Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Graduation alternatives can ease the pain in Lorain County

The Lorain Morning Journal

May 16

Lorain County schools deserve credit for coming up with creative ways to honor the thousands of graduates who won’t have commencement.

A graduation ceremony is so special, because family, friends and others pack into venues to watch students stroll across stages to receive that hard earned document, whether it’s a degree, diploma or certification.

Because protocols are in place to keep people safe from the nasty and deadly novel coronavirus, the class of 2020 will not get that chance.

Junior high and high schools as well as institutions of higher learning have come up with ways to honor the hard working students.

For instance, Lorain County Community College will virtually celebrate the accomplishments of its largest graduating class in the college’s 57-year history.

With 2,510 degrees and certificates earned by 1,918 graduates and another 260 students earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership, the class of 2020 is historic for a number of reasons.

Included in this year’s class are 125 high school students who are earning both a high school diploma and associate degrees through the Early College High School and College Credit Plus programs.

LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger said these times are unprecedented, but so are the graduates’ innovative thinking, determination and potential.

The college will have a two-week tribute and celebration of the Class of 2020.

An online ceremony May 16 featured the theme “Perseverance” and paid tribute to the graduates with video messages along with keynote addresses from Ballinger and Student Senate President Udell Holmes.

To provide an opportunity for graduates to join in the celebration, the college sent students their regalia and asked them to submit a photo and message to their families, which was shown during the online ceremony.

Many graduates decorated their caps for the ceremony and were encouraged to share photos of the completed caps on social media.

LCCC also created an outdoor public recognition display that Ballinger hoped would make this year’s ceremony even more special.

The graduation cap display spans 351 feet by 279 feet.

Each of the 47,000 marking flags represents an LCCC graduate.

The symbolic display celebrates this year’s graduates, as well as all grads since 1964, which marked LCCC’s first graduating class.

One square, identified by yellow flags, represents the end of the tassel within the design and has an additional 2,185 flags — one flag for each graduate of the class of 2020.

Boards located near the display list the names of the class of 2020 to further recognize their accomplishments.

The display will remain up until June 1 and allow the opportunity for graduates to drive by and take a photo.

Area high schools also have come up with innovative ways to honor the graduates.

On May 14, Lorain City Schools celebrated its 2020 senior class by placing 469 yard signs at the homes of the graduating students, recognizing their accomplishments despite the limitations.

Tamara Jones, dean of Scholar and Family Engagement at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School, organized the event.

Jones and more than 80 staff members from the district trekked to Lorain High to pick up the signs and then traveled to the homes of the seniors.

This was a very nice gesture because the staff wanted to give back to the students and to give some sort of closure for their high school years.

And Avon High School celebrated the class of 2020 with graduation drop-off.

About 20 school buses decorated with congratulatory posters and signs crisscrossed Avon on May 8 making stops at the homes of each of the high school’s 332 graduating seniors.

The Avon Teachers’ Association spearheaded the initiative as a way congratulate the seniors.

Heather Pelphrey, president of the Avon Teachers’ Association, said the union began buying yard signs for graduating seniors about three years ago and would hand them out at in-person commencement.

But this year, the teachers delivered the yard signs door-to-door.

Each bus had one driver and one Avon Teacher’s Association member on board to offer a wave and a congratulations.

For those of us who’ve participated in graduation ceremonies recall how special it was with family and friends in attendance applauding our accomplishments.

The class of 2020 won’t have memories of walking across the stage.

But the students have done an incredible job of focusing even during this pandemic.

And it probably wasn’t easy for them to concentrate with all that’s going on.

But officials at the schools are doing their best to make the end of the year special for the graduates.

Although there won’t be the large gatherings, students must always remember that they’ve achieved something that can never be taken away from them.

They may not have had the commencement, but they will that document that says, graduate.

Congratulations to the class of 2020.



Girard veteran, hero deserves Medal of Honor

The Warren Tribune Chronicle

May 17

Girard military veteran Ken David was among 14 U.S. soldiers who made it out alive from a May 7, 1970, attack by the North Vietnamese Army. He is credited with saving the lives of the other 13 soldiers.

David, 70, has been honored for his life-saving actions with the nation’s second highest commendation of valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Now, however, there is a renewed effort to award David the nation’s highest honor for valor and heroism, the Medal of Honor. If ever there was a deserving recipient, it is Ken David.

The savage attack began before dawn as satchel charges were lobbed at the men of Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, atop a mountain in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. When the 90-minute barrage was finished, six Americans had died. Fourteen U.S. soldiers, including Ken David — all wounded — made it out alive.

The harrowing story was laid out to our reporter by Herm Breuer, director of Trumbull County Veteran Services, who for years has been trying to convince the Army of David’s deservedness for the Medal of Honor. The facts have been documented with military documentation, eyewitness accounts and details from David himself.

The North Vietnamese Army saw the area was too much ground for the U.S. soldiers to control, “and came after us,” David relayed recently.

Some reports indicate there were more than 1,000 NVA soldiers and 300 sappers, what David explained were elite or special forces, against the small U.S. force.

David’s lieutenant was the first to die. He was shot and killed instantly. David’s sergeant also was injured, but remained alive. David, the group’s radio / telephone operator, handed over the radio to his sergeant and took the fight to the enemy, laying down suppressive fire to draw the attention away from wounded American soldiers, Breuer said recently.

At one point he was alone to defend his portion of the defensive perimeter. His main objective was to stay alive.

“I just did what I was trained to do,” David said.

The first rescue helicopter arrived about an hour into the fight. When it began to draw enemy fire while trying to land, David drew the attention back to himself by screaming and waving at NVA soldiers, according to Breuer.

David was wounded during the fight. He said shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade hit him in the back, and both of his eardrums were blown out.

Still, he continued to take the fight to the enemy. When the fighting began, he had 28 magazines of bullets. He was down to one when the fighting stopped, and at points during the battle, was throwing back satchel charges that were thrown by NVA soldiers.

“I did what I had to do. The instinct to survive was there,” David said.

If it weren’t for his (David’s) actions, all 20 would have died,” Breuer said.

And that’s why David deserves the Medal of Honor, Breuer said, and why a delegation of Ohio lawmakers has written U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy urging him to recommend and support David being awarded the prestigious medal.

Requests have been submitted to the human resources command, but each was returned asking for more information, which was provided. In addition, personal visits were made to the military archives center in College Park, Md., and requests were made to retrieve records from other military records management centers.

“The original wartime chain of command was re-created. Two living eyewitnesses were located, and affidavits provided. This travesty of justice can stand no longer,” the letter to McCarthy states.

“We ask that this case be given special attention and full reconsideration. Fifty years is too long given what this soldier did that morning to save the lives of his comrades. His bravery and gallantry that May morning are worthy of our nation’s highest award,” the letter states.

The effort has been ongoing for about 20 years, but the valiant effort occurred 50 years ago.

We see absolutely no reason why it should take so long to honor the efforts and heroism of Ken David. He deserves the Medal of Honor and should receive the honor promptly.



COVID-19 compounds budget challenges for area school districts, colleges

Willoughby News-Herald

May 16

The novel coronavirus pandemic already has wreaked havoc at Ohio K-12 schools and colleges this spring by forcing the closure of buildings and requiring educators to shift all in-person classes to remote learning.

To add insult to injury, COVID-19 now is taking a toll on the budgets that K-12 schools and colleges in the Buckeye State rely on to serve students.

On May 5, Gov. Mike DeWine announced spending cuts totaling $755 million because of the economic downturn and losses in tax revenue stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. DeWine said the budget reductions include $355 million for schools and a $110 million for higher education.

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In response to DeWine’s announcement, Lake County school districts are being forced to take a hard look at their own budgets and consider how they’ll deal with the cuts in state funding.

Kirtland Schools Superintendent Bill Wade is focusing on trying to offer the best support he can for students.

“These cuts, along with the previous $1.1 million in reductions from state and federal revenue, continue to increase the burden on our local taxpayer,” Wade said.

He noted that in DeWine’s plan, Kirtland School District was among the top 20 districts with the highest per-student cut of $304 per pupil. This almost 36 percent reduction is the largest in Lake and Geauga counties and equates to a total loss of $362,387.

“The continued loss of state funds is devastating to our district, particularly since we were penalized based on the reserves we have raised through sound fiscal management,” Wade said. “The district implemented staffing reductions, budget cuts, increased fees and additional shared service agreements as a response to the failure of the May 2018 levy.”

Wickliffe Schools Superintendent Joe Spiccia said he will focus on making adjustments to minimize student impact.

“While we are disappointed in the budget cuts, we understand that every organization and every person has to do their part in creating a healthy and economically strong Ohio,” Spiccia said. “We did anticipate budget cuts from the state due to the COVID-19 emergency. We will adjust our budget to minimize the impact on students and student programs.”

Meanwhile, Lakeland Community College announced in a news release that it will lose $781,000 in state funding between now and the end of June, and anticipates a $3.1 million to $4.1 million cut in state funding for fiscal year 2021.

Enrollment projections for summer and fall semesters are uncertain, as current and prospective students face financial, family, health and technology challenges.

As a result of the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the college during the last few months and into the future, Lakeland has announced reductions in force effective May 15.

The affected full- and part-time non-instructional personnel are from a range of college departments and have served in a variety of roles, the release stated.

Thirty-seven employees were permanently laid off, 51 were furloughed and 25 have a permanent reduction in hours.

Other cost-savings measures that will continue include:

• A hiring freeze with rare exceptions for continuity of operations or revenue generation.

• Reductions in nonessential operating costs.

• Suspension of college-sponsored travel.

According to the college, the actions are being taken “to assure the continued financial strength” of the institution.

“These are unprecedented times, which unfortunately require difficult decisions to ensure we continue to meet our mission of helping area students reach their educational goals,” said Lakeland President Morris W. Beverage Jr.

One gets the sense that the assessments about fiscal challenges from educational administrators like Wade, Spiccia and Beverage are being echoed at many school districts and colleges throughout Ohio at this time.

Clearly, when COVID-19 is factored into the equation of coming up with adequate funding for public education, it creates a problem that’s very hard to solve.



End child marriage

Toledo Blade

May 18

Gathering support and momentum to enact change is often arduous, and overcoming the status quo can require years of effort.

But, in the case of child marriage, it is mindboggling that progress has been this slow.

In 2019, Ohio raised the minimum marriage age to 18 for both parties, but allows an exemption for 17-year-olds to marry if they have juvenile court consent, go through a 14-day waiting period and the age differential between the two is not more than four years.

Pennsylvania this month became just the third state in the country, joining Delaware and New Jersey, to fully outlaw marriage for people under 18. Prior to the law being signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, it was legal in the commonwealth for a 16 or 17-year old to get married with a parent’s permission. A child younger than that needed the consent of both a parent and judge. Under those exceptions, more than 2,300 children ages 15 to 17 in Pennsylvania have been married since 2014.

In Ohio in 2019, Gov. John Kasich raised the minimum marriage age to 17, but only after it was discovered that between 2000 and 2015, nearly 4,500 girls age 17 or younger had been married in the state.

The numbers are even more startling nationwide. Approximately 248,000 children, some as young as 12 years old, were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010, according to marriage-license data analyzed by Unchained, an advocacy group seeking to end forced and child marriage. Nearly 90 percent of the minors married were girls.

Minimum marriage age varies widely by state, and some states include exceptions so broad that there is in effect no minimum age.

The devastating consequences of child marriage on people’s lives, particularly young girls, are widely known. Girls who are married before 18 are significantly more likely not to graduate high school or college, endure poverty, catch a sexually transmitted disease and die in childbirth.

Simply put, children are not physically or psychologically prepared for marriage. The average age for a first marriage in the United States is 29. Getting married before 18 is dangerous to the future of the minor.

Pennsylvania smartly put itself ahead of the curve by banning child marriage, but it is hard to believe there is any curve at all. Ohio should follow suit by enacting its own total ban, and soon.



Minor changes would make voting safe, fair for Ohioans

Akron Beacon Journal

May 16

The clock is ticking on Ohio lawmakers.

Ohioans will start voting for president and other important races in less than five months under pandemic conditions. Nobody knows if coronavirus cases will be under control or flaring up again during early voting in October or on Election Day Nov. 3.

What we do know is Ohio’s strong election system needs tweaking to avoid a repeat of the March primary fiasco when state leaders closed the polls March 17 for health reasons and lawmakers only allowed absentee voting ending April 28. We’re still waiting for official results due this week.

Democrats are understandably urging Ohio to find ways to drastically reduce the number of people who have to vote in person, suggesting that every voter be mailed a postage-paid ballot they can easily return. They also want registration deadlines pushed back and more early voting locations in more populous counties, among other proposals.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Hudson Republican, agrees the state could expand mail and in-person early voting. But he also falsely suggested Democrats proposed the “removal” of in-person voting in a fundraising letter. Such banter is not helpful, especially from Ohio’s chief elections officer.

Ohio needs to quickly adjust its voting rules for November without creating a sea of change that’s too difficult to manage. The mailing of actual ballots, which are different for many precincts, to all Ohioans seems like a hill that’s too high to climb this year.

Three changes would allow Ohioans to vote easily and safely with the option they prefer and maximize the chance of a smooth election.

First, Ohio already has a good vote-by-mail option through its no-fault absentee system that’s been free of any fraud allegations. The problem, as many Ohioans found out this spring, is that you have to fill a paper application and mail it to your board of elections, which then mails your absentee ballot, which you must send back.

LaRose and Democrats agree Ohioans should be able to request the ballots online, greatly streamlining the process, with LaRose telling us he already has the technology in place. He also says federal funds can cover voters’ postage if Ohio lawmakers allow him to use the funding. Voting should be free.

Second, spreading out voters at expanded early voting locations where they can be socially distant makes sense on many levels. State law only allows early voting at each county’s board of elections, which were not designed for that purpose. Using empty retail locations that could be designed for safety should make people more comfortable with in-person voting. It also might help with staffing, which could be challenging if poll workers, who are often retirees, are reluctant to work amid the coronavirus. Again, Democrats and LaRose support this concept.

We’re also supportive of LaRose’s recommendation to move up the current noon Saturday deadline for requesting absentee ballots for a Tuesday election. The mail system simply can’t work that quickly in most cases.

With time so short, what can’t happen is for Republicans and Democrats to dig in their heels on the false belief that making voting as easy as possible helps liberal causes. It’s a false narrative that needlessly complicates voting reform. It’s up to candidates to motivate their voters to participate.

We don’t want to see a repeat of what happened in Milwaukee where consolidation of primary voting locations led to long lines of voters risking their lives to vote.

Surely, Ohio can do better.