Political News

Editorials from around New York

Posted July 12

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:

The Times Herald-Record of Middletown on hiring teachers at charter schools.

July 10

The latest clash over charter schools in New York concerns certification and a proposal to change the way teachers get approval to go into the classroom.

It pits two formidable opponents against each other — the charter industry with its impressive financial support and the educational establishment including the state Education Department, the Board of Regents and the teachers unions.

Given that lineup, it might seem impossible or at least implausible for charters to get any leeway in the procedures they use to hire and employ teachers. But charters have a friend in the White House these days and an even friendlier friend in the federal Department of Education so it would be foolish to assume that this dispute will be going away any time soon.

While this is a very narrow topic, one that will be settled inside the state bureaucracy without much, if any, participation from parents or students, it does reflect the unrest and dissatisfaction that brought about the concept and growth of the charter school movement to begin with.

Simply put, not all students, not all parents, were convinced that public schools were providing the best education possible. Charters were supposed to carve out their own niche in the education establishment.

As a report in Politico about the latest controversy explained, "The new rules would have a significant impact on the city's nationally influential networks, which tend to rely in part on young uncertified teachers, often on two-year Teach for America contracts, to staff their expanding networks."

In other words, what happens in New York gets noticed. When schools use such inspirational sources as Teach for America, a program that recruits well-educated graduates from many of the best colleges in the nation to spend time in inner-city schools and others with high rates of poverty, it is hard to automatically dismiss the quest for alternative forms of certification as the establishment always does.

Any such change, any provision for a teacher to qualify outside of the regulations now in place in New York is greeted as an imminent threat to the students, a guarantee of substandard instruction with substandard results.

Yet New York under the present rules and regulations is substandard by almost any measure with the exception of cost, where the state consistently ranks highest with per-pupil expenditure roughly double the national average.

Think tanks that collect scores from standardized tests show that New York is in the middle of the pack or lower. Colleges and especially community colleges are forced to devote significant resources to remedial education because students graduating from New York high schools are not prepared for college-level work. Yet the teachers unions are in the lead when it comes to opposing the kinds of standard curricula and testing that has been so successful in other states. And those same unions that are fighting this proposal for charter schools spend even more time and money opposing any attempt to link teacher evaluations to student performance.

So when those who oppose accountability with such vigor claim that any alternative form of certification would be bad for students, it is hard to take them seriously.

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Online: http://bit.ly/2u8YClP

The (Jamestown) Post-Journal on the age of consent for marriage.

July 7

Roughly 3,800 children were married in New York state between 2000 and 2010.

That's 3,800 children too many.

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, research shows young women who marry before 19 are 50 percent more likely than their unmarried peers to drop out of high school, and four times less likely to graduate from college. Women who wed before 18 are also at increased risk of developing mental and physical health disorders, including facing a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack, diabetes, cancer and stroke. Girls who marry young are 31 percent more likely to live in poverty when they are older and are three times more likely to be beaten by their spouses than women who wed at 21 or older. The numbers shouldn't be surprising — they are what happens when children marry before they can legally drive, smoke or drink.

Cuomo signed legislation recently raising the age of consent to marry from 14 years old to 18 years old and amends the process to require parental and judicial consent for marriage of those between 17 years old and 18 years old. It is a good thing that common sense prevailed in the state Legislature and the governor's office so that raising the age for a child to be married didn't slip through the cracks during the most recent legislative session.

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Online: http://bit.ly/2t3uZTc

The (Oneonta) Daily Star on Betsy DeVos.

July 10

Just in case you might be wondering what all the fuss was about after President Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to be the nation's education secretary, the major Republican donor has recently provided a discouraging example.

DeVos, who needed a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence to withstand a withering confirmation process, has apparently never met a charter school or school voucher program she didn't like or defend.

One example is in Detroit, whose failing public and private school system is regarded as among the worst in the nation. Bipartisan legislation was offered to establish standards for opening and closing the city's schools.

DeVos, who has been an ardent supporter of Common Core standards, did not want higher accountability on charter schools and private-school vouchers, saying they would discourage the enterprises.

DeVos and her husband, Dick, who is an Amway heir, are well-known philanthropists and are used to throwing their money around to get their way. According to a New York Times report, Republicans in the state legislature said she threatened to withhold contributions to them unless they scuttled the bill.

Which, of course, they did.

According to The Times, in the next seven weeks, the DeVos family showered Republicans with a total of $1.45 million.

Now it would seem that Ms. DeVos has a thing about letting abusive for-profit colleges take advantage of students.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined Democratic attorneys general from 17 other states and the District of Columbia to try and stop DeVos from doing just that.

Rules created in the Obama administration last year were meant to make schools financially responsible for fraud and prevent them from forcing students to resolve complaints outside a courtroom.

The attorneys general lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court demands implementation of those "borrower defense" rules that were supposed to take effect July 1.

DeVos, who, it has been reported, has had ties to the student loan debt collection industry, on June 14 announced the rules would be delayed and rewritten in what she termed a "regulatory reset."

"Unfortunately, last year's rulemaking effort missed an opportunity to get it right," DeVos said when announcing the change of policy. "The result is a muddled process that's unfair to students and schools and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant costs."

Schneiderman, however, says the rules are vital to protect college students and their families.

And we agree. Keeping for-profit colleges from acting badly doesn't qualify as any kind of restraint of trade.

"These rules served as critical protections against predatory for-profit schools that exploit hardworking students," Schneiderman said. "Yet the Trump administration continues to work against New York's students — instead allying themselves with unscrupulous actors in the higher education industry."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey put it even stronger, insisting that DeVos' delay violates the Administrative Procedures Act

"We have a secretary of education in Betsy DeVos who's more interested in protecting the executives of for-profit schools," Healey said, "than actually protecting the students whose responsibility it is that her office takes care of."

If there is any harm in increased oversight of for-profit colleges, we fail to see it. We wish the attorneys general success in their lawsuit.

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Online: http://bit.ly/2tIHHWo

The Olean Times Herald on fighting drug and alcohol addiction.

July 11

It is perhaps understandable that neighbors anywhere might express concern about the development or expansion of an inpatient drug and alcohol addictions treatment center in their neighborhood. That was the case Wednesday evening during a Portville Town Planning Board meeting in which a proposed 20-bed facility for women by the Council on Addiction and Recovery Services, Inc. in Westons Mills was discussed.

Property values, security, even the safety of area children, were among issues raised, with one exchange between a resident and board member stopping just short of becoming physical. It's to everyone's credit that the situation was defused and the public hearing continued — because it was during this time that board members and the audience heard stories of recovery and the ongoing battle against addiction.

A battle in which treatment facilities, like the one in Westons Mills, give individuals the tools and support needed to overcome their addictions.

Drug or alcohol addiction is a disease, the same as if residents of Weston's Manor were being treated for cancer or some other life-threatening ailment. And just as medical patients cannot treat or overcome certain afflictions on their own, sufferers of addictions need structured, whole treatment to be successful at rehabilitation.

The residents of Weston's Manor are not inmates to be feared, they are patients who need help.

The tone and mood of the public hearing changed Wednesday when a recovering heroin addict shared her story and emphasized the need for more detoxification beds to serve the area.

"Addiction doesn't discriminate . it's all over the place," the woman said. "People are dying."

A Portville family also shared its story of facing heroin addiction, while also noting how much expanded treatment facilities for women are needed in the area.

It was a similar scene earlier this year in McKean County, Pennsylvania, when Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services Inc. was bidding to move its inpatient treatment facility into a larger building in Bradford Township. Reservations that neighbors and township officials may have had regarding the treatment facility were largely set aside by testimonials and expressions of support from former patients who had been helped in their recovery.

The need for increased capacity on the part of CAReS and Weston's Manor, which has been in place for 20 years, is greater than ever given the ongoing opioid epidemic. As the recovering addict so aptly declared during the hearing, people are dying.

CAReS, through the $1.9 million grant from the state to expand, has the opportunity to increase treatment and hope to those afflicted by addiction — increased treatment capacity can mean increased recovery rates and more survivors. And the presence of more successful recoveries in the community will perhaps provide support and good examples for others waging their battles against addiction.

And while it may seem that the battle against drug and alcohol addiction is overwhelming, we can't afford to just give up.

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Online: http://bit.ly/2sQvkoa

The Wall Street Journal on the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.

July 12

President Trump's critics claim to have uncovered proof, finally, of 2016 collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin. Another reading of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a well-connected Russian lawyer is, well, political farce.

In June 2016, Mr. Trump Jr. arranged an appointment in Trump Tower with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. He said in a statement that he hoped to acquire opposition research about Hillary Clinton, and he even pulled in Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort. By Mr. Trump Jr.'s account, Ms. Veselnitskaya relayed nothing to compromise Mrs. Clinton and then lobbied him about the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law that sanctions Russian human-rights abusers.

According to the emails that Mr. Trump Jr. released Tuesday, Mr. Trump Jr. agreed to meet with Ms. Veselnitskaya after he was approached by Rob Goldstone, a publicist who offered to pass along "some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father." He wrote that this information "is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

The appropriate response from a political competent would have been to alert the FBI if a cut-out promised material supplied by a foreign government. Mr. Trump Jr. instead replied that "if it's what you say I love it."

Then again, the Trumps knew Mr. Goldstone through the Russian pop star Emin, aka Emin Agalarov, whose father partnered with Donald Trump Sr. in bringing the Miss Universe beauty pageant to Moscow in 2013. Mr. Trump Sr. appeared in a music video with Emin the same year. Mr. Goldstone said that "Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting" — info his father got from the "Crown prosecutor of Russia." Russia's "Crown prosecutor" doesn't exist.

Mr. Trump Jr. responded that "perhaps I just speak to Emin first." Mr. Goldstone brokered the call, reporting that "Ok he's on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 Minutes so I am sure can call." Subsequent messages show Emin asked Mr. Trump Jr. to meet with Ms. Veselnitskaya, who was well-known as an anti-Magnitsky operative at the time. Mr. Goldstone publicly checked into Trump Tower on Facebook during the meeting, which isn't how a KGB man would normally conceal the handoff of state secrets.

In the daisy chain from Russian oligarch to singer to PR go-between to lawyer to Trump scion, which is more plausible? That Don Jr. was canny enough to coordinate a global plot to rig the election but not canny enough to notice that this plot was detailed in his personal emails? Or that some Russians took advantage of a political naif named Trump in an unsuccessful bid to undermine the Magnitsky law they hated?

The problem is that President Trump has too often made the implausible plausible by undermining his own credibility on Russia. He's stocked his cabinet with Russia hawks but dallied with characters like the legendary Beltway bandit Mr. Manafort or the conspiratorialist Roger Stone. His Syrian bombing and energy policy are tough on Russia, but Mr. Trump thinks that if he says Russia interfered in 2016 he will play into the Democratic narrative that his victory is illegitimate.

Thus in retrospect the John Podesta and Democratic National Committee hacks — still so far the tangible extent of Russian meddling — did less damage to U.S. democracy than it has done to the Trump Presidency. The person who should be maddest about the Russian hacks is Mr. Trump.

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Online: http://on.wsj.com/2tNgPTo

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