- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

The (Middleton) Times-Herald Record on improving New York schools.

Sep. 13

The state Board of Regents was busy this week adopting a new set of standards to replace the beleaguered Common Core and adopting a new plan to evaluate schools with measures that go well beyond test scores.

Nothing is simple when it comes to the state of the schools in New York and while these two actions seem to indicate stability in the future, they are more likely to be just two more moving parts in an unstable universe.

It is hard to imagine the opt-out movement being satisfied with any widespread testing and it is hard to imagine the teachers unions accepting any meaningful measure of accountability.

Just look at the situation in New York City where hundreds of teachers remain on salary with little to do because they are either in trouble or not wanted by schools, a situation that most likely is in the best interests of the students although not in the best interests of the taxpayers.

All of this comes as the Citizens Budget Commission has come out with the kind of analysis that state legislators should read before they vote on the next round of increases for state aid to education.

The CBC analysis starts with something that should be shocking, the news that New York spends more per pupil than any state in the nation. The figure for the 2014-2015 school year, the last one with complete records, was $21,206 per pupil compared to the national average of $11,392.

In return, New York gets mediocre results by any measure, and there are many which put the state well below the average. Some states get much better results with much less spending. Some, including nearby New Jersey, get much better results with just a bit less spending.

But even that is not the most important educational funding topic in the news today. The one that should be on top of many legislative minds is the wide variations documented by the CBC in both the amount each district spends per pupil and the source of the revenue.

The wealthier a district is, the more it spends on each pupil because it has the ability to raise and spend more money through local taxes. Even with more state aid going to the poorer districts, the difference is considerable and despite the ups and downs of total state aid in the annual budget, the impact is the same.

Nobody knows that better than the schools in Newburgh, Kingston, Port Jervis and five others that are fighting in court to get what they say the state owes them, a combined shortfall of $150 million each year.

The schools are fighting an uphill battle because their case is on appeal, having been rebuffed already. Although they appear to have the kinds of facts that would support their side, including the amounts they received and the number of positions they had to cut when state aid did not keep up with needs, it’s hard to win when you’re going up against the state educational bureaucracy, the attorney general and especially the legislative leadership which is dominated by people who represent those wealthy districts.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2y6fJ6O

The (Syracuse) Post-Standard on President Donald Trump’s move to end DACA.

Sep. 6

It was cruel and unnecessary for President Donald Trump to cancel a program that temporarily shielded from deportation the children who were brought illegally to the United States by their parents. Trump’s decision, announced Tuesday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, keeps a nativist campaign promise but breaks his vow to treat those immigrants “with great heart.” Trump now says he will “revisit the issue,” whatever that means, if Congress doesn’t come up with a fix in six months. But great damage already is done.

Ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will force 800,000 young people — blameless, because they arrived here as young children — to leave the only home they have ever known. It will rip apart families and deprive this country of their talent, skills and grit. We will see the collective brainpower of a generation lost in the sweep of a hand.

It won’t fix the nation’s broken immigration system any more than building a border wall will. Neither is realistic.

It won’t solve the problem of what to do about the 11 million people living in this country without legal permission.

It won’t fix the horribly uneven enforcement of outdated immigration laws.

It won’t fill the need for labor at the low and high ends of our economy. Farmers will still need immigrant workers to milk cows and harvest crops, and our high-tech companies will still seek to hire the best and brightest people from around the world.

It won’t make the nation safer, as these young people are not criminals.

The moral case for creating an exception for undocumented immigrants brought here as children is clear — even if the legal one is not.

President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 after Congress repeatedly failed to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) to create a path to legal residency for undocumented young people who were already in the country. DACA applicants had to meet strict eligibility requirements, provide information about themselves and their families, and submit to rigorous background checks. In exchange, they were granted temporary residency permits allowing them to study and work here. The courts rejected Obama’s attempts to expand the program to cover more recent arrivals and the parents of DACA recipients, and the threat of more legal action to end DACA precipitated Trump’s announcement Tuesday.

President Trump punted the issue to Congress, cynically giving lawmakers six months to enact a fix - something they have not been able to do for 16 years. This Congress can’t even get out of its own way to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers also are dealing with much more pressing issues — Hurricane Harvey relief, raising the debt ceiling and rewriting the tax code. It’s doubtful they will take on a major immigration overhaul, too.

However, relief for the young people covered by DACA is achievable - if enough Republicans support an effort to do so. We urge Reps. John Katko and Claudia Tenney to help build a bipartisan coalition in the House to enact a fair and humane solution. For example, they could get behind a bipartisan DREAM Act bill — introduced in July by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Richard Durbin, R-Illinois — that creates a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers” now in DACA limbo. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand support it.

Deporting undocumented young people to countries they have little or no connection to is the wrong thing to do.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2xxuvqt

The Albany Times Union on using the Great Lakes Restoration fund more efficiently.

Sep. 13

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been used for several projects in Chautauqua County over the past few years.

Several projects totaling about $382,000 have been used to implement Farm Bill programs for habitat and wildlife protection; reducing ag nonpoint source loading; and terrestrial invasive species control. Another $400,000 has been used on projects in Chautauqua Creek, Slippery Rock Creek, the Dunkirk area and Canadaway Creek. While all are good projects, we wonder if Cayuga Lake provides a good example of ways to use the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to greater effect.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced last week that the Environmental Protection Agency will award $900,000 of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to the Great Lakes Institute at Hobart and Williams Smith College to fight invasive threats, including $598,960 in funding to help control and eradicate the recently discovered Hydrilla infestation in Cayuga Lake. Additionally, in June Schumer announced $400,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to apply herbicide to Cayuga Lake.

Local officials have spent years beating back the European water chestnut, most notably from the Audubon Community Nature Center’s Big Pond, and now are dealing with massive outbreaks of harmful algal blooms. Finding funding to deal with such issues has been daunting. As plans are made to improve Chautauqua Lake, perhaps local officials need to have Schumer on speed dial with a copy of the Cayuga Lake news release. Surely Chautauqua Lake is as important to Chautauqua County as Cayuga Lake is to the Ithaca region.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2xyOuF4

The New York Times on nationwide economic progress and looming policy changes.

Sep. 13

President Donald Trump clearly inherited an economy on the upswing, according to the 2016 Census report, with income, health coverage and poverty levels having all improved in the past two years.

The question is whether his administration and the Republican-controlled Congress will sustain the momentum, or even reverse it.

The Census report, released on Tuesday, showed median income, adjusted for inflation, grew by 3.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, to $59,039, as employers added jobs and hours and even, in some cases, gave raises. At the same time, the poverty rate decreased by 0.8 percentage points, or 2.5 million people, to 12.7 percent. Both measures are now at or near their prerecession levels in 2007, a hard-fought recovery.

On health care, the data show that the ranks of the uninsured fell last year by 900,000 people, to an all-time low of 8.8 percent of the population. The decline is a result of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 32 states and District of Columbia that participate in the A.C.A.’s expansion of Medicaid for low-income families had larger declines in their uninsured populations than states that do not participate. Massachusetts, for example, a pioneer in broad coverage, has the lowest uninsured rate in the nation, 2.5 percent, while Texas, which rejected Medicaid expansion, has the highest, 16.6 percent.

A bicycle assembly facility in South Carolina. According to a new Census report, the economy improved in the past two years. Credit Travis Dove/Bloomberg

The data also show the success of federal safety-net programs. If not for tax credits for low-income workers, an additional 8.2 million people would have been classified as poor last year. Similarly, food stamps and low-income housing aid lifted 3.6 million and 3.1 million people, respectively, out of poverty last year.

For all the improvement, however, broad prosperity remains elusive. For income gains to meaningfully raise living standards, they would have had to exceed the peak from before the recession, not merely met it. One in eight Americans, 40.6 million people, are still poor. Some 28.1 million are still without health coverage.

And yet, Republican policy makers seem determined to undo the progress that has been made. The Trump administration has opposed Obama-era rules to update the nation’s overtime-pay protections for salaried workers, arguably the single most important policy option to raise middle-class pay. President Trump and the House Budget Committee have both issued budget proposals for 2018 that call for deep spending cuts to safety-net programs. This week, the Republican senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina plan to introduce yet another draconian bill to end Obamacare.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

Those giant steps backward would all shift income up the economic ladder. They would also create fiscal room for big tax cuts for the rich, a grail of Republican policy, despite the poor job and wage growth after the tax cuts of the George W. Bush era.

The result would be greater income inequality, the one measure that did not improve in the new Census data. Income gains at the top far outstripped those at the bottom.

Republicans’ policies would undermine the gains of average Americans. Incompetence and public opposition have limited their success so far. They will not give up, though, so neither can the opposition.

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Online: https://nyti.ms/2jnH4OJ

Newsday on immigrant workers helping recovery efforts in the wake of natural disasters.

Sep. 13

After Hurricane Katrina, grocery and big box stores all over the Gulf Coast found themselves having to create whole aisles devoted to Latino food. Mexican food trucks were everywhere in New Orleans. What caused this transformation of the food scene? Immigrants coming north to help rebuild after the storm.

With the announcement that the Trump administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, it is all the more important to understand why immigration matters at times like these. As areas of Texas, Louisiana and Florida face a long and historically expensive recovery from Harvey and Irma, they need to learn all they can from Katrina. One of those lessons was the importance of immigrant labor in the rebuilding process.

During these times, immigration will relieve pressure on the market for lower-skilled labor. As the demand for clean-up and construction labor grows, workers have to come from somewhere. There are some willing native-born Americans, but from past experience it’s clear that there aren’t enough Americans who both need the work and are willing to do it for the current wage.

The increased demand for labor will push up wages, and higher wages will attract workers to Texas and Florida. If we continue to close the door to immigrants, those workers will have to come from elsewhere in the United States, reducing the number of workers and raising labor costs along the Gulf Coast or in other areas.

One way to gain that additional labor without labor costs rising as high would be to open the door to more immigrants. Higher local wages in the immediate aftermath of the storm will make it worthwhile for workers to come from Mexico and the Caribbean. That influx of labor will push wages back down, closer to where they were before.

High wages are certainly a good thing for workers already in those industries, but not for people looking to rebuild. The victims of Harvey and Irma need to rebuild cheaply while the rest of the country avoids suffering the ripple effect of rising wages.

Post-hurricane wages for unskilled labor will offer immigrants much more lucrative work than they could get at home, making it worth the risk and inconvenience of coming to the United States. Those wages would also enable them to send remittances back home, improving the lives of their families.

Immigrants’ wages would also help rebuild flooded communities by becoming a source of demand for local and national businesses as they reopen.

Putting down the welcome mat for immigrants in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma is good for the same reasons immigration has always been good. It provides more lucrative work, enabling them to live a better life with their loved ones. It also gives them the resources and connections to begin to build lives as productive and engaged citizens.

After Katrina, many immigrants who helped rebuild settled along the Gulf Coast, and are today still providing value with their work, paying taxes and creating communities in their neighborhoods.

Increased immigration also creates much-needed slack in the post-hurricanes labor market. The more new entrants to the labor force we can get through immigration, the smaller the increase in labor costs elsewhere in the U.S. economy will be.

The anti-immigrant message sent by ending DACA will make it harder to attract such labor than it was after Katrina. This will make recovery more difficult and expensive than it needs to be, re-victimizing those affected by the recent hurricanes and harming others around the country who will also face higher labor costs.

Rebuilding will require a great deal of new labor. Getting it through immigration is a win-win for both Americans and the immigrants. It shouldn’t take the catastrophic flooding of America’s fourth-largest city or much of Florida to remind a nation of immigrants why welcoming workers from the rest of the world, especially as we recover from major natural disasters, is good for everyone involved.

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Online: https://nwsdy.li/2wqWR0s

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