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COLUMN: Counties receive community asset inventory report card

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County gets D's in education, entertainment

By SUE ELLSPERMANN
District 74 State Representative

Most of us really don’t like to receive a grade score … unless we are assured an A or B.  That said, letter grades give us a strong indication of “where we stand.”  

Last week Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research rolled out a new Community Asset Inventory, grading each county on five key factors using state and national data.  And, to ensure all weren’t scored as “above average,” Ball State curved the grades ensuring similar amounts of A’s and F’s were awarded and that average performers received C’s.

Here is a summary of how District 74 counties performed:

Perry County: People, C; education, D+; health, C-; government, C; arts and entertainment, D.

Spencer County: People, C; education, A; health, C; government, D+; arts and entertainment, D.

Dubois County: People, A; education, B+; health, A; government, C; arts and entertainment, C.

Warrick County: People, B; education, A; health, A; government, B+, arts and entertainment, A.

The category titled “people” includes population growth, unemployment rate and poverty rate, among other measures.

The category titled “education” includes not only ISTEP pass rates and graduation rates, but also our counties’ educational attainment, associate and bachelor’s degrees.

The category “health” includes fertility rate, premature death rates, cancer incidences, asthma rate and several other factors. The “government” category includes crime and tax rates, among others. “Arts, entertainment and recreation” include percapita income, employment in this area per 1,000 people, facilities available and accommodations.

As we can all agree, this is not a perfect report card.  We can shoot holes in almost any of these factors and propose better measures. That said, these measures and any refinements proposed do paint a picture of our strengths and, at a minimum, hint at our weaknesses.

I would suggest that every county would do well to review the underlying scores to each grade on each factor.  Why? Because Ball State has been able to show that counties scoring higher in the categories also have higher population growth and higher per-capita incomes.

And, though we won’t be able to move the needle on all indicators, this may be a fruitful way of seeing to what extent our local actions are improving our competitiveness for job creation and quality of life. You can review this study, the results and the underlying scores at http://asset.cberdata.org/.

In our work lives, education and sports, we measure what we do to see “how we stack up.”

Ball State has made a first attempt at helping our counties see how we compare to other counties across the state. If I can assist any counties in working through this data, discerning what areas we have the greatest opportunity to improve and linking you with the people at Ball State who developed this report, please let me know.

Ellspermann represents portions of Perry County in the Indiana House of Representatives.