The Journal Times of Racine, Aug. 3

If no in-person schooling, then no school sports

Nearly three months ago NCAA President Mark Emmert made news, saying what should be said today in school districts planning openings this fall.

At the time he noted that he had talked to hundreds of college presidents and commissioners and felt there was consensus in the message.

“If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus,” Emmert said. “This doesn’t mean (the school) has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you have to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students … if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”

While he was talking about college sports that he oversees, it applies here and now as concerns over the coronavirus and community spread continue.

Kenosha Unified and Racine Unified, among other districts, are starting fully virtual. Those decisions have been made, but they don’t apply to sports.

There will be separate decisions on sports, and the only guidance to date from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is to delay the start of fall practices and then play.

“Let’s do our best to find a way,” said Dave Anderson, WIAA executive director, on the day of the board’s 8-3 vote to move forward on fall sports. “Let’s do what we can for this year only.”

Each state is plotting its own path, and Illinois last week said fall sports will move to the spring.

The National Federation of State High School Associations recently noted that California, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C., are not holding fall football.

At least one state organization, the Missouri State High School Activities Association, has offered a directive that matches what Emmert said.

“If you are only offering virtual instruction with no face-to- face education, either temporarily or for the semester/year, you may not offer sports and activities during that period,” MSHSAA’s statement reads.

“Sports and activities are irrevocably and appropriately intertwined with education provided in the school building ... if conditions are such in your local area that you are unable to safely bring students to a common location for instruction, bringing students together for practice and competitions is inappropriate.”

Several districts in St. Louis County already have decided to begin the school year with remote learning and are not allowed to practice nor play until such a time as in-person schooling is offered.

This Missouri directive and thinking should apply here, and throughout Wisconsin.

Nobody seems to be talking about the obvious here: Should a student who is not in a classroom then participate in practices and games?

The answer should be no.

If schools are unsafe for students, why would practices and competitions be any safer?

For local schools that are planning an in-person return, the WIAA provides a road map. Those returning could reschedule to play other schools returning. But all-virtual schools should come off their schedule for now.

We’re all for fall sports and students getting a chance to play them. But there should be no sports if there is no in-person school.

As Emmert said in May: “It’s really that simple.”


Beloit Daily News, Aug. 3

A clear illustration why nothing works

A spectacle of dysfunction on display in the Capitol.

Anyone who spent a couple of hours — or, maybe, a couple of minutes — watching the testimony of U.S. Attorney General William Barr before the House Judiciary Committee last week endured a short course in everything wrong with American politics.

The Democrat side of the aisle and the Republican side of the aisle spent most of the time on their high horses, speechifying with great offense and indignity. Meanwhile, on those rare occasions when Barr actually was given time to speak, he demonstrated the lawyerly skill of talking without saying anything.

And that, of course, was the purpose of the day. Theater for the politicians. Obfuscation for the attorney general.

Is it any wonder the American people are sick of it all?

As usual, the people are way ahead of the politicians. They get it:

Disaffected Americans have a constitutional right to assemble and voice their objections to government.

The minute somebody throws a rock at an officer, lights a fire, breaks a window, it’s no longer a protest. It’s a riot and arrests should follow.

President Trump and Attorney General Barr put a thumb on the scales of justice for allies Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.

Paul Manafort got out of prison and Michael Cohen stayed (until a judge intervened) because one pleased the White House and the other didn’t.

A series of U.S. Attorneys — not to mention several inspectors general — were shown the door because they weren’t doing the bidding of Trump and Barr.

We could go on, but the point is both obvious and self-affirming. Partisan politics has infected everything. Congress can’t function because these two sides do not simply disagree; they viscerally hate each other. In the absence of a Congress capable of fulfilling its constitutional duty, the executive branch — this one, and apparently those to follow — feels unchecked. It is a legislative branch at war with itself and an executive branch feeling increasingly liberated from restraint.

Just one more reason everybody wants to hit fast-forward on 2020.

It really has come to this. In just under 100 days Americans go to the polls to make a decision. Don’t even hope that will mean one side will take responsibility and the other side will quietly acquiesce. But at least for awhile, maybe, the politicians will have no choice but to give a grudging nod to the will of the people. At least that’s something.


Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, July 26

Shift the information superhighway out of second gear

Reliable, fast internet access is not optional for modern life. As Congress debates how to respond to the pandemic, investment in broadband for rural and low-income urban areas should be a top priority.

Take a look at a broadband map of Wisconsin, and it’s clear that America hasn’t kept up. Outside the metropolitan areas and a few scattered pockets, the information superhighway remains stuck in second gear.

That’s true across America. Most people who live in or near a city have access to relatively fast broadband. They might not have much choice of carrier, but they at least have access, if they can afford it. Drift too far away, though, and broadband is hard to find.

Almost half a million Wisconsin residents lack access to broadband with at least a 25 Mbps download speed, and that’s not even very fast by today’s standards.

The pandemic has underscored how imperative closing the divide between digital haves and have-nots is. People with good internet access can work from home. Their kids can learn in virtual classrooms. Meanwhile, families without good internet or without the means to pay for it fall further behind.

Wisconsin’s top economic development agency highlighted the need in its assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on the state’s economy. “Broadband access is an essential catalyst to drive community, public safety, learning, health, and economic goals across the state of Wisconsin. As such, there are dire consequences that result from a lack of connectivity,” the newly released report states.

Gov. Tony Evers this month announced the creation of a task force on broadband access, but Wisconsin can’t go it alone. This is a national challenge.

Investing in broadband expansion somehow became a needlessly partisan issue. This is a problem that affects both rural areas that lean conservative and urban areas that tend to be more liberal. Democrats and Republicans should be able to find common ground.

House Democrats are pushing the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act. Democratic Wisconsin Reps. Ron Kind and Mark Pocan are co-sponsors. The bill would spend $100 billion to build high-speed broadband in communities that don’t have it. The bill also contains provisions to keep that internet service affordable.

Senate Republicans have introduced the Accelerating Broadband Connectivity Act. It takes a more incentives-based approach and contains some sweeteners for the broadband industry. Neither of Wisconsin’s senators have yet signed on as cosponsors. For Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, getting behind this bill should be an easy decision, especially with a potential reelection campaign coming up in 2022.

Years ago, when the House and Senate differed on the specifics of an issue, each chamber would pass a bill and then a conference committee would hash out a compromise. These broadband bills are an excellent chance to prove that a flicker of bipartisanship survives in Washington.