- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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July 8

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on state moving in right direction:

A preliminary report released by Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education estimates college degrees and advanced education credentials earned at public and private colleges and universities are on the rise.

This is good news for the state, suggesting an increased understanding by Kentuckians of the importance of higher education not only for themselves, but for our communities, too.

The report released by the council June 20 estimates nearly 63,150 degrees and certifications were conferred at the close of the 2013-14 academic year. This total represents an increase of 1.2 percent over the prior academic year and a 60 percent increase over the past 10 years.

Data collected illustrated growth across a wide range of levels. Undergraduate certifications, baccalaureate and doctoral level degrees all showed one-year increases ranging from 2 to 10 percent. Master’s degree levels declined, and fairly significantly, at 6.8 percent from the prior academic year.

A 10-year comparison of the data really shows the gains we’ve made in better educating ourselves. The report reveals a gain of 204 percent in undergraduate certificates, 56 percent gain in associate degrees, 30 percent gains in bachelor’s degrees, 46.5 percent growth in professional-practice doctoral degrees, and 10 percent increase in research doctorates.

Research shows that on average a college educated individual will earn almost $1 million more in their lifetime than will their peer who obtained only a high school diploma.

According to data released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, associate degree holders earned 21 percent more, and bachelor’s degree holders earned 56 percent more than high school graduates over the past four decades.

Even with the rising cost of tuition and fees, and the weight of student loan debt many college graduates carry with them into the workforce, figures like these underscore the importance of a college education on the earning potential of a high school graduate.

While the return on the college investment is high for the individual degree holder, so, too, is the reward for the state when its collective workforce is more highly educated.

For too long, Kentucky has lagged the majority of states across the nation. In 2010, census data revealed only 30 percent of Kentucky’s 25-64 year olds held two- or four-year college degrees. The national average that year was 38.3 percent.

Kentucky’s economic horizon will be far brighter - and its appeal to potential new industries and employers more attractive - as this percentage grows. This most recent report by the CPE shows signs that we’re moving in the right direction.

Online:

http://www.thenewsenterprise.com

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July 3

Herald Leader, Lexington, Kentucky, on immigration stall:

A few days before the nation last celebrated its Independence Day, 68 members of the Senate passed and sent to the House a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Fourteen Republicans voted for the measure. Among them were Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a favorite of the GOP’s Tea Party wing.

A year later, after House Speaker John Boehner told him the House would not take up immigration reform this year, President Barack Obama understandably ran out of patience and announced Monday he would do as much as he could to fix the immigration system through executive action.

Boehner’s explanation for his inaction, repeated time and again through the months, is that House Republicans don’t trust the president to enforce whatever the House passes.

Either Boehner really enjoys spouting disingenuous excuses or he’s really lousy at math, because the facts strongly suggest this president is more committed to enforcing immigration laws than his predecessors were.

During Obama’s five-plus years in office, about 2 million undocumented aliens have been deported, a record-setting pace. That number equals the total deportations during all eight years former President George W. Bush occupied the White House.

And House Republicans don’t trust Obama to keep doing what he’s been doing? Go figure.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, nailed the real reason for Boehner’s inaction in a statement he issued Monday. “Speaker Boehner is bending to a minority of House Republicans and blocking a vote on common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform, which I believe would pass the House tomorrow,” Yarmuth said.

The minority Yarmuth referred to is the Tea Party faction of House Republicans. Boehner has been kowtowing to them on immigration reform, and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s recent primary defeat by a poorly funded Tea Party candidate no doubt factored into the speaker’s decision to shelve the reform bill in this election year.

So, maybe Boehner is just really lousy at math, because he doesn’t recognize the political math McCain recognized after the last election cycle when he and 13 other Senate Republicans opted in on immigration reform.

McClain’s explanation for his decision to support reform was, “Look at the last election.”

Hispanic voters overwhelmingly rejected Republican candidates in 2012. Considering their growing numbers in this nation, Boehner should fear them more than he fears Tea Partiers.

For his own sake and the sake of his party, Boehner would be wiser to act on immigration reform now instead of later.

Online:

http://www.kentucky.com

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July 6

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on marriage equality:

In another triumph for marriage equality, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II has struck down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.

His ruling Tuesday follows a similar ruling June 25 by a U.S. district judge in Indiana striking down that state’s ban. It continues an unbroken string of such rulings in federal court in which judges have struck down state rules prohibiting gay marriage, The Courier-Journal’s Andrew Wolfson reported Wednesday.

In his opinion and order, Judge Heyburn finds in clear and compelling language that Kentucky law forbidding same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution which bars states from enacting or enforcing laws that deny people equal protection under the law.

Kentucky’s laws - a 1998 law defining marriage as between one man and one woman and a 2004, voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions - “violate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and do not further any conceivable legitimate government purpose,” Judge Heyburn said.

The plaintiffs, gay couples Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza and Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James, celebrated the decision, though enforcement has been delayed while the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals hears appeals of same-sex decisions from four states including one in which Judge Heyburn previously had ruled Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Yet the decision was met with predictable bombast from groups such as the Family Foundation, which claimed the judge had declared “martial law on marriage policy.” Kentucky’s senior Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Louisville Republican, condemned the ruling, saying he supports Kentucky law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Judge Heyburn addressed such individual objections, noting that “in America even sincere and long-held religious views do not trump the constitutional rights of those who have been outvoted.”

As the dispute works its way toward the U.S. Supreme Court, let us hope that view prevails.

Already, emboldened by Monday’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision allowing employers to restrict birth control benefits because of religious views, a group of religious leaders is seeking exemption from a presidential directive that would prohibit federal contractors from discrimination against gays, The Atlantic reported.

The Hobby Lobby decision hinged on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, meant to protect freedom of religious expression.

It must not become a vehicle to expand discrimination.

Online:

http://www.courier-journal.com

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