South Carolina editorial roundup: Friday, Jan. 17, 2020


Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Post and Courier

Jan. 14

Clemson's loss in championship was only a setback

Clemson's 42-25 loss to Louisiana State University in Monday night's national championship game was no doubt a sad outcome for (orange) Tiger fans, but it does little to dim Clemson's remarkable run.

Before Monday, Clemson's football team was riding a 29-game winning streak, the longest in school history and one of the longest ever in the nation. Ultimately, Clemson came up short in its bid for a third national title in four years, but its program remains among the nation's elite.

Monday's game was competitive until the fourth quarter, when LSU's masterful quarterback Joe Burrow scored his fifth passing touchdown (he also ran for another). Mr. Burrow's performance proved that Heisman voters knew what they were doing last month, when Burrow won the prestigious trophy and Clemson's star QB Trevor Lawrence finished seventh in the voting.

The Clemson Tigers started auspiciously in both halves Monday night, but LSU dominated late. After trailing 28-15 at halftime, Clemson stopped LSU and forced those Tigers to punt. Clemson then marched down the field to score a touchdown and add a two-point conversion to pull within a field goal. But its offense would struggle the rest of the night, and its defense would allow two more LSU scores.

Still, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has plenty to look forward to come this fall: He has many excellent returning players, a talented coaching staff and a solid fan base. As we've noted, Mr. Swinney's success is attributable to the unique family atmosphere and culture he has cultivated. One image near the end of Monday's game, of Mr. Swinney holding Mr. Lawrence's head, is widely seen as evidence of his highly effective, highly personal style.

And let's keep things in perspective: Monday's loss was a setback, not a tragedy. As Post and Courier sports columnist Gene Sapakoff noted: "Dabo Swinney and Co. can't wait to get back to New Orleans. That's right, the Superdome is the site of a College Football Playoff semifinal next year. If Clemson isn't No. 1 in preseason polls, it's probably No. 2 behind Ohio State."

The Aiken Standard

Jan. 11

Legislature making education issues a top priority this year

When the South Carolina Legislature convenes, it will tackle a number of important issues.

Health care, tax reform, pension reform and how to handle the state's aging population are among the many topics to be addressed. But one should stand out above the rest: education.

Education funding reform and teacher pay and recruitment dominated the discussion at a legislative workshop for the media. The bipartisan panel from around the state, representing both the House and Senate, engaged in a lively discussion about the issues surrounding education.

Rep. Rita Allison, R-Spartanburg, cut to the heart of the debate when she said, "A qualified teacher in every classroom, if there is a silver bullet, that's going to be it."

Senate Education Chairman Greg Hembree, R-Horry, agreed.

"We need to raise the profession up," he said. "A second- or third-grade teacher is more important than a college professor. I think we've got it a little bit reversed."

Some panelists suggested that raises across the board for all state employees should take precedence, but taking care of the people who teach our students should be the top priority.

As Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, put it: "Young people are not looking at going into a profession where they can't take care of their families."

Gov. Henry McMaster also is on board for giving teachers a pay raise: he wants to earmark $211 million to give teachers a $3,000 pay raise.

South Carolina is making progress on another key component of education: reaching children at an earlier age. McMaster also has put forth a $53 million proposal that would expand pre-kindergarten for low-income 4-year-olds to all school districts in the state.

Like attracting qualified teachers, getting an early start on education can only help students as they progress through the school system. Other aspects of the education system that the panel touched on included reducing classroom sizes and cutting down on standardized testing.

South Carolina has been blessed with a windfall of nearly $2 billion in extra revenue, according to economists, for the budget year that starts in July. That should help lawmakers make some headway on education issues, although every state agency will likely want a piece of the revenue pie.

Improving South Carolina's education system is not an overnight fix. Raising teacher pay and expanding pre-k programs are a good start. But as Sen. Ross Turner, R-Greenville, said, "I think in the end we'll improve South Carolina education a good deal, but it's going to take three or four bills to get us there."

Let's hope that the 2020 legislative session is the start of something truly big.

The Times and Democrat

Jan. 10

Number of traffic deaths can decrease with seatbelt use

The new year on the roads has already claimed one life in Orangeburg County. That's not the beginning we had hoped for after a year that saw traffic deaths here increase while the number killed statewide declined.

Preliminary numbers from the S.C. Department of Public Safety show 42 people died on Orangeburg County roads in 2019. That's three more than the 39 in 2018.

Fortunately, the numbers were down in Calhoun, from eight in '18 to two. And Bamberg County had no one die in crashes in 2019 after two were killed the year before.

Statewide, the number of deaths declined by about 5%, with 985 people being killed in 2019. The 2018 toll was 1,036.

As much as the declines are welcome, it's still horrific that nearly 1,000 people were killed on the state's roads last year.

And already in 2020, there have been deaths.

SCDPS said four persons were killed during the New Year's holiday reporting period, which started Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 6 p.m. and concluded Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 11:59 p.m.

During the weekend period, which began Friday, Jan. 3, at 6 p.m. until Sunday, Jan. 5, at 11:59 p.m., two persons were killed on the roadways.

As of Jan. 5, seven people had died on South Carolina highways - compared to 19 highway deaths during the same time period in 2019.

Seeing traffic deaths take a major decline is high on the list of wishes for the new year. Many things could contribute to making it happen.

A key one is wearing safety belts.

Of the seven people who have died so far in 2020, five had access to seat belts - and four were not wearing them.

Using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics on the effectiveness of belts in saving lives and preventing injury, at least two of the five would be alive today had they been buckled up.

NHTSA statistics show:

- If you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%.

- If you buckle up in a light truck, you can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 60% and moderate to critical injury by 65%.

In Orangeburg County and all around South Carolina, a commitment to wearing seat belts every time and all the time while traveling would be a very smart resolution - and one that is not difficult to keep. Your life may depend on it.