- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A roundup of recent Colorado editorials:

The Denver Post, Aug. 7, on Rand Paul’s presidential candidacy:

The 2016 Republican nominating season is shaping up to be one of the most wide open and intriguing in many years, and Sen. Rand Paul’s entry into the fray Tuesday only reinforces that impression.

Paul’s views, to the extent he stands by them rather than starts hedging to appeal to the Republican right, are well worth an intraparty debate, too. That’s especially true regarding the war on terrorism, foreign intervention and political outreach beyond the traditional GOP base.

We would have included defense spending in that list as well, except that the Kentucky senator in recent months seems to have pulled back from his once admirable resolve to keep military expenditures in check, too.

On a positive note, Paul has been one of the most vocal critics from either party of the surveillance state, at one point staging a 13-hour filibuster to delay a vote to confirm the president’s nominee for the CIA. He’s been skeptical of an aggressively interventionist foreign policy, too - a position for which he is already being pounded in an ad campaign by a conservative group that accuses him of being soft on Iran.

To be sure, American weariness with foreign wars may have subsided with the surge of the Islamic State and other radical groups. And if so, Paul’s time as a candidate may have passed before he ever got in the race. But it would be a healthy sign if his commitment to civil liberties and restraint abroad could still find traction in the GOP.

Paul also clearly plans to reach out to a broader constituency than some Republicans have in the past, including minorities and the young. This is strikingly evident even in his first 30-second campaign video, especially compared with one released by the only other major Republican candidate who has officially announced, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Cruz makes a straightforward appeal to God-and-country conservatives in his video. Paul, by contrast, includes clips of everyone from right-wing Sean Hannity to left-wing Jon Stewart praising him for various actions, in a video called “A Different Kind of Republican Leader.”

Of course, we’ll see how different he really is once other Republicans, from Marco Rubio and Scott Walker to Jeb Bush, follow him into the race and start butting heads. And then we’ll learn whether his streak of libertarianism has made any inroads with the GOP’s broad conservative base.

Editorial: http://dpo.st/1ydu67K

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The Daily Sentinel, April 8, on the Rolling Stone retraction and journalistic ethics:

Rolling Stone’s full retraction of a story about a purported gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house reflects two failures.

The more obvious one is that Rolling Stone didn’t follow the most basic rule of journalism, which is to verify information. Within days of the story’s November publication, critics started to question the reporting, prompting The Washington Post to essentially fact-check the story in December and uncover discrepancies in the anonymous victim’s account of the alleged rape.

Rolling Stone then turned to Columbia Journalism School in late December to investigate where the breakdowns in its reporting and editing occurred. In its review, released Sunday, the Columbia team noted the magazine’s multiple failures to corroborate facts.

“The editors invested Rolling Stone’s reputation in a single source,” the report said. If the magazine had checked “derogatory information” or confronted subjects with details, the outcome would certainly have been different.

The story’s publication led to the other glaring failure. Instead of exposing a rape culture on college campuses, the story “may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.” Rolling Stone marginalized efforts to draw attention to what many consider a growing national problem.

There are two schools of thought regarding how Rolling Stone handled its failures. Some wonder if the magazine learned its lesson because no one was fired over the scandal.

Others say the magazine’s transparency in making the embarrassing results of the investigation known is punishment in itself.

Steve Coll, the Columbia Journalism School dean who led the review, pointed out in an interview with The Post that there was no outright deception on the part of Rolling Stone staff. The breakdowns were more the result of a lack of skepticism. The staff didn’t push hard enough to question the alleged rape victim’s version of events.

Rolling Stone has promised to take the review’s recommendations seriously. We would hope so. The print medium suffers collectively anytime a publication comes under fire for lazy reporting or failing to adhere best journalistic practices.

In the end, a newspaper’s only asset is its credibility. And as the Columbia review reminds us, preserving credibility means resisting the forces of the Internet age and the 24-hour news cycle. It’s better to be factually correct than first.

A journalist has be a skeptic, not a mere scribe.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/1CVr9am

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The Durango Herald, April 6, on school testing opt-outs:

While reasonable people can agree that testing for students in Colorado’s K-12 schools can use some fine-tuning so as to reduce the amount of time spent on standardized assessments - particularly those mandated by the state according to federal guidelines - that same reasonableness must acknowledge that some state testing is essential to gauge schools’ effectiveness.

The answer, then, is to analyze and restructure the testing rubric - not encourage families to eschew the assessments altogether. The Colorado Senate, though, chose the latter option Monday.

In giving initial approval to Senate Bill 223, the Senate is potentially placing at risk more than $300 million in federal-education funding that hinges on state participation in assessments of state-adopted standards. While the sentiment behind the bill is somewhat sympathetic - that kids are tested too much and in ways that are too onerous in terms of duration and frequency - fixing the problem will not come by allowing students to skip the test. Doing so undermines a very necessary component of the education system: accountability. Like it or not, there must be a mechanism for gauging if and how are schools are performing in teaching students the materials deemed necessary by the state for a robust education in Colorado.

These are not necessarily federal standards, though the state standards do align with the Common Core requirements that dictate what students should learn with respect to language arts and math. Colorado goes further with its social studies and science standards, for which it must also assess student proficiency, but the standards themselves are state-derived.

State-required assessments have drawn ire from students, parents, teachers and administrators for decades and, as such, are seemingly in a constant state of reinvention. That is owed to the fact that previous iterations of the tests have been deemed problematic for various reasons, as well as the evolving standards by which students - and, more importantly, their schools - are being measured. What has not changed, though, is these state tests’ fundamental goal: to provide an accountability measure to ensure that schools are effectively teaching students what they are expected to learn.

From parents’ and students’ perspectives, this is not a particularly compelling reason to spend 10 hours or more each year on testing required by the state and federal government that does little to inform instruction for any individual student. Nevertheless, there must be some means by which to show how well schools are doing, and standardized testing is one proven method. The bottom line is that students who attend publicly funded schools should be expected to participate in measures of those schools’ effectiveness - particularly when significant funding is on the line.

Federal guidelines require states to test students in math and language arts - based on state-adopted standards - every year from grades three through eight, and once in high school. States must also test once at each level - elementary, middle and high school - for state-adopted science standards. If less than 95 percent of the state’s students fail to do so, it places critical federal funding at risk. Further, it puts individual schools or districts in jeopardy of lowered accreditation ratings. These sanctions can hardly be deemed beneficial to students or worth the inconvenience of the testing itself. The Legislature is considering a far more proactive and practical package that would reduce some of the state testing requirements, while still keeping them in line with federal standards. That is a better direction to go. Offering students exemption from a critical accountability piece of public education will not improve the system. The Legislature should reject SB 223.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/1CgjssS

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Loveland Reporter-Herald, April 7, on Colorado sprawl, the market and government:

Sprawl costs the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion per year.

So says Todd Littman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in a report that blames suburbia for increased transportation and infrastructure costs; traffic congestion and wasted time; air pollution; deaths in auto accidents; and even obesity.

The report, arising from a New Climate Economy research project lead by the London School of Economics, identifies “policy distortions that encourage sprawl,” such as mortgage deductions and “income tax policies (that) favor automobile over transit commuting.”

The report addresses the effects of urbanization worldwide, but it’s fair to note that the farther Americans (or people anywhere) live from their workplace, the more they spend on roads and transportation, the more time they spend in traffic, and so on.

However, Americans would be disinclined to give up the perks and pleasures of home-ownership, especially those who have families. They will move to where homes and land are less expensive, and developers will cater to that demand.

This exacerbates the problems that sprawl can create.

Cities going up rather than out might be one solution. However, as can be seen in Boulder County and elsewhere in Colorado, limits on growth ultimately can lead to housing costs that price people out of the market. When there’s job growth in that market, employees are forced to live in other communities where housing costs are more reasonable.

If policy changes are what can solve the problems of sprawl, then government must avoid heavy-handedness and punitive fines and fees. Rather, it must encourage and allow the market to correct the problems.

Of course, allowing the market to make the corrections also means government not playing favorites for suburban homeowners. Perhaps creative business incentives, such as tax breaks for telecommuting, could be considered.

The Littman study points out real-world problems with population growth - problems that Americans in suburban areas might not notice so much yet - so solutions need to be thought about now.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/1ydwj2T

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