Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Aug. 26

Valdosta Daily Times advocates for more funding for school counseling:

More funding is needed for school counseling programs.

A school system, a community, a state or a society can no longer look at student mental health issues as an outlier.

Addressing mental health in young people, especially teenagers, must go way beyond reacting to bad behavior or poor performance.

Any student facing a mental health crisis must be seen as more than a potential danger to themselves or merely a young person being at-risk for academic failure.

Mental health and school safety go hand in hand.

As lawmakers and decision makers statewide look at increased funding for school security, that must include more than fences, cameras and metal detectors.

Increasing in-school counseling should be tied to funding for school security, and keeping our public schools safe should be a priority for the General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.

In this week's SunLight Project report, we take a look at what can only be described as a woeful shortage of counselors and counseling programs in public school systems throughout our coverage areas.

We are pleased that a panel of state lawmakers is meeting to talk about school safety.

Talking about it, however, is not enough.

Funding is necessary.

Another unfunded mandate handed down by the state will do nothing to help struggling school systems across Georgia improve counseling programs and accessibility to what now must be seen as an essential service.

Lawmakers are looking at the merits of a threat-assessment process but there is no greater threat to our classrooms than a young person in mental crisis.

Tying school security to school counseling programs is an approach that could help professionals identify the potential for violent acts in our public school systems in very real and meaningful ways that go beyond stopping a shooter.

We are not saying armed resource officers, fences, locked doors, cameras and metal detectors are unnecessary.

We are saying identifying problems at the root level are just as crucial as thwarting an act of violence as it is erupting.

As State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, navigates his study committee through the complicated landscape of addressing school safety concerns, we urge him and fellow committee members to think not only about securing facilities, but to also consider the root causes of student violence, viz. mental health issues.

Every year lawmakers under the gold dome bargain and make trade offs for big ticket items in the state budget.

What are they willing to barter for the safety of our most precious resource, our children?

Adequate funding for improvements to Georgia public school counseling programs should be a priority, and we think that recommendation could bubble up through Jasperse's committee.

Online: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/

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Aug. 27

Augusta Chronicle on late-Senator John McCain:

John McCain's political career was nearly as contentious and combative as the Vietnam War he served in.

But he will always be remembered as the war hero he was, having endured five and a half years of torture and torment from the North Vietnamese that was so severe he never could raise his arms above his head again.

Accordingly, his country will raise its hand in salute to the 81-year-old Arizona senator and Republican presidential nominee this week in a show of admiration rarely seen and in ways befitting a hero and one of the most consequential political figures of our time.

He fought that brain tumor with the same unflagging tenacity he battled his malignant captors, his political foes and even his own political party.

Whether viewed as a statesman and centrist or, as he was by conservatives, a contrarian or heretic, there's no denying he was his own man, every bit the image of the independent-thinking maverick he so tightly embraced.

And whatever one's political persuasion, one can't help feeling deep respect for his personal and political fortitude - which are indisputably unmatched in today's blow-with-the-wind climate.

As divergent as his political allies were in life, John McCain's death Saturday brought a uniformity of tribute, a deluge of respect and esteem from every corner of the political universe.

"Today we lost an American original," his 2008 vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin said. "Sen. John McCain was a maverick and a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs. John never took the easy path in life — and through sacrifice and suffering he inspired others to serve something greater than self."

"He was formidable, had enormous integrity and was acting on behalf of our country and what he truly believed," Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

"John would have been a very good president," added former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, citing McCain's "fundamental respect for diverging viewpoints" and "his willingness to befriend people from different parties and philosophies ..."

He was one of a kind. But we sure could use more of them.

Online: http://www.augustachronicle.com/

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Aug. 25

The Savannah Morning News says Georgia's election systems are failing voters:

One need not be a political junkie or an oracle to foresee the disaster looming for Georgia this November.

Our state's outdated elections system, specifically the electronic voting machines, promises to catch up to us faster than a burgers-and-fries diet does those of middle age.

Some would argue the system already is.

Georgia's network includes 27,000 touchscreen voting machines and hasn't seen a major upgrade since its installation in 2002. That antiquation in itself, particularly in this age of election hacking, is incredibly troubling.

Politicizing the situation is the fact that the man charged with overseeing Georgia voting, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, is running for governor. He's an election supervisor who has been accused of voter suppression, has rejected an offer of federal dollars to better secure the voting system and has fumbled voter data he's supposed to safeguard.

He's also running against an opponent, Stacey Abrams, who has made getting out the vote the foundation of her campaign.

When it comes to the coming calamity on Nov. 6, though, don't point your finger at the secretary of state's office in Macon. The blame lies to the north, at the Georgia Capitol.

Kemp has held his post since 2010. His priority has been to modernize and harden his office's data system, and he's done so - with mixed results — all while the state's top leadership chipped away at his budget.

Actually, Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly took a machete, not a chisel, to his budget - going from $40 million to $24.9 million.

The estimated cost to modernize the voting system is $150 million - on the low end. Kemp, it should be noted, has advocated for just such an overhaul in recent years.

No money meant no improvements. Come November, should the vote between Kemp and Abrams be close, the fallout will make the "hanging chad" fiasco of the 2000 presidential election look like the aftermath of a tense game of bridge at an assisted living home.

Little recourse

The saddest part is there is no avoiding this cataclysm.

Voting integrity advocates are suing the secretary of state's office in federal court in an attempt to force the use of paper ballots. Such a switch is unlikely, as the election is just 73 days out - and early voting starts 21 days earlier on Oct. 15.

Kemp's office responded to the plaintiff's calls for paper-and-pens rather than card-and-touchscreens by saying a move at this point would create "chaos."

What's more, we started this election cycle using the touchscreens for the primary and the runoff. Changing now casts doubt on the validity of those races, and some of the down-ballot contests were decided by razor-thin margins.

The only recourse is to pray for a decisive victory. Abrams supporters will be waiting for the courthouse to open should she lose by scant percentage points. And don't think for a minute that Kemp backers won't likewise call into question the voting should Abrams edge their candidate out.

Hypocrisy is the ideologue's specialty, after all.

The state's leaders should resolve to take action on the election system as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that means the next legislative session - after the election. Start the process and budget the money to ensure the system is replaced before the next contentious election cycle begins in 2020.

Georgians already rue the delays in modernizing the system. The legislature and our state's next governor must recognize we deserve elections beyond reproach. Stop setting us up for failure.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com/