Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

EdChoice is available because families want it

The Lima News

Feb. 6

One thing continues to get overlooked as public school districts across Ohio fight to limit EdChoice scholarships. The demand for choice is clearly there, otherwise, parents would not be lining up to take advantage of voucher programs.

The Ohio Legislature must not lose focus of this during its ongoing discussions about how EdChoice expansion will be delivered. We fear that may be the case with Speaker of the House Larry Householder.

Last week during an Ohio Legislative Forum hosted by the Associated Press, Householder reiterated his belief the EdChoice program should be driven solely by a family’s income.

“A performance-based system is made for people to fail,” Householder said. “The grade cards are making our kids look stupid. People from outside don’t want to move here because our education system looks bad.” He also mentioned complaints he’s heard from school officials about teachers being forced to teach to the test.

On Feb. 5, Householder took action. He submitted a House plan where scholarships would be based only on family income in the future, not school performance.

We don’t buy it, and neither should you.

It is really quite simple when you get past all the bickering.

First, parents of all income levels should be able to select the school they feel is best for their children. And second, a school’s performance most definitely should be measured, although how that’s done needs a deeper look. Whatever the case, Ohio should never apologize for having high education standards — and that’s what the House plan essentially does. It takes accountability off the table.

It may not matter anyway.

Householder made a mess of things with his refusal two weeks ago to bring the House back into session to work on a compromise with the Senate before the next day’s Feb. 1 deadline hit.

Instead, he effectively forced the Senate to agree to delay the implementation of the program for 60 days so the two legislative bodies had more time to work out concerns. In doing so, Householder ignored warnings that the delay in implementing EdChoice expansion might not survive a legal challenge.

Now we’ll find out.

School voucher advocates sued the state last week, asking the Supreme Court to throw out the House-Senate deal. They claim the delay harms Ohio children and families and “impacts hundreds of Ohio’s public and private schools.” The group asked the high court to order the state “to immediately begin accepting, processing, and awarding EdChoice Scholarship applications” as previously agreed upon.

Should they win, the original Feb. 1 deadline would be back in place. That would see students in more than 1,200 schools becoming eligible for scholarships, which originally initiated the outcry from public school officials whose districts stood to lose funding.

Two weeks ago, the Senate passed a plan initiated by Matt Huffman of Lima that would cut the number of public schools affected from 1,200 to 425. The plan was based on performance, as it should be. We urge the Senate to remain firm on that platform.

We also agree with Huffman and state Sen. Sandra Williams on another point. The issue of EdChoice has become a class problem. Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, put it bluntly when she chastised legislators for ignoring the voucher debate for the last 15 years since it only affected urban areas, but now care about the issue since voucher eligibility has touched affluent suburbs and small towns.

With the spotlight now shining on EdChoice Expansion, it is the Legislature’s duty to provide a rigorous defense of school choice as it increasingly comes under attack. As stated on The Ohio Department of Education website, “Ensuring each child is challenged, prepared and empowered for his or her future starts with providing opportunities to meet the needs of each child across the state.”

Most areas of Ohio are fortunate to have a wide range of educational opportunities in which to choose. Not only are there open enrollment options offered by public schools, but there are private schools, parochial schools, magnet schools, vocational schools, charter schools and a strong home-schooling network.

The Ed Choice expansion program is only a threat to those who fear change and freedom of choice.

Online: https://bit.ly/2SzXmlL

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Expensive, impractical, ineffective: The case against capital punishment in Ohio

The Columbus Dispatch

Feb. 9

Opponents of the death penalty in Ohio have been pointing out its flaws since capital punishment was reinstated two decades ago, but public opinion has favored it narrowly and no one with the power to truly endanger it has stepped into the fray. Bills to abolish it have come and gone.

But now, two of the state’s most powerful political leaders — Gov. Mike DeWine and House Speaker Larry Householder, both Republicans — question whether the law benefits Ohio any more.

Almost certainly, no major change will happen this year; Senate President Larry Obhof, also a Republican, appears unwilling to consider giving up the death penalty and even with his support, such a sea change in Ohio’s conservative-leaning General Assembly would take time. But the questions Householder and DeWine raise could be the beginning of the end.

The Dispatch welcomes this long-overdue reckoning with the troubling reality of the death penalty.

People will continue to disagree on its morality: For some, it is the only fitting punishment for taking a life; others reject the idea that anything can justify purposefully killing a human being.

But one doesn’t need to moralize to make a case against capital punishment. Its practical drawbacks and lack of practical benefits have been apparent for a long time.

It is exceedingly expensive because most death-penalty trials rightly involve more investigation, more attorneys and more safeguards, and are subject to multiple levels of appeal. And as people sentenced to death are disproportionately poor, the public often pays for lawyers on both sides of the case.

The cost generally is several times what it would cost to keep the defendant in a maximum-security prison for 40 years. Housing Death Row inmates costs more than those in the general population.

A 2008 study in California found that administering its capital punishment law cost $137 million per year and that handling the same cases without the death penalty would cost $11.5 million per year.

There is no evidence that the death penalty deters anyone from committing violent crimes. According to FBI data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center, states without capital punishment overall have significantly lower murder rates than those that execute killers.

That doesn’t prove anything, either. Lower rates could be because those states have better economies and schools. But academic studies have failed to find evidence that the presence or absence of capital punishment affects murder rates either way.

While some people suggest that executing a killer brings “closure” or peace to the victim’s loved ones, that is a myth. In reality, during 10 or 20 years of death-penalty appeals, with court appearances, ongoing news coverage and fresh recounting of the crime, a family’s emotional wounds are reopened repeatedly.

Life in prison with no chance of parole is, in fact, a death sentence: The defendant will disappear from public view and die in prison.

And in what seems to have been the tipping point for Householder, carrying out Ohio’s death penalty has become all but impossible. The only method of execution currently allowed in Ohio is by lethal injection, and a federal judge in 2019 opined that it creates an agonizing sensation akin to being waterboarded and thus constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Constitution.

On top of that, companies that make the drugs that could be used for lethal injection don’t want them used for execution. The companies have threatened to withhold critical medications from Ohio’s Medicaid program if the state uses their products to kill someone.

As a result, DeWine has issued 11 stays of execution since taking office. The last execution in Ohio was in July 2018.

The difficulty, the cost and the lack of public benefit make Householder and DeWine right to question whether Ohio’s death penalty is worth keeping.

We see further reason to leave capital punishment in the past: The imperfect nature of this or any other criminal justice system. Wrongful convictions are a fact, as former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, a Republican, and his wife, Nancy, outlined in their 2011 book “False Justice.” It explained the many types of mistakes and misconduct that can skew justice.

The Petros pointed out a key example of mistakes that lead to wrongful conviction: Juries believe eyewitness testimony above almost anything else, but human memory is far less reliable than most people think. Of more than 1,000 serious-crime convicts who have been exonerated, three-fourths of the false convictions rested on mistaken eyewitness testimony.

The Petros also discussed the many reasons why people sometimes confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

Since the 2008 Dispatch series “Test of Convictions” examined Ohio’s woeful retention and use of DNA evidence in criminal cases, six men have been exonerated or released from prison. In those cases, DNA testing that resulted from the newspaper’s series showed that the men had been wrongly convicted. Another result of the series was that the General Assembly enacted reforms meant to prevent wrongful convictions and make it easier for those already convicted to have new evidence considered.

At the same time, state officials have not acted on most of the recommendations of the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty, which published a report in 2014 aimed at making death-penalty prosecutions fairer.

Add all of these problems to the persistent racial disparities in the application of the death penalty — the fact that defendants of color are disproportionately likely to face death-penalty specifications, especially for crimes in which the victim is white — and there’s little to justify retaining it.

The only reason left for execution is vengeance, which is not an element of justice or the proper business of the state. It’s time for Ohio to do away with the death penalty.

Online: https://bit.ly/37hyYL2

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A salute to Sherwin-Williams for staying, and to all who helped close the deal

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Feb. 9

A heartfelt thank you to the folks at Sherwin-Williams for choosing to keep Cleveland as your home and us as your neighbors.

We are well aware that other cities, some in milder climates, would love to have landed your Fortune 500 company. They no doubt dangled tempting incentives worth many millions of dollars to lure you away. So, we are grateful that you gave us a fair chance to compete.

We also must thank our leaders in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Columbus for working together and assembling a package of incentives that evidently was competitive enough to win the day.

The nation’s biggest paint manufacturer confirmed Thursday morning that it plans to build a 1-million-square-foot headquarters on what are now parking lots just west of Public Square

and a research and development center in Brecksville.

This will mean hundreds of new jobs and a corporate investment of at least $600 million to Cuyahoga County, a much-needed shot in the arm for our challenging economy and another boost for our downtown renaissance.

Taxpayers will eventually learn what incentives were offered in their name to make this deal happen. When they do, we ask them to take a deep breath after seeing the big dollar signs, and think about what this deal also does for our community pride.

The Browns and the Indians failed to make the playoffs in their last seasons. The Cavaliers could end up with the worst record in the NBA this year. But on Thursday, Cleveland came out on top in a nationwide competition with bigger, wealthier and sunnier cities.

It’s hard to put a value on that kind of pride. Remember the hundreds of thousands of people who lined downtown sidewalks as the NBA champion Cavaliers paraded by in 2016? If you were among them, you know what we’re talking about.

It’s also hard to put a value on what keeping Sherwin-Williams means to the story of Cleveland. Henry Sherwin founded the company here in 1866, just 70 years after Moses Cleaveland arrived with surveyors at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River.

Today, 154 years later, Sherwin-Williams is tightly woven into the fabric of our community. The Plain Dealer reported that nearly 100 employees serve on more than 100 of our local nonprofit boards. All told, 4,400 employees work here in Northeast Ohio.

They are our neighbors, our friends, fellow taxpayers. And we are confident they already know what Dorothy came to realize during her travels along the yellow brick road, that there is no place like home.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Syo4eF

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Online voting an experiment worth watching

The Toledo Blade

Feb. 10

The problems with an online app that led to an embarrassing delay in tabulating the results of the Iowa caucus votes for Democratic presidential candidates should serve as a not-so-subtle reminder that online voting is not quite ready for prime time.

Still, there is a test program for online voting in the state of Washington that could prove useful in identifying what works and what areas need more work. By experimenting with a small election, the risks are greatly reduced.

In the Seattle area, more than a million registered voters can use a smart phone or computer to cast a ballot in a relatively obscure election for an open spot on the King County Conservation District board. Registered voters can access a ballot by logging into a specially created portal using their name and birth date. They have the option of printing a ballot and returning it by mail, or submitting it online with an electronic signature.

The elections board will verify the signature and print a secure copy before processing the ballot.

This is only a test program and, because of security concerns, the nation is a long way from making online voting the norm, but it’s a worthwhile project that could lead to making voting more convenient for more citizens.

Election-security experts are taking a cautious approach to the pilot program, and for good reason. There are numerous security risks in transmitting ballots over the Internet, given the data breaches and hacking attempts that have affected companies with much more intense security protocols. There remains widespread concern over election integrity stemming from foreign interference efforts uncovered in the 2016 election.

Still, the test program has benefits. Having a ballot available online, even if it has to be mailed back rather than submitted electronically, makes it more convenient for voters and saves local governments the cost of mailing them.

The election’s two-week voting period ends Tuesday, giving voters far more time to return a ballot than the traditional single Election Day. Election officials are optimistic that voter turnout will rise because of the convenience factor.

Internet voting may be inevitable, but there’s a lot more testing and analysis that must be done, as evidenced by the technology glitches that delayed the Iowa caucus results. In the meantime, experiments such as this in Washington should continue in hopes of finding ways to improve voter participation.

Online: https://bit.ly/2SyAV0j