St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 7, 2021.

Editorial: To get kids back in class, teachers need to move to front of vaccine line

New data suggesting it’s relatively safe to send younger children back to classrooms under strict mask-and-distance requirements could be a crucial element to reopening in-person schooling in the coming months. But the hesitation of teachers to return is understandable — age alone puts them in more danger than their students — which is why any national back-to-school campaign must include putting teachers at or near the front of the vaccination line. Currently, fewer than half the states do that.

Of all the ways the pandemic has jolted society, one of the most jolting is what it’s done to kids forced out of the classroom and into remote schooling. The isolation from teachers and classmates, the difficulty of learning via computer screen, and in poor communities the lack of school lunches and other support services has impacted these kids’ lives in devastating ways. And it’s impacted their families. Remote learning isn’t possible without a certain amount of home-schooling, even as parents struggle with pandemic-related changes in the workplace.

So the data reported recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding coronavirus transmission in schools is encouraging. The agency has studied schools that have continued operating in person and has found little viral transmission from classrooms in which precautions were diligently employed, as compared to settings like factories or restaurants.

School closings have been controversial, but critics shouldn’t view this as an I told you so moment. An abundance of caution regarding schools was appropriate early on. And the new CDC findings don’t mean it’s safe to just throw open the schoolhouse doors.

To the contrary, the agency has found that low transmission rates rely on masks, at least six feet of distance between kids, keeping kids in the same groups (so if a quarantine is necessary, it won’t affect the whole school) and increased air ventilation, which will be a challenge for poorer districts. The agency also found that extracurricular activities, especially contact sports, should continue to be limited.

The new findings should aid in the Biden administration’s push to reopen schools, but not without addressing the real concerns of teachers who, due to the nature of the virus, are more at risk than their students. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, recently suggested that vaccinating teachers isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for reopening schools, as long as other precautions are in place. But that’s asking them to take risks that wouldn’t be necessary if all states simply put teachers in the first tier of vaccine recipients. Currently, just 23 do, but in New Jersey, teachers are low-priority, even behind smokers.

Any nationwide reopening plan for schools should include prioritizing vaccinations for teachers, as well as providing the space and infrastructure improvements for schools to practice the proper precautions. Getting back to in-person classrooms is the right goal, but it must be done safely.


Jefferson City News Tribune. February 5, 2021.

Editorial: Duck boat safety measures long overdue

Unfortunately, sometimes even common-sense legislation takes time.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley are reintroducing legislation to improve the safety of duck boats after 17 people tragically lost their lives in one such boat in 2018 at Table Rock Lake.

According to the senators, the legislation would authorize previously-outlined National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, including commonsense provisions to require the use of life jackets and equipping all operating duck boats to be more buoyant in the case of emergency flooding.

The bill also would require duck boat operators to check conditions with the National Weather Service, the Kansas City Star reported.

We join Blunt in his disappointment that, despite unanimous Senate passage, the House didn’t act on the legislation during the past session.

After the incident, we pointed to warning signs that should have been heeded, including design flaws in the boat and boat operators’ suggestion to passengers that they wouldn’t need to use life preservers.

This wasn’t the first duck boat tragedy. About 20 years ago, 13 people died when a duck boat called Miss Majestic sank in Arkansas. USA Today reported after that disaster, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated and issued a report that recommended making the boats more buoyant, among other things. Those recommendations apparently were not heeded, and the NTSB even called the industry’s response to the recommendations disappointing.

It’s one thing to see a tragedy in which senseless deaths occur. It’s another to not learn from the mistake, and take action to prevent it from occurring again.

We urge the U.S. Congress to pass these sensible regulations to ensure a level of safety for the passengers of these World War II-era boats that are now used for lake tours.


Joplin Globe. February 5, 2021.

Editorial: Time to go after illegal gambling devices

It is time for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to stop dodging his responsibility; it is time for him to stop pretending that confronting the spread of illegal gambling devices has nothing to do with him.

The Missouri Gaming Commission says the devices — which look and work a lot like slot machines and are often found in gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants around the state — are illegal. Such devices can only be lawfully installed in licensed casinos in Missouri. Schmitt’s office enforces consumer protection laws. He needs to step up and do so, but he keeps trying to avoid taking action.

Despite the commission’s decision and the Missouri State Highway Patrol investigations and criminal referrals made against businesses where the devices have been installed, gaming companies have tried to argue these devices didn’t violate state law. Schmitt’s office had indicated that he was looking toward the outcome of a Platt County case for clarity on what kind of games are legal in Missouri.

That case is over. Kansas-based Integrity Vending LLC was found guilty on Sept. 22 of promoting gambling in the first degree, and the judge later assessed a fine. The company did not file an appeal and the deadline to do so has passed.

But now, the attorney general has changed his excuse for inaction. The attorney general’s spokesman Chris Nuelle said in an email to the Missouri Independent, “As has been clear all along, and as the Platte County case proves, this is a matter for local prosecutors. If the legislature chooses to expand our jurisdiction in these cases, that’s a whole different matter.”

While we support the role of local prosecutors in pursuing criminal cases, Schmitt’s excuse is bunkum. Local prosecutors have different priorities, and consumer protection is Schmitt’s responsibility. We won’t speculate as to why he is so anxious to avoid action, but he clearly is.

As far as the Legislature and its view on Schmitt’s role, there are 150,000 reasons to believe lawmakers want the attorney general to act. That is what was earmarked in this year’s budget to investigate the devices: $150,000.

Stop shirking your responsibility, Attorney General Schmitt. Go after the companies making and installing these devices.