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Editorial Roundup: Newspaper opinions from around the nation - June 28, 2013

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Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on organ donors (June 24) — About one-third of Americans are registered to be organ donors after death, federal health agencies say — but there’s always a shortage of available organs. There’s an urgent need for more  ... folks to join the potential donor rolls.
The Department of Health and Human Services says more than 100,000 sick Americans are on waiting lists, each desperately hoping that an organ will become available for them. ...
We hope more compassionate people will register. But if they don’t, here’s a wise plan: Pass opt-out laws.
Around 90 percent of Americans say they support organ donation — but most never get around to volunteering. Currently, most states have opt-in laws requiring each would-be donor to sign up. However, opt-out laws make everyone a potential organ source, except a few who specifically ask to be exempted.
Here’s a European comparison: Germany had an opt-in system, and only 12 percent of Germans registered. But Austria has opt-out — and the exemption rate is so tiny that 99.98 percent of Austrians are potential donors. Examples like this caused 24 European nations to adopt opt-out plans.
America should follow Europe’s pattern, which would triple the number of available donors. ... Saving lives of tragic victims is a noble pro-life goal.

The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla., on IRS should retract costly employee bonuses (June 24) — The Internal Revenue Service has had another bad week.
For taxpayers who’ve been at the wrong end of IRS scrutiny, it looks as if karma is making an overdue visit to the tax-collection service. But the disclosure that the IRS may be paying out $70 million in bonuses at a time when the federal budget is being cut revealed more than just an embarrassing political mistake. The possible disbursement of bonuses indicates that the IRS may feel it is above even presidential and congressional directives on pay and budget cuts. The public and Congress do not see it that way, especially given recent events.
In the last few months, the federal agency has also been exposed as applying political pressure against conservative-leaning and tea party organizations seeking tax-exempt status from 2010 through 2012. ...
The latest woe of the IRS began last week when U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, disclosed the agency had intentions to pay out $70 million in bonuses to unionized employees. The IRS had initially said it would cancel about $75 million in such upcoming bonuses because of a presidential directive on federal pay, according to Fox News.
The White House is trying to comply with sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that took place on March 1. The cuts will exceed $1 trillion to many defense and non-defense programs over a decade.
But Grassley said the IRS eventually negotiated a $70 million bonus package for members of the National Treasury Employees Union. Grassley believes the bonuses can be legally cancelled.
The news of the bonuses comes at a time when budget cuts are forcing the IRS to furlough, or temporarily lay off, its 90,000 employees for five days. Employees would not be paid for these five days. Yet how much will this save ... if many of the employees are getting bonuses?
Also irritating congressional watchdogs is the recent disclosure that the IRS spent about $49 million on lavish training conferences for employees. ...
The IRS and its unions need to be put on notice that they must share in the sacrifice along with other agencies, which include the Pentagon. And given the $70 million in possible bonuses, the IRS has plenty of areas ripe for some cuts.

The Indianapolis Star on the need for better-prepared teachers (June 21) — The pressure on teachers is admittedly more intense now than ever. Their salaries, job security and their schools’ rankings are increasingly dependent on their students’ academic performance. The new, clear message — deliver results — is unsettling to many veterans of a profession that for years was less focused on the bottom line.
Yet the stakes are even higher for our city, state and nation. And for the students themselves.
That’s because the economic future of communities and individuals is tied ever tighter to education attainment. To put it simply, those with the skills to flourish on a college campus will, on average, prosper in the work world of today. Conversely, those unable or unwilling to get training beyond high school are likely to struggle to find and keep jobs that pay a decent salary.
So it’s more vital than ever to ensure that the people hired to stand in front of classrooms to help prepare students are themselves well trained.
Unfortunately, a new national study indicates that far too many new teachers are not well-equipped to lead classrooms. The National Council on Teacher Quality, which analyzed data from more than 1,100 teacher training programs in preparing its report, described education schools as a whole as an “industry of mediocrity.” ‘’The vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars,” the report concluded. Academic standards for prospective teachers tend not to be high enough and student teaching assignments are not sufficiently challenging, the report found.
Not surprisingly, the deans at education schools in Indiana and elsewhere fired back at the study. Indiana University’s education dean, Gerardo Gonzalez, called the report “irresponsible.” The heads of teachers unions also attacked the findings.
But the study’s chief message — that too many new teachers aren’t adequately prepared — isn’t all that new. Prior research, for example, has found that more than 40 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years of launching their careers. Teachers drop out for various reasons — including low salaries and high salaries — but a significant percentage wash out because they can’t meet the expectations of the job. ...
Instead of defensiveness about what may be a flawed report, Indiana’s teacher training programs need to soberly assess their own performance and their graduates’ post-college experiences, and then help lead a public discussion about the profession’s future.
Great teachers matter a great deal... Let’s drop the tiresome arguments over education long enough to determine what goes into the making of excellent teachers, and how we can train and retain more of them.

The Decatur (Ala.) Daily on tuition hikes (June 23) — Readers in Alabama may wonder why they should care about a study that details the rapid rise in costs to attend a public university in Virginia.
Costs there have increased 150 percent during the past two decades. Perhaps just as alarming, however, is the discovery that the rising costs are not related to an increase in spending for instruction or a reduction in state funding. That raises the question: Where is all the money from students and their parents going?
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found most of the increased spending is on athletics, student housing, dining, recreation and other auxiliary enterprises, according to The Associated Press.
Why should anyone in Alabama care about this issue in Virginia? An official of the joint commission said the situation in Virginia follows spending patterns across the United States.
Without a study specific to our state’s institutions of higher learning, one can only speculate whether this pattern applies to Alabama. ...
Many American families are strapped for cash. Parents are sacrificing their retirement savings to pay for their children’s education. But one must wonder how many more price increases they can bear.
For years, universities have focused on competing against other universities by spending on expensive student amenities, athletics and building projects. It is time for public universities to adopt a new model focusing on academics and controlling costs.