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EDITORIALS ELSEWHERE Congress replaces flawed education act


Congress replaces flawed education act

For more than a decade teachers, administrators and this newspaper have been among those bemoaning the flawed law intended to improve the American education system.

Finally, after years of wrangling, the U.S. House last week passed by an overwhelming margin a measure to revise and replace No Child Left Behind.

It’s about time.

The new plan, a bipartisan reflection of the priorities that have been discussed for years, will go to the Senate this week, and likely on to the president for his signature.

The Every Student Succeeds Act builds on work under way in states to raise expectations of students and to prepare them for life after high school. Gone are the one-size-fits-all mandates that placed an undue burden on special-education students, English language learners and other groups.

States would now determine how test scores should be used to assess teachers and schools. That’s a welcome relief from the legislation that gave us parameters that labeled all but one of Dubuque’s public schools as “in need of assistance.” Meanwhile, we saw no discernible improvement in education under years of No Child Left Behind.

No piece of legislation is going to be the cure-all for what ails American schools. But getting rid of the problematic constraints of No Child Left Behind and starting fresh with a bipartisan approach — many, many years in the making — is a promising beginning.

—Dubuque Telegraph Herald, Dec. 6

Renewable fuel law should be followed

The Environmental Protection Agency tried to reach a compromise last week on the Renewable Fuels Standard but still came up short of what is the proper level.

The EPA said it will require that 18 billion gallons of renewable fuels, mostly ethanol, be used in 2016. This is an increase from what the agency had said in May that it would require. However, it is still 4 billion gallons less than what the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard law required by this time.

So, essentially, the EPA is throwing the ethanol industry a bone in increasing the level while at the same time ignoring the law by not setting the standard at the level required in the law passed by Congress.

The EPA is once again overstepping its bounds by ignoring the level set by Congress.

“Nebraskans can’t ignore the law, and neither should Washington,” Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said. “Reasonable people can argue about the RFS and the appropriate place to do that is Congress. Our state’s farmers never had an opportunity to vote for or against any of these bureaucrats but that’s not stopping the EPA from acting like a super-legislature. I am deeply concerned that, over and against the views my letter voiced this spring, one of Washington’s most powerful agencies is again unilaterally rewriting the law.”

Sasse is right. If the level set in the 2007 law is to be changed, it should be done by Congress, not by the EPA.

The EPA has said that it fears the supply of ethanol is too low to meet the law’s level and questions whether the demand is there. However, that is a false argument.

“Despite record corn harvests showing the supply exists, the EPA continues to undermine consumer choice at the fuel pump through arbitrary regulations,” Rep. Adrian Smith said.

In other words, the corn supply is there to meet the RFS level set by the law, but the EPA appears to be trying to appease the oil companies and ethanol critics.

Perhaps ag interests should just be satisfied that the EPA raised the level from last year. But there is the fundamental question of whether a law passed by Congress should be bypassed. As a country of laws, the law should be followed.

The EPA adjusting and readjusting the RFS level also makes it impossible for the ethanol industry to plan and build capacity. Companies are hesitant to invest in ethanol plants if the EPA keeps changing the RFS level. That’s a point Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts made.

“Today, the EPA made formal a policy decision that is already negatively impacting future investment in Nebraska’s biofuels industry. By lowering the Renewable Fuels Standard figures committed to in legislation almost a decade ago, the EPA has broken a promise to Americans and created an uncertainty that investors will not soon forget,” Ricketts said. “The decision to lower the RFS will hamper investment in existing businesses, as well as in research and development of the next generation of biofuels. In Nebraska, we’ve already seen the impact. News of the plan to decrease the RFS earlier this year caused a major biofuels company operating in Nebraska to cool a proposed expansion project.”

It also makes it difficult for farmers to determine what crops to plant and how much to plant. The EPA’s actions play with the commodity markets and have suppressed corn and soybean prices the last couple of years.

So while it’s good to see the EPA increase the level for next year, it should be following the law so the ethanol industry can have some stability.

The Grand Island (Neb.) Independent. Dec. 4

Pause necessary in refugee program

No greater responsibility rests with our federal government than protection of the homeland.

To this end, we support, for reasons of national security, a suspension in U.S. acceptance of refugees from war-torn Syria, something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called for last month following the Nov. 13 ISIS attack in Paris. At least one of the Paris attackers entered Europe as a Syrian migrant, according to published reports.

Before the Obama administration proceeds any further in its plan to accept 10,000 refugees from Syria during this fiscal year, it should undertake an exhaustive top-to-bottom review of the refugee process in order to insure all proper, necessary protections for the nation’s safety are in place. Prudence demands nothing less.

The Obama administration shouldn’t dismiss fear among Americans. The results of a Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed 52 percent of U.S. voters oppose accepting refugees from Syria. More than 30 governors oppose resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states.

According to national security leaders, the potential threat is real, not imagined.

“As they descend on Europe, one of the obvious issues that we worry about, and in turn as we bring refugees into this country, is exactly what’s their background?” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said of refugees from Syria at a U.S. intelligence industry conference in Washington, D.C., in September. “We don’t obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees. That is a huge concern of ours.”

In answer to a question about the potential security threat posed by the Syrian refugee program from U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing in October, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen said: “We have certainly seen terrorist groups talk about, think about, exactly what you are describing, Mr. Smith. Trying to use available programs to get people not only into the United States, but into western European countries, as well.”

We believe enough concerns exist about the safety of America’s refugee process to warrant a moratorium in the Syrian refugee program pending a comprehensive examination of procedures.

Our nation’s security must take precedence.

— Sioux City Journal, Dec. 6

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