- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Southeast Missourian, Feb. 19

Mo. flag panel appears to be waste of time:

As a state, we face a number of issues. Missouri’s General Assembly will debate many topics that could affect those of us who call the Show Me State home.

Whether it’s taxes, health care, education funding or any other issue, legislators have plenty to do this session. That’s why we’re a bit confused one state legislator would like to spend valuable time - and funding from the office of the secretary of state - on forming a panel to consider changes to Missouri’s state flag.

There is more significance to Missouri’s flag in this area. It was designed by Cape Girardeau resident Marie Watkins Oliver in 1913 at the Oliver-Leming House. Oliver was the wife of state Sen. R.B. Oliver.

During the centennial anniversary year of the flag, a special event was held in town to commemorate the local connection. As was reported in a recent Southeast Missourian story, the flag includes the Missouri coat of arms, two grizzly bears and the Missouri motto.

The idea to look at the flag was included in House Bill 1241, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Jeff Roorda from Barnhart. The bill would establish a panel of eight, representing each of the state’s congressional districts, to be appointed by the governor. The secretary of state or designated individual would serve as chairman.

The commission, whose members would not be compensated or reimbursed for expenses, would hold public hearings statewide and receive proposals to “standardize or modify” the flag. A report would be sent to the governor, secretary of state and general assembly.

Sure, we’re partial. It’s neat that Missouri’s flag was designed by a Cape Girardeau woman. The flag is a piece of history that has lasted more than 100 years. More importantly, Missouri has more pressing issues to debate. Modifying the state flag doesn’t rank high on our list of things to do.


Jefferson City News Tribune, Feb. 20

Higher education elevated to high priority:

Higher education is high on the list of topics being discussed this legislative session.

The Missouri Senate on Feb. 18 advanced a bill that would establish five performance-based criteria for the state’s colleges and universities.

The action occurred on the same day the four-campus University of Missouri System held its 40th annual Legislative Day at the Capitol.

Performance, tuition and eliminating duplication are among the higher education priorities identified by legislators.

The performance funding proposal sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, would place into law four standards set by state government and one selected by the school. Examples of state standards are student retention and graduation.

The schools voluntarily have received some performance funding money in the 2013-14 state budget.

Gov. Jay Nixon has asked - and offered financial incentives - for public colleges and universities to hold the line on tuition increases.

He reiterated the point at the University of Missouri rally when he praised the system’s administrators for “answering the call” to freeze undergraduate tuition for the 2014-15 academic year.

Perhaps the most controversial proposal this session regarding higher education is an initiative by Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, to eliminate duplication through coordination or consolidation.

“We’ve got 13 four-year public campuses,” Schaefer said last week. “We’ve got a lot of duplication - and not just duplication of programs, but also lots of duplication on … things that we’re spending money on.”

Schaefer has questioned why the state’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education hasn’t done more to improve efficiency and decrease costs.

The answer is the board’s authority is limited, purposely, to concentrate control in the governing bodies for each school.

Schaefer also has called attention to low graduation rates and whether open enrollment policies at some four-year schools should be eliminated. Lincoln University, which graduated 31.5 percent of its students in recent years, is among the open-enrollment institutions.

All of these issues are worthy of analysis and debate.

The importance of a well-trained, well-educated work force is a constant.

But as modernization and technology alter the work force, education also must adapt.

The model that guided higher education in the past may not be desirable, or affordable, for the future.

This conversation - including asking tough questions - will help us become smarter about higher education.


Kansas City Star, Feb. 23

Missouri Executions

While attention has centered on Missouri’s nefarious methods of obtaining execution chemicals, the state has been pushing the limits of decency and legality in another respect.

The last three prisoners put to death in Missouri - Joseph Franklin, Allen Nicklasson and Herbert Smulls - were executed before their final appeals were exhausted.

Legal experts and judges have rebuked the state for its hurry.

“Missouri violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the long litany of cases warning Missouri to stay executions while federal review of an inmate’s constitutional challenge is still pending,” 8th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Kermit Bye wrote after the Nicklasson execution.

With stunning arrogance, one of Attorney General Chris Koster’s deputies, David Hansen, told a legislative committee that his office was responding to a strategy of death row inmates to file enough motions for stays of executions to outlast the time spans of death warrants.

That’s not the attorney general’s call. The courts decide when the appeals process has run its course. If Koster is concerned about an inmate’s defense team prolonging the process, he can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to refuse to accept further motions.

Missouri is playing a callous and dangerous game. Its next execution date, for former Kansas Citian Michael Taylor, is Wednesday. If Gov. Jay Nixon continues to refuse to declare a moratorium on executions, the state must at least show respect for the judicial process.


Joplin Globe, Feb. 24

Our View: MSSU makes right call

Southern plays to its strength

We applaud Missouri Southern State University for holding the line on college costs. Members of the board of governors agreed Friday not to raise tuition for in-state eligible undergraduates for the 2014-15 academic year, which begins this fall.

Southern’s greatest selling point has always been that it offers a great education at low cost, relative to other colleges in Missouri and around the country.

Setting aside for a minute some of the other benefits to attending Southern, ranging from an international emphasis to great athletics, the university’s success will depend on its ability to maintain that balance of low cost and top-flight education.

All tuition decisions also should keep in mind the biggest economic reality in the region: Wages in Southwest Missouri are well below the national average, and what Southern is doing is keeping the door open for many of those families.

We also know that many economists have predicted the next great debt crisis - one that could rival the housing crisis in its implications - is student loan debt.

While we’re at it, let’s give a shout out to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and state legislators, who are pushing an increase in state funding for Missouri’s public four-year institutions if those institutions will agree to a tuition freeze.

The boards of the four-campus University of Missouri System as well as the University of Central Missouri have agreed.

Political and education leaders have demonstrated they are putting students first.

It’s the right call.

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