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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

March 18, 2019

Detroit News. March 14, 2019

Judges should stay off athletic court

Eastern Michigan University last year made some tough cuts to its athletic programs to meet the demands of a tight budget and declining enrollment. In return, the university got sued for a Title IX violation. Universities must follow federal law, but they also have an obligation to taxpayers who help fund these institutions and students who pay tuition.

In this case, a judge is attempting to play athletic director, and mandating the university keep a team EMU says it can’t afford.

That’s troublesome, especially since it appears that the university has met the demands of Title IX, the law that forbids gender discrimination at schools receiving federal funds. Ensuring fairness in sports is one of the law’s most basic functions.

Last March, EMU eliminated four varsity sports teams: men’s wrestling, men’s swimming and diving, women’s softball and women’s tennis.

The university says these cuts impacted men more than women, bringing the balance of student athletes more in line with the student population — a requirement of Title IX.

Following the lawsuit, however, federal Judge George Steeh in February ordered the university to reinstate the softball team, and hire a coach by April 1. EMU responded by filing a request for an emergency stay with the 6th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the federal court’s demand would cause “irreparable harm” to the university.

In the appeal, the university argues: “The undisputed evidence established that EMU’s budget reductions disproportionately affected male student-athletes: after the reductions the proportion of athletic opportunities on women’s teams actually increased from 43 percent to 50 percent. This undercuts the notion that the budget actions were themselves intentional gender discrimination in violation of Title IX.”

EMU had planned to add women’s lacrosse as an alternative to softball, and university spokesman Walter Kraft says there is more overall interest from students in playing lacrosse and that it would be a better recruiting tool as well as allowing a higher number of women to participate.

Last fall, the university reinstated the women’s tennis program, but it remains reluctant to bring back softball, which it says costs about $870,000 a year compared to $650,000 for lacrosse.

That’s a reasonable rationale for a university dealing with budget shortfalls.

“Title IX does not permit federal judges to serve as athletic directors,” university lawyers wrote in the appeal. “Title IX does not require the maintenance of any particular sports.”

Prior to eliminating the four teams last year, EMU had the highest number of teams in the Mid-American Conference at 21. Now, with tennis returned, there are 18, which brings the university more in line with others — 11 are women’s teams and seven are men’s.

It can’t cut much more if it wants to keep its NCAA Division 1 status, which requires 16 sports minimum. The MAC requires football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball.

As long as EMU is offering equal opportunity to male and female athletes, forcing it to bring back a particular (and costly) sport seems overly meddlesome.

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The Mining Journal. March 11, 2019

Helping kids in foster care possible through tax returns

Michigan residents have an opportunity to support young people in need and do it with only modest financial commitment.

The Fostering Futures Scholarship Fund is tied to state income tax returns, according to a Michigan Department of Treasury poress release. Residents filing their Michigan return can set aside $5, $10 or whatever amount to be placed in a fund for scholarships for kids who have been in foster care

The amount would be deducted from the return.

“A donation to the Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund helps provide scholarships to young adults who have experienced foster care,” said Robin Lott, executive director of the Michigan Education Trust. “This scholarship assists with paying college expenses when no other assistance may be available.”

Scholarship awards are paid to Michigan degree-granting colleges or universities where eligible students are enrolled to assist with tuition, fees, room, board, books and supplies.

Approximately 13,500 children are in the Michigan foster care system at any given time. A growing number of our youth are reaching adult age while in foster care and have no resources to attend college when they age out of the system.

Through e-filing or paper filing, taxpayers must complete a Voluntary Contributions Schedule Form 4642 to participate.

To learn more about Michigan’s state income tax or to download forms — and we sincerely hope readers investigate — go to www.michigan.gov/incometax. The state Treasury Department is also on Twitter at @MITreasury.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. March 14, 2019

Potholes in the road meet holey pockets

Local ad seen recently: “3-bedroom, 2-bath for rent. Cheap, move in ready.” The photo? An area pothole.

Ha, ha, groan. Any Michigander with a driver’s license grudgingly gets the joke, as potholes join the joyous spring rites we count on, like flooded basements and dandelions.

But each year, it seems that the streets-turned-moonscapes catch us unawares until our cars are dealt that sickening crunch. We patch up the potholes and seem to forget about it, and the can, now rusted and dented, continues to get kicked down our scarred, pockmarked roads.

Statewide 40 percent of federal-aid eligible roads and highways in Michigan are in poor condition. Eleven percent of our bridges are “structurally deficit,” according to the Michigan’s 2017 Roads and Bridges Annual Report.

And unfortunately, the solutions put in place to date won’t repair what needs fixing.

A much-cited recent TRIP report sets out the inadequacies of our current solutions — the gradual rise in state spending from $2.2 billion in 2015 to $3.7 billion in 2023 — and the rise in cost passed down to taxpayers via an $646 average road repair bill, traffic congestion and safety issues.

The report, authored by a Washington, D.C. group funded by car insurance companies, businesses and other organizations with skin in the game, has been used by former Gov. Rick Snyder for his pitches and current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her proposed 45-cent fuel tax hike.

Her plan was rebuked for rolling back on a previous promise not to raise taxes by more than 20 cents and for its favoritism of larger road systems.

We are earnest in our sincere push for a workable, bi-partisan solution.

The majority of Grand Traverse County road commission dollars comes from a millage renewal (expected to bring in $4,620,529 from 2016-2019) and fuel taxes.

But our roads are bad everywhere, as we can plainly see as we dodge and curse the potholes.

This week’s warm-up will hit roads hard. Be patient with inexplicable slow downs. Be ready for cars careening wildly out of their lanes. Report potholes to the Road Commission. And take a picture lest we forget what road we’re on.

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