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Editor's Corner: More odds and ends for the editor's desk
A few weeks back, I wrote about the burden we seem to be placing on students coming out of college. Now I have a number: $23,293. That’s the average burden per borrower from the Class of 2012, according to the Project on Student Debt, an initiative of Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit policy and research organization.
That number is lower in several Western states like California, Nevada and Arizona — but it’s actually middle-of-the-road, comparatively. East Coast students are getting hammered much more than those on the left coast. Students in Delaware are on the other side of the bell curve with $33,649 of debt.
Well, at least the low-income students get big breaks … or not. According to the report, the median debt for a low-income student graduating from a public four-year university in 2008 was just under $17,600 and rose to nearly $20,700 by 2012, a 17.6-percent increase.
The research found higher student debt reduces the likelihood of students with majors in science, technology, engineering and math going on to graduate school.
While there is great interest in stemming the tide — tuition hikes last year slowed to their lowest level since the early 1980s thanks to tuition freezes and some increased funding nationwide — the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that funding for higher education remains below pre-recession levels in nearly every state.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer introduced an amendment to connect students with the financial management resources they need to responsibly manage their funds. The amendment was approved by a vote of 404-14 to be included as part of the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984), which passed the House on July 24 by a vote of 405-11. The amendment directs universities and the Department of Education to introduce students to the financial management resources.
“In order to grow quality jobs and opportunities we need to keep the doors to higher education open for all students,” Rep. Kilmer said. “Those students who are taking on loans to pay for college need access to tools to keep their finances on track. Empowering more students to better manage their finances will help them succeed, strengthen their household finances and boost the financial stability of our country.”
It’s a good step. Many more need to follow.
An eye out for scams
A Gazette reader called last week to let us know about a scam making its rounds across the valley. The approach had all the familiar characteristics of a scam: odd-hour calls, non-local area codes (in this case, 876 — Jamaica!), callers trying to obtain personal information. The reader has gone to the great length of disconnecting his phone at night.
As always, never, ever give out personal information over the phone. If you can, get names and numbers of people trying to solicit something from you, get any offers in writing (and be wary of those, too), do your homework and above all, protect yourself. Report possible scams to the attorney general (atg.wa.gov/allconsuming.aspx).
Momentum continues to gather “Boys in the Boat,” Daniel James Brown’s account of the University of Washington’s 1936 crew team that took Olympic Games gold. The book, centered on the lives of the rowers and in particular featuring former Sequim resident Joe Rantz (now deceased), was the subject of a recent profile by Seattle Times’ book editor Mary Ann Gwinn. She details how word-of-mouth made the book a best seller despite no review in The New York Times or “Today Show” interview or sale to a major publishing house. “The East Coast media complex was displaying its predictable blindness to worthy literary talent in the rest of the country,” Gwinn writes.
Check out excerpts at www.danieljamesbrown.com. Better yet, go find a copy at a local bookstore.
Heat going to the dogs
It’s a scene we see too often here in Sequim, where it seems EVERYONE has a dog (at least on my block they do): human stops by the store for a quick purchase or a chat and Fido is left out in that blazing heat so rare on the Olympic Peninsula.
Look, in 85-degree heat, even with windows left slightly open, temperatures can get to 104 degrees in 10 minutes and nearly 120 degrees in half an hour. Even outside temps of 70s can be dangerous.
A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 101-102.5, so they can withstand body temperatures of 107-108 for only a short time before suffering brain damage or death (Animal Protection Institute/Born Free USA). Please, please, please, if you can, leave the dogs at home where they have access to a place where they can cool off.
Check out more information at humanesociety.org.
Credit for trying, right?
Washington state schools superintendent Randy Dorn filed a brief with the state Supreme court yesterday (Aug. 5), saying, “The Legislature passed a plan to fully fund education. Now they need to fund it.”
Dorn said state legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee should be given the 2015 session to make “substantial progress” on fully funding basic education. If that doesn’t happen, Dorn said, the court should make clear that there will be “certain consequences, including, if necessary, a requirement that the state be barred from funding non-education elements of the budget.”
I can’t think of the right metaphor for this, the latest in Mr. Dorn’s seemingly futile attempt to hold our state to the McCleary v. State of Washington January 2012 Supreme Court decision to fully fund education … grasping at straws? Tilting at windmills? Playing for the Mariners? Good luck and God speed, Randy. In June, the Washington Supreme Court ordered state officials to be ready by the traditional first day of school (Sept. 3) to explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt of court over the school funding issue.
According to news reports, the court could go as far as closing all schools until they are properly funded. In a unanimous order, Supreme Court justices threatened to hold the state in contempt. State attorneys are on the hook to show up to defend it at a hearing Sept. 3.
In response, the state came back with some powerful language in a court brief: “It is one thing for a court to order the Legislature to comply with a constitutional mandate or limitation. It is quite another for the court to prescribe specific legislation. Doing so effectively imposes a judicial edict, rather than a democratic legislative decision arrived at by the representatives of the people of Washington.”
Further, “Imposing a fine on the State if legislators do not vote in a particular way similarly coerces the vote of legislators, and it places the burden of the legislators’ noncompliance with the Court’s order on the wrong group of people. By subjecting the State to a hefty fine, the Court may be harming the very people it intends to benefit.”
As Jason Mercier of Washington Policy Center sees it, this is building up to be “a full-fledged constitutional crisis.”
Kudos to a keen-eyed wordsmith
Attorney Joe Hunt of Ballard recently got out of a traffic citation because he convinced a King County Superior Court judge that the posted speed limit sign had too many words. The extra verbiage on the school zone sign, he argued, make the sign harder to read than the succinct wordage suggested in a federal traffic control device manual.
A Seattle city engineer said the city will replace about 40 similar signs with two fewer words.
And for that … I have no words.
Yeah, that just happened
Earlier this summer, NASA released a selfie captured by the Curiosity rover to celebrate a full Martian year — 687 days — since its touchdown on the Red Planet. The self-portrait is a composite of dozens of images captured in April and May. I guess even NASA can get selfie-crazy.
Props for P.A.
Port Angeles recently was ranked No. 5 in the top 10 list from the folks at Livability.com, as noted in our sister paper, the Peninsula Daily News. Port Angeles was lauded for cost of living, health-care spending, racial and socioeconomic diversity, adult obesity, crime, civic engagement, air quality and natural amenities among the 41 metrics used in the study.
So what does that make Sequim, chopped liver?
And finally …
I swear I’m not making this up: A newspaper in Sri Lanka claims it has saved lives by imprinting its pages with mosquito repellent, stopping the spread of the deadly dengue fever. According to The Independent, a United Kingdom news service, employees with a Sri Lanka national newspaper Mawbima, discovered that mixing citronella essence, which repels mosquitos, with ink, the paper itself would stop mosquitos biting.
So you know where this is leading, right? A lavender-infused Sequim newspaper for a certain July weekend in 2015? We’ll see.
Reach Sequim Gazette editor Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.