THUMBS UP to Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, for proposing legislation to correct an error in the law highlighted during the investigation into Don Reiter, the former Waterville Senior High School principal charged last month with abusing power amid allegations that he asked a student to have sex.

Reiter was charged under the “official oppression” statute, rather than for attempted sexual assault, because state law says that it is illegal for an educator to have sex with a student only if that student is 17 or younger. The student who has made the allegations is 18.

In this case, age shouldn’t make a difference. Principals and teachers hold the same power over a student whether that student is 17 or 18, and in either case a consensual relationship is impossible.

The law should always protect the powerless, and in this case, Maine law falls short.

THUMBS DOWN to the seemingly contradictory messages coming out of the state Department of Education, which has told Augusta and nine other school districts that they are spending too little at a time when more efficient use of tax dollars should be the goal.

The school districts in question, which also include the Waterville-based and Newport-based districts, all receive at least $10 million per year in state funding, yet have not been spending enough in local tax dollars to meet the requirements of the state’s school funding formula.

On one hand, knocking the districts makes sense. Local taxpayers should have to pick up a certain portion of school costs in order to receive their allocated state funding. The rule is in place to make sure districts don’t skimp on local funding while taking significant state dollars.

But it also provides no incentive for school districts to save once the budget it is place, since they can’t count the savings as part of the local spending if it is carried over until the next year.

This appears to be a quirk in the formula, and it affects only 10 districts, out of about 150.

However, it also highlights the need for better incentives for school districts to find efficiencies that lower the costs to taxpayers while still providing a good education.

THUMBS UP to the dearth this year of executions, which at 28 reached a 24-year low in the United States.

That’s not the only bit of good news in the annual report from the Death Penalty Information Center, which was released this week.

Death sentences also fell, to a projected 49, 33 percent below last year’s historic low and way down from the peak of 315 in 1996.

Only six states conducted executions this year, and 86 percent of executions occurred in just three states: Texas (13), Missouri (six) and Georgia (five).

There were also six death penalty exonerations in 2015, making for a total of 156 since 1973.

That death penalty prosecutions are so often erroneous is the best argument against capital punishment. One study found that 4 percent of defendants sentenced to death is innocent.

Also, the death penalty is more likely to be applied when the defendant is black, or the victim white. And often the death penalty is given despite the defendant exhibiting signs of mental illness or intellectual disability.

A process that biased has no place in our justice system.

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