The Beaufort Gazette on plan to eliminate PACT, May 20:

Parents, students and teachers received some welcome relief with the pending demise of the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, which is usually referred to by its acronym — the PACT.

The House and Senate versions have differing dates to send the test to the morgue. The Senate version would end its use this year; the House version says next year. The sooner, the better, many say.

In the decade that the PACT has existed, it has become an albatross around the neck of all three groups. ...

As the linchpin of the South Carolina Report Card system, it forced educators to take teaching seriously. Unfortunately, the information it produced arrived too late to allow teachers to adjust and implement usable teaching methods to help individual students and schools improve their performance.

In fact, the PACT caused a distortion of instruction because educators focused on teaching to the test, ignoring in many cases important classes such as history. And the test created a lot of stress among all three groups. ...

Adjusting state tests so that they mesh with the federal programs makes sense as long as they maintain the original goals of the Education Accountability Act: to keep track of student and school progress and to report that to state residents.

Legislators should make haste because this could be the keystone of the legislative year.

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The (Columbia) State on new license tag, May 21:

Used to be, if you wanted to tell the people you were zooming past on the highway that you were a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan or an animal lover or a square dancer, you bought a bumper sticker. ...

Now, you contact your legislators and ask them to create yet another special license tag. ...

We've got tags commemorating wild turkeys, ducks and fish, Lions, Shriners and Masons, technology and nurses and organ donations, and every S.C. college you can name. Ninety-six separate special license tags available to the general public. ...

As if that weren't bad enough, now legislators are poised to authorize "I Believe" tags, with "a cross superimposed on a stained glass window," and they're not even slowing down to consider what they're doing. ...

Back in 2001, the Legislature authorized special "Choose Life" tags, which were to double as a fundraiser for crisis pregnancy programs. A lawsuit followed, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — the most conservative in the nation — struck down the law, ruling that the tags provided a forum for one group's political views and not another's. In addition to having to cover the state's costs, taxpayers had to pay the legal fees for Planned Parenthood, which topped $150,000. ...

Our lawmakers shouldn't need a court to tell them not to hawk these new license plates. Even if they believe turning license plates into bumper stickers is a good idea — and clearly they do — they ought to draw the line at throwing away money on lawsuits whose outcome is not in doubt.

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The (Hilton Head) Island Packet on state's public defender system, May 16:

Our justice system is only as good as its ability to provide good legal counsel for those who can't afford it.

But that doesn't mean we have to throw good money after bad trying to accomplish that. An overhaul of the public defender system in South Carolina should provide better representation and better accountability to the people picking up the tab — the state's taxpayers.

Last year, lawmakers enacted the S.C. Indigent Defense Act, which did away with a 30-year-old system of 39 nonprofit agencies staffed by part-time attorneys. The new law, which is being rolled out over two years, creates public defender positions in each of the state's 16 judicial circuits. The new jobs are on par in pay and benefits with prosecutors, and the new defense lawyers are state employees, too. ...

Numbers tell the importance of this system. More than eight in 10 of nearly 126,000 cases heard in the state's general sessions courts last year involved defendants unable to afford a lawyer, according to the S.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. In some rural counties, the percentage of defendants represented by public defenders is as high as 95 percent, said Patton Adams, executive director of the Indigent Defense Commission.

Given the number of people who rely on public defenders and the important role they play in our judicial system, this overhaul is welcome. Let's hope it accomplishes all it needs to do.

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Anderson Independent-Mail on President Bush's planned visit to Furman University, May 21:

The result of Furman University's decision to have President George Bush as its commencement speaker on May 31 has students, faculty and alumni lining up to take a side.

It is significant not because a side is chosen on the basis of politics, objections to or support of an unpopular war, or even whether a matter of respect or lack of same for the office of president.

It is that students are learning a valuable lesson, maybe not one they expected.

Earlier this month, around 200 faculty members and students signed a statement opposing Bush's visit, primarily because of the administration's policies on the environment and handling of the Iraq war. That statement is posted on the university's Web site. In return, more than 500 members of the "Furman University community" have asked administrators to refuse to allow faculty members to skip the graduation ceremonies, their statement of protest in opposition to Bush's selection, according to a report from The Associated Press. Their point about it being "the students' day" is well taken.

But the latter group also asked the university to remove the original petition of protest from its Web site.

We hope officials see there is an essential wrong in fulfilling that request.

...Part of the experience of higher education is learning how to ask questions when there may be some discomfort doing so, how to reason and think logically on one's own.

And it is often in college — and what we experience when we are on our own, perhaps for the first time in our lives — that we begin to learn that lesson.

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