Kentucky editorial roundup
Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
The Independent of Ashland on equally shared parenting for children of divorced parents:
The law passed by the Commonwealth this year, known as the shared parenting law, creates a presumption that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of a child.
This is long overdue.
We obviously know that divorce is a reality of our society. We wish it wasn’t, but it is. In these circumstances, when the custody of children is involved, it is critically important a child’s interest be put first. Along the way, as these family cases make their way through the system, tough decisions have to be made. In our view there is none more important than making sure the well-being of children of divorce are the first priority, and starting from the baseline that a child benefits from being with both parents — with mutual input on decisions — is obvious to us.
Of course there are exceptions. If one of the parents is a drug addict, reckless or abusive, the law provides for leeway. Matt Hale is the Kentucky chairman of the National Parents Organization. He said the new law defines 11 factors that would negate the presumption, including a parent’s drug addiction or history of domestic violence.
Divorced kids need to be with both parents and decisions, whenever possible, need to be made together. When this is not the case kids are more likely to suffer. Like we said, there are exceptions, but generally speaking kids need both parents in their lives whenever possible and both parents need to be involved in making big decisions. Mutual decisions and time together leads to healthier emotional growth and offers stability during unstable times.
Research backs this up. A study in 2017 from Arizona State University found children of divorce, no matter what the age, benefit from having parenting time with each parent. We believe this applies to the overall decision making as well.
Anyone who has been in family court knows the system is far from perfect but a law that helps make sure both parties start on equal footing, in our view, is common sense.
The Courier Journal on a settlement that avoids state takeover of Kentucky’s largest school district:
The deal that the Jefferson County school board struck with Kentucky interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis is good for kids, parents and the community.
The state Board of Education should accept it, and we should begin the hard work of making Kentucky’s largest school district the best in the nation.
The settlement avoids a state takeover of JCPS, keeping the school board that Jefferson County voters elected in charge of the district. But it also gives JCPS much-needed help and oversight in areas where it has had serious problems, including special education, physical restraint or seclusion of students and early childhood education.
The district has failed kids in these areas. Now Lewis will have the final say on any related policy changes.
It’s fair because a state audit released in April found disturbing problems, including mistreatment of some of the district’s youngest and most vulnerable kids; persistently low achievement; and failure to adequately address achievement gaps between black and white students.
Superintendent Marty Pollio and the school board are working to address the issues, and they have made progress, but the district has allowed many of these problems to persist for far too long. It needs an intervention.
Fighting for complete control could have gone on for years and would have taken the district’s eyes off the main thing - educating its 100,000 children.
The settlement - which both sides deserve credit for reaching - is fair.
It leaves Pollio and our elected school board in charge of how students are assigned to schools. That’s important because JCPS’ student-assignment plan has been recognized nationally for increasing racial and socioeconomic integration while giving parents a choice of where to send their children to school. Diversity and choice must continue to be top priorities as the district works to improve its assignment system.
As part of the settlement, the district agreed to work with the state to develop plans to improve 58 areas that a state audit identified as deficient. If they can’t agree on a solution, Lewis will decide.
Given the magnitude of the problems and what’s at stake, working together with the state is better than working alone.
Pollio will give Lewis a monthly progress report under the settlement, and the district will be audited again in 2020, when it could face a takeover recommendation again if it isn’t progressing.
That’s unsettling, but necessary. Our school system must make progress. It’s unacceptable to see so many children who aren’t succeeding.
Other parts of the deal also make sense, like creating a cabinet-level position to monitor special education, creating and staffing an independent office to investigate complaints against the district, allowing the state to observe how its central office and schools function, and requiring training for any employee the state finds to be deficient in any area.
There is much work to do if we are going “to make JCPS one of the best urban public school districts in the nation,” as Lewis wrote in a statement.
That work must be done by all of us - parents, the community, JCPS and the state.
Let’s set aside our differences and put our children first.
The Lexington Herald-Leader on ideology and the work of Legislative Research Commission:
The Republicans who control Kentucky’s legislature should quickly explain the “different direction” they have in mind for the director of the Legislative Research Commission and by extension the agency.
The LRC, which serves as the legislature’s nonpartisan staff, is too important to become a political spoil or victim of a partisan power grab.
It’s troubling then that after deciding not to rehire LRC director David Byerman, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne reportedly are opting to install their chiefs of staff as the agency’s interim heads. That’s what Byerman said in a statement Tuesday morning.
By late afternoon Tuesday, Stivers and Osborne released a statement saying, well, not much. They wished Byerman “the best of luck” and said “it has always been our policy not to publicly discuss personnel decisions.”
The LRC’s full-time staff includes 325 nonpartisan employees and 47 partisan employees who work in leadership offices. The chiefs of staff — Becky Harilson in the Senate and David Floyd in the House — are very much part of the partisan contingent.
The LRC’s nonpartisan character is also its greatest strength, the reason it’s trusted to provide objective, unbiased research and input.
Stivers and Osborne should appoint a nonpartisan staffer to serve as interim director, as legislative leaders did in 2013 after the abrupt retirement of Bobby Sherman in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.
When the interim director, Marcia Seiler, retired in July 2015, then-speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, and Stivers, a Republican, put their chiefs of staff in charge of the LRC for the two months before Byerman became director.
Stivers and Osborne will no doubt cite that decision as precedent. But a bipartisan leadership team, as was briefly the case in 2015, is very different than putting the agency under the control of a single party.
Byerman said Stivers and Osborne assured him the decision not to renew his contract was not a reflection on his job performance but that they wanted to take the office “in a different direction.”
Democratic Party Chairman Ben Self quickly decried the move to replace Byerman with “partisan staff” and said that the firing is “an obvious move to fully politicize the Legislative Research Commission” shortly before an election.
We hope Self is wrong, though we worry most about the long-term effects. It would be a big mistake to impose any partisan ideology on the LRC’s work.