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Kentucky editorial roundup

September 4, 2019

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

Sept. 4

The Bowling Green Daily News on tax increases to help increase school safety:

This newspaper, on the opinion side, has generally been against tax increases. One exception to that has been taxes to support our schools. Going back decades, when school taxes had to be approved by voters, the Daily News was a strong supporter of these initiatives.

A current area where we do support a tax increase is in regard to our schools increasing taxes in order to implement several improvements aimed at school safety. No price can be placed on our children’s lives when they are at school, and if they are threatened by an active shooter we should increase taxes to ensure their safety.

Warren County Public Schools voted last week to raise county taxes on real and personal property to implement school safety improvements at its schools. In a 4-1 vote, the board approved a motion to raise the tax rate from 45.6 cents to 46.1 cents of every $100 in real and personal property, a half-cent increase. We wholeheartedly support the board’s decision to do so, and we are also supporting the Bowling Green Independent School District’s proposal to raise school taxes on real and personal property to protect our kids.

The city school board is considering a rate hike to 84.5 cents from 82.8 cents per every $100 of real and personal property. A public hearing for comments on the proposed rate is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the district’s central office at 1211 Center St., after which the board will consider approving the rate.

The rate increase proposal comes in response to Senate Bill 1, which is now law and was passed in response to a deadly school shooting in Marshall County in January 2018. Senate Bill 1 ushered in a slate of new expectations for schools after it was enacted in March.

Along with fortifying school entrances with electronic locks, cameras and intercom systems, schools will be expected to add security to individual classrooms.

Classroom doors are to be equipped with hardware that allows them to be locked from the outside but opened from the inside, and doors are required “to remain closed and locked during instructional time,” according to the legislation.

Additionally, classroom doors with windows must be capable of being quickly covered during a school threat.

All schools are expected to comply with those provisions “as soon as practicable but no later than July 1, 2022,” according to Senate Bill 1.

These all sound like very essential tools needed in our public schools to protect our kids. It’s very unfortunate that we live in a world where we have to worry about active shootings in our schools, but that is now the world we live in, which is why we must take any and all precautions necessary to ensure students’ safety, as well as that of teachers and administrators.

This is a tax that needs to be passed without hesitation. Our kids deserve to be safe in their schools and this extra money through this tax increase would help ensure that they are.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Sept. 3

The State Journal on the increase in the number of school districts with tobacco-free policies:

Since the passage of Kentucky’s tobacco-free schools law, the number of school districts with tobacco-free policies has more than doubled, according to new data from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The Foundation reported Thursday that 148 school districts have adopted tobacco-free campus policies since April, accounting for 84 percent of the state’s districts.

The law went into effect in April, meaning there has been tremendous improvement in just four months. According to the foundation, half of the districts enacted new tobacco-free policies in just the first two months the law was in effect. Frankfort and Franklin County schools had previously gone tobacco-free.

We believe these policies help change the status quo surrounding smoking and tobacco use. When school campuses are tobacco-free, it sends a message to our youth that smoking is not acceptable, and will hopefully reduce tobacco use in future generations.

According to the data from the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, which advocated heavily for the law in the 2019 General Session, 15.5% of Kentucky high school students reported in 2017 having tried tobacco before they turned 13. Also in 2017, 2.6% of middle schoolers and 10.6% of high schoolers in the state used smokeless tobacco; 3.9% of middle schoolers and 14.1% of high schoolers used e-cigarettes; and 2.7% of middle schoolers and 14.3% of high schoolers smoke cigarettes.

Overall, in 2017, 7.6% of middle schoolers and 26% of high schoolers reported using some sort of tobacco product.

It’s alarming that more than a fourth of Kentucky high schoolers are using tobacco, and we believe 100% tobacco-free campus policies could help reduce that number.

“Schools with consistently enforced tobacco-free policies are more likely to have lower rates of student smoking than comparable schools without tobacco-free policies,” the coalition reports. “Schools that allow smoking areas or the use of smokeless tobacco by anyone on campus create the aura of official acceptance of tobacco use. That, in turn, significantly influences students’ attitudes toward tobacco use in general and increases smoking behavior.”

Tobacco use behaviors typically are established before age 18. The peak years for first trying tobacco products are the sixth and seventh grades, or between the ages of 11 and 13.

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to its effects. Symptoms of serious addiction can appear within weeks or even days after occasional smoking begins. About 3 out of 4 teen smokers end up smoking into adulthood, even if they intended to quit after a few years.

Each year in Kentucky, 2,900 youth become daily smokers.

The benefits of reducing youth smoking rates are obvious and plentiful.

“Youth face immediate health consequences of tobacco use, including reduced lung function, increased number and severity of respiratory infections, decreased physical fitness, increased resting heart rate, depression, more school absences and poor cognitive performance,” according to the coalition.

The increase in number of districts implementing these policies shows that districts are committed to playing a vital role in reducing teen tobacco use.

There is no place for tobacco on school campuses, whether before, during or after school hours. These policies drive that message home.

Online: https://www.state-journal.com/

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Aug. 30

The News-Enterprise on the Kentucky Department of Education’s recommendation that the state take over the West Point Independent School District:

As anticipated, an audit of West Point Independent School by the Kentucky Department of Education recommends state takeover of the district’s operations and management.

Commenting on the findings of the audit, Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said, “There is no doubt in my mind that kids are not getting what they need or deserve” from the small school district in northern Hardin County.

The school’s poor test scores in the state’s 2018-2019 assessment period — placing it among 51 of the bottom 5 percent of Kentucky’s public schools — supports his assertion.

West Point Board of Education Chairman Eddie Moore and former superintendent Mickey Brangers publicly voiced disagreement with the audit and Lewis’ conclusion. The school board has until Sept. 17 to appeal state management of the district. Moore says the board intends to do so.

Conducted last month, state auditors found multiple problems within the district and at the school. The audit’s findings show the issues are wide-ranging in scope.

Hostilities between the school board and the district’s former superintendent, a tendency of its school board to micromanage daily operations at the district central office and within the school, confusion about curriculum and instructional processes and leadership and a lack of data-driven instructional improvement protocol for teachers to use to close curriculum gaps within grade levels and student groups were just a few of the shortcomings identified.

Moore and Brangers have pushed back against many of the findings, saying some of the information and testimony collected by state auditors was misinterpreted or misunderstood. Moore has gone even further by accusing Lewis of having made a foregone conclusion about the district before the audit was initiated.

What can’t be in dispute is that West Point School is a district simply too small to afford the educational opportunity, equality and quality for its students.

The school’s Comprehensive and Support Improvement designation and necessity of pulling $88,000 from its $950,000 in reserves to balance its 2019-2020 operating budget gives evidence of this problem. Even Brangers, the former superintendent, illustrates this fact when he defended his tendency to perform custodial and maintenance duties himself by contrasting West Point School’s small size to larger districts with greater resources.

If it is necessary for a superintendent of a school district of 100 students to perform these types of routine maintenance and repair tasks, such a district does its students and their families a disservice. Frankly, the community can no longer afford to have it in operation.

Moore and board of education members, interim district superintendent Sally Sugg and principal Carla Breeding will have an opportunity to clarify or correct any of the audit findings as the district appeals the takeover recommendation. It’s important they bring clear and concise improvement action plans to the table if the state is to reconsider its audit conclusion and recommendation.

Putting student needs ahead of the wishes of the board, district administration or school educators is paramount.

Online: http://www.thenewsenterprise.com/

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