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Opinions from other Tennessee newspapers

Opinions from other Tennessee newspapers

Posted: Friday, June 18, 2010 8:01 pm

By The Associated Press
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

June 10
Chattanooga Free Press on second Israeli enforcement of Gaza blockade:
Days after nine so-called “peace activists” on a ship bound for Gaza died in a violent confrontation with Israeli soldiers, another ship was boarded by Israeli soldiers. Activists on that boat were also trying to violate Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which was put in place to prevent the entry of terrorists and weapons used to attack Israeli civilians.
But there was a very different result this time. The activists did not attack soldiers with metal bars, knives and other weapons, and did not attempt to throw them overboard. They peacefully surrendered to the soldiers enforcing the blockade, and in turn they were treated peacefully by those soldiers.
In fact, most of the vessels traveling in a convoy with the ship where the earlier violence took place were also peaceful — if wrongly motivated — and were handled by Israel with respect and dignity.
That refutes the notion that Israeli soldiers were spoiling for a fight or eager to harm the passengers. Rather, some of the “peace activists” used violence to provoke a violent response.
The stinging criticism of Israel for trying to protect its citizens from terrorism is unjust.
June 14
The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, on higher education funding:
Tennessee’s General Assembly talks a good game about backing higher education, but it is pricing some potential students out of the college market.
A Board of Regents committee voted recently to raise tuition next school year between 5 percent and 11.5 percent, and full-time tuition would no longer be capped at 12 hours. Students taking 15 to 18 hours would have to pay for each additional class.
This comes on top of funding cuts to University of Tennessee and Board of Regents students almost every year over the last decade that have forced universities and community colleges to raise their fees, tuition and other costs to offset the disappearance of money.
Programs such as the Hope Scholarship offer help, but many students who can’t afford to take on debt or don’t qualify for scholarships will be turned away.
We understand that with sales tax revenues barely trickling in amid a tight economy, the Legislature can hardly afford to act like a favorite uncle and toss presents to all of his nieces and nephews.
But if the Legislature spent more time focusing on finding alternatives for funding higher education and less time dealing with emotional issues such as the right to carry handguns into bars it might be able to make a monumental impact on the future of higher education in Tennessee. …
In order to survive and flourish in this atmosphere, higher education will have to adopt a new philosophy. Teachers may have to take on a heavier course load, and administrators may have to do the same work that two people used to do.
But it will reach the point that there will be nowhere else to cut, and the General Assembly will have to renew emphasis on providing the funds necessary to give more students an opportunity to earn a diploma.
The state can ill afford to continue giving higher education short shrift in a world in which a bachelor’s degree is almost a prerequisite for getting a decent job. America’s economy is no longer based on labor, and people can’t depend on getting a job at the local plant anymore. Higher education, technology, research and green jobs are our future, and in order to reach its potential, Tennessee must start taking that future seriously.
June 10
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, on school drug testing legislation:
Educators, sociologists and this newspaper over the years have written and talked a lot about early intervention strategies that help students achieve academically and avoid situations that lead to trouble.
The Tennessee General Assembly’s approval of legislation that allows students who participate in extracurricular activities to be subjected to random drug testing seems like a reasonable intervention tool.
The bill would change current law, which allows drug testing only if school officials have probable cause to believe a student is using drugs.
The new legislation would allow school districts to set their own drug-testing policies or decide whether they even want to participate in the program.
Among arguments against the bill is that it only targets random testing of students engaged in extracurricular activities. But the courts have frowned on random testing of entire student bodies without specific probable cause. There also were questions about the necessity of this bill since some high schools in two school systems in the state — Shelby and Warren counties — had implemented such testing for athletes.
Engaging in extracurricular activities at schools is considered a privilege, and participants already are required to meet certain standards, including maintaining a minimum grade point average, to participate. However, in a 2007 opinion, the state attorney general said state law prohibited random testing, which put school drug testing programs in jeopardy. The new bill clears the way for such testing.
School systems across the country have adopted random student drug testing, hoping random testing will serve as a deterrent and enhance early intervention strategies for drug abusers. The intervention aspect is highlighted in the Tennessee bill. No students could be suspended or expelled simply for failing the test.
The legislation wisely lets local school districts decide what’s best for their area. But districts that do decide to start random testing should be monitored closely by the state to make sure that the policies are uniformly applied across school districts.

Published in The Messenger 6.18.10


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