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Editorials from around Ohio

By The Associated pressJune 24, 2019

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Akron Beacon Journal , June 23

Ohio needs a new process for the state to intervene and help school districts long struggling with their academic performance. The current regimen has proved deeply flawed, and no wonder. It was implemented in a rush at the wish of the previous governor, John Kasich. The absence of proper vetting is plain where the process has been applied, in East Cleveland, Youngstown and Lorain, notably in the lack of local voices and thus local support for decision-making driven by a state-appointed chief executive with near-absolute authority.

Gov. Mike DeWine and legislative leaders get the problem. They have had in mind including an improved mechanism in the new two-year state budget, due by June 30. The governor proposed changes that move in the direction of greater local input and earlier assistance for school districts, or not waiting until a district receives three consecutive overall F grades on the state report card.

The House included in its budget plan more aggressive action to dismantle the current system. The proposal wipes out the Academic Distress Commissions, which empower the chief executive. It leaves districts in control to craft improvement plans for specific buildings that receive F grades.

What has the Senate done? It removed the House provision from the budget plan it approved last week. It did so without adding a proposal of its own. So the House and Senate face a challenge as lawmakers meet to resolve differences between their two budget plans. They would do well to halt the intervention process now in operation and take time to make sure they get right any new process.

The absence of a proposal doesn’t mean the Senate has been idle. State Sen. Peggy Lehner, the chairwoman of the Education Committee, has worked thoughtfully to develop an alternative. Her proposal, unveiled the week before last, delivers markedly more local input in shaping an improvement plan. Yet it also ensures a role for the state in holding districts accountable, from a statewide School Transformation Board overseeing all efforts to School Improvement Commissions, appointed when districts go too long without progress.

Lehner has a component for earlier action. After one F grade, a district would have the option of choosing an analyst to conduct an in-depth assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, laying the path to higher marks. The state would cover the cost.

The Lehner proposal deserves full consideration. It also has many moving parts and thus invites questions, which critics quickly raised. More, in light of recent experience, districts, understandably, are wary of almost any such state role. All of this serves as an argument for proceeding via separate legislation, looking to find consensus. The House provision might be used as a vehicle for ending the current process, or a foundation upon which to build.

Lehner stressed something important in outlining her proposal. She noted “it’s very difficult (for a school district) to move from an F to a D to a C,” adding: “It takes time.” That is worth emphasis, along with the Akron Public Schools, for example, having launched its ambitious college and career academies to improve academic performance.

Which points to another hard truth: Districts won’t make the desired advances without the state investing adequately and effectively in at-risk students. In that way, the problem isn’t about teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards. It involves a failure to devote the necessary resources to preparing children to succeed in school, from early education to high-quality childcare to counseling for mental health.

Thus, if anything merits inclusion in the final state budget, it is the $675 million the House directs to just such an investment in children.

Online: https://bit.ly/2FrMnFy

___

The Canton Repository, June 21

Several days ago, when the Ohio House passed its version of the two-year state budget, lawmakers in that chamber celebrated their 85-9 vote as a sign of a new era in Columbus.

More bipartisan. More cooperative. More transparent.

And why not? The $69 billion spending plan reflected a level of compromise not seen in many years, as representatives worked together to discuss and address their various priorities for the state.

House Speaker Larry Householder had told Democrats, whose support he had needed to secure the leadership position in the chamber following last fall’s elections, their legislative agenda would be considered equally with his fellow Republicans’.

It could have been an empty promise, as the GOP maintains a solid majority in the House, but he — with Stark County’s Scott Oelslager heading the House Finance Committee — included many of the Democrats’ wishes in House Bill 166.

Not all, of course, but far more than Democrats had seen in recent history. The result was the overwhelming approval of the bill and wide praise for it.

On Thursday, their peers in the Ohio Senate essentially said, “You call that bipartisanship? We’ll show you bipartisanship.”

And so they did, voting 33-0 to approve their version of the spending plan.

The tone in the Senate impressed several longtime lawmakers.

“I’m pleased to say that this is the first budget I’ve voted in favor of since taking office nearly a decade ago,” said Senate Finance Committee member Nickie J. Antonio of Lakewood.

Indeed, some budgets and many other bills passed the General Assembly in recent years with no support from the minority party, reflecting their belief their priorities and amendments never were considered seriously.

That seems to have changed under the leadership of Gov. Mike DeWine, who set the cooperative spirit in motion with a budget proposal Democrats could embrace more readily.

“For years, we’ve urged our Republican colleagues to invest in public health in order to build a stronger Ohio. In this budget, we see real investments in infant mortality reduction, healthy moms, lead abatement programs, wraparound services, multi-system youth and strategies to address the opioid crisis,” Antonio said.

This budget scores high marks in many of those areas.

“We have a budget that reflects the needs of everyday Ohioans more than any budget in the last decade,” said Sean J. O’Brien, a Democrat from Trumbull County and another member of the Senate Finance Committee.

When the House passed its version of the bill, we voiced our support of many of its key elements, particularly as they pertain to closing a business tax loophole and ending the takeover of state school districts. We’re less enthusiastic about the Senate’s treatment in those two areas.

Nonetheless, a foundation has been established from which the House-Senate conference committee over the next week or so can build a budget that works for most Ohioans — from both parties and representing many interests. No one will get everything he or she wants, but neither should any lawmakers walk away saying they got nothing.

It has been a long time since we could say those words with any degree of confidence.

We’re hopeful this level of cooperation represents a more standard practice in Columbus and not a one-time occurrence.

Online: https://bit.ly/2xb9ijV

___The Toledo Blade, June 22

Violence is mounting in Sudan, and the world is scrambling to respond.

The country’s military junta, which ousted longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in April, wasted little time in attacking protesters who continue to lobby for a democratic Sudan. But things took an especially disturbing turn on June 3 when the junta’s Rapid Support Forces massacred demonstrators in the capital of Khartoum. The official numbers suggest that at least 100 people were killed and 70 were raped.

But the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors has estimated that the extent of the violence is far greater than has been reported. The RSF reportedly has been dumping bodies in the Nile River, and it has shut down the Internet to stop the flow of information. Meanwhile, a U.N. official told the New Republic that there were likely more than 1,000 cases of sexual violence in the 72 hours after violence flared on June 3.

Sadly, none of this comes as a surprise. The RSF is experienced at this type of brutality. The paramilitary organization grew out of the infamous Janjaweed forces that helped carry out the genocide in Darfur during the early 2000s, raping and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Some fear that such violence could occur yet again as the world looks on.

Tibor Nagy, the U.S. assistant secretary of African affairs, said last week that there must be “an independent, credible investigation to figure out what exactly happened, why it happened, who gave the orders, how many victims there were.”

But with Sudan backed by powerful Arab autocrats — Egypt, Saudi Arabia,and the United Arab Emirates — investigations could be slow-moving or nonexistent.

Still, much can be done — both by the U.S. Congress and by average citizens.

Congress, which has a history of unifying around the protection of human rights in Sudan, could utilize the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, which can be used to sanction human rights abusers and freeze their assets. The entire RSF could be sanctioned under this law.

The U.S. government also should continue to support the demonstrators, lobbying for a more democratic Sudan. Mr. Nagy applauded them recently, noting their “commendable commitment to peaceful protest and dialogue.”

A number of other organizations, including UNICEF and Save the Children, are working to deliver aid to the people of Sudan, who were already struggling with ready access to food, water, and medicine before this latest crisis.

How the situation in Sudan will play out is unclear. But there are tangible, measured actions that can be taken to limit the suffering and punish those who are inflicting so much wanton violence.

The Sudanese people are in a dire situation, and we must do what we can to help.

Online: https://bit.ly/2KAOTx9

___The Marietta Times, June 22

Data released this week shows by 2030 there will be more people over 65 than under 18 in the United States. Local readers will not be surprised to learn there are 13 Ohio counties in which that has already happened — and 11 of them are right here along the Ohio River, including Washington, Noble, Morgan and Monroe counties. The other two are Erie and Ottowa, up along the lake.

While this may not be the way Mid-Ohio Valley counties would hope to be ahead of a national trend, it presents some opportunities to become models for communities throughout the country, who will face this challenge soon enough. Certainly it means local officials who are already addressing the change might have some influence in the way others address it.

Jennifer Westfall, aging and disability director for the Buckeye Hills Regional Council, was sought out to discuss the matter with The Columbus Dispatch, which had questions about Noble County, where the median age is 53.1. (The median age in the rest of the nation is 38.2).

“There’s a lack of resources because it is low-population and it’s rural,” she told The Dispatch. “There is not a hospital in the county. There is no emergency facility in the county. Health-care access is a struggle.”

Those are not problems that will be faced in much of the rest of the nation. But they will face some of the other concerns, such as affordable housing, prescription costs, long-term care facilities and nursing homes and, of course, the problem that, if there are fewer young people in these counties, who is filling the jobs (particularly in healthcare) as the rest of the population retires.

Certainly, Westfall was correct to point out to The Dispatch that lawmakers must be careful in considering cuts to programs such as Medicaid, as the population in need of such assistance increases.

But meanwhile, Westfall and others in our region who are facing the challenge now understand an important resource about which the politicians and bureaucrats can do nothing. Those in other parts of Ohio are just beginning to get the picture.

“With this huge growth in the (senior) population, we’ve realized that formal services alone won’t do it,” said Cindy Farson, executive director at the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging.

She is referring to senior centers, meal programs and transportation programs. what the newspaper calls “less-formal networks of people who will pitch in to help their neighbors as they age.”

Mid-Ohio Valley counties have a lot of work to do if we are to diversify our economy and improve our schools and communities to attract and retain younger residents and families. But we should be grateful to know we live in a region where we already watch out for one another, no matter what the age.

Online: https://bit.ly/2IFXufP

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