Kentucky editorial roundup

News,Science and Technology

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

June 16

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky., on state must do more to get Internet access to residents:

It's almost routine on an annual basis to read that Kentucky once again ranks lowest or near the lowest in a certain category, whether it be nationally or as one of the Southern states.

This needs to change.

The latest bit of disappointing news regarding our state is that it's Internet use trails the nation and falls mostly in line with other Southern states in terms of usage.

A U.S. Census Bureau report revealed that a full 19.6 percent of Kentucky households had neither a computer nor an Internet connection anywhere in 2012. The national average was 15.9 percent. Kentucky also had a lower than average percentage of households that were "highly" connected, meaning they used multiple devices to connect with the Internet, including computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices. In Kentucky, that percentage was 23.1 percent, compared to a 27 percent national average.

While these numbers aren't too far from the national average, they do show that Kentucky needs to do more to offer Internet to lower-income families and those in rural parts of the state. Kentucky is one of the poorer states in the Union. That is no excuse, but it does offer some insight into why many Kentucky households don't have Internet access.

Some who didn't grow up with the Internet don't see the need to use it now. ...

Hopefully, through their assistance, the number of people who get broadband access will increase. Nationally, there is an annual fund for $8 billion, a fund that people with Connected Nation hope can be used to increase broadband connections.

More and more people in our state need to begin utilizing the Internet. It is a vital tool. We hope by the next time this report comes out, Kentucky will rank much higher.

Our state can do better.



June 18

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on unequal justice in pot arrests:

About the same percent of black and white Americans use marijuana. But blacks are almost four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

In Kentucky, the disparity is even worse; blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at six times the rate of whites.

What passes for casual fun in one neighborhood brands you a criminal and brings lifelong penalties across town.

While there are plausible explanations for why some areas receive greater police scrutiny than others, the racial disparity in marijuana enforcement should deeply trouble anyone who believes the criminal justice system should deliver justice.

When the system yields a result that is so unjust on its face, trust is diminished in the law, the courts and the police.

That's why findings released by the American Civil Liberties Union in a first of its kind study, "Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests," deserve the attention of the judiciary, law enforcement, lawmakers and citizens.

Using FBI reports and census population estimates, the ACLU examined arrest rates for marijuana possession in all states, the counties and District of Columbia from 2001 to 2010. ...

Those convicted of marijuana possession lose eligibility for student financial aid and public housing, along with employment opportunities and in some cases child custody.

It's hard to quantify the effect of being branded a criminal. But a marijuana arrest that makes it harder to get an education or job and worsens economic marginalization can propel a young person onto the prison track, an outcome that is costly to everyone as a potentially productive citizen becomes a public dependent.

Interestingly, marijuana arrests have declined in Kentucky since 2007, but the disparity between black and white has widened.

In Kentucky in 2010, marijuana possession accounted for 31.8 percent of all drug arrests, lower than the national rate, but perhaps a function of Kentucky's terrible problem with prescription drug abuse. ...

Kentucky's legislature, which has taken more enlightened approaches to drug abuse and crime in recent years, should study whether marijuana penalties fit the crime and serve the public.

Meanwhile, law enforcement from the federal level to local police and sheriffs should do some soul searching and reprioritizing to make sure that policing efforts, no matter how sincere, are not creating a gross injustice.



June 15

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on no time to gnaw on education goals:

Lee Todd, the highly regarded former president of the University of Kentucky, has this advice for Kentucky as officials and educators continue to push more rigorous standards for the state's public school students, especially in the areas of science and math. ...

Kentucky must stick with the standards already adopted for English and math, part of its Core Academic Standards, and lawmakers must support efforts of educators seeking to adopt better science standards.

Kentucky in 2010 became the first of 45 states and the District of Columbia to adopt the Common Core State Standards, a state-led movement to set basic, more rigorous educational standards for public education in mathematics and English language arts. Next on the agenda is enacting Next Generation Science Standards, recently adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education to give students a sound, fact-based science education.

But Kentucky's Common Core standards are encountering some of the tea party-type backlash encountered in other states, including Indiana, where critics have attacked them as a "federal takeover." And the science standards have come under fire from some lawmakers who wonder why they include evolution but not "creationism," the religious belief that God created the world.

At the June 10 education committee meeting, several opponents of Common Core spoke, raising some concerns largely unfounded in fact.

And several scientists and teachers who had signed up to testify in support of the science standards got the brush-off from Sen. Mike Wilson, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Mr. Wilson, among those who support including creationism in the standards — and who was in charge of the meeting — told them the committee had run out of time.

Teachers, education experts and others worked together to develop the standards with ample opportunity for public input. The standards are purely voluntary although most states have adopted them.

Still, critic Richard Innes, with the Bluegrass Institute, claimed the standards were developed with "an extraordinary lack of transparency" and hinted darkly of federal government involvement.

The nearly three-hour long meeting was twice marred by extraordinary rudeness from some in the audience directed at Rep. Derrick Graham, a Frankfort Democrat who was appearing at his first meeting as chairman of the House Education Committee.

Wilson needs to use his gavel or step aside and hand it to Mr. Graham. And he needs to control the schedule so that as many people as possible, including those in favor of the science standards, get a chance to speak.


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