Voices From Across Ohio

The (Toledo) Blade, May 19

School suspensions and expulsions often lead to students’ idleness, falling back, and dropping out. It’s no surprise that nearly 80 percent of prisoners list truancy as their first offense, the U.S. Department of Justice reports.

So-called zero tolerance policies, which became popular in the 1990s, have led to more police and security officers in schools. Without policy changes, including early and consistent intervention, school infractions such as disorderly conduct and fighting will lead to excessive time away from school, criminal records, and an insidious school-to-prison pipeline.

In Toledo and across the country, black students are three times more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled. To alleviate the problem, the U.S. Department of Education issued recommendations this year, such as dropping hyper-zealous school discipline policies and ensuring that teachers and other school personnel are trained to resolve conflicts and cool classroom disruptions….

To their credit, school districts have become increasingly aware of the problem. They have adjusted discipline policies and practices that have disproportionately affected African-American students and other children of color. And they’re getting results….

Here and around the country, zero-tolerance policies have hindered the education and prospects of many students, especially those of children of color. New disciplinary policies that aim to resolve problems while keeping young people in school are changing that trend.

But it can’t change fast enough to save children with enormous potential to contribute to society from wasting it in the school-to-prison pipeline.

The Ironton Tribune, May 13

It’s a sad reality, but the truth is, many people who succumb to the temptation of drugs never find their way back to sobriety.

Addiction is a slippery slope that can alienate a person from their family and friends, cause serious health problems and even lead to a life of crime and possibly death.

In Lawrence County, a week doesn’t go by where more than a few people appear before judges to answer for crimes committed either directly or indirectly related to drug abuse.

Last week, a South Point woman who had been given the ultimate second chance proved that people who really want to change, can change….

Treatment in lieu of conviction essentially means a defendant is given the opportunity to complete drug treatment programs rather than be sent to prison. If the programs are successfully completed, the judge will find the defendant not guilty of the crime. It’s an opportunity very few defendants are given.

Thankfully, this particular woman found the strength within herself to get the help she needed and is on her way to becoming and remaining a productive member of the community.

Sometimes people make mistakes and deserve a second chance. Although some people squander that second chance, some choose to take full advantage of the opportunity to succeed.

As sensational as a news story about drug crimes can be, it is much better news that defendants are given the help they need and even better when they succeed.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Voices from across Ohio

The (Youngstown) Vindicator, May 4

What’s the most obvious question each of the three finalists for the presidency of Youngstown State University should be asked when they’re on campus this week?

This is it: “Will you publicly pledge to serve out your first contract, however long it may be, and not pull a Randy Dunn on the university?”

Dr. Dunn, who began his tenure as president of YSU last July with lots of fanfare and eager anticipation, left at the end of March to take over the presidency of Southern Illinois University….

Dunn violated the public trust by leaving YSU before serving even a year, which is why the three finalists on campus this week, Dr. Mary Cullinan, Dr. Gary L. Miller and James P. Tressel, should be asked about their professional goals.

Is Youngstown State the last stop on their higher education journey, or is the position a steppingstone to a dream job?…

There is a way for the trustees to make sure the tenure of the new president will not be as short-lived as that of Dunn’s: The contract they negotiate should not include an escape clause….

Topping the list of issues is the continuing decline in enrollment, which stood at 12,823 this spring semester, compared with 15,194 in the fall of 2010. The downward trend is expected to continue, thus exacerbating YSU’s fiscal problems….

Cullinan, Miller and Tressel should be prepared to talk about higher education funding in the context of declining state support and demands by the governor and General Assembly for universities and colleges to clearly define their missions – and to do more with less.

Steubenville Herald-Star, May 3

Orange barrels are starting to pop up around the area as the summer road construction season begins….

Driving in a construction zone can be dangerous, with narrow lanes of travel, reduced speeds and anxious drivers staying way too close to other vehicles.

Every year there are accidents in construction zones that make a traffic headache more like a traffic nightmare.

The Ohio Department of Transportation reported work zone crashes are on the decline. There were 6,389 crashes in work zones in 2004. The number has dropped to 4,616 crashes in 2013. Injury wrecks during the same period dropped from 1,522 to 1,143….

Traffic is slowed in a construction zone for a reason. Construction vehicles are pulling onto and off the highway. There are workers and heavy equipment operating sometimes just feet from the open lanes of travel.

Drivers have to be alert when traveling through a work zone. That means allowing enough distance between vehicles so a sudden stop can be made without a wreck.

Pay close attention to the instructions of flaggers and construction zone signs that warn or advise a motorist of what to expect in the work zone.

Remember, speeding violations can be very costly in a construction zone.

Everyone complains about the condition of area roads and bridges and work is under way to make repairs.

But patience and safe driving go hand in hand with summer road construction season.

Voices From Across Ohio

The Marietta Times, May 2

Obtaining a college degree can be very costly – and price tags have followed an upward trend during the past several years. News of increases planned at eight of Ohio’s 14 public universities has prompted an organized protest by a student group.

Tuition increases have been proposed or approved at the Universities of Akron, Cincinnati and Toledo as well as at Ohio University, Youngstown State, Miami, Wright State and Shawnee State.

In dollar amounts, the increases do not seem exorbitant. For example, the University of Akron’s 2-percent tuition hike amounts to only a little more than $200 a year. Ohio University’s $150 increase is even less.

But what seems to have many students upset is that the increases are added to costs that can place the price tag of a bachelor’s degree at about what one might pay for a house….

Again, however, the ever-increasing bottom line has many students and parents up in arms. Five years at the University of Akron – what it seems to take these days to earn a bachelor’s degree – can cost a total of $126,580, based on current tuition and living expenses.

No wonder the Ohio Student Association is planning rallies and “teach-ins” on some campuses, to protest tuition increases….

Clearly, however, colleges and universities that can hold costs down will be more and more attractive.

That is something higher education administrators should bear in mind.

Voices From Across Ohio

The (Toledo) Blade, May 5

Predictably but shamefully, the Senate has blocked a measure that would, over three years, increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. In an election-year showdown, Senate Republicans rejected a centerpiece of the Democrats’ 2014 campaign. But the real losers are the nation’s workers, especially those who are struggling to make ends meets.

Last week, the Fair Minimum Wage Act failed to get the 60 votes needed to start a Senate debate. The vote was 54 to 42 – nearly half of the world’s greatest deliberative body didn’t think a living wage for millions of Americans was worth even talking about.

Supporters should reintroduce the measure soon; whatever political influence this issue has on the midterm elections favors them. The Senate’s action should spur more young, low-income, and minority voters – constituencies that tend to skip midterm elections – to show up this year….

Ohio’s minimum wage is $7.95 an hour. Roughly 330,000 workers – nearly 7 percent of the state’s work force – earn the statewide minimum or slightly more….

Polls show Americans strongly support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. A Bloomberg survey last month found 69 percent back the move nationwide. Support in Ohio is similar….

Americans consider a living wage a matter of basic fairness. They don’t believe anyone who works full-time should live in poverty. It’s a shame their elected representatives don’t feel the same way.

Voices From Across Ohio

Columbus Dispatch, April 26

Even as state parks bust out in dogwood and redbud bloom, prospects for a desperately needed fix-up also are blossoming.

For years the victim of brutal budget cuts that left all but the most basic maintenance unaddressed, the parks are in line for a $110 million infusion of care over the next two years, thanks to one of the budget bills recently passed in the General Assembly.

That likely will mean infrastructure fixes such as shored-up dams, shorelines and sewer-and-water systems, along with improvements more obvious to visitors: updated bathrooms, repairs to marinas, improved campgrounds and renovations to lodges and cottages.

Although the sum has been called unprecedented, it is only a small start. A 2010 report concluded the parks had a $574 million backlog of deferred maintenance. Converted to 2014 dollars, that’s $621 million. And that doesn’t count the things that have deteriorated since then…

It will be money well spent, because the state parks are a precious public treasure in a state that has less public land per capita than almost any other…

The fact that the state can start down the path of restoring those things is one more benefit of Gov. John Kasich’s skillful fiscal management, which has taken the state in 3 1/2 years from crippling crisis to promising future.