to maneuver.

Legislation is working its way through the Ohio General Assembly to allow several of the larger state pension funds to reduce their cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to ensure that the funds can meet their long-term obligations to retired and retiring public employees. Tinkering with COLAs is one of the few ways the state’s five pension funds can regulate their long-term financial health.

Last Wednesday, Dec. 6, state Rep. Gary Scherer of Circleville told the Ohio House Aging and Long Term Care Committee that legislation he has introduced, H.B. 413, will allow that tinkering for one retirement fund.

“This legislation is intended to strengthen the financial status of the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System(PERS),” he said. “Although financially strong today, OPERS continues to explore ways to ensure that the retirement system is able to weather economic downturns that are an inevitable part of the lifecycle of long-term institutional investors like OPERS.”

The bill would allow the PERS board to lower the COLA built in to retiree benefits from a fixed 3% to a rate tied to the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI), but capped at 2.25%.

State employees and public employees in most of Ohio’s cities, counties, schools, libraries and related agencies contribute to one of five state public pension retirement systems: PERS, the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), the Ohio School Employees Retirement System (SERS), the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund (OPF) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol Retirement System (HPRS). Combined, the pension funds had 971,264 contributing members at the end of 2015 (the most recent year for which data is available) and 468,076 retirees and beneficiaries.

All are making similar plans to steady their finances. In April, STRS, which already had legislative authority, ended its 2% annual COLA, at least temporarily. SERS, which also already has similar authority, in October suspended its COLA temporarily.

Like other investors, public pension plans still are trying to recover from heavy losses during the last decade’s financial crisis. In addition, retirees are living longer, requiring larger lifetime payments to retirees.

As a result, their funding ratios — the percentage of assets they have on hand to pay retiree benefits as much as 30 years out — has declined to 71.1% nationally, from 75.6% in 2014, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News. Ohio’s ratio was 71%. While 100% would be ideal, pension experts generally say an 80% ratio is an acceptable level of funding.

David Draine, a senior officer for public sector retirement systems at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said that public pension funds have few options to boost their financial positions.

“The three most direct ways are to ask employees for more money, ask employers for more money or lower benefits,” he said. “Changing COLAs are the key way states are attacking the problem.” He said 30 states lowered COLAs in recent years.

In November, Karen Carraher, PERS’ executive director, told the House aging committee that changes to stabilize assets committed to active members, current public employees, were made in legislation in 2012. But adjusting the COLA is the only way to adjust the system’s fund for current retirees.

“The current 3% COLA is outpacing inflation,” she said. “The original intent of the OPERS COLA was to mitigate, not fully offset, inflation.”

She added that of the $5.3 billion in payments to retirees, $1.3 billion of that was the result of COLAs.

Nearly all Ohio public employees are in traditional defined benefits plans, a percentage of what’s called the final annual salary and the employee’s years of service. In the private sector, defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans that are more like savings accounts that grow based on investment returns, have become the norm. Public employees in Ohio do not participate in Social Security.

Employees contribute between 10% and 14% of their gross pay. Most employers kick in between 14% and 18%, though the safety force employers make larger contributions. Public employees in Ohio do not pay into the Social Security system so their state pension is their only retirement program.

The strength of the Ohio system is its comprehensiveness and independence. They are statewide systems financed by deductions from workers’ paychecks and by similar payments by their employing government or agency. City councils can’t vote to skip their contributions, as they do in some states, and the pension system can’t tap into the state’s annual budget.

By contrast, Illinois, considered the state with the biggest pension headache, has 667 government pension funds, including seven in the city of Chicago alone, according to a recent study by Illinois Policy, a think tank. That has led local politicians to skip pension fund contributions to balance budgets.

Still, Ohio retirees are not looking forward to any reductions.

“OPERS is strong and getting stronger, and that’s a direct quote from Karen Carraher,” said Geoff Hetrick, president and CEO of Public Employee Retires Inc., a Columbus-based public employee advocacy group. “So if that’s the case, why are we punishing 200,000 retirees, who can no longer, in many cases, go back into the workplace to supplement their income? I think it’s overkill.”

In a mailer to plan participants this summer, Carraher said the plan is on solid financial footing.

“However, we can’t always count on the future reflecting the past,” she wrote. “In order to retain our strong financial position, and continue to offer the COLA to current and future retirees, we are considering these steps now.”

McLaren to become one of biggest health systems in state

McLaren has been one of the nation’s most respected regional health care systems, known for its lean management approach, said Joe Spallina, a consultant with Arvina Group LLC in Ann Arbor.

“Nothing I have heard gives me pause about their ability to maintain efficient and effective operations,” Spallina said. “They are making strategic moves. You have to pick up mass and manage it effectively to grow.”

Spallina said other regional health systems like Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey, Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare and Northwell Health in Long Island have made similar moves and are growing by closely managing costs and anticipating changes as the health market moves more to retail and primary care.

“(McLaren is) covering their bases in rural areas, which is still tough economically to do,” he said.

During the four-year period from 2014 to 2017, McLaren increased total revenue by 38 percent to nearly $4 billion from $2.9 billion. Some 40 percent of the system’s revenue comes from insurance operations and 60 percent from hospital and physician business.

Operating income also increased 151 percent to $171 million in 2017 from $68 million in 2014. During those four years, McLaren has generated total income that included investment income of $760 million, including $301 million in fiscal 2017 that ended Sept. 30.

“We have been pretty selective and said no to a couple hospitals because they didn’t fit our plan,” said Incarnati, adding that a good management track record and good financial performance “does make a difference when hospitals or other entities start a beauty contest.”

Incarnati also added that health systems with good financial statements are “not acquired by someone else, because you are doing well.”

McLaren, however, has been the subject of far more industry talk about it acquiring hospitals than rumors about the possibility that McLaren might sell itself to another company, which is a fact of life in today’s volatile health care marketplace.

Retired teachers leaving state health plan

1bed7_5a2cb5e788a6b.image Retired teachers leaving state health plan

N1409P24013C.jpg



Posted: Saturday, December 9, 2017 10:30 pm

Retired teachers leaving state health plan

Associated Press |

AUSTIN — Thousands of retired Texas teachers are abandoning the health insurance program the state created for them, a concerning move for a health care system that faces a $700 million funding shortfall.

About 7,800 retirees have requested to leave the health insurance program housed under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

The number of requests to opt out of the program has been about 1,500 or less per year in the past, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The wave of requests to leave the health plan threatens to worsen the program’s budget woes and could mean higher costs to retired teachers down the road.

“Before if somebody called and told me they were leaving TRS-Care,

I would have said, ‘Why would you do that?’ and advise against it,” said Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association. “But this plan has become far more expensive and there are real reasons that somebody may choose to leave … and most of it has been can they afford it.”

This year’s wave comes as officials with TRS replaced four plans for Medicare-eligible retirees with a new Medicare Advantage plan that goes into effect Jan. 1. The new plan is administered by a private insurer instead of the federal government, and has created higher premium costs and deductibles with limited networks of doctors and services for many retirees and their families.

Additionally, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services didn’t receive information last month from TRS about the thousands of teachers who are opting out of the health system. Because of that, many of those teachers couldn’t buy health insurance elsewhere by the program’s open enrollment deadline Thursday.

“These people have been put through the wringer, and some of them think that it’s just being done just to keep the (TRS) plan intact,” Lee said.

The health plan has since given the required information to the federal agency. Most of the retirees trying opting out of TRS will be offered a special enrollment period starting Friday to buy health insurance in the open market.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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State Health Officials Investigate San Leandro Psychiatric Hospital Escape

The California Department of Public Health has opened an investigation into an escape Thursday evening by a patient at John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro, state health officials confirmed.

Dorian Mulder, 24, escaped at about 6:20 p.m. from the hospital at 2060 Fairmont Drive. Before he was stopped, Mulder allegedly carjacked one car and tried to carjack another before leading deputies on a foot-chase across Interstate 580, Alameda County sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said.

Officials with Alameda Health System, which manages the psychiatric hospital, issued a statement saying, “We regret an incident that occurred on Thursday night, which led to a JGPH patient making an unauthorized departure through a secure gate in a locked patient patio, and subsequently attempting to highjack a car and assaulting a member of the Fairmont Hospital staff.”

Alameda Health System officials said once hospital staff was made aware of the escape they notified law enforcement.

Escaped Psychiatric Patient Recaptured in San Leandro

A patient who escaped from a psychiatric facility in San Leandro was back in custody late Thursday after being struck by a vehicle going 65 mph on an East Bay freeway, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Sergio Quintana reports.

(Published Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017)

“Alameda Health System is taking this incident extremely seriously and is working with local and state authorities while launching a full internal investigation into the circumstances that enabled the patient to leave the premises,” according to the statement.

Officials are investigating whether a mechanical malfunction allowed Mulder to escape or whether something else allowed Mulder to get out of the gated and secure area. Hospital staff members are now making sure all doors are monitored and securely locked.

An investigation by the state department of public health usually involves on-site interviews, observation and a review of medical records and policies at the hospital. The hospital could be fined if the investigation finds that the hospital was in non-compliance and that led to serious injury, harm, impairment or death.

When Mulder initially left the hospital, he went to the parking lot of nearby Fairmont Hospital and allegedly got inside a car as a teen boy was in a passenger seat. Mulder allegedly struck the boy and tried to flee in the car but crashed into a garbage truck several hundred feet away, according to Kelly.

Mulder got out of the car and allegedly tried to carjack another car with an elderly man inside. Mulder allegedly bit the man to try to get the keys to the car but when he failed he instead ran toward Interstate 580.

On I-580 a car struck Mulder, however, he got up and kept running all the way across the highway.

Deputies eventually found him hiding in bushes along the highway and arrested him on suspicion of carjacking, kidnapping and felony assault.

The victims of the carjacking and attempted carjacking were treated for their injuries. The driver of the car that struck Mulder on Highway 580 was not injured and stopped at the scene.

According to Kelly, Mulder had been at the hospital for a psychiatric hold and was not in custody prior to his escape.

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Up For Debate – The State of Microsoft’s PC Gaming Support in 2017

2016 heralded a major turnaround for Microsoft and the way it handled PC gaming. After ignoring the platform for years, at least in a gaming sense, Microsoft announced its Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. Now, all first-party Xbox One exclusives would also be playable for all. Hurrah! A win for us all! Or was it…

You see, all of these games are, naturally, a way to encourage Windows users to upgrade to Windows 10 and/or engage with the Windows Store. The problems with this were twofold; firstly, the Windows Store sucked then, and it sucks now; secondly, not many people trusted Microsoft with their 60 bucks after the disaster that was Games For Windows Live. GFWL was hardly enough to inspire confidence, particularly with these digital purchases which could just be lost on a whim if Microsoft decided it had enough of its little experiment with PC gaming.

My main gripe with the Windows 10 Store and its games is that there are precious few fallback options aside from re-downloading a game again and again in the hope that it works. If I grab a game from Steam and something isn’t quite right, for example, it requires compatibility with an older OS, or it needs a config tweak to support my desired resolution, then it’s a relatively simple process to get it working. Anything more complicated than that and someone, somewhere out there in the community, has usually got a fix or a workaround for it. Tampering with Windows Store games meanwhile is next to impossible It either runs or it doesn’t, and there’s really any clear avenue to implement your own fixes. Microsoft has got the whole thing locked up so tight with its UWP apps that actually ends up being a detriment.

This is just the tip of the Windows Store iceberg, and there are dozens more issues lurking beneath the surface. One in particular that grates is Microsoft’s insistence that it cares about PC gamers while running Xbox One-only discounts for games that are part of its Xbox Play Anywhere service. What the heck is the point of that? If Forza Horizon 3 is 50% off on Xbox One for Xbox Live subscribers, it should be 50% off on PC too. The store itself is cluttered with mobile F2P trash, it’s got a terrible library system, and the player bases in games which aren’t cross-platform are tiny. When the likes of Quantum Break and Halo Wars have already since launched on Steam, you can pretty much tell the games in this store are performing below Microsoft’s expectations.

Keeping a positive spin on this scenario is easy though. Here we are, in 2017, with the best version of Xbox One games that would previously have been exclusive. We can play Gears of War 4 or Forza Motorsport 7 in 4K. Meanwhile, Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and, inevitably, Halo 6 are right around the corner. This is genuine PC support from Microsoft, even if it’s approached like it’s an afterthought from Microsoft. We’re getting all the best games from the Xbox One, yet we’re receiving them through a service that even the most die-hard Windows fan would admit is lacklustre.

We’re not just being thrown cast-offs either. Age of Empires IV is a game that PC fans have been crying out for, for years. We’re assuming it’s going to be designed for mouse and keyboard play, and if it is then this is comfortably the biggest PC-focused game published by Microsoft in years. For the love of god don’t tailor it to gamepad play like Halo Wars though, Relic.

OK rant over, but you can see I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, Microsoft’s releasing more games on PC than it has in a long, long time, yet on the other, it feels as if we’re being given prime steak served in a dog bowl.

Up For Debate – The State of Microsoft’s PC Gaming Support in 2017

2016 heralded a major turnaround for Microsoft and the way it handled PC gaming. After ignoring the platform for years, at least in a gaming sense, Microsoft announced its Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. Now, all first-party Xbox One exclusives would also be playable for all. Hurrah! A win for us all! Or was it…

You see, all of these games are, naturally, a way to encourage Windows users to upgrade to Windows 10 and/or engage with the Windows Store. The problems with this were twofold; firstly, the Windows Store sucked then, and it sucks now; secondly, not many people trusted Microsoft with their 60 bucks after the disaster that was Games For Windows Live. GFWL was hardly enough to inspire confidence, particularly with these digital purchases which could just be lost on a whim if Microsoft decided it had enough of its little experiment with PC gaming.

My main gripe with the Windows 10 Store and its games is that there are precious few fallback options aside from re-downloading a game again and again in the hope that it works. If I grab a game from Steam and something isn’t quite right, for example, it requires compatibility with an older OS, or it needs a config tweak to support my desired resolution, then it’s a relatively simple process to get it working. Anything more complicated than that and someone, somewhere out there in the community, has usually got a fix or a workaround for it. Tampering with Windows Store games meanwhile is next to impossible It either runs or it doesn’t, and there’s really any clear avenue to implement your own fixes. Microsoft has got the whole thing locked up so tight with its UWP apps that actually ends up being a detriment.

This is just the tip of the Windows Store iceberg, and there are dozens more issues lurking beneath the surface. One in particular that grates is Microsoft’s insistence that it cares about PC gamers while running Xbox One-only discounts for games that are part of its Xbox Play Anywhere service. What the heck is the point of that? If Forza Horizon 3 is 50% off on Xbox One for Xbox Live subscribers, it should be 50% off on PC too. The store itself is cluttered with mobile F2P trash, it’s got a terrible library system, and the player bases in games which aren’t cross-platform are tiny. When the likes of Quantum Break and Halo Wars have already since launched on Steam, you can pretty much tell the games in this store are performing below Microsoft’s expectations.

Keeping a positive spin on this scenario is easy though. Here we are, in 2017, with the best version of Xbox One games that would previously have been exclusive. We can play Gears of War 4 or Forza Motorsport 7 in 4K. Meanwhile, Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and, inevitably, Halo 6 are right around the corner. This is genuine PC support from Microsoft, even if it’s approached like it’s an afterthought from Microsoft. We’re getting all the best games from the Xbox One, yet we’re receiving them through a service that even the most die-hard Windows fan would admit is lacklustre.

We’re not just being thrown cast-offs either. Age of Empires IV is a game that PC fans have been crying out for, for years. We’re assuming it’s going to be designed for mouse and keyboard play, and if it is then this is comfortably the biggest PC-focused game published by Microsoft in years. For the love of god don’t tailor it to gamepad play like Halo Wars though, Relic.

OK rant over, but you can see I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, Microsoft’s releasing more games on PC than it has in a long, long time, yet on the other, it feels as if we’re being given prime steak served in a dog bowl.

Twin State officials urge Congress to reauthorize funding for health centers

New Hampshire and Vermont’s governor and senators urged Congress to reauthorize funding for community health centers Friday, arguing in a pair of letters that the current halt in funding is hurting organizations within the state.

“Health Centers across our states are the pillar of primary health for our most vulnerable population,” read a joint letter from Republican Govs. Chris Sununu and Phil Scott, of Vermont. “Without action by Congress, New Hampshire and Vermont’s Health Centers face a loss of $16 million and $14 million, respectively,” the letter, addressed to leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, continued.

Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan sent a similar letter Friday with Vermont’s two senators, Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pressing for a restoration of federal funds by the end of the year.

Since Oct. 1, the Health Center Program – a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program that funds over 1,400 community health centers nationwide – has seen its federal funding put on hold, after Congressional representatives missed a funding renewal deadline.

The health centers, eight of which serve New Hampshire, are designed to provide primary care health services to low-income and vulnerable populations – including mental health and substance abuse care. About 70 percent of the funding they receive is federal, Sununu’s letter said.

After Congressional representatives failed to reauthorize funding, centers in New Hampshire have been thrown into bleak uncertainty, Sununu’s letter said. Many have initiated freezes on hiring and renovation projects, and are facing decisions on whether to scale back services and let employees go.

Allowing the funding lapse to continue, the governors added, could have broad effects.

“This loss will have significant impacts on local economies, resulting in site closures, job losses, and the loss of access to health care for tens of thousands of residents,” Sununu and Scott wrote.

Congress has been divided over how and when to restore funding for the centers, which in past years have enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Republicans have forwarded legislation that would restore funding by diverting money from the Centers for Disease Control’s public health fund; Democrats have argued for a full restoration of funding.

The matter will likely be resolved in an upcoming funding showdown; a stopgap measure to keep funding until Dec. 22 passed the House Thursday. Senate staff members said Friday the future of the funding will likely come down to the decisions of Congressional leadership.

In a statement Friday, Shaheen called the matter “an artificial crisis that has real implications for New Hampshire.”

“There’s clearly bipartisan support for both programs, yet a few extreme voices are preventing legislation from moving forward,” she said. “I’m continuing to urge Republican leadership to allow a bipartisan solution to move forward.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @ed ewittNH.)

Ball State developing teaching degree with computer focus

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Retired Texas teachers leaving state health plan

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Thousands of retired Texas teachers are abandoning the health insurance program the state created for them, a concerning move for a health care system that faces a $700 million funding shortfall.
    
About 7,800 retirees have requested to leave the health insurance program housed under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. The number of requests to opt out of the program has been about 1,500 or less per year in the past, the Austin American-Statesman reported .
    
The wave of requests to leave the health plan threatens to worsen the program’s budget woes and could mean higher costs to retired teachers down the road.
    
“Before if somebody called and told me they were leaving TRS-Care, I would have said, ‘Why would you do that?’ and advise against it,” said Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association. “But this plan has become far more expensive and there are real reasons that somebody may choose to leave … and most of it has been can they afford it.”
    
This year’s wave comes as officials with TRS replaced four plans for Medicare-eligible retirees with a new Medicare Advantage plan that goes into effect Jan. 1. The new plan is administered by a private insurer instead of the federal government, and has created higher premium costs and deductibles with limited networks of doctors and services for many retirees and their families.
    
Additionally, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services didn’t receive information last month from TRS about the thousands of teachers who are opting out of the health system. Because of that, many of those teachers couldn’t buy health insurance elsewhere by the program’s open enrollment deadline Thursday.
    
“These people have been put through the wringer, and some of them think that it’s just being done just to keep the (TRS) plan intact,” Lee said.
    
The health plan has since given the required information to the federal agency. Most of the retirees trying opting out of TRS will be offered a special enrollment period starting Friday to buy health insurance in the open market.
    
 

Jon Lender: ‘Outrageously Expensive’ Drugs Covered By State-Employee Health Plan

The state comptroller moved this week to limit payments by the taxpayer-funded state-employes’ health plan for what he described as “outrageously expensive specialty drugs” — which can cost the plan $1,000 per prescription, even though he said they’re just combinations of inexpensive nonprescription drugs.

Comptroller Kevin Lembo — who oversees the state’s health coverage for its government employees, retirees and their family members — imposed a “prior-authorization” requirement for drugs marketed by a single pharmaceutical company, Horizon Pharma, an Irish corporation with U.S. operations based in Illinois.

From now on, Lembo said, prescriptions for Horizon medications, largely for arthritis and inflammatory ailments, will only be covered by the state-employee plan after a physician submits formal certification of their “medical necessity.”

“Horizon specializes in expensive drugs — costing more than $1,000 per prescription, in some cases — even though these medications are essentially just combinations of affordable over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and Pepcid AC or Aleve and Nexium,” Lembo’s office said in a statement explaining the action that he took jointly with the state’s Health Care Cost Containment Committee.

George Jepsen to investigate questions including: Why a small number of Connecticut pharmacies handle large numbers of prescriptions for Horizon drugs that are paid for under the state health plan; and “what possible incentives are motivating such a high concentration of prescriptions for Horizon’s products.”

A spokeswoman for Jepsen’s office said, “We are taking a preliminary look at this matter to determine if we believe there is adequate basis to commence a formal investigation.”

Lembo said that “the U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating Horizon and its alleged relationships with specialty pharmacies,” and that “prescribing practices in Connecticut raise similar questions about Horizon’s alleged relationships with prescribers.”

Ball State developing teaching degree with computer focus – WISH

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Ball State University is designing a new degree that would allow aspiring teachers to specialize in computer science.

The proposed Computer Science Education Degree would combine the requirements of a computer science major and a bachelor’s degree in education. The university says the effort is a response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for teaching computer science to more primary school students.

Indiana has long been a manufacturing state. But technological change and cheaper labor abroad has led to a decline in those good-paying jobs. Studies now show many lack the education needed for the high-paying work that’s available.

Holcomb wants educators and students to develop new skills needed for the jobs of the future. That includes learning how to code and use computers.

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bcf23_ista Ball State developing teaching degree with computer focus - WISH

Ball State developing teaching degree with computer focus

Ball State University is designing a computer science education program to fulfill one of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s new education goals for the state.

Holcomb, in his 2018 legislative agenda, announced a plan to require every Indiana K-12 school to offer at least one computer science course by 2021 and to train teachers in the subject to help them teach it.

Ball State says it will create a new undergraduate degree in computer science education as a way to meet his goal.

Faculty and staff there are developing a degree that will meet the requirements of a major in computer science with those of an undergraduate degree in education, according to the university.

Holcomb said the proposed degree “has great potential to help us get more teachers with computer science training into our classrooms.”

“To be prepared for the demands of our rapidly changing economy, Indiana students need quality [science, technology, engineering and math] instruction throughout their K-12 educational journey,” Holcomb said in a written statement. “Putting computer and information science in every Indiana school is a big part of that.”

The program will have to gain approval from the Ball State Board of Trustees, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the college’s accreditor.

The university also plans to offer computer science training to assist teachers throughout the school year, and will provide programs for elementary, middle and high school students.

“I’m proud of our team at Ball State University who saw a major gap in Indiana’s educational system and came up with a long-term solution,” said President Geoffrey Mearns in written comments. “This new degree will continue Ball State’s commitment to increasing the number of Indiana students who graduate with basic computer science skills, making them better equipped to enter the workforce when they graduate high school.

“Although we have training activities planned for current educators this summer, we realized this issue cannot be fixed by simply having events. We knew we needed do something more strategic, which led to this new degree. Eventually, this degree will have positive ramifications both here in Indiana and across the nation.”

Holcomb’s proposal has garnered praise from some officials, with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce going a step further to propose that computer science coursework become a high school graduation requirement for Hoosier students. But some have also worried about public schools being given a potentially unfunded mandate.

 

Ball State developing teaching degree with computer focus

Ball State University is designing a new degree that would allow aspiring teachers to specialize in computer science.

The proposed Computer Science Education Degree would combine the requirements of a computer science major and a bachelor’s degree in education. The university says the effort is a response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for teaching computer science to more primary school students.

Indiana has long been a manufacturing state. But technological change and cheaper labor abroad has led to a decline in those good-paying jobs. Studies now show many lack the education needed for the high-paying work that’s available.

Holcomb wants educators and students to develop new skills needed for the jobs of the future. That includes learning how to code and use computers.

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Ball State developing teaching degree with computer focus

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Ball State University is designing a new degree that would allow aspiring teachers to specialize in computer science.

The proposed Computer Science Education Degree would combine the requirements of a computer science major and a bachelor’s degree in education. The university says the effort is a response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for teaching computer science to more primary school students.

Indiana has long been a manufacturing state. But technological change and cheaper labor abroad has led to a decline in those good-paying jobs. Studies now show many lack the education needed for the high-paying work that’s available.

Holcomb wants educators and students to develop new skills needed for the jobs of the future. That includes learning how to code and use computers.

DMV offices close early over state computer outage | Local News … – Lockport Union

 

An event being termed a “critical incident” resulted in a multi-agency computer outage across New York State government on Wednesday. As a result, local DMV offices were unable to process transactions.

All three DMV sites in Niagara County were closed at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Evening hours at the Niagara Falls DMV office are canceled this week, according to County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski.

“We regret the inconvenience for local DMV customers, but stress this is a statewide outage, and we’ll be back in operation as soon as that’s rectified,” Jastrzemski said.

New York State Police also was affected by the outage.

 

DMV offices close early over state computer outage – Lockport Union

 

An event being termed a “critical incident” resulted in a multi-agency computer outage across New York State government on Wednesday. As a result, local DMV offices were unable to process transactions.

All three DMV sites in Niagara County were closed at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Evening hours at the Niagara Falls DMV office are canceled this week, according to County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski.

“We regret the inconvenience for local DMV customers, but stress this is a statewide outage, and we’ll be back in operation as soon as that’s rectified,” Jastrzemski said.

New York State Police also was affected by the outage.

 

SC State player smiling again after health scare during Saturday game

Just about 24 hours after a scare – South Carolina State basketball player Tyvoris Solomon’s collapse during a game against North Carolina State University at PNC Arena – the player was smiling, grateful and reminding others about the importance of CPR training.

  • South Carolina State player collapses in loss at NC State

The game between the Bulldogs and the Wolfpack was delayed several minutes as paramedics worked desperately to revive the senior guard, who said nothing like Saturday’s incident has ever happened to him before.

Solomon and his family spoke to WRAL News from the UNC Rex hospital room where he is still recovering from his harrowing ordeal.

“I was talking to one of my teammates on the bench about an error he made defensively when one of my other teammates asked if I was alright. From there, I remember putting my head in my hands, and from there, I don’t remember,” Solomon said.

The next thing he recalls, Solomon was being wheeled towards the ambulance.

Around the same time, his mother, Delores Speights, got a phone call from his coach – the call no parent ever wants to get. She immediately sped towards Raleigh.

“Just to see his face, that gave me the comfort of knowing that there is a God and anything is possible,” she said.

Solomon’s survival is a credit to the quick action of Wake County EMS and S.C. State Athletic Trainer Tyler Long.

“I told him I love him,” Speights said. “He told me he was just doing his job.”

Solomon added his gratitude and his understanding of the importance of CPR education.

He knows that although Saturday will be remembered as a day when things went wrong for him, he was at the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

“I am so thankful that they were in the right place at the right time, (and) did not take a second thought of doing what it took to save my child,” Speights said.

Solomon is surrounded in his hospital room by well wishes, and he welcomed visitors on Sunday, some whom he had never met before.

“Dear Ty Solomon, I hope you feel better, I love basketball and I know you love it too. Love, Oliver,” one card reads.

“I’m sorry you got sick at the game yesterday. I am very happy that you’re okay. I hope I can watch you play basketball again with your team,” another says.

Speights said it’s all part of the role of a role model and college basketball player.

“Kids that don’t even know him, that are looking up to him, I’m just proud to say he’s my son,” she said.