Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Dec. 14

The Times and Democrat on South Carolina’s highway death toll:

With South Carolina counting down toward a highway death toll that will again be at or near 1,000 killed for the year, a report from CoPilot should come as a warning for the holidays.

While most states report the biggest uptick in road fatalities during the Fourth of July, driving-related deaths across the country increase more than 30% during holidays in general each year. Researchers ranked U.S. states according to the increase in fatal crashes on holidays and included the deadliest holiday for each location as well as the share of all driving deaths that occur on holidays.

In South Carolina, fatal crashes increase by 24.5% during holidays. In fact, 6.1% of all fatal crashes in South Carolina occur during holidays.

Toward reversing the trend, you’ll read often about the problems associated with drunken driving, distracted driving and speeding. But during a particularly tense time of year in a particularly tense year, there is another issue needing address: aggressive driving.

“A driver could react wrongly to another driver’s action on any given day – the holidays can add to the stress of that,” said Tiffany Wright, spokesperson, AAA-The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “Introduce the pressures and concerns tied to a pandemic and even the calmest, most safety-conscious drivers can find themselves frustrated by other motorists.”

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According to a new AAA survey, nearly 8 in 10 (79%) American drivers admitted to aggressive behaviors within the past 30 days. The most common actions were:

— 48% — Speeding (driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a crowded freeway).

— 34% — Tailgating (following a vehicle in front of you closely to prevent another vehicle from merging).

— 32% — Making rude gestures or honking at other drivers.

— 31% — Running a red light.

— 26% — Aggressive driving: switching lanes quickly or drove very close behind another car.

It should go without saying that all such actions put the aggressive driver and others at risk.

So try calming down behind the wheel, lowering your risk of an unpleasant encounter with another driver and law enforcement.

— Follow posted speed limits.

— Maintain an adequate following distance.

— Use turn signals.

— Allow others to merge.

— Use your high beams responsibly.

— Be considerate in parking lots – park in one spot, not across multiple spaces. Be careful not to hit cars next to you with your door.

Should you encounter an aggressive driver or even outright road rage actions, AAA advises:

— Avoid eye contact.

— If you are confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible.

— Don’t respond to aggression with aggression.

— If you feel threatened, call 911.

— If you feel at risk, drive to a public place such as a police station, hospital or fire station.

— When you park, allow room so you can pull out safely if someone approaches you aggressively.

— Use your horn to attract attention but remain in your locked vehicle.

The year has been difficult enough. Don’t let it become even deadlier by driving in any way but with the most caution and consideration. No matter what you encounter.



Dec. 12

The Post and Courier on the governor's attempts to give federal COVID-19 relief funds to private schools:

There’s not a lot good to say about Gov. Henry McMaster’s long-shot effort to have the S.C. Supreme Court reverse course and allow him to hand out $32 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to private schools.

It’s clearly good that the court held firm in its original, unanimous order declaring that the governor’s plan to pay parents to pull their kids out of public schools and send them to private schools was unconstitutional. Combined with Paycheck Protection Program loans that private schools had already received, his Safe Access to Flexible Education grants would have allowed private schools to receive more than twice as much federal COVID-19 funding per student as public schools: an average of $560 for each of the 780,000 students in public schools and $1,240 for each of the 50,000 students in private schools.

But the justices failed to use the governor’s request for rehearing as an opportunity to provide some much-needed clarity to their original ruling, which raised questions about the constitutionality of the state’s lottery scholarship program, all sorts of aid to private colleges and even crucial early childhood development initiatives operated through the state’s First Steps to School Readiness program.

Instead, the justices merely deleted two statements of fact from the original order without providing hints about their thinking.

The court’s original order acknowledged that the state constitution had been amended in 1973 to replace a ban on direct or indirect funding for religious institutions with a ban on public funding “for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” That change was made for the specific purpose of allowing the Legislature to provide scholarships for students attending private colleges.

The court suggested, but didn’t directly say, that the details of Mr. McMaster’s voucher-scholarships had transformed them from indirect to direct support for private schools: specifically, the fact that the federal CARES Act required that the funds go to institutions, not individuals, and that the vouchers were available only for students attending private schools, and only the private schools that Mr. McMaster selected.

If that was in fact what the justices meant, they would have done our state a great service by spelling that out clearly, in order to alleviate questions about whether scholarships and programs that pay private entities to provide educational enrichment are constitutional. Having failed to do that, the court likely will see more litigation, as Mr. McMaster suggested in response to the order.

Additionally, the governor’s quixotic quest for rehearing — a long-shot even in split decisions and practically never successful for unanimous rulings — has delayed the deployment of federal funds that the Congress sent to governors for the purpose of mitigating COVID’s impact on education.

Fortunately, the money Mr. McMaster controls isn’t subject to the Dec. 31 spending deadline that most federal COVID funding is.

But while he said he has a contingency plan to use the $32 million to provide “educational opportunity, choice and access for students from working and lower-income families who have been adversely impacted or displaced due to the COVID epidemic,” his office said Thursday that plan was still in development and no details were available.

We’re glad the governor wants to focus funding on lower-income students, which his initial plan claimed to do but wouldn’t have done in any meaningful way. We hope the governor isn’t trying to find a way to adapt his voucher plan to comply technically with the constitution. Instead, we would urge him to remember that as governor of the whole state, his responsibility is to all children in our state.

The overwhelming majority of those children attend public schools — particularly the children he says he most wants to help. And since private schools have limited capacity and (appropriately) get to pick and choose their students, the kids who most need help still would be attending public schools even if he were able to provide free access to private schools.



Dec. 11

The Index-Journal on increasing transparency surrounding COVID-19 case numbers in schools:

Schools might, overall, be faring well when it comes to the rate of COVID-19 positive cases, but they are not COVID deserts.

Transparency regarding case numbers is essential public information. Certainly schools have no obligation or need to report cases by name, but it is helpful when they go public with sufficient and useful information, such as whether cases involve students or staff, and how many cases. True, schools can make that information available only within its immediate school community — teachers, staff, students and parents at specific schools — but sharing with the community in general is just good practice.

Taxpayers keep the schools operational and even those taxpayers who might not have a direct connection to any particular school should be kept apprised of such matters.

One school district, Greenwood County School District 52, in particular has been regularly issuing COVID-19 updates via press releases. And that’s thumbs-up worthy. Really, all school districts, private schools, and our area’s colleges and universities should be as forthcoming with such information on a regular basis.

We all make mistakes in our lives and in our jobs. And we are prone to becoming complacent, but there’s little room for complacency in law enforcement when it comes to following proper procedures. Most certainly that is true in cases involving the transportation of inmates beyond the detention center — a lesson one deputy has certainly learned the hard way.

Raheem Markevious Lukie, who is awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping, conspiracy, armed robbery, assault and battery, and drug possession, had been taken to Lakelands Orthopaedic Clinic for treatment. Exiting the clinic, and not in ankle chains per policy, he was able to break free from a deputy and escape.

The good news is that he was found about two hours later, in the Gatewood neighborhood. But finding him required the use of additional deputies and the bloodhound tracking team, Greenwood police, state Highway Patrol troopers and the State Law Enforcement Division’s helicopter.

We don’t know the price tag that one lax act on the deputy’s part cost taxpayers, but it couldn’t have been cheap. Moreover, the life and welfare of residents were put at risk while the inmate was on the loose.

The deputy and his coworkers have no doubt received a good lesson. The deputy has been punished for his violation of policy. But this costly mistake and the potential harm it could have brought to others at minimum also deserves a thumbs down.