- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Oct. 24

The Greenwood Commonwealth on evaluating charter schools:

There may have been some smirking last week among charter-school opponents when the accountability grades came out from the Mississippi Department of Education.

The state’s first three charter schools, all located in Jackson, showed up toward the bottom of the rankings. Two had the same accountability grades that they received the year before - a D and an F. The third, after its first year, received a D.

“See,” we could imagine charter opponents saying, “we told you charter schools were a waste of time and only take precious financial resources from already underserved public schools.”

Not so fast.

A closer look at the numbers shows that, although the charters have not performed any miracles in their first year or two of operation, at least two of them are doing a whole lot better than their peer middle schools in the failing Jackson School District.

Of the 13 traditional middle schools, 11 of them received F’s, including 10 of them for the second year in a row. The students in these 11 most closely match the demographics from which the three charter schools draw - low-income, mostly African-American.

Two of the charters - both operated by the Nashville-based Republic Schools - not only were a grade higher, but the percentage of their students who scored proficient or better on state tests in reading and math were two to three times higher than the 11 failing traditional middle schools.

Meanwhile, the one F-rated charter, Midtown Public, was indistinguishable in its dismal performance after two years than the failing traditional schools. If you were to judge it today, you’d have to shut it down.

To do so, though, might also be premature. Even state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, no cheerleader for charter schools, says it takes three to five years to see what if any difference they are making, since most of the students who enroll in them start off two grades or more behind academically.

So, let’s not give charter schools a pass, but let’s not rush to judgment either. This experiment in education has only just begun in Mississippi. The first rural charter school has yet to open. That comes next school year with one in Clarksdale.

Like a lot of experiments - including the state Department of Education’s own two decades of trying to turn around failing schools and districts by taking them over - some are going to work out better than others.

In the next couple of years, it will be clear which charters schools are successes and which are failures. Those that are not operating at least at a C level by the time their five-year charter comes up for review should be closed. There’s no purpose in having charter schools if they’re as mediocre or dysfunctional as the schools to which the charters are supposed to provide an alternative.

It would be wrongheaded, however, to root for their failure. Successful charter schools are not just good for the children who patronize them. They can also help children who stay in traditional schools by spurring these schools to get better and by providing examples of how to do it.

Online: http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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Oct. 24

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on rebuilding communities in the wake of natural disasters:

Although it didn’t take long for the national news coverage to transition to something else, the need for assistance in Houston and other areas of Texas remained following the catastrophic damage inflected by Hurricane Harvey earlier this year.

Our up-to-the-minute news and information culture these days makes it easier than ever to forget about the things that no longer directly impact us, unfortunate as that reality might be.

Thankfully, one nonprofit organization with direct ties to Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi was among the many groups that stayed behind after the natural disaster and nationwide attention passed through to help those in need.

Eight Days of Hope just recently returned from Houston following nearly two months assisting with recovery efforts.

The group was in Houston for a total of seven weeks, arriving within 72 hours of the hurricane’s landing, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Cristina Carreon.

The group operated out of Grace Church Houston in the southeastern portion of the city and got to work quickly, having to remove at least 4 feet of water in the basement of the church.

Typically, the disaster relief ministry brings in up to 2,500 volunteers and can rebuild up to 350 homes in eight days.

But for this trip, the group hosted 1,852 volunteers from 42 states and five countries. Each day, houses were cleaned and repaired, and damaged furnishings and debris were removed from neighborhoods throughout Houston.

The organization purchased commercial equipment such as fans and dehumidifiers to dry homes in the flood zones. Within a day of the hurricane, ministry leaders purchased $500,000 in commercial dehumidifiers and fans to draw out moisture from flooded homes.

Eight Days of Hope Executive Director and President Steve Tybor said the Houston relief project was by far the ministry’s largest rapid response effort ever. The group gutted, dried, sprayed and provided equipment to many, and it fed around 1,500 families.

Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi are no strangers to the great work Eight Days of Hope, among so many other groups, have done following natural disasters.

The group played an integral part in helping Tupelo in the days and weeks following the 2014 tornado.

And it’s because of our shared experiences with such devastating storms in the past that we, as a region, should know just how much those in Houston and other storm-ravaged areas across the country still need assistance.

The work to rebuild communities following any significant natural disaster should be viewed as more of a marathon than a sprint. It requires exhaustive planning and execution by so many organizations and institutions working together long after the initial storm hits.

We urge those who are able to consider making contributions - whether it’s financially or otherwise - to groups that are continuing to assist communities like Houston rebuild following such tremendous devastation.

Online: http://www.djournal.com/

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Oct. 18

The Neshoba Democrat on curfews aimed at curbing violence:

The short answer is curfews don’t work well - if at all - and that’s according to The Washington Post, a liberal newspaper located in a town that knows a lot more about violent crime than we do.

A quick search through some academic studies on Google Scholar, the Post reported in July 2011, produced results such as this, from the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: “The evidence does not support the argument that curfews prevent crime and victimization. Juvenile crime and victimization are most likely to remain unchanged after implementation of curfew laws.”

Also, the Post reports that Politifact.com, a consortium of researchers and reporters who fact-check politician’s claims, recently awarded a “mostly true” badge on its truth-o-meter to this quote from criminologist Mike Males: “There’s pretty much no question that (the curfew ordinances) aren’t effective in either reducing crime or preventing harm to young people.”

Cato research suggests curfews don’t work either. A detailed March 2016 report by the conservative Washington, D.C., think tank concludes, “These results suggest that, on balance, the deterrent-reducing effect of juvenile curfews (due to the removal of witnesses and bystanders) outweighs the incapacitation effect of sending juveniles inside.”

Curfew ordinances in cities of comparable size are being studied by the Philadelphia Mayor and Board of Aldermen after a community organizer presented officials with Meridian’s rules in the wake of an uptick in crime in west Philadelphia.

What they ought to be looking for is competency.

Turning the police into babysitters takes officers away from their real mission of fighting serious crime and could endanger lives as they’re tucking teens in and more serious calls go unanswered perhaps.

The frustration over crime is understandable and our hearts go out to those who have suffered at the hands of violent offenders right here in our city in broad daylight.

But why treat children like inmates?

Curfews further erode any sense of community and target kids mostly guilty of nothing more than being kids.

The driving force behind the crime is moral decline and decades of failed government policies that have created slaves of the government, lifestyles of dependency instead of viable work, a way of life that, sadly, often leads to drugs and crime.

The police and the school teachers can’t fix the rot, that’s on the parents and families, although they need help with mentoring programs and Bible studies and other forms of outreach that stabilize wayward youths.

The government is never going to fix the underlying societal decay, so City Hall isn’t really the place to start, but they can help.

The curfew, parental accountability, jobs for youth and random roadblocks by police were among solutions discussed during a second community meeting in northwest Philadelphia in August following a series of shootings and other recent violence in the area.

Curfews and random roadblocks?

Willingly forfeiting basic liberties to travel to and fro at will is dangerous. We fought a Revolution over that and thus the Fourth Amendment that prevents unwarranted search and seizure.

What will they be coming for next, our guns?

The intentions with a curfew are good, but curfews don’t work. What works is community policing and people telling the truth when they witness a crime. Refusing reflects the moral decay and leads to chaos on the streets, as we’ve seen.

Hire more police officers, give them more resources, but don’t expect the police to babysit. Curfews don’t work.

Online: http://www.cdispatch.com/

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