- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Pueblo Chieftain, Feb. 21, on a boot camp providing second chances:

As satisfying as the idea of locking up all criminals and throwing away the key might sound, it isn’t a practical solution for every situation. And it would deny the opportunity for many who’ve been convicted of crimes to turn their lives around and become productive members of society.

That’s why a boot camp program the Pueblo Municipal Court is preparing to launch seems so intriguing. Municipal Court Judge Carla Sikes told the Pueblo City Council last week that plans are in the works to send some at-risk juvenile offenders to a boot camp that will be held on the campus of Central High School in June and July.

At the camp, participants will attend classes and participate in physical exercise. The goal will be to teach them discipline, teamwork, self-confidence, conflict resolution, nutrition and overall health and leadership skills. Participants also will work on a yet-to-be determined project that they will have to complete and present at the end of the camp.

“The camp will help them gain an overall sense of self-worth,” Sikes said. “The goal is that they will take what they learn and become positive role models for other youth, become more engaged and motivated in school and accomplish their personal goals.”

Parents of the juvenile offenders also will participate by taking classes on good parenting and communication skills so they can support their children after they have completed the program.

Sikes said the court still is working through a process to determine which juveniles will be eligible. There will be a pretty powerful incentive to participate, though: Juveniles who complete the boot camp will have the municipal charges against them dismissed and any fines waived.

It’s easy to be skeptical about programs like this, to dismiss them as being too “touchy-feely,” but they can yield positive results. Sikes said the Pueblo boot camp is being patterned after a program that has worked well in Los Angeles.

Trying to get wayward young people back on a positive path is a laudable goal. Although they may have made some early mistakes, there still is time to reach them while they’re in an impressionable stage of life. Having their records wiped clean of municipal charges against them will give them a fresh start rather than being stigmatized and marginalized.

Once offenders are older and have been sentenced to time in jail or prison, it’s more difficult to get them on the path to reform.

It’s unrealistic to think this program or any other program like it will have a 100 percent success rate. There will be some participants who continue to break laws after completing the program and they will have to be dealt with by law enforcement and the court system when they do.

However, for those who choose to apply what they learn at boot camp, the program will offer much needed second chances. Here’s hoping that many of the participants will take advantage of the opportunity.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2ogVTT8


The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Feb. 20, on something good happening at CU-Boulder:

Headlines about liberal bias in higher education read like “The sun rises in the east.”

A weekend headline in the Boulder Daily Camera said “CU Boulder grapples with plummeting support of higher education among conservatives.”

The story analyzed a Pew Research study that showed right-of-center support for higher education dropping 18 points in just the past two years, with 58 percent of Republicans saying education has a negative impact on the country. Only 19 percent of Democrats feel the same.

“CU administration is well-aware of the study’s findings and agrees the results are a troubling sign of the times that shouldn’t be ignored,” the Camera reports.

Here’s the good news. Among public universities, no campus does more than CU-Boulder to combat academic bias and promote an environment safe for the free exchange of ideas.

Regent Heidi Gahahl wants fellow regents to join her in creating a policy to clarify free speech rights on all CU campuses, prohibiting censorship of social, political, academic, or artistic speech no matter how offensive anyone deems it.

That would be a great complement to a five-year-old program that is winning hearts and minds among CU-Boulder faculty and students. Other universities throughout the country want to replicate CU’s Conservative Thought and Policy Program, a veritable affirmative action plan for conservative scholars the campus launched in 2013 to promote intellectual diversity on campus.

Author and scholar Robert Kaufman, the fifth and current visiting scholar, met with The Gazette’s editorial board recently to discuss the program.

Kaufman earned his juris doctor from Georgetown, his bachelor’s and two masters’ degrees from Columbia, and an advanced law degree in dispute resolution from Pepperdine University School of Law.

“When I was at Georgetown Law in 1980, I had a Reagan button on and they thought I was certifiable,” Kaufman said. “The day after Reagan won, there was a sense on campus of ‘how did this happen?’ Academics didn’t know anybody who voted for him. At university campuses, and other elite places, there is almost a deja vu in that phenomenon today. When we don’t have intellectual debate at the highest levels, with a broad range of ideas, the kettle is going to boil over in anger rather than in rational discourse.”

Kaufman said the conservative thought program works because it brings in first-rate academicians as “happy warriors” with ideas unique to higher education.

“We don’t have a chip on our shoulder. We engage,” Kaufman said. “We like students and the university atmosphere. If you’re going to be an apostle for why you have to take these ideas seriously, you want credible people who have appealing temperaments, rather than flame throwers who are angry and bitter.”

Kaufman said he and other visiting scholars have grounded their teachings in “Western tradition.”

“People forget, our Founding Fathers considered intellectual freedom the most important freedom we have,” Kaufman said. “We’re the only country in the world, in history, in which Article 1 of our Constitution protects intellectual property. That has been the wellspring of our comparative advantage in anything. American universities are still the flagship of the world. But, if we surrender our birthright to the mood of the moment, we sacrifice what is essential to all our freedom and we sacrifice a huge comparative advantage to other countries.”

When Trump praised Western culture for inspiring innovation, art, and music, journalists and other left-wing activists called the speech dog-whistle racism.

Universities “doubled down” on that theme, Kaufman said, but will likely lose the debate over time.

“Universities are going to have to come to terms with this in a way that’s constructive, rather than destructive,” Kaufman said.

The Conservative Thought and Policy Program might be the impetus for a return of academic and intellectual freedom on campus. It is a long game of disruption, which could eventually break up an ivory tower monopoly.

“This is a template for a national program, and a national movement,” Kaufman said. “You have all the fundamentals here: a great university president, an enlightened academic administration, and a very good board of regents. It is a positive perfect storm.”

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2Hz3AMz


Aurora Sentinel, Feb. 19, on Parkland students taking on the NRA:

America owes a collective cheer to the courageous Douglas High School mass-shooting survivors, and the friends and families of the victims.

The nation has been driven down by years of gun violence that comes in waves and elicits nothing but “thoughts and prayers” from too many in Washington.

Maybe there is finally reason to hope.

Scores of brave Parkland, Florida, high-school shooting survivors deserve America’s gratitude for setting aside their horror to call out President Donald Trump, and scores of lawmakers backed by the NRA, for their malfeasance and complicity in shootings that claim more than 35,000 American lives each year.

These stricken teenagers - and parents of teens whose children were murdered in a tragedy that rates as only the third-worst school shooting in the country - have taken to social media, to TV cameras and to protests against the National Rifle Association and the members of Congress they pay millions to each year to keep the country from enacting meaningful gun control.

In a nation that knows many wrongs and tragedies, the fear, extortion and propaganda perpetuated by the NRA, by their toadies in Washington and every state capitol in the country inflict a uniquely American crime against humanity.

For longer than many of these children in Florida have been alive, the country has raised its fist each time after these horrific mass shootings and sworn, “enough” and “never again.”

And nothing ever changed. Each time bills surface that would ensure everyone who buys a gun anywhere undergoes a background check, the NRA and its congressional backers have worked swiftly and aggressively to snuff all of these measures. In almost every congressional and state legislative election in the country, the NRA is there, weighing in with cash for those who swear to fight against any and all forms of gun control. And the NRA is there with cash to squash anyone running for office who promises to take on the gun lobby and opposing lawmakers too weak to resist it.

It’s shocking that in a state like Colorado, which has suffered so tragically from mass-shooting attacks such as Columbine, the Aurora theater shooting, Arapahoe High School and Platte Canyon High School, that there is still a stubborn minority that believes and acts on the NRA propaganda. While the vast majority of citizens overwhelmingly support at least the most obvious, common-sense measures of gun control, a vocal and bullying minority continue to fight against it.

Democrats are just as much to blame as Republicans here. For better than a decade, they’ve cowered from the fight in an effort to preserve their power. Cowardice among both parties have left Americans with only individual champions, such as former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, a mass-shooting victim herself.

It only serves to make the senseless shooting deaths of so many Colorado children and adults even more tragic.

Previously, the shock and horror of these shootings has dampened the outrage they warrant, but Parkland seems different. Maybe the cynical standard response by pundits - that there is never enough slain children to prompt Congress to turn back the NRA and act on gun control - is wrong.

Perhaps Americans have finally had enough needless terror and bloodshed to finally demand change. Maybe these eloquent and savvy teens from Parkland can make a difference.

Make no mistake, should the tide finally turn against the NRA and gun-rights hardliners in Congress, the rank and file among Republicans will quickly climb aboard the gun-control bandwagon. They are politicians, and they mean to stay that way.

So this is all up to voters. It’s not enough to just tell pollsters how strongly you feel about gun control, you have to mean it. You have to vote your opinion.

And if you do, there’s no doubt we’ll have enough members of Congress and the Colorado Legislature to finally ban bum-stocks, military grade weapons, assault rifles, virtual personal arsenals and more. With the persistence and insistence of voters, we could finally see meaningful gun registration, education and common sense laws that prevent people who have shown a proclivity to violence or delusion from getting guns and murdering children in schools, families and friends in malls, theaters, clubs or concerts.

These most recent surviving victims of a mass-shooting are telling us they know firsthand this absolutely is a gun problem, a lethal one. If nay-saying Republicans want to be serious about ensuring there’s an effective mental health system in the country, as a way of preventing mass shootings, the tens of millions of mentally ill Americans who never shoot anybody will be grateful for their change of heart.

But the nation will no longer go along with absurd NRA propaganda meant to protect the gun industry at the expense of human life. Perhaps because of these brave teenage victims, it will be sooner rather than later the gun lobby loses its death grip on politicians and the country.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2EHxDzY


The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan, Feb. 16, on making education a state budget priority:

By any measure, $6.635 billion is a lot of money. That’s how much funding the state of Colorado appropriated this fiscal year for K-12 public education.

But it’s fair to ask whether it is enough given the explosive population growth our state is experiencing and the pressures faced by our school districts to provide an ever-increasing number of students with access to quality education.

Colorado is barely passing when it comes to funding schools, according to the latest Quality Counts report, which gave the state a D-plus grade for school finance. Colorado came in 40th among the states with a score of 67 out of 100.

Considering other factors in Education Week’s annual national assessment of public education, including students’ chances for success and K-12 achievement, Colorado received an overall score of 73.9, or a C.

The report placed Colorado square in the middle of the national pack - No. 25 - meaning our education system is average.

We think we can do better. We know Colorado is an exceptional place to live, work and raise a family; our schools should reflect that exceptionalism.

How to improve the quality of education is open to debate. We understand that spending a lot of money on education does not guarantee student performance.

Wyoming ranked first among the states for school finance with a score of 91.4 out of 100. Its overall score was 81.1 or a B-minus, placing it seventh among the states and the District of Columbia. Yet its score for K-12 achievement was 71.2; lower than Colorado’s 71.8.

But common sense and experience tells us adequate funding for schools, be it for programming or infrastructure upgrades, doesn’t hurt the quality of education.

Of the states that scored lower than Colorado in school finance, only Utah and Tennessee saw better student achievement scores with 73.2 and 72 respectively.

In Colorado, getting education funding where it needs to go is not simple. The formula for determining how much support is allocated to school districts is a mess complicated by competing elements in the state Constitution and state statutes.

As the state Legislature grapples this session with bills addressing education funding, we hope legislators and the governor will find a way to stabilize the state’s approach to school financing so it would be more consistent and predictable.

We also hope serious thought will be given toward long-term school funding.

Despite considerable progress in balancing its economy, Colorado is still a boom-and-bust state. Right now, things are hot and we’re feeling the cost of booming through the demands for improved and expanded infrastructure.

But Colorado needs to be prepared financially for when the next recession comes, and it certainly will, so our schools don’t end up suffering from the cost of busting.

A budget is more than a listing dollar figures. It is a statement of values and how we as a society view our priorities.

We would argue education should be near the top of state priorities, along with transportation and public health and safety. A well-educated citizenry will help us find solutions to vexing problems in any number of areas.

The Coloradoan will examine issues surrounding school finance through a yearlong series we’re calling “Sacrificing our Schools.”

We invite readers to follow along with the series and attend events dedicated to discussing school finance.

Editorial: http://noconow.co/2GA2T4p

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