Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The Akron Beacon Journal, July 18
On Tuesday, members of the State Board of Education witnessed something extraordinary. A group of former teachers testified in public session about their disturbing experience at a charter school in Dayton. They pointed, among other things, to cheating on state tests, manipulating attendance records and allowing inappropriate personal behavior. ...
For its part, the state Department of Education did report contacting the local children services agency and law enforcement authorities about the allegations stemming from the testimony. Yet there was an aspect of the department's response that was dismaying, to say the least.
According to the Gongwer News Service, the department spokesman cited the possibility that the teachers who testified may face sanctions for failing to come forward sooner. He said that the agency hoped the teachers "were not withholding information for this political event that they pulled at the board meeting."
"Pulled"? As in a stunt?
Actually, his words were most revealing. They highlight the insufficient oversight and accountability for charter schools. They suggest that what has been a problem for years has deepened under the leadership of Richard Ross, the state school superintendent. The department appears to have a blind spot when it comes to charter schools. It is an attitude that troubles many who operate effective charter schools and want to see a tougher posture toward poor performers.
The Ironton Tribune, July 16
Last week the State of Ohio opened what could be a saving grace for those who have gone down the wrong path in life.
The state opened a multiservice facility to help prison inmates better integrate into society and lower the number of repeat offenders reentering the prison system.
Not only does the Chillicothe-based facility house the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, but it also houses EXIT, a halfway house for former inmates.
The center will house a variety of treatment and education programs with inmates also working with gardens and as beekeepers, with some food to be donated to a local food bank.
This is good news for Lawrence County.
So many times, defendants get sent to prison, some of them very young, for years at a time. When they are released, they have no marketable skills to enter the workforce to support themselves. This inevitably leads them back to a life of crime and right back into the county jail to await the legal process and then, eventually, a trip back to the penitentiary.
The aging Lawrence County Jail is already in non-compliance for having too many inmates as it is. This new state program could be a way to keep those offenders from getting rearrested and sent back to the jail. ...
We hope this new facility is successful and that it adds more cooperative and productive citizens to our communities.
The (Canton) Repository, July 19
For many of us, the word "drone" tends to prompt mixed feelings of fascination and worry. But one proposed use for the unmanned aerial vehicles in Ohio makes sense.
Officials of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction are studying the idea of using drones to monitor state prison yards and fences. The pilot project would occur at the Lebanon Correctional Institution and Warren Correctional Institution in Southwest Ohio.
Unlike controversial traffic cameras that replace police, the technology would supplement the supervision of guards, Ed Voorhies, operations managing director for the department, told the Dayton Daily News. The drones may carry cameras that would detect people near the prison perimeter at night, Voorhies said.
The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union rightly wants policies for use of the drones carefully spelled out beforehand. Attorney General Mike DeWine also should insist on this, having run into problems himself with using facial recognition technology without alerting the public beforehand.
The state also should establish beforehand how it will measure the effectiveness of drones. Christopher Mabe, president of the union that represents prison guards, told the Dayton newspaper that he's not against the use of drones but that technology historically has "hardly moved the needle in terms of violence or contraband levels." More guards are the answer, he says.
Then again, drones may help to create safer conditions for corrections officers.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 19
Throughout the Cincinnati region, there are still too many issues that suffer from an us-versus-them mentality. We all cheer the Reds together, but we can't unite behind transit funding and solutions that would cross county and state lines. ...
Some see metro government or high-level shared services as the solution, but consolidations or mergers aren't the easy answer that they once appeared to be. Focusing on them as a goal is probably a waste of time for now, an opinion shared by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.
"Philosophically I still believe in regional government so you don't have 49 separate governments in Hamilton County alone, but I don't want to force it if there's not the desire for it," Cranley told The Enquirer last week. "The relationship between the city and suburbs is changing before our eyes. We don't have to be beggars. We have enormous assets, and I think we're part of a rising tide."
But we're also convinced that cooperation across boundaries still has the potential to promote common interests, contribute to a stronger regional identity and save taxpayers a lot of money. As leaders have been balking over politically touchy services like police agencies and prosecutors' offices, local governments have been cooperating more on unglamorous but important stuff like water, sewers and transit.
Local governments and agencies need to make even more progress on these sorts of issues. They're important in their own right, whether they lead someday to a higher level of cooperation or not. And they're based not on goodwill but because they benefit everyone involved. Done right, they can lead us toward a greater regional identity, no matter how our sports teams are faring.