- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Sept. 30

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on state’s Voluntary Pre-K Program:

The results of a Vanderbilt University study on the long-term effectiveness of Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K Program will embolden critics of pre-K to push harder against its expansion or maybe for its end.

But that would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water in terms of working to give young children from impoverished homes a head start in succeeding in school.

The five-year, $6 million study revealed that students in economically disadvantaged areas in Tennessee see significant gains in prekindergarten classrooms, but quickly lose that growth over the next few years.

Put plainly, the study said the initial significant impact of the program does not result in sustaining any meaningful growth.

We have used this space to support expansion of pre-K classrooms, while acknowledging there have been studies showing that by third grade the impact of a youngster attending a quality pre-K program flattens out.

Still, quality pre-K programs are valuable in preparing these students to succeed academically in the early grades, making it likely most will succeed through subsequent grades and through graduation.

Shelby County Schools and other districts across the state with high percentages of students whose families live below the poverty line see value in the program. They have pushed the state, which spends $85 million statewide on preschool for at-risk students, to expand the program.

Gov. Bill Haslam has been waiting on completion of the Vanderbilt study before making any recommendation. We like what he said Monday about the pre-K debate: “My sense is that quality pre-K with good follow-up can have an impact.”

Dr. Barbara Prescott, head of the PeopleFirst Partnership and a vocal advocate for early childhood education, echoes a similar sentiment in a Guest Column on today’s editorial page. She says the study “is an opportunity for serious reflection and commitment to improvement.”

In short, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, as some critics and budget hawks would like to see happen.

The prudent thing to do is to find better methods to sustain students’ academic prowess beyond second or third grade. The stakes are too high for the state’s economic and social well-being to let pre-K critics kill or dramatically reduce funding to quality pre-K.




Sept. 30

Johnson City (Tennessee) Press on the state’s campaign finance law:

The National Institute on Money in State Politics and the Center for Public Integrity released a joint report last year that gives a failing grade to Tennessee’s campaign finance law. That’s because Tennessee is one of 36 states with campaign finance disclosure laws so weak that so-called “dark money” from outside groups, such as nonprofit issues-oriented groups and big-spending political action committees, go unreported in state elections.

Reports compiled from the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance found PACs spent more than $10 million in 2014. The deficiency in the Tennessee law comes as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.

That ruling has led to practically unlimited spending by individuals, corporations and labor unions in federal races.

What has gone unnoticed by some, however, is how the Supreme Court’s decision impacts states. As a result of weak local regulations, shadowy groups are able to go virtually undetected as they spend big money in state and local races.

Dark money is something that many Tennessee legislators don’t want to talk about. It’s a problem that doesn’t grab the headlines, but make no mistake about it, Tennessee has a problem.

And it’s a problem that has impacted many crucial races in Tennessee. And with the presidential elections already in high gear, we can expect more of the same before next year’s Super Tuesday primaries.

Tennessee lawmakers like to boast of the transparency in the state’s current law, but in this case, more is needed. All outside groups should be required to report where they are spending money in local races.




Sept. 26

Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on treating mental illness:

Mental health treatment is another one of those “pay me now or pay me later” cases.

We as a community and as a country must address the issues of mental illness in a thoughtful and compassionate manner, or we will continue to suffer the ramifications of not doing so.

In Rutherford County, 20 percent of inmates at the Adult Detention Center are being treated for some sort of mental illness. That number reflects only those being treated and not those who are undiagnosed or unmedicated. It also excludes juvenile offenders, who can receive counseling in Juvenile Detention, and those who qualify for Recover Court, who are provided with counseling to help them combat addiction and substance abuse.

As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan defunded mental health institutions across the country.

The idea was to move the mentally ill out of asylums and into better, and less expensive, local treatment centers.

The move was considered not only less expensive for taxpayers but more humane for the patients. However, those less expensive, local treatment centers turned out to be too few and far between. Pressure from insurance companies also can make these types of programs unprofitable to operate.

The situation was exacerbated when states cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012, Robert Glover, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, tells USA Today. Also during the economic downturn, the country eliminated at least 4,500 more public psychiatric hospital beds - nearly 10 percent of the total supply, he says.

Yet, USA Today reports, nearly 40 percent of adults with severe mental illness - such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder - received no treatment in the previous year, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Among adults with any mental illness, 60 percent were untreated.

Some attempt to self-medicate, turning to illegal drugs. Those without community support have found their ways to jail cells, where overcrowding and lack of counseling programs only make things worse.

Mental illness is often an invisible disease as those people who suffer the ravages of it walk unnoticed among us - out of sight, out of mind - until their disease and circumstances result in violence, whether to themselves, to property or to others.

Mental illness is just that, an illness. It’s nothing to be ashamed of but can require treatment the same as any other disease.

We must make study and treatment of mental illness a priority. While it may be expensive, the costs of not doing so are grave.



Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide