- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A collection of recent editorials by Arkansas newspapers:

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Harrison Daily Times, March 31

Airline crash puts mental health issues back in spotlight

Don’t spend all your spare time watching air crash investigation videos on YouTube.



Authorities were shocked to learn that a plane flown by Lufthansa’s budget airline, Germanwings, had dove into the French Alps shortly after reaching cruising altitude.

Some thought it might have been terrorism, but details are emerging that are even more frightening - the co-pilot seems to have locked the pilot out of the cabin and deliberately killed himself and the other 149 people aboard.

Today’s news brings indications that the young pilot was hiding his heavy depression from his employers, and may have suffered a breakup with his girlfriend.

Airlines are scrambling to change rules to prevent pilots from being left alone in the cockpit, behind doors strengthened following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

They’re also reassessing screening procedures, to see if there are ways to prevent something like this from happening again. It’s a delicate balance; airline pilots worry that every physical might uncover something that might end their career; a factor that may have led to the Germanwings’ co-pilot to conceal his problems.

One can only imagine the panic felt by the pilot responsible for the plane and passengers, or the horror of passengers as they watched the ground approaching while their captain tried to break down the cabin door, lasting the eight minutes it took for the plane to hit the mountains.

One man’s mental health issues will snowball to afflict thousands or millions more, as surviving family members, friends and even viewers and readers try to cope with the loss of so many innocent people.

It reinforces the need for each of us to acknowledge that we as individuals or family members, friends and co-workers may need help from time to time. It’s not a sign of weakness to reach out for help when we really need it.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 28, 2015

A real rewards program

Word began trickling in via email Wednesday morning. Something about a Senate bill that passed through the General Assembly this week.

And the reaction from those pushing for reform in Arkansas’ schools—real reform—was mostly: Outstanding!

Finally, finally, finally, Senate Bill 342 is on the governor’s desk. And there’s no telling how much this will improve education in Arkansas in the years to come should he sign it.

Teachers and principals could tell you now about the reward program the state promotes every year. Especially those teachers and principals who’ve seen the checks. If students in a school score well enough on standardized tests, those schools are rewarded with … money. Real money. Cash. As if teachers and principals are human, too, and like the extra money, not to mention the recognition that goes with being told you’ve done a great job.

Over the years, the rub has been how to rank the schools. By top scores? Or by how much a school has improved on those scores from one year to the next?

For some reason, state law combined the two. Which hardly seemed fair.

Here’s why: Imagine a school that made the most progress of any school in Arkansas last year, but still couldn’t crack the Top 10 percent when students’ tests were graded. All that work, and little reward. Or imagine a school that consistently scored high on standardized tests, but can’t improve much. For how improve when your score is 99 percent?

For years now, reformers have wanted to reward both categories—separately. Senate Bill 342 does that.

In the future, schools in Arkansas—charter or traditional public—are to get $100 per student if students finish in the top 5 percent on standardized tests. The next 5 percent will get $50 per student.

And … schools in Arkansas are to get $100 or $50 per student depending on how much improvement students make from one year to the next.

This is really the best of both worlds. It gives schools that have performed poorly in the past a realistic objective to reach. And the schools that have always done best still get rewarded.

Thank you, lawmakers. This has been a while in coming.

The good news doesn’t end there. For in the past, the rewards program, such that it was, wasn’t fully funded. The best schools were to get up to $100 a student, but there wasn’t money in the budget to give schools that much money. Instead, the best schools had to split up the $7 million that was budgeted. Which meant last year those schools got something like $90 and $45 for each student.

Word around the campfire is that $7 million is now $10 million. Which is progress. But some of us would rather the state be obliged to pay the $100 and $50 per kid even without that $10 million limit. What if rewarding the best schools next year costs more than $10 million?

But that’s another editorial. This one should stay positive. Goodness knows Senate Bill 342 is a positive step for Arkansas’ schools and teachers.

Most importantly, it moves the state away from the previous bad habit of treating every school, and every school district, the same no matter how they educate kids. One day, maybe even soon, some sort of merit pay system will become law, and we’ll be able to reward individual teachers this way, too. Here’s to keeping the good thought.

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Texarkana Gazette, March 31, 2015

Bad Bill

Ever take a photo or video in public place?

Perhaps a shot of your kids at the park. Or of an interesting street scene. Or even some snaps at an event, such as a festival or concert.

Pretty common, eh? We all like to preserve memories with photographs and digital photography has made it easier than ever.

But new legislation has some folks living in or visiting Arkansas afraid such photography could lead to a lawsuit.

This week the Arkansas State Senate passed something called the “Personal Rights Protection Act.”

The legislation would basically make it an civil offense in some cases to photograph a person without their consent. This has caused an uproar across the country and on social media, where many interpret the bill to mean that just about all photography in a public setting would put the photographer in jeopardy unless he or she was able to obtain consent from everyone who got in the way of the camera.

Well, that’s not quite how it would work.

The bill doesn’t concern itself with casual photography. It only targets unauthorized commercial use of a person’s image, name, voice and the like without prior permission.

Commercial use includes advertising, of course, but also fundraising and any other way the image could be used for gain.

But there are exceptions. For example, there is an exemption for photos or footage published or broadcast by news organizations. And there seems to be something of an exemption for artists who use the photo or video medium and sell their work. But it’s open to question whether freelance news photographers could subsequently sell their work to media outlets.

And it is not clear whether there is an exemption for ordinary citizens who photograph or film a newsworthy situation in a public place_such as misconduct by police or politicians_and then later are able to sell their photos or video to a news outlet. In fact, this may be just what the bill is trying to prevent.

The main problem is the bill is poorly written and about as clear as mud. That means that no matter the intent of the legislation, it would no doubt lead to a lot of court action, which could cost even innocent photographers a ton of money.

That makes this a bad bill. A very bad bill for the people of the state.

This legislation deserves to be thrown out with the garbage. And we hope Gov. Asa Hutchinson uses his veto power to do just that.

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