A sad note • Fortunately, there are fewer Whittier Elementary School children in poverty this year, but all the students at this formerly Title I school will be the poorer for the loss of its much-loved piano program. Whittier is losing its federal Title I funding, which supports low-income students, and the change could mean an end to the Youth Enrichment Foundation Piano Program. The program helps kindergartners learn about rhythm and students in all six grades to understand music and use it to improve test scores. Whittier sixth-graders study composers and learn to play at weekly lessons. Private donations added to some school discretionary funds have kept it going, but more will be needed now that federal funding is disappearing. It's a program well worth community support.
A shaky link • Conservative Utah legislators have worried that a slight easing of the state's restrictive liquor laws in the past several years would result in more underage drinking, drunken driving, more accidents and fatalities. But that hasn't happened. Preliminary numbers for 2012 show fatalities have decreased substantially, again making Utah highways the safest in the nation in terms of drunk-driving fatalities after a brief spike in 2011. The number of deaths involving an alcohol-impaired driver increased 56 percent in 2011 from the year before, to 39 deaths. But that number fell to 16 for 2012. It seems that eliminating a requirement for private club membership has had little to do with alcohol-related traffic deaths. Utah dropped to third in the nation in fatalities in 2004 with 79 deaths attributed to alcohol-impaired driving. The private club membership requirement was imposed that year.
A reprieve • An Air Force decision to move all F-22 maintenance operations to Ogden's Hill Air Force Base is good for Utah's economy. It could create about 200 long-term jobs while providing savings of up to $41 million a year to the military. Whether maintaining the whoppingly expensive F-22 fleet of jet aircraft makes sense for the country is a subject of debate, but such expenditures are difficult to cut when the manufacturer spreads the work around so that congressional delegations of many states, including Utah, fight to keep the programs and the jobs for their constituents. The defense industry is big business, and Hill is Utah's largest employer. Sequestration cuts imposed by Congress have threatened jobs at Hill, so consolidation of F-22 maintenance here is welcome news to those who depend on government employment.