Editorial roundup: Nov. 6, 2018


Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Post and Courier

Oct. 30

S.C. should re-elect Spearman for making headway in education

South Carolina's long-struggling education system must evolve into one that helps students acquire the skills needed for an economy in search of smart, adaptable workers for jobs in manufacturing, high-tech careers and other growing industries.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman has worked for the last four years reshaping our system to better function at that pragmatic junction of learning and the economy, and she is committed to ending longstanding disparities that too often leave students without opportunities to succeed.

South Carolina residents should re-elect her - and make her the last elected superintendent by voting to make the position a governor appointee, a move that Ms. Spearman supports.

During her first term, Ms. Spearman has shown a welcome willingness to upset the status quo on strategies that haven't worked or are inefficient drains on taxpayer dollars.

For instance, her department took over three long-troubled, rural school districts about a year ago. Though she faced pushback from local boards, the bold move has led to cost savings and should translate into better academic achievement.

Ms. Spearman also has pushed to consolidate smaller districts, which helps provide more opportunities for students in rural areas by pooling resources on programs that wouldn't otherwise be feasible.

"We have to think more regionally to give more opportunities to more students," Ms. Spearman said.

We agree.

Ms. Spearman, a former educator, rightly calls for changing the equation on South Carolina's overreliance on standardized tests. Under her watch, five state tests have been eliminated, she said. That gives teachers more time to teach students, rather than teaching to tests.

New school report cards that come out next month will reflect how many students earn industry credentials or are going into the military rather than solely reporting college readiness. Those and other changes will give a more complete picture of how well a school has prepared its students for a variety of future paths.

Ms. Spearman is making headway in many regards. But it is nevertheless worrisome that the state's already-low national ranking in education has slipped in some areas.

Reading remains a chronic problem. Ms. Spearman says she will push all schools to intervene with problem readers before third grade, perhaps as early as kindergarten. That will mean making necessary changes to the Read to Succeed program and more training for teachers, both moves she supports.

The linchpins of classroom success - teachers - must be paid better. Ms. Spearman is asking for 5 percent raises to bring the state's salaries in line with the Southeastern average. Teachers need more than the paltry 1 percent pay hike the Legislature doled out this year.

Teachers also would benefit from more support in dealing with students who come to school struggling with behavioral or mental health issues. Ms. Spearman says she will work to provide access to a mental health counselor in every school and tele-psychiatry services available to all students.

Fixing South Carolina's ailing education system is no small task, but Ms. Spearman's track record is impressive, and she is well-positioned to continue the good work. Voters should give her another term as the state's education chief.

The Times and Democrat

Oct. 31

Political back and forth hardens hearts, can lead to genuine hate

The past week has seen the nation grapple with violence being blamed on a toxic political environment in the country.

Bombs being mailed to leading Democrats is a serious matter - whether they were intended to go off or just scare. As CNN received one of the packages, the cable network provided non-stop coverage of the matter over days, with its news anchors mixing in opinion with reporting. And routinely that opinion, with guest analysts weighing in, focused on Trump as the architect of a political environment devoid of civility.

There was very little balance by way of reporting on the harsh words by Democrats about the president and other Republicans, nor the call by leading Democrats to harass Republicans wherever they can be found.

No wonder Trump continues to call out the media for its reporting. The criticism is more than the president not liking stories that are negative toward him or his administration. It is a pattern by some in the media simply not to give the president fair play in reporting. That is not good journalism.

For his part, the president's unconventional, confrontational style has created an environment in which political discourse grows increasingly nasty. He has few or no respectful words for opponents and counter punches with a vengeance when attacked. It is inevitable that he will get brushback from those he criticizes. The back and forth hardens hearts and gives Americans the look of a government in which compromise is impossible.

Among some in our midst, the rhetoric foments genuine hate. Couple that with instability and a willingness to hurt others and you get actions such as mailing bombs, the killing of two African-Americans at a Kentucky grocery store and a massacre at a Jewish synagogue in Pennsylvania - though all should be careful in reaching conclusions about exactly what sparked the culprits in the cases to take such actions.

We always have been an advocate of civility in government because the American political process is built around compromise, which is hard to find when opposing sides are busier attacking than looking for ways to make the system work.

And that brings us to former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, the Bamberg County native serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She has first-hand experience in dealing with deeply divisive politics amid a catastrophe such as the Emanuel Nine church massacre in Charleston in 2015. She offers perspective, none more pertinent to today than her serious words at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in October.

Amid jokes that are an expected part of the occasion, Haley struck a serious tone and called for greater civility in America.

"In our toxic political environment, I've heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil," Haley said. "In America, our political opponents are not evil."

"In South Sudan, where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war - that is evil. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons to murder innocent children - that is evil," she said. "In North Korea, where American student Otto Warmbier was tortured to death - that was evil.

"In the last two years, I've seen true evil," she said. "We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil. They're just our opponents."