Editorial roundup

The (Columbus) Dispatch, Oct. 11

Ohio, a national laughingstock for the weak oversight and conflicts of interest that have dogged its charter schools, finally has embraced serious reform with the passage of House Bill 2 on Wednesday.

This law is a game-changer. It makes leaps toward ending mediocrity, blatant self-dealing by charter-school profiteers and mismanagement and secrecy by charter-school operators soaking up hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

“This bill puts Ohio’s charter-school community on the road to respectability,” state Auditor Dave Yost said.

More important, it gives children a fair chance at a quality education and allows real school choice to blossom in Ohio. For the poorest trapped in failing urban schools or those with particular needs, charter schools are an escape valve.

House Bill 2 succeeds by respecting a balance. As the Thomas B. Fordham Institute commented, “This bill significantly strengthens the accountability structures that govern Ohio’s charter-school sector without compromising the school-level autonomy that is critical to the charter-school model.

“If implemented with fidelity, the bill’s provisions hold the promise of dramatically improving the educational outcomes for 120,000 students who attend more than 350 Ohio charter schools.”

Online: http://bit.ly/1G0TnGe

The (Toledo) Blade, Oct. 11

About 6,000 drug offenders will be released from federal prisons within weeks, their terms cut short by new sentencing guidelines. Their release reflects not just the revised, retroactive guidelines enacted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, but also the nation’s growing concern about the number of citizens it jails.

About one of every 100 Americans is incarcerated, one-third for drug crimes. Freeing nearly half of nonviolent drug offenders is a bold and necessary first step in restoring a criminal justice system burdened by Draconian sentencing laws of the 1980s and 1990s.

Although America has just under 5 percent of the world’s population, it imprisons about 22 percent of the world’s inmates, in part because of aggressive drug prosecution and “three strikes” laws adopted by 23 states and the federal government. Since 1980, the federal prison population has spiked by 800 percent, and federal prisons are nearly 40 percent over capacity.

The sentences come at great cost not only to prisoners, but also to taxpayers. Prisons consume one-third of the Justice Department’s $27 billion annual budget.

Under relaxed sentencing guidelines that were issued last year, about 46,000 of the nation’s 100,000 drug offenders are eligible for release if they meet certain conditions, including good behavior in prison. Each case will be reviewed by a federal judge.

Online: http://bit.ly/1ZvdEKk