Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. May 4, 2022.

Editorial: Wait for High Court’s final abortion ruling

We got a taste this week of the predicted public uproar that would follow the U.S. Supreme Court overturning its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But a leaked draft signaling the court would go in this direction is just that: a draft. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and await the court’s final decision.

That probably won’t come until next month, at the end of the High Court’s term.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the draft’s authenticity, and said the unusual leak — which he called an “egregious breach of trust” — would be investigated immediately.

In a closely watched case out of Mississippi, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court’s decision could overturn or significantly weaken federal abortion rights under Roe.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” states the draft opinion, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, an appointee of former President George W. Bush. The document is labeled “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court.”

The draft continues: “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The leak seems aimed at manipulating the court, which is in effect turning the court into what it’s not supposed to be — a political body that’s swayed by public outcry and opinion.

As with any first draft, this one is likely to change before the final one is made public by the court.

Yet no matter what the justices decide when it comes to upholding or doing away with Roe, it’s important to keep a couple of things in perspective.

Even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, this doesn’t end abortion access in the country. It would send the matter back to the states, which is where it would be best debated.

That’s not to say this wouldn’t be a big deal, but states could then decide how little — or how much — abortion access they would grant. And voters could directly hold their decision makers accountable at the ballot box.

This is the essence of federalism.

The impact of overturning Roe would be felt differently around the country, although some research has indicated legal abortions would only likely drop by 14%.

According to the pro-abortion rights research group the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states have laws seeking to ban abortions. Thirteen states have passed so-called “trigger laws” that would take effect and as soon as the case that legalized abortion nationwide was revoked.

Michigan is one of nine states that has a pre-Roe abortion ban on the books, a law from 1931. A policy analyst with Guttmacher has said this law wouldn’t immediately take effect again, even if Roe is overturned.

In the meantime, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood have filed lawsuits challenging the dormant law, ahead of the Supreme Court decision.

If Roe is vacated, Michigan will have the opportunity to craft a new abortion law that reflects the values and desires of its people. And state Legislatures should prepare for the likelihood of a post-Roe world.

For now, though, many questions remain. People need to take a step back and wait for the justices’ final ruling.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. May 4, 2022.

Editorial: Multiple choices in standardized testing debate

Michigan’s April and May are months of acronyms. It’s a time to M-STEP through the tulips, springing forward into the PSAT, SAT and ACT.

But whether this six-week testing season results in flowers or weeds is a matter of opinion in the struggle to determine what kids really know and how well they’re being served by their teachers, districts and systems.

In Michigan, stakes are high all around — even as debaters chew at the tests’ usefulness and fairness.

Standardized testing is supposed to objectively measure student performance in terms of the individual and the teacher/district/system that educates them. They determine 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation in Michigan, according to The Skillman Foundation. Michigan’s Read by Grade Three law means third-graders who score a grade below on the English language arts portion of the M-STEP could be retained for a year. High schoolers’ scores on their SATs and PSATs help determine admission and scholarships in some colleges and universities.

COVID-19-related disruptions prompted Michigan legislators in 2021 to ask to skip testing altogether — which didn’t fly with the U.S. Department of Education, (though it loosened its attendance requirements), but the state’s third-grade reading law was lifted.

This year, what will happen to the scores is still a multiple-choice question.

Last month legislators introduced state bills asking for COVID-19-related leniency in using test results to evaluate teachers or hold back students. Other leaders want to get back to pre-COVID times as fast as possible.

Still others want the tests themselves to disappear as scholastic bites continue to nibble away at their efficacy. Reasons range from testing bias that may leave low income and minority students behind, to that tests in general aren’t a good measure of actual learning.

Dropping SAT/ACT requirements are at an all-time high, according to FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy group that counted more than 1,800 colleges and universities. Michigan’s House of Representative recently approved a law that would leave disclosing their scores up to the high school students. Pew Research found that, while people in general believe that grades (61%) and testing (39%) should be major factors in college admissions, both percentages dropped by 6 percent since 2019.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology leaders recently announced a month ago that they were reinstating its SAT/ACT requirement, as the measures are one of the best ways to predict student success, according to its experts.

We think that tests need to be tested, just as the students are. The ACT/SAT were in theory developed to remove privilege in education and can identify and help struggling students and districts.

Finding the best way to gauge learning and teaching must be, by its nature, a constantly evolving science.

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Iron Mountain Daily News. May 2, 2022.

Editorial: Volunteers sought for state foster care review board program

The state is looking for volunteers to serve on local foster care review boards.

During National Volunteer Month, the Foster Care Review Board program, administered by the State Court Administrative Office of the Michigan Supreme Court, encourages Michigan residents to apply for membership on statewide review boards that help connect children in foster care with needed services. Michigan’s foster care system currently has more than 10,000 children.

“I cannot overstate the importance of this program or the dedicated volunteers who make protecting vulnerable children their mission. Their efforts are truly making a difference for Michigan families every day,” said Justice Megan K. Cavanagh, MSC co-liaison on child welfare matters.

Each board includes five citizen volunteers who attend regularly scheduled case review meetings one day every month. Board members read case materials and feedback surveys, and interview interested parties regarding the case. Their recommendations are then reported to the court and child welfare agency.

In addition to facilitating services, these boards also work to ensure that children are placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible and investigate appeals by foster parents who believe that children are being unnecessarily moved from their care. In 2021, the FCRB program handled 333 cases: 250 case reviews and 83 foster parent appeals.

Recruitment for board membership is year-round, but interested individuals are encouraged to submit applications by May 31. Interviews and background checks are required for everyone.

Applicants are welcome from around the state but are urgently needed in these areas: Northern Michigan; Upper Peninsula; Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Isabella, Lapeer, Mecosta, Midland, Montcalm, Osceola, Saginaw, Sanilac, Shiawassee and St. Clair counties. Volunteers selected must reside within the region of their local board and are appointed to a three-year term.

Applicants should demonstrate an interest in child welfare and strengthening families. The FCRB program values diversity among board members to ensure various perspectives and life experiences that can positively inform decisions about the most vulnerable children in Michigan.

Cavanagh added, “We do have some board members with the ‘lived experience’ of having been in foster care as children, but it is not a requirement for serving. Most of all, we are looking for people who are passionate about making the system better for everyone who relies on it.”

More information is available at https://www.courts.michigan.gov/administration/court-programs/foster-care-review-board-program/fcrb-volunteers/?r=1.

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