- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


Oct. 16

The Gainesville Times on a proposed amendment to the state constitution:

Amid the usual spate of well-publicized names and races on the Nov. 8 ballot, voters across Georgia will choose among four constitutional amendments they can pass into law.

The first and most controversial would grant state control of schools deemed to be “chronically failing.” It would allow the governor to create “opportunity school districts” for schools that fall below a score of 60 on the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index over a three-year span. The state would assume the school’s share of state and local tax revenues and make decisions aimed at improving students’ performance.

The governor’s appointed superintendent could select up to 20 schools each year, a maximum of 100 at any one time, and convert them into charters, public or private; close them, in some cases; and overhaul their management.

Models for this plan originated in Louisiana and Tennessee, with varying results. Its backers, including Gov. Nathan Deal, believe children and parents shouldn’t be trapped in failing schools without recourse. Many believe the mere threat of such a takeover will force school districts to take the necessary measures to boost student performance before such a move is needed. The plan’s backers also say it would increase local and parental participation in school improvement, not replace it.

Opponents include educators and related groups who believe it would usurp powers granted by voters to school boards and remove local control and money. No such schools are currently at risk in our area, though some are perilously close. Most in Georgia that rank as failing are in impoverished urban and rural areas.

We agree no child or parent should suffer a subpar education while local officials twiddle their thumbs. But evidence shows the root problem in most cases not to be leadership but resources, which can’t be fixed by assuming management and dollars. Before seizing control, it seems wise to diagnose the problem and evaluate what procedures, resources and results the Department of Education has applied to boost performance.

Before voting on this amendment, consider these factors:

. Local control. Board members are elected by their neighbors and answerable to parents and taxpayers. A state-appointed superintendent would “serve at the pleasure of the governor,” according to the wording in the amendment, and not be directly responsible to those served in the districts. Successful schools need strong community involvement to hold leaders accountable. That seems less likely with a state-level appointee making decisions from Atlanta.

. Grading. Evaluating schools on capricious standardized test scores is iffy. As the state moves from one set of exams to another, there is no consensus on which provides the most accurate reading of student performance. And numbers on bubble sheets can’t weigh human and environmental factors.

. Resources. Many low-income districts take in inadequate tax revenue to meet schools’ needs and struggle to recruit and keep top teachers, particularly in poor rural areas. In urban districts where populations and tax dollars are greater, many low-income families can’t create an ideal learning atmosphere, often due to language barriers. Addressing those issues would have the most effect in improving schools, but economic and cultural disparities are much harder to solve.

. Bureaucracy. No one knows the true cost or scope of this plan until it’s implemented. It would create parallel agencies: the existing education department that already accounts for 40 percent of budget spending, and a shadow department of schools that could duplicate service, staffing and expenditures. Dual leaders could end up battling for control, which may be why the current state superintendent has not endorsed the amendment.

If the state feels obligated to oversee failing schools, why not use the elected superintendent, his department’s infrastructure and budget already in place to fulfill that task?

. Politics. This option puts too much power in the hands of the school czar and governor. Even if you like and respect Deal, he’ll only be governor for two more years. Do we trust this authority in the hands of unknown future leaders?

. Amendments. The constitutional amendment process is overused and often deceptive. As many have noted, while asking the courts to intercede, the wording on the ballot was crafted by lawmakers seeking passage and is easily misinterpreted; it states a yes vote “provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”

Georgia’s constitution already has too many amendments (77 since 1983; the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1789 has but 27). Many are created because legislators are unable to reach consensus or unwilling to act on a controversial topic.

What next? Suppose the plan passes, the state assumes management of these schools and applies remedies, yet achieves no improvement. That was the case in Tennessee, where failing schools haven’t fully turned around. Then where do parents turn? The state would be on the hook for these schools yet school boards would have their hands tied. If elected leaders can’t fix underperforming schools, how will the result be any different for those appointed?

For all these concerns, we urge a “no” vote on Amendment 1. Whatever its fate, we urge legislators to revisit the issue and consider other options to bring officials and parents together to turn around schools. A state takeover should be a last-ditch resort only when local leadership is clearly the problem. Districts making a sincere effort to overcome economic challenges should be given the help and resources they need.

Kids need a good education to succeed in life, and parents need help to make that happen. To accomplish this, smaller, responsive government at the local level would seem to work better than another heavy-handed bureaucracy based in Atlanta.

Online: https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/


Oct. 16

The Covington News on the importance of voting:

This may be the toughest year yet for the voter.

Both major party candidates for President offer change - one candidate might be the least political president and the other our first female commander in chief. The third party candidate shows the strongest support in recent history.

This is too big to ignore.

A vote for the candidate you think is best - or at least not the worst - is more important than ever. It seems America is at a crossroads.

But, aside from the presidential race that gets so much attention, there are many local reasons why this year’s vote is important.

Several amendments are on this year’s ballot that will affect Georgia well into the future, including the Opportunity School District, which has garnered much recent attention concerning claims that the state could take failing schools over from individual districts. There are three other proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, including penalties for sexual exploitation and assessments on adult entertainment to fund child victims’ services; reforms and re-establishment of the Judicial qualifications Commissioners; and a dedication of revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services and public safety.

There are also races for United States Senate and a U.S. Representative, along with state public service commissioner, senators and representatives.

In Newton County, voters will decide on their next county chair, tax commissioner and coroner. Other offices are on this year’s ballot, and even though they are uncontested races - such as sheriff, district attorney, probate judge, clerk of superior court and more - the candidates will need at least one vote to claim victory.

If you have not decided on these local elections, we suggest you do the research and become an educated voter. Read the coverage this newspaper has provided on candidates and issues in previous editions as well as what will be published in the coming weeks. Seek out opportunities to talk to candidates. Participate in discussions on the issues in order to learn more.

For those who have already decided, they have to wait no more. Early voting starts Monday.

Polls open at 8 a.m. at the Newton County Administration Building, 1113 Usher Street, staying open until 5 p.m. at that location. Starting on October 31, residents can also vote early from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Porter Memorial Branch of the Newton County Library System, 6191 Highway 212.

Voters have one Saturday at which to cast their early vote - October 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Newton County Administration Building.

With the pull of a constant work schedule, busy home life and more activities than ever available to us, getting to the polls on the first Tuesday in November is a tough task.

Early voting provides plenty of chances to pick a time when the rush isn’t on to cast your ballot.

In March, 43.18 percent of the local registered voters (22,149) cast a ballot in the presidential primary. That election narrowed the presidential field down from several Republican candidates and Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

In the May Primary, three Commission seats and party candidates for the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners were decided by just 18.49 percent of Newton County voters. Only 9,878 people wanted the right to decide who could make decisions for our county and lead our community.

Newton County needs to do better.

We encourage anyone who is registered to vote - we are speaking directly to you, one of the 71,059 Newton County residents that are registered to vote - to head to the Newton County Administration Building, Porter Memorial library, or clear their schedules for Nov. 8.

We urge you to exercise your right and to rock the vote.

Online: https://www.covnews.com/


Oct. 18

The Augusta Chronicle on the American voting system:

Politics website Politico.com writes that “The American electorate has turned deeply skeptical about the integrity of the nation’s election apparatus…”

No. It’s gone way beyond “skeptical.” We’d wager that many Americans are downright cynical about it - and have, by now, swallowed the certainty that Democrats are out to tip the balance at the polls any way they can.

This appears to be a revelation for Politico.com, whose recent poll says a whopping 41 percent of Americans believe “November’s election could be ‘stolen’ from Donald Trump due to widespread voter fraud.”

Of course, the parties are vastly split on the suspicion, with 73 percent of Republicans fearing it, and only 17 percent of Democrats saying the same.

But take party out of it: Countrywide, if only 9 percent more thought the election could be stolen, it would be half the nation.

That, folks, is what you call a crisis of confidence: Nearly half of Americans no longer believe in the integrity of the voting system.

Politico seems to attribute the high skepticism to Trump’s recent protestations that the election is rigged. Not so fast.

While it’s convenient for Mr. Trump to cry foul - in case he loses - he’s not necessarily wrong. Nor are liberal media outlets telling the truth when they say voter fraud is a myth. Cases of voter fraud have popped up all over, and real people have been rung up for it in recent years. And that’s just the cases of fraud that have been uncovered.

A local television station in Denver, Colo., found instances of dead people voting, including a woman named Sara Sosa - who died in 2009 but voted in the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 elections. Her husband also apparently voted a year after he died, as well.

The station contacted the son of a dead man whose name was on a ballot. “The man is dead. He can’t vote. Somebody is cheating,” the son told the reporter.

As The Washington Post noted, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told CNN Sunday, “You want me to (say) that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair? I would have to be a moron to say that.”

Nor is it any coincidence that most voter fraud is tied to one side. Hint: Why do you think Democratic leaders at once fiercely defend open borders and oppose voter ID laws?

“Dead people generally vote for Democrats,” Giuliani argued.

In addition, according to an internal email from a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office, the Obama administration has put a rush on naturalizing as many new immigrants as possible before the Nov. 8 election. The email even encourages employees to work overtime if necessary.

“The Field Office due to the election year needs to process as many of their N-400 cases as possible between now and FY 2016,” the email to employees reads. “If you have cases in this category or other pending, you are encouraged to take advantage of the OT if you can. This will be an opportunity to move your pending naturalization cases. If you have not volunteered for OT, please consider and let me know if you are interested.”

One activist reportedly associated with the liberal group Americans United for Change was caught on hidden camera saying, “It doesn’t matter what the friggin’ legal and ethics people say - we need to win this (expletive).”

At another point, talking about causing trouble at Trump rallies, he says, “We’re starting anarchy here.”

Fraud has gotten so widespread that the Indianapolis Star has notified voters there how to verify their registration status. State police are investigating fraud in 56 of Indiana’s 92 counties. State officials were warning voters as well.

“Secretary of State Connie Lawson said voters should check their voter registrations to make sure they’re accurate,” an Indiana television station reported. “A group called the Indiana Voter Registration Project has turned in forged voter registration forms. The group was altering the information of voters who had already registered, changing addresses without the voters’ knowledge or consent, according to officials.”

The above voter registration “project,” which was actually raided by authorities, is - guess what - tied to Democrats.

Some myth! No wonder so many good folks are discouraged.

Online: https://chronicle.augusta.com/

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