- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

August 25

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on ice bucket challenge:

The Ice Bucket Challenge has had quite a ride.

Over the course of a summer it has become an internet sensation and raised millions (close to $80 million according to alsa.org) for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

We are heartened that a country that claims to be as divided as the United States has found a reason to pull together. For that alone, the folks at the ALS Association have earned our gratitude.

Who would have believed that tens of thousands would make videos of themselves as they are hit with a bucket of ice water? It has been marketing genius.

But there is nothing like success to attract critics. Some note that Californians in the middle of a drought can’t afford to waste water. We agree. They shouldn’t. But you don’t have to get wet to donate.

Some disagree for religious reasons with the ALSA’s research. OK. Surely there’s another worthy cause that could use help.

Finally, accept the challenge with care. The ice water will be enough of a rush without adding any dangerous twists, such as dropping the bucket from high above. And if you have a medical condition that could be aggravated by a sudden drop in temperature, hold the ice water and just donate. But most of all, let’s keep this spirit alive.




August 27

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on Common Core:

Mississippi public schools’ test scores, as predicted by education leaders, declined statewide in results released Tuesday, reflecting a transition year in phasing-out one testing system and embracing the Common Core, a more rigorous statewide standard requiring more critical-thinking and writing.

This year, 2014-2015, all state schools are using Common Core and students will be tested based on what they have learned using its regimen next spring, with results released in fall 2015.

In 2013-2014, some schools did not teach fully to the old system and concentrated more on Common Core, which meant students in some cases were tested on what they had not studied.

As a result, the state Board of Education said school ratings can be retained for another year, so an “A” school can remain an A school even if the 2014 testing shows it did not reach that level.

Regular rankings based on actual performance will return within the next two years, but scores are again expected to drop because the new curriculum core is, in a word, harder, which is an overall positive.

It’s possible individual students, even if they score lower on the Common Core, will have learned as much or more than in the phased-out, less rigorous curriculum.

The scores released Tuesday morning are from year-end tests required in grades three through 12.

The transition year has been difficult for administrators, teachers, students and parents because in some ways teaching was limited by demands of trying to serve two curriculums and two standards.

That issue, thankfully, is behind. Common Core is in place and schools are moving forward.

Common Core, it is worthy of note, was developed at the behest of the nation’s governors to make all American public schools more competitive internationally; schools in many other nations outperform American schools in academic achievement.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour was among the advocates for Common Core and remains supportive.

Political opposition has developed before the fact of implementation, but success and progress with the Common Core assessments will silence naysayers.




August 26

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on flaws in good legislation:

Mississippi House Bill 585 , which became law last month, was a necessary piece of legislation designed to reverse the rising costs of incarcerating criminal defendants in Mississippi. It puts more emphasis on drug courts, house arrest, suspended sentences and other measures aimed at rehabilitating non-violent offenders without locking them up for years.

Mississippi has had the second highest per capita rate of incarceration in the nation. As Dee Bates, a district attorney in the southwest part of the state, acknowledged to the McComb Rotary Club last week, “It was a growing expense that had to be addressed.”

But Bates is like some other local officials in Mississippi who worry that the changes in criminal justice laws, while saving the state money, will shift some costs to cities and counties.

Since the threshold for felony theft rises to $1,000 from $500, there may be more shoplifting. That will cost merchants more money, a cost that in turn will be passed on to customers. A lawn mower theft that previously was a felony is now a misdemeanor if the equipment is worth less than $1,000.

Not only could property theft and shoplifting increase, but some crimes that previously were tried in circuit court as felonies, with those being sentenced going to state custody, now must be handled in municipal or justice courts. If a defendant goes to jail for six months, it’s a local expense.

We still think it was a good piece of legislation. But it may need some tweaking in future sessions.

What we see as one inequity in the law is auto theft. Steal a car worth less than $1,000 - admittedly there may not be too many of those on the road these days - and if it’s a first offense, you would get no more than six months in the county jail and no more than a $1,000 fine and probably less than that.

But because of a sliding scale on larceny sentencing, you could get up to 20 years in Parchman for stealing a motor vehicle worth more than $25,000.

Granted, the value of property should be a consideration in handing out punishment. Stealing a loaf of bread isn’t as serious as stealing a break truck.

But consider this: Doesn’t the poor guy who drives a clunker to his minimum wage job every day deserve as much protection of his transportation as the executive who owns a Lexus?



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