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South Carolina editorial roundup

May 8, 2019

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

May 4

The Post and Courier of Charleston on May’s rally by teachers:

As an estimated 10,000 teachers and their supporters rallied outside the Statehouse on Wednesday in an unprecedented demonstration of commitment, House Speaker Jay Lucas worried aloud that the school-day gathering could have the opposite effect intended.

“What I worry about with the rally itself is that support in the House will begin to erode for education reform, something none of us wants to see,” Lucas said.

Other legislators expressed similar concerns.

Although many lawmakers were inspired by the gathering, many were upset about thousands of teachers taking personal leave days all at once — leaving schools scrambling to find substitutes and forcing seven districts to cancel classes for the day. And while many parents supported the protest, many also were upset that they suddenly had to figure out what to do with their kids that day — frustrations they’re sharing with their lawmakers.

The challenge for Mr. Lucas and others who have been working to stem the growing teacher shortage and improve student education will be to ensure that the protest does not hurt those efforts. That is, their challenge is the same that it was before Wednesday: to pass measures that will persuade more teachers to stay in the profession and more young people to join it, and will make sure all of our schools have the resources and leadership they need to provide a decent education to all children in our state.

Better pay is one of the things teachers want, and justifiably so — and in fact increasing salaries is the easiest thing the Legislature could do to help attract and retain the best and brightest teachers. But like other professionals, teachers also want and deserve better working conditions, more opportunities to use the skills we require them to have, fewer duties they didn’t sign up for — from dealing with endless paperwork to handling mental-health and discipline problems — and more respect.

Making the profession more attractive means higher pay. It means lower class sizes. It means more administrative support and the availability of other professionals — particularly mental-health counselors — to help with the problems that students bring to the classroom. It means more time for planning and less time preparing students to take standardized tests.

Improving our schools requires all of that, and also making sure teachers have strong, supportive, capable principals to lead them and strong, supportive, capable superintendents to select and place those principals. And that requires capable school board members who are committed to providing the best education possible to the students in their districts — and not scoring political points or benefiting themselves or their friends and family members.

Next year’s state budget includes the biggest pay raises for teachers in decades, along with money to put more mental-health counselors and police in schools, and temporary relief from some standardized tests. Mr. Lucas has pledged to get salaries above the national average in the next few years. Other leaders have embraced that same goal. It’s one we have to hold them to.

The House passed legislation this year that nudges us in the direction of getting better principals, superintendents and school board members, but Senate leaders dropped those measures from the House bill, in hopes of getting some of the teacher-focused changes passed this year. Now that they’ve punted the whole package to next year, they need to add those reforms back in — and strengthen them. Dramatically.

Most of all, all of our lawmakers — and our teachers, and parents, and everyone else who cares about our state’s future — need to recognize that we won’t “fix” education this year, or next year or the year after that. It’s an ongoing challenge that we all have to commit to over the long haul — but one that requires some decisive action this year and next to catch us up from too many years of neglect.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com

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May 1

The Index-Journal of Greenwood on following up on newsworthy social media posts:

Not everything that is shared on social media is newsworthy.

We don’t really care, for example, what you cooked for dinner last night, but we do care when someone shares a photo of a law enforcement officer asleep in his patrol car. And, frankly, you should care as well. While we did not solicit this or many other news tips, we do appreciate it when people who read our paper and visit our website choose to share what they believe has some redeeming news value.

If someone captures a photo of a wreck involving someone in the law enforcement or public safety arena, we investigate and we report on merit. The same is true with any number of news tips sent our way. That is just one way in which any news organization operates. We cannot be everywhere, so we do rely on calls, emails and, yes, social media messages passed our way.

The photo of Lt. Eric Wideman asleep in his patrol car, in full uniform, needed to be looked into. Had he pulled a double shift? Had he moonlighted and not gotten sufficient sleep? Was he in violation of departmental policy?

Critics of our coverage were quick to respond, and that’s fine. But they are wrong to think we were trying to get the officer in trouble. Those he reports to were already well aware of the incident as they too had seen the social media post. We only did our job, which is to investigate and attempt to get the facts surrounding a situation that was well known in and around Greenwood and across social media.

Police officers are indeed human. They no doubt get tired on the job as any of us do, but they are also taxpayer-funded employees who are expected to be awake while serving. Had we chosen to ignore what was shared with us and hundreds of others, we suspect there would have been plenty of questions about our lackadaisical approach to what is legitimately a public concern.

Instead, of course, our doing our job in investigating and reporting led to the claims that we had nothing better to do, it was a slow news day and that we don’t ever share stories of the sacrifices law enforcement officers face, the sacrifices they make in doing their jobs. And that is absolutely false. We won’t enumerate the headlines from stories or the editorials that have commended public safety personnel, shared in their sorrows or celebrated their successes. We don’t need to, because we know there are far more such tales that have graced our pages and our website.

There are good officers and there are great officers. There are good firemen and there are great firemen. There are good EMTs and there are great EMTs. Their stories get told and we firmly believe the vast majority fit those categories. But just as is the case in any profession, there are also those who fall short or wind up on the wrong side of the law. We are not saying Lt. Wideman has fallen short, and we certainly are not saying he’s wound up on the wrong side of the law. Clearly, however, he violated some departmental policy for which he will be reprimanded. We certainly hope that it’s a mere reprimand as we suspect — don’t know, but suspect — he has an otherwise stellar record on file.

Yes, things happen. People make mistakes. But when those people are working for you, the taxpayers, you have a right to know. And we intend to follow through with this story and keep you informed. That is our job. It might not always be pleasant, but it is our job as a community news source.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com

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April 26

The Times and Democrat on teaching about finances is needed:

Financial literacy may be more important than ever in a complicated world. Skills such as budgeting, investing and learning how to balance a checkbook are just a few aspects of personal finance about which far too many people know far too little.

South Carolina schools have a standard for teaching finance, with a legislative mandate that “financial literacy instruction shall be incorporated within current courses throughout the state.”

The problem is teaching the basics is not a priority, and thus a lot of students complete their high school educations without knowing enough about basic finance.

Kate Patrick reports on technology and finance news for InsideSources.com. She writes: “Financial literacy extends beyond mere understanding of how credit cards and budgets work. Most employees choose a health insurance plan through their employer, and most Americans mortgage their homes and take out loans to buy cars. The problem is, insurance plans, loans and mortgages can be confusing if you don’t have some background in finance.”

And according to a study by WalletHub measuring the financial literacy of each state, there is a major lack of that financial background. Most states’ grades ranged from D+ to B-.

In South Carolina, new standards to make personal finance a more prominent part of the education process are due in schools in 2020, but legislation under consideration in the Senate would go further. It would require high school students to pass a personal finance class to graduate. The half-credit course would conclude with an end-of-year test to pass.

Foes say the legislation would add another layer of testing that teachers do not need. But while too many testing mandates are a legitimate complaint by the state’s teachers, this one makes sense. Such a course should already be in place in our schools.

Beyond the schools, the financial services industry has a stake in better educating Americans. Tony Steuer, a financial expert and author of “GET READY!: A Step-by-Step Planner for Maintaining Your Financial First Aid Kit,” told InsideSources’ Patrick that insurance companies, lenders, hedge and mutual fund managers do not do enough.

“The financial services industry continues to put out really opaque materials and not simplifying their products and services in a way that people can easily understand. . Financial services companies could dramatically simplify what they do,” Steuer said.

And while some major firms are taking steps to better educate people about finance in order to expand their clientele, Steuer’s bottom-line message must be remembered: Financial services companies always have their own agenda -- to make money off of you.

A knowledge of personal finance won’t necessarily turn today’s students into the financial wizards of tomorrow, but it can help them greatly in day-to-day life with the vital task of managing money.

Passage of the S.C. Senate bill would a step in ensuring students get a necessary education in finance.

Online: https://thetandd.com