- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Dec. 1

The Charlotte Observer on students paying fees to support athletics:

Paige Taul, 19, makes $8.25 an hour working as a cashier at the University of Virginia bookstore. That means she works about 80 hours just to pay the school’s mandatory $657 student athletics fee, even though she doesn’t go to football games. She expects to graduate with at least $30,000 of debt.

Eric Dillenberger, a sophomore at Rutgers, works summers as a short-order cook and scrapes together the $326 he needs to pay that school’s athletics fee. He thinks he’ll graduate with student debt of at least $25,000.

Will Hobson and Steven Rich of the Washington Post examined financial records of 52 public universities in the so-called Power Five, the five richest conferences in college sports. They found that universities routinely charge students substantial fees to support athletics programs that make millions from other sources and in which, incidentally, many of those students have no interest.

Students at 32 of those schools paid a combined $125.5 million in athletic fees in 2014 alone, the Post found. This at a time when revenue from major college sports programs is booming.

A separate probe by the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Huffington Post last month found that public universities spent more than $10.3 billion on sports from student fees and other sources besides earned revenue over the past five years.

Schools in less prestigious conferences, with less revenue from TV and other sources, generally hit up students even harder than the powerhouses. For proof, look no further than UNC Charlotte.

Student athletic fees there will bring in $18.8 million this year, the most of any public university in the state. That’s a 90 percent jump in six years that coincides with the launch of the school’s football program. Students pay $773 in athletic fees this year and will pay $802 next year. The university also subsidizes sports with some $5 million from other non-sports sources. That $23 million-plus in total student fees and subsidies for athletics puts UNC Charlotte in the top 10 percent nationally among public Division I schools.

Six public ACC schools, including both UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State, were among the top nine in student fees collected in the Power Five conferences in 2014.

Athletics are an integral part of college life for many students, and the universities point to the exposure they bring. Without fees, some programs would be eliminated.

But sports have become such an enormous force that schools fund them in part by saddling debt on to students who are there to get an education. Those students are already getting squeezed by higher tuition and graduating with crippling debt.

University leaders and public officials must closely scrutinize the levels of student athletic fees in North Carolina. As a start, the legislature should explore a law like the one passed this year in Virginia, which limits the percentage of athletic budgets that can be funded through student fees.




Dec. 1

The Fayetteville Observer on giving North Carolina state troopers raises:

Most of us look at our state troopers as elite cops, the cream of the crop, the professionals who keep our highways safe.

That’s what a lot of the troopers thought too, when they joined the N.C. Highway Patrol. But promises of good pay and regular raises vanished in the recession, and it’s not unusual to find master troopers whose families are on Medicaid and food stamps. Many have to moonlight at second jobs to make ends meet.

The troopers have gotten several raises recently, but many are still in a deep financial hole. That’s why about half of North Carolina’s troopers - 800 of them - have joined a class-action lawsuit seeking the pay they were promised when they joined the Highway Patrol.

It’s unclear how far the suit will progress. A trial-court judge ruled against the two-year-old suit, and that decision is being appealed. It’s hard to see success in the offing, given the precedent it would set for thousands of other government workers who find themselves in the same fix.

But we hope the General Assembly will continue to boost Highway Patrol pay, keeping the promises that were made to the troopers when they were recruited.

These are the men and women who keep us safe. Let’s keep them safe too.




Nov. 28

The News & Record of Greensboro on Gov. Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper:

We see a pattern.

Gov. Pat McCrory takes a position on a hot-button issue. Republicans challenge his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, to state his position. Cooper parrots McCrory’s stand or else launches a counter-attack.

Is this how the 2016 campaign for governor is going to play out?

First it was refugees from Syria. McCrory said not a single one should be let into the state until assurances can be made that no terrorists are lurking among them. The governor’s surrogates then goaded Cooper into supporting McCrory’s position.

Next, the subject was transgender students and school bathrooms. McCrory announced his opposition to a legal bid by a Virginia teenager, who was born female, to use school bathrooms for boys. The Obama administration took student Gavin Grimm’s side, submitting a legal brief in federal court that accused Grimm’s school of sex discrimination. McCrory urged Cooper to submit a contrary legal brief on behalf of North Carolina, warning that a federal directive could force the state to comply. He gave Cooper a deadline with just four days’ notice.

This time, Cooper refused. His campaign spokesman tweeted that McCrory had “found another group to politicize.”

This is an emotional issue, and a complex one. There are people who are born into the wrong gender. Some have physical characteristics of both genders. Some identify with the opposite gender, and some may be very confused.

School officials can be confused, too. Where Grimm attends high school, in Gloucester County, Va., private, unisex bathrooms were created for Grimm, who still objected.

A federal district judge, however, ruled in September that the school made a reasonable accommodation. Judge Robert G. Doumar said privacy concerns and student safety were overriding considerations. Furthermore, federal Title IX requires “schools to provide sex-segregated restrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, housing, athletic teams, and single-sex classes under certain circumstances.”

The case was appealed to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Whatever ruling it issues will bind federal courts in North Carolina. Yet, it likely can decide the case without political posturing from McCrory or Cooper. For now, North Carolina is still free to set its own policies.

It’s inevitable that politicians will feed on red meat during campaigns. Donald Trump might get elected president on that diet. In his case, he’s using outright demagoguery to appeal to the worst instincts in voters - those who want to hear tough talk about any subject and don’t care about complexities or bruising anyone’s feelings. Other candidates see Trump’s success and try similar tactics - although none can match his bulldozer-in-a-china-shop style.

McCrory isn’t suited to that approach. Unlike Trump, he couches his positions in softer words. He wants to welcome refugees, he says, but has to make sure North Carolina residents will be safe. He’s sensitive to the needs of transgender students but only wants to protect those around them, he claims.

Meanwhile, his surrogates are waiting to pounce if Cooper says the wrong thing.

But the campaign should be about roads, education, the economy, the environment and other critical issues. Instead, it’s starting to look like it will hinge on a series of gotcha moments.



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