- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


May 4

Gainesville Times says the state budget offers relief for schools:

It’s now official: Georgia schools will be fully funded according to the education formula that has been in place for years.

The state’s fiscal 2019 budget was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal this week. Among the $26.2 billion in state spending is $9.9 billion for the state’s public schools, $166 million more than originally budgeted, based on the state’s increased revenue projections.

The Department of Education’s Quality Basic Education program has been in place since 1985 but has not been implemented completely in recent years. The formula is used to determine how much state money each public school district in the state receives, with additional funds allotted proportionally to help to smaller school districts with a limited tax base. Education advocates and a commission chaired by the governor that included Hall Superintendent Will Schofield and Times columnist Dick Yarbrough have recommended updating the formula, and that may be the next big reform. For now, providing a full share of money to disperse is a good start.

Schools took a hit during the recession at the end of the last decade that forced the state to apply austere budget cuts to all spending to maintain a balanced budget, as required by its constitution. Years later, with the economy now growing and tax money again flowing in, those days of skimping and scraping thankfully may be over.

Since 2003, Hall schools have lost more than $152 million due to limited state funding while its enrollment numbers continue to rise. Gainesville schools’ total shortfall has been more than $37 million with a record number of students. That led to shortened school calendars, larger class sizes, elimination of programs like art and music and the tapping of reserve funds. Both systems have taken great pains not to increase school tax rates to keep pace with student growth, technological needs and building maintenance. That’s why Schofield likened the restoration of full QBE funding to “getting an early Christmas present.”

That’s not to say schools have everything they need. Even as the state has boosted spending, a growing student population creates additional challenges for districts like Hall, Gainesville and others. As recently discussed, finding enough money to replace aging school buses is one of many additional expenditures needed.

And the new budget does not include pay raises for the state’s 200,000 teachers, though it does include an additional $361 million for teacher pensions. Pay levels need to be addressed next before teacher retention becomes a more serious problem. This spring, teachers in several states have resorted to protests and walkouts seeking to boost pay and benefits. We don’t want to see Georgia teachers following suit.

Debates over school funding are not new. Some in education may never be satisfied with what the budget provides, even if K-12 education is the state’s largest expenditure. During tough economic times, the tax money just wasn’t there, and state leaders can’t run a deficit and charge it to the future as they do in Washington.

And even with funding restored, school leaders are obligated to spend money wisely, eliminate waste and not spend more than necessary on administrative jobs that take resources better spent directly on students in the classroom. This is especially the case for some of the larger metro school systems with bloated bureaucracies in place.

In recent years, studies showed Georgia’s spending per student ranked 38th in the country and some $2,000 below the national average of $11,009. Even with full funding for QBE, the state must explore new and better ways to pay for student education to meet growing student enrollment and educational challenges.

Quality education is vital to keep the state’s economy growing. New businesses and industries need a trained, educated workforce for jobs best filled by Georgia graduates. Companies looking to locate here want good schools for their employees’ children.

That’s why keeping schools up to date with growth is perhaps the state’s greatest priority, and this year’s budget is a major step in that direction. Without good schools, Georgia’s economic foundation will collapse like a house of cards.

Online: https://www.gainesvilletimes.com


May 4

The Savannah Morning News on campaign ads:

Turn on the television or radio these days, and you’re sure to hear political campaign ads as candidates push toward the May 22 primary.

The onslaught will soon move online. Come this fall, with the midterm election looming, key races will get particular attention. As is often the case political advertising, the messages will test the truth.

There is a difference between what you see or hear on your favorite local station and what you’re exposed to on Facebook, however. With TV and radio, the ad at least identifies the person or group that paid for the spot. The internet, on the other hand, remains the wild, wild web.

The transparency rules broadcasters must abide by don’t apply online. Nefarious parties exploited the loophole in attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election by bombarding Americans with smear ads and others meant to prey on divisions in American society, as investigations into Russian interference have revealed.

Marshals, 100 of them in the United States Senate, seem poised to ride in and clean up.

A bipartisan trio of senators introduced the Honest Ads Act last fall. The legislation would, among other things, require each ad to carry a disclaimer, such as “This ad was brought to you by Vladimir Putin,” and force digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to create a public record of political ads.

Given the stakes this fall - control of both houses of Congress is in play, as are governorships of 36 states - the bill must become law sooner rather than later. Many of the internet titans, including Facebook and Twitter, support the legislation and are already implementing safeguards.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg told attendees at this week’s Off the Record conference that his company intends to spend more money policing political ads this year than they make off of them. “We’re essentially going to be losing money on running political ads,” Zuckerberg said.

When it comes to the sanctity of American elections, no cost is too high. We are spending lavishly to upgrade polling place infrastructure. But if voters are poisoned by bad information in advance of election day, all the innovations in voter identification and voting machines won’t matter at all.

As the head of the Federal Election Commission recently said, this represents an all-hands-on-deck moment for American democracy.

Americans increasingly rely on internet sources as their primary source of news. A 2016 survey revealed as many as 65 percent of us get our news via websites and apps. On social media, the line between legitimate news and “fake news” is often indistinguishable.

Count on the Russians and other foreign powers to leverage the web again this fall. And it’s not just foreign operatives that we must beware of - deep-pocketed special interests here can muckrake online with little or no accountability, too.

The Honest Ads Act won’t eliminate meddling. The proposed law has a $500 spending threshold, and would-be influencers could limit their ad purchases to less than that amount to avoid disclosure. Additionally, he U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling allows for political action committees and other groups to accept unlimited contributions from undisclosed donors.

But the Honest Ads Act would mandate scrutiny and ads from questionable sources would stand out.

The ad buys for this fall’s midterms will be mind-numbing.

The Democrats need to gain 24 seats to take control of the House of Representatives and only two to become the majority in the Senate. That said, the challenge is great. Only 48 or so House races are considered competitive, and Republicans hold 41 of those. In the Senate, Democrats must defend 26 seats, compared to the nine held by Republicans facing re-election.

Expect plenty of partisan smearing with a focus on President Donald Trump and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. And at the state level, should Stacey Abrams win the Democratic nomination, the nation will focus on the Georgia gubernatorial race. Abrams is vying to become the nation’s first African-American female governor.

And meddlers have plenty of polarizing issues to exploit, from immigration to gun control.

The Senate resumes the 2018 session next week. We encourage them to vote on the Honest Ads Act so it can move to the House and ultimately President Trump’s desk. The election is too close at hand to wait.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com


May 9

The Daily Citizen-News on opening a local lynching memorial:

Our country’s history - any country’s history - is littered with reprehensible moments and events that many would rather not remember.

However difficult they may be, we cannot simply push these memories aside as if they never happened.

Last month, a memorial was unveiled in Montgomery, Alabama, that memorializes some 4,400 black lynching victims who were tortured, persecuted and killed across the United States. Near the National Memorial for Peace and Justice are about 800 steel columns engraved with the names of those who were murdered during these horrific lynchings. Each column represents a county where a documented lynching happened.

Along with these columns are duplicates that are ready to be placed in communities throughout the country. Each county must claim their duplicate monument. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, which created the memorial, the monuments are “waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.”

According to a story in this newspaper, “The memorial is designed to make it obvious which counties have not claimed their monuments, which some have noted resemble rows of coffins.”

Communities are divided over whether the duplicate monuments should be brought in. Some believe the monuments will bring back terrible memories of our past, further dividing us. Others think the monuments will remind us of the atrocities of lynchings and help bring us further together.

While we can see both points of view, we support bringing our duplicate monument to Dalton and Whitfield County. The Emery Center (Dalton’s African American Heritage and Multicultural Center) would be a fitting place for the memorial.

There are five documented lynchings that occurred in Whitfield County. We should remember those who suffered such unfair, excruciating deaths solely because of their skin color.

Online: http://www.dailycitizen.news

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