Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 26
A proposal to dramatically simplify election-day voting in Ohio deserves consideration, because it could give voters more options on where to cast a ballot and, most important, could save enough money to help Ohio afford the up-to-date technology it needs to bring voting into the 21st century...
Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, recently floated an idea tried with success in some other states: doing away with a system of precinct-based polling places and consolidating to far fewer locations — as much as 75 percent fewer. The trade-off would be that each voter could cast his ballot at any polling place in his home county.
This could reduce the cost of elections by as much as 33 percent, freeing up funding to replace Ohio's faltering 10-year-old voting machines and election computers. This is especially important as elections officials look to 2016 and worry that glitches in outdated computers and 1990s technology could undermine confidence...
Beyond the savings, the public would benefit in another important way: Allowing any county resident to vote at any county polling place would not only be convenient...it would eliminate the chance that anyone's vote would be invalidated because he went to the wrong polling place and didn't have time to go to the right one, or was directed to the wrong precinct by a mistaken poll worker...
Despite the clear advantages, such a significant change in voting could meet with a lot of anxiety if it is not undertaken gradually and with plenty of communication. Those planning for a transition would be wise to address likely points of contention — for example, by locating plenty of polling places near public-transportation lines, to lessen the hardship on those who don't have cars.
The (Findlay) Courier, Jan. 22
Nearly everyone agrees that Ohio is stuck in a heroin/prescription pain-pill epidemic. But getting a handle on its size is nearly impossible.
The state has no good method to accurately report on overdose deaths, at least in "real time." That means officials must guess at numbers since the 366 percent increase in unintentional overdose deaths from 2000 to 2012...
Last fall, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a task force on real-time reporting of drug overdose deaths. The Overdose Prevention Task Force was created after efforts by DeWine's office to gather statewide statistics revealed that the state lacks a standard for classifying overdose fatalities.
Statistics gathered from coroner's offices found that heroin killed 910 people in 2013. However, because tracking and classification methods vary across the state, the actual number of 2013 heroin overdose deaths is believed to exceed 1,000.
The 2014 numbers are expected to top that, but the actual number remains a guess.
At some point this year, the task force will issue its recommendations for strengthening overdose death classification and tracking procedures. But getting more timely, accurate numbers may not be easy...
Ohio must find a way to better quantify its overdose problem. Time is of the essence. The task force must act soon to develop reporting requirements that will allow health departments, police agencies, EMS, and coroners to cut through the red tape that continues to keep one of our most pressing public health issues a relative mystery.
The Marietta Times, Jan. 23
Some Ohio legislators seem to be welcoming a recommendation that standardized testing in public schools be reduced. Many lawmakers have heard complaints from parents, students and teachers about the amount of time devoted to such examinations.
Students in Buckeye State public schools are expected to spend an average of about 20 hours merely taking standardized tests next year...
Much, much more time is taken up in preparing for standardized tests, of course. Some teachers and students complain they get little else done in class.
But the tests were put in place for a reason — to evaluate how well individual students are learning important material, as well as whether schools are doing a good job.
State school Superintendent Richard Ross has recommended to legislators that they reduce testing by about 20 percent. In his report, Ross said the change is "in the best interest of students."
...Both educators and lawmakers should take care they do not eliminate important tests, however. Ross' recommendation focuses heavily on doing away with tests administered to elementary school students. For example, he does not think writing and mathematics diagnostic examinations are needed in grades 1-3.
Some researchers might disagree. Identifying students' weaknesses as early as possible is critical, they point out.
Again, if Buckeye State students can be subjected to fewer standardized tests — possibly giving them and teachers time to cover more material — the recommendation is worth considering. It should not be implemented merely because education officials and legislators are tired of hearing complaints, however.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Jan. 24
There may be good reasons behind Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's decision earlier this month to cut a plea deal with Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Mike McVey - who had been suspended and faced felony charges for his alleged role in trying to obstruct a state investigation into the 2012 rapes of a comatose 16-year-old girl by two sophomore football players.
DeWine suggests there were enough doubts about whether his office could get a conviction to merit the deal.
Under it, McVey has quit his job but did not have to relinquish the license that allows him to become a school administrator elsewhere.
At the very least, McVey should have been required to surrender his license.
According to the original charges, McVey "deleted emails ... 'wiped' computer(s) (and /or had someone else do it for him) ... and/or acted in a way to hinder/obstruct/mislead the official investigation."
"Yeah, we could have won," said DeWine, describing the case as circumstantial. "And we could have lost. Our fear was that he returns as superintendent. He still had two and a half years left on his contract. "
Then why wasn't McVey forced to surrender his administrator's license as part of the deal?
"He was not willing to do that," DeWine said. "I'd certainly question the wisdom of any school system hiring Mr. McVey."
That is not good enough.
Now the Ohio Department of Education must do its due diligence and remove those credentials.
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