Editorials from Oregon newspapers
Albany Democrat-Herald, Oct. 8, on inappropriate student-teacher behavior using social media:
No one doubts the good intentions of the Oregon School Boards Association's suggestion that districts adopt policies governing social media use by teachers and students.
The OSBA drafted such a policy that districts could review and, if they so chose, enact.
Late last summer, the Lebanon district did adopt the policy, while its neighbor to the east, Sweet Home, found the policy too restrictive and is working to come up with something it likes better.
Though the state group no doubt means well with its recommendation, and Lebanon's school district does also, policies such as this one carry a certain unspoken and untrue message: That preventing any kind of bad behavior — in this case such as sexting or other inappropriate student-teacher communications, which can lead to an educator being charged with sex crimes and a student's life being ruined — is just a matter of skillfully crafting the correct policy statement.
It's the same kind of thinking that our legislators often seem to demonstrate as well: That keeping the citizenry safe and happy hinges primarily on getting the right laws on the books.
But the invalidity of that sort of logic should be obvious. Homicide, for example, is against the law, yet people kill each other with disconcerting regularity; those doing the slaying are obviously not dissuaded by the illegality of it.
Neither are drug dealers, burglars, drunk drivers, etc.
The Oregon Revised Statutes did not prevent the state's incarcerated from joining the inmate population, and a school district's social media policy or lack thereof will similarly have little effect on a 35-year-old teacher determined to end up having sexual contact with a 15-year-old student.
Much more important to student safety is districts making sure, to the greatest extent possible, that they are employing people who don't need a policy to steer them toward behaving how they should behave and away from behaving how they shouldn't:
—Be diligent in running background checks (a three-year-old law on misconduct disclosure can't hurt) and verifying references.
—Pay a lot of attention to newly hired teachers, watching and listening for signs of problematic behavior so that it can hopefully be dealt with long before it becomes a matter for circuit court.
—Err on the side of student safety.
Thankfully, despite the rash of teacher sex abuse cases around the mid-valley that the paper has reported on over the past several months, most of the time the people doing the hiring for school districts do get it right.
Those incidents are by far the exception, not the rule. And it's hard to believe any well-written policy would have prevented them from happening.
The Bulletin, Oct. 9 , on casino measures:
Two years ago, Oregon voters said no to nontribal casinos, and they should do so again by rejecting Measures 82 and 83 this November.
Measure 82 would amend the Oregon Constitution, removing its prohibition of nontribal casinos and allowing voters to approve them by separate vote. Measure 83 would let local voters approve placing one — currently called The Grange — on an old dog-track property in Wood Village, east of Portland.
Proponents claim the casino would be part of a larger, family-friendly entertainment center that would bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars for schools and other public projects.
Despite other objections to more gambling, Oregonians might be tempted if assured that millions of dollars would flow to schools. But that's not even close to a sure thing.
An analysis by the Legislative Revenue Office shows proponents' claims are suspect. The analysis was reviewed for Willamette Week by University of Oregon economics professor Tim Duy. The conclusion: The casino would likely cost state and local governments, not help them, and might actually shrink the Oregon economy.
Even if the truth falls somewhere between the extremes of these conflicting assessments, there are plenty of other reasons to say no.
—Oregon already has legal gambling through the lottery and nine tribal casinos, whose proceeds directly benefit Oregonians. In fact, the lottery is the state's second-largest revenue source after the income tax. At least some — possibly a large portion — of the new casino's business would draw away from those existing options.
—More than 70,000 Oregonians have problems with gambling, according to experts cited by the Citizens' Initiative Review, and more casinos can only exacerbate their problems.
—Job gains at the new casino could be offset by losses to tribal casinos and businesses that benefit from lottery business.
Developers and investors might benefit from a nontribal casino in Oregon, but citizens and taxpayers likely would not. Voters should firmly reject both Measure 82 and Measure 83.
The Register-Guard, Oct. 9, on Mitt Romney citing Sen. Ron Wyden's work with Rep. Paul Ryan on Medicare
There's a reason why more Democrats in Congress haven't joined Sen. Ron Wyden in working with Republicans on legislation to solve the most pressing issues of our day.
It's the risk of getting a limb caught in a bear trap such as the one that snapped shut on the Oregon Democrat after he reached across the aisle to cooperate on a Medicare reform plan with Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's choice for a running mate.
In last week's presidential debate, Romney made a point of citing Ryan's cooperation with Wyden on Medicare as an example of Republicans' willingness to seek bipartisan solutions.
"This man said I'm going to find Democrats to work with," Romney said. In Wyden, Romney added, Ryan "found a Democrat to co-lead a piece of legislation" on Medicare reform.
It wasn't the first time Romney and his fellow Republicans have dropped Wyden's name in an effort to claim bipartisan support for their Medicare plan — the same plan Democrats had hoped to make a defining issue in this year's presidential election. From the moment that Ryan was named to the GOP ticket, Romney has cited his work with Wyden on Medicare reform as proof that Republicans can work effectively with Democrats.
Just one problem: Romney's feel-good story about Ryan and Wyden isn't accurate. Or as a frustrated Wyden put it after last week's debate, Romney is "talking nonsense."
Yes, Wyden joined Ryan last year in crafting a policy paper that outlined reforms that would give seniors a choice between traditional Medicare coverage and equivalent care offered by competitive, private insurers and approved by government regulators.
What Romney failed to mention was that the proposals Wyden devised with Ryan differed from the Medicare plan that Ryan included in a Republican budget plan approved earlier this year by the House. The Wyden-Ryan proposal gave seniors a choice between traditional Medicare coverage or expanded private coverage, but Ryan's legislation simply gave seniors a fixed amount of money to buy coverage.
"Bipartisanship requires that you not make up the facts," Wyden fumed after the presidential debate, noting that he had opposed publicly — and voted against — the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget.
Unlike most of his colleagues, Wyden has refused to give up what was once an estimable tradition of congressional Democrats and Republicans: working to find common ground on critical issues.
In 2007, Wyden introduced the Healthy Americans Act with Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, a plan that President Obama later dismissed as too "radical." In 2010, Wyden and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., proposed a sweeping overhaul of the tax code.
Later that year, Wyden joined Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., in working on a bill that allowed states to opt out of federal health care reforms if they provided commensurate levels of coverage and care. The provision became part of the health care reform law approved by Congress.
Once again, Wyden reached across the aisle in good faith to work with a Republican, hoping to find a bipartisan fix for a Medicare program that provides essential health care to nearly 50 million seniors. But this time, he got his arm caught in a bear trap.