- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Oct. 20

Times Daily of Florence on tasks the state Department of Education needs to complete:

Going into the current fiscal year, there was concern the Alabama Department of Education would face a deficit of up to $8 million. That, fortunately, has been avoided.



State Superintendent Ed Richardson told lawmakers the deficit was actually $3 million, and that it has been eliminated.

The deficit was eliminated by taking several actions, including not filling 27 staff positions at the state office. He also said he is creating a new organizational chart that could lead to the elimination of some positions.

Richardson was called back to the job earlier this year after Superintendent Michael Sentance resigned. Board members complained of his financial management and poor communication with local school districts. Richardson had been state superintendent some years ago.

Another area of scrutiny will be staff salaries. Some staff received substantial raises in the past three years, which didn’t go over well with lawmakers. Richardson said he will review salary structures to make sure staff pay matches job descriptions and pay grades.

There’s plenty to be done at the Department of Education. Richardson said he will make available letter grades for public schools by the end of the year, as mandated in a 2012 bill sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur.

Work remains to be done on creating a new student performance measurement.

The department decided to stop using the ACT Aspire assessment because, officials said, it didn’t align with state standards, and because there was a lengthy delay between testing and results.

Richardson said it will be another two years before a new assessment is in place.

Maybe most important of all will be an effort to re-establish better relations with local schools districts.

Lawmakers say they have heard complaints from local school officials about poor communication with the state office, and that local schools have gotten conflicting information from the state office.

Richardson has pledged to improve communications and to see that staff provides correction information and timely support to local school officials.

Without accurate and consistent support, schools cannot perform as they should.

Consistency in education policy and procedure is essential to not only local schools, but students, doing their best work.

Richardson deserves credit for bringing some order to the state office, which should flow to the local level.

Online: http://www.timesdaily.com/

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Oct. 30

The Tuscaloosa News on the costs and benefits of football:

By any measure you want to apply, football is America’s favorite sport. There’s no question that’s true in Alabama. There’s also no question Tuscaloosa is widely recognized as the epicenter of the sport on the college level.

Football is more than just a passionate pastime here. It is woven so deeply into the community’s fabric that it is more than just a profoundly important aspect of our culture. It is perhaps the most significant economic driver in our area, particularly right now, while the University of Alabama Crimson Tide is in the midst of a historically dominant dynasty unlike any other in the modern era of the sport.

The success of the team reaches into every nook and cranny of everyday life. Weddings and even funerals are scheduled so as not to interrupt football Saturdays.

The importance of football locally goes much deeper than its impact culturally. University officials are quick to point to the football team’s success as the catalyst behind the remarkable growth and economic prosperity on campus. That growth, along with the seven home games, the spring game and the international exposure they bring to Tuscaloosa are among the most vital economic drivers in our area. The Tuscaloosa News benefits every bit as much as any other local institution from the interest in football. Without football, the university, this town and its newspaper would all be radically different.

It has been that way ever since George Denny became the university’s president in 1912. Five years after taking the job, Denny made the controversial hire of Xen Scott as head football coach. Football success led to increased revenues and rapid growth. Scott’s successor, Wallace Wade, arrived in 1923 and quickly took the program to previously unthinkable heights. Ever since then, higher learning, the local economy and Alabama football have been intertwined and never more so than today. Nick Saban’s success is fueling a new era of unprecedented growth at the Capstone.

Participation in high school football is trending downward at the national level, and while it has increased over the past few years locally, more parents are opting for flag youth football in Tuscaloosa than ever before. In the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority leagues, flag football participation has passed the number playing tackle youth ball and has more than doubled over the last five years.

Football has always been a violent sport. Some people like to call it a contact sport, but that’s not accurate. Basketball is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport.

Football has been down this path before. A few years before Denny arrived on campus, there was a national movement to ban the game. President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in to save it with sweeping reforms that forever changed how the game is played.

Parents, players, universities and communities deserve an unflinching and honest look at all the information available to us so that we’re better able to address issues with the modern game.

Many young men who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to college get an education through football. But they deserve to know at what cost. And so do the fans who cheer them.

Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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Oct. 25

The Gadsden Times on a new state law barring crossover voting in primary elections:

From the “good idea, bad execution department…”

The Sept. 26 Republican U.S. Senate runoff between Roy Moore (the winner) and incumbent Luther Strange (the loser) was the first test of Alabama’s new law that bars crossover voting in primary elections.

For example, someone who votes in a Democratic primary election is now barred by law rather than party rules from voting in a Republican runoff, and vice versa.

We long advocated that law, and continue to support this one. Primaries are how political parties choose their general election candidates. They shouldn’t be open to anyone who feels like voting when they see a “polls open” sign, or who wants to practice political mischief or sabotage to achieve a specific result.

Secretary of State John Merrill’s office has identified 674 voters (out of nearly 450,000 who went to the polls on Sept. 26) who violated the law, and has turned those names over to prosecutors.

Merrill says he’s not telling those prosecutors what to do with the information, but in the lead-up to the election, he put out a news release calling violations of the law “voter fraud,” vowed that violators would be “investigated, prosecuted and indicted to the fullest extent of the law” and pointed out the potential penalties they could face.

Crossover voting is now a Class C felony in Alabama. It can send people to prison for 1 to 10 years and hit them with a fine of up to $15,000.

We’re not sure it should be.

Merrill’s stance here sure sounds like he’s trying to make an example out of some folks.

We’re not sure he should be.

We imagine he’s hoping some prosecutors, with the same mindset (and an eye toward making names for themselves, given that they also are politicians), will run with this and send some violators to the penitentiary.

We’re not sure they should.

No, we’re not advocating breaking a law that we support in theory. We just question whether it’s something worth putting more people into a prison system that already is bursting at the seams over.

We understand what’s going on here. Republicans have made Alabama as much of a one-party state as it was under Democratic rule two or three generations ago. They understand the polarization of the electorate and the willingness of the opposition to create mischief in these situations, and want to hang some dead chickens (or donkeys) from a goalpost or two as a warning.

We’d like to see this law revisited and the penalty changed to something more on the level of the offense, like having the voter’s ballot tossed out.

We imagine judges dealing with limited resources and crowded dockets would say “thank you.”

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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