- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


Nov. 24

The Macon Telegraph on Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission:

Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission has completed its work and handed it over to the governor. He can accept it and create enabling legislation, send it to the scrap heap or modify it to fit his vision.

One of the big pieces of the puzzle is money - and the plan submitted still leaves $209 million in austerity cuts in place. The commission members, all of whom supported the funding change, also requested that the $209 million should be added to the funding formula, but there are no guarantees that will happen, nor are there any guarantees once legislation hits that $258 million in austerity cuts that was restored will remain so once lawmakers get their hands on the proposal.

Teachers are naturally concerned about funding because they are on the front lines when the funding doesn’t match the formula. The Quality Basic Education Act was never fully funded, and this new proposal comes out of the box in the hole as well. Teachers are expected to deal with whatever comes no matter the obstacles. Though expectations are higher and classroom sizes are up as student populations increase, no one, not even this commission that included five district superintendents, two school principals, a retired teacher and an active teacher, mashed in with 11 state lawmakers and 14 others from various backgrounds, could definitively say how much it costs to educate a child in Georgia. That’s a problem.

Teacher compensation was also on the table and the recommendations would allow districts to pay new teachers differently from their veteran colleagues, although veteran teachers can opt into the merit-based plan if they wish. But there is an important caveat. A school system can move all of its teachers into the merit-based plan as part of their transition to a charter system or IE2/SWSS governance plan. All but two of Georgia’s 180 school systems are in the process of making that transition.

Will they force their veteran teachers into this new plan? Probably not. It’s difficult enough finding capable teachers, and the teacher supply pipeline is narrowing as enrollment at the state’s teaching institutions is down and the retention rate for new teachers after five years has always been troubling. A school system would be foolish to foist this on veteran teachers when the competition for good teachers is only a county line away.

Some items did not make the cut. Additional money for private schools through a tax credit program was not approved by the commission but could always reappear during the back and forth of the legislative process.

The next move will have to wait until the 2016 legislative session. Although the governor has said he wouldn’t address the funding piece until the 2017 session - anything can happen and probably will.




Nov. 23

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer on School of the Americas protests at Fort Benning:

For 25 years now it has been a dependable, if steadily diminishing, rite of fall: the pilgrimage of protesters to Columbus and Fort Benning to stage the annual School of the Americas Watch protest. From a high-water mark of some 20,000 demonstrators to this year’s tally of fewer than a tenth that many, people from all over the country have assembled here to protest what they believe are U.S. taxpayer-funded human rights abuses committed by graduates of the former U.S. Army School of the Americas.

It is a matter of long-established record that this news organization has never been in editorial agreement with the SOA Watch position. Though we have always respected the protesters’ freedom of speech and admired what we believe to be, for the most part, their sincere moral convictions, we believe those convictions to be misguided and the protest misplaced.

(Despite our fundamental disagreements with SOA Watch, we remain profoundly unimpressed with many of the tired taunts of its most vocal critics. Public disagreement with government policy — regardless of whether one shares that disagreement — is not disloyalty, the persistence of such neo-McCarthyite fallacy notwithstanding.)

It is documented fact that a few of the more notorious “alumni” of the program have been guilty of the vilest and bloodiest of atrocities in their home countries. One former commander of the school acknowledged to the Ledger-Enquirer that in years past, applicants to the school should have been screened more carefully.

But we have never been convinced that either SOA or the institute that succeeded it has ever been in the business of teaching terror and torture. On the contrary, we believe the program’s mission serves an important U.S. foreign policy purpose.

Over the years, as the protest movement has diminished in size, it has grown more diffuse in purpose and focus. It has gone from a movement directed at one institution to a kind of omnibus protest of U.S. foreign policy in general. Such criticism, again, is every citizen’s right. But it makes even more pertinent a question that was legitimate already: Was Fort Benning the best venue for challenging policy that is made hundreds of miles away in the nation’s capital?

The announcement that the annual protest will be moving from here to the U.S.-Mexico border changes the specifics of the question, but not its relevance.

Shortly before this year’s event, the FBI confirmed that federal, state and local counterterrorism surveillance of the protest has been carried out since 2000. It’s worth noting, from the FBI’s own report in 2005, that the government feared no trouble from the SOA Watch protesters themselves: “The peaceful intentions of the SOA Watch leaders has been demonstrated over the years The concern has always been that a militant group would infiltrate the protesters and use the cover of the crowd to create problems.”

Sadly, that’s the world we live in.



Nov. 18

The Brunswick News on the Georgia state government’s approach to Syrian refugees:

While it might sound downright unneighborly, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and coastal legislators are right to be leery of the state taking in refugees from Syria. And now the governor is telling the administration of President Barack Obama that his state would be unreceptive to any plan to transport any refugees here. Simply put, he doesn’t want them here, and neither do state Sen. William Ligon and state Reps. Alex Atwood, Jeff Jones and Jason Spencer.

There’s two very valid points working on the behalf of those who would prefer not to accept refugees. First and foremost is the revelation this past weekend that at least one of the attackers who aided in the cold blooded murder of 129 men, women and children in Paris Friday and the wounding of another 350, many of them gravely, was among the Syrian refugees pouring into France.

The other point is a statement out of the mouth of the eyes and ears of federal law enforcement. The FBI has made it very clear that it will be practically impossible to fully vet all those accepted into the nation from the unraveling Arab nation. The United States is not a “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” set in reality. It has no super scanners to absorb images and information on masses of people from far corners of the world.

There are other ways the United States can help. It can assist with supplies and transportation. But bringing in flocks of sheep where wolves could be hiding would be ill-advised for a nation and people who are supposedly the “Great Satan” in a one-sided religious war. History books are cover-to-back with pages on how fierce and merciless religious wars are. Everyone who is American is a target to such zealous fanaticism. That includes children.

If the government can find a way to determine who these people are before allowing them to step foot in this country, fine. Until then, Gov. Deal and coastal legislators are right to tell the federal government, “Not here.”



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