Law would make it tougher to terminate some parents’ rights

Capital News Service

LANSING — It’s now up to Gov. Rick Snyder to approve a set of bills that would make it more difficult for child protective officials to terminate the rights of some parents who previously had a child taken from them.

Legislative action on the flagship bill, sponsored by Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, came after the Michigan Court of Appeals struck down a provision dealing with termination of parental rights. Previously, courts could take away a parent’s rights based solely on a previous TPR (Termination of Parental Rights)without considering the parent’s efforts to improve.

Janet Reynolds Snyder, the executive director of the nonprofit Michigan Federation for Children and Families, said that the priority for judges, state agencies and “any authority that might be involved in solving a parental dispute simply got to be the safety and the well-being of children.”

If a court ends someone’s parental rights, the matter will come up again if there are other children involved.

Under the legislation, parents in such cases would “have the rights to have information reviewed that will show a change of circumstance, that will show that efforts have been made and allow the assessment of the current situation,” Snyder said.

“Parental rights are critically important,” she said.

The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the bills. Among the four lawmakers  who voted against the change was Democratic Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills.

“The most important thing in deciding policy is to protect people from harm, and I’m concerned that this bill will result in more children being kept in households where they are neglected and not properly cared for,” Greimel said.

Snyder. of the Federation of Children and Families, said courts have an important role to play when deciding whether to terminate parental rights.

“The court takes very seriously the bonds of family, and they’re going to look at situations separately and be able to make an assessment,” Snyder said.

She added that courts should allow experts to be called in to assess a situation if needed but that the priority should be on the safety and best interests of the child, not on any adult involved.

“Anyone, in any situation is always capable of change. Change is part of human nature,” Snyder said.

Greimel, on the other hand, said though he understands both sides of the issue, he still thinks  “that if a parent has had one child taken away due to neglect, the parent is very likely to neglect other children as well.”

He also said,  however, “that there needs to be more support mechanisms for families and for parents who are trying to do the right thing. But at the same time, if a parent had a history of neglect, the most important priority needs to be protecting children from suffering from continued neglect.”

Bill would pay a bonus to some teachers in low-income schools

Capital News Service

LANSING – –Michigan’s struggle to retain teachers in low-income areas may soon receive a helping hand.

New bills in the House and Senate would give educators who teach mathematics, science or special education a bonus of $1,800 a year if more than half the students in their school district are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The bill applies to school districts, intermediate school districts and public school academies.

According to Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, low-income areas tend to pay lower salaries for teachers even though these educators do some of the hardest work.

Brinks, a sponsor of the House measure, said she hopes the bonuses would encourage dedicated and caring educators to go to and remain at these schools.

The Department of Education reported that between 2016-17, more than 17,000 teachers who taught at a school for a year didn’t return to the same school the next year.

Comparing the latest data, Michigan has 80.2 percent of teachers staying at the same school for consecutive years. That ranks below the national average of 84.2 percent.

The retention of educators is only part of a bigger problem, said David Crim, a Michigan Education Association communications consultant.

“The larger problem is the teacher shortage, caused primarily by attacks on teacher wages, benefits, pensions and collective bargaining rights over the past eight years,”  Crim said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, enrollment in colleges of education across the state is down by more than 50 percent since 2008, and average teacher salaries across the state have declined for the fifth straight year.

The number of new teachers leaving the profession in the first five years of teaching is at an historic high, according to the Michigan Education Association.

Among the sponsors of the bonus legislation are Reps. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids; Jon Hoadley D-Kalamazoo; and Tom Cochran, D-Mason.

“These bills give a financial incentive that will help staff the schools facing a teacher shortage now, in the subjects that are most difficult to find certified teachers for,” Crim said of the bonus proposal.

Brinks said she hopes by increasing teacher’s income with a bonus, teachers would have an incentive to remain in the field, and that it may make the occupation more attractive to those making career choices.

Kathy Berry, president of the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics, doesn’t see the bill as helping to accomplish either of those objectives.

“The bill reads as a nice gesture, but at the end of the day, $1,800 is not that much money,”  Berry said.

People with the skills to teach mathematics are capable of going into other industries that are more profitable, and that sum of money wouldn’tt change their minds, Berry said. She said that although all teachers would like more money in their pocket, most would rather see their per pupil allowance increased.

The annual cost if the bill were to pass is unclear, but according to the n Department of Education, 702,777 of 1,532,335 Michigan public school students were eligible for free or reduced lunch during the fall of 2016.

The bills are pending in the House Committee of Appropriations and Senate Committee on Education.

Do juveniles understand their rights? Maybe not

Capital News Service

LANSING — Through TV shows and movies, many Americans became familiar with Miranda rights for arrested suspects, but how well do juveniles understand those rights — to remain silent and to have a lawyer, even if they can’t afford to pay for one?

Not well at all, some experts say.

An American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry study concluded that the Miranda rights are too complex and advanced for juveniles to understand.

Its report prompted police departments across the nation to develop and employ a simplified explanation for juveniles in custody.

In Washington state, for instance, the sheriff’s office in King County worked with the public defender’s office and a community nonprofit group to come up with simplified warnings.

Miranda rights go back to 1966, when the U.S. Supreme Court mandated that law enforcement agencies advise suspects in custody about those rights before interrogation.

The Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice found that 10,728 crimes by juveniles were reported in the state in 2016.

John McKaig, who chairs the children’s law section of the State Bar of Michigan, said that when a suspect is in custody, “the police have to give you your Miranda warnings and tell you what you’re being charged with.”

McKaig, a lawyer in Mancelona, said juveniles “watch television, but if understanding their rights is a problem, the judge will understand that immediately and appoint an attorney.”

Lisa Halushka, an assistant dean at the Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School campus in Auburn Hills, said, in Michigan, “There’s no written law or legislation that suggests that the police have to jump through extra hoops in order to get a juvenile confession admitted. However, law enforcement officers — to the extent that they can — ensure that juveniles understand their rights.”

There’s case law in Michigan suggesting that courts look at additional factors for juveniles than for adults, said Halushka.

That position was confirmed by Bill Vailliencourt, the Livingston County prosecutor.

“The court determines whether the rights were properly explained and waived. It looks at individual cases and the totality of circumstances,” he said.

Vailliencourt is vice president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

Factors such as age, whether an adult or custodian was present during questioning, the juvenile’s background, education, prior experience with criminal law, mental and emotional health are all considered in determining whether the suspect fully understood his or her rights and knowingly waived them.

Vailliencourt explained that the state Supreme Court has expressed confidence in the language outlined in the Miranda rights and has repeatedly upheld it as adequate.

In the case of juveniles, the police have the flexibility to explain Miranda rights differently in different circumstances, he said.

Asked whether simplified warnings make it less likely that juveniles will confess to a crime as Miranda rights critics claim, Halushka  said, “That’s naïve.

“It’s human nature to want to talk ourselves out of a hole. Simplified Miranda warnings can help facilitate that process,” she said.

While simplified Miranda rights could be easier to understand,  Vailliencourt said that raises concerns.

“I can understand why the police may be reluctant to tailor how they present Miranda rights in specific cases. The court could question whether the language used was appropriate. If it’s found not to be, the court can suppress the juvenile’s confession,” he said.

Will the state consider adopting new Miranda rights for juveniles?

Halushka said, “I can’t speak into what Michigan will do, but I would rather see well redrafted Miranda rights in compliance with the current recommendations, read in court and approved by a judge rather than having protracted hearings.”

The question of whether Miranda rights are appropriate for juveniles comes at a time when Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, has introduced a bill seeking to change Michigans juvenile criminal justice laws by raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18.

Supporters of  his legislation argue that 17-year-olds are still developing mentally and,  just as they can’t vote, rent a car or buy cigarettes, they shouldn’t be treated as adults in criminal proceedings.

The bill is pending in the House Law and Justice Committee.

Concerns raised about maternity care in rural areas

Capital News Service

LANSING – Almost 2.5 million women of childbearing age living in rural America face higher risks during pregnancy and childbirth, including some who are forced to drive at least an hour to give birth in a hospital, a study in the journal “Health Affairs” found.

The study found that 45 percent of rural U.S. counties had no hospital obstetric services at all, leaving more than half of all rural U.S. counties without hospital obstetric services.

This comes at a time when the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased by more than 25 percent from 2000 to 2014, according to a 2016 study in the “Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal Mortality Surveillance Committee estimated in a January report that approximately 80 women die each year in the state during pregnancy and childbirth.

Patrice Bobier, a  midwife from Oceana County and member of the board of the Michigan Midwives Association, said the trend in hospitals closing their obstetric care departments could be because they struggle to balance their books.

Hospitals increasingly find themselves having to merge with bigger corporations or health institutions, bringing their maternity operations to a halt, Bobier said.

Bobier has been working as a midwife since 1982. But in the last three years, she noted an increase in women giving birth through her midwifery services.. 

The situation in the Upper Peninsula is particularly critical, with fewer obstetrical units than other areas in the state.

UP Health System Marquette is the only hospital in the U.P. with a neonatal intensive care unit.

Obstetricians in the  hospital often travel to nearby hospitals to provide obstetric services, said Emily Wright, physician relations specialist at UP Health System in Marquette.

To address this situation, the Michigan Maternal Mortality Surveillance Committee endorsed six recommendations in September.

For example, the committee will seek to enhance education and coordination between the state Board of Licensed Midwifery and midwives attending out-of-hospital births about  timely referrals of women to hospitals when necessary.

Lawmakers eye making cyberbullying a crime

Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan would become the 17th state with criminal penalties for cyberbullying under a proposal in the Legislature that would make it a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison if a bullied person dies.

The bill would make cyberbullying a misdemeanor with a potential maximum one-year jail term. However, if the bullying results in the death of the victim, it would become a felony.  

Current state law doesn’t specify what qualifies as cyberbullying.

Enforcement of penalties for online bullying creates the potential for a First Amendment viiolation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan.

“There is no Supreme Court decision for lower courts to go off of,” said Tara Mesyn, a former Mason High School teacher who is working on a study of cyberbullying laws at Michigan State University.

“The lack of precedent has caused interpretation of what is and what isn’t cyberbullying to be all over the place,” she said.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township.

“As it stands, a child’s parents are required to find representation and to pursue litigation for cyberbullying on their own,” Lucido said.

“With the passage of this bill, it would become possible for the state or justice system to act on cases of suicide and independently investigate potential acts of bullying,” he said.

The House Crime and Justice Committee was prepared to pass the bill before receiving a letter from the ACLU raising concerns that the law would violate freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

The committee will reconsider the bill later this year, said Lucido, vice chair of the committee.

According to ACLU of Michigan policy counsel Kimberly Buddin, “The broad scope of the bill ends up criminalizing speech online that would generally be protected.”

Buddin acknowledged that “advocating for someone to cause physical harm to another person would not fall under protected free speech.”

The Department of Education has taken a neutral stance on the legislation, according to its school safety consultant, Aimee Alaniz.

Thousands of Michigan kids caught in health insurance gap

Capital News Service

LANSING — More than 100,000 Michigan children who don’t qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance are at risk of losing health insurance.  

The federal government failed to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) before Oct. 1. Now it’s uncertain if funding will be restored.

CHIP is an insurance plan for working families, said Meghan Swain, executive director for the Michigan Association for Local Public Health.

Most funds provide health care to children through the MIChild program and to pregnant women, said Angela Minicuci, communications director at the Department of Health and Human Services. There are 116,000 Michigan residents  covered by the program.

It’s vitally important to providing health care to children of lower income families, said Emily Schwarzkopf, a health policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“Without it, children would not have access to regular doctors appointments, the ability to get preventive care or immunizations, Schwarzkopf said. “If a kid is sick, they can’t go to the doctor and they can’t get medication.”

The program provides health insurance to almost nine million children. Five states have already run out of the funding but received a little extra money from the federal government to help support the programs, Schwarzkopf said.

Michigan is in somewhat better shape.

“We have funding that will bring us through about April or May of next year,” Minicuci said.

But the agency is preparing to  warn participants of looming changes in early 2018.

“We will need to begin notifying residents that coverage may be ending or changing,” Minicuci said.

CHIP has had bipartisan support in Congress and until now there have been few obstacles to getting the funding reauthorized.

“Should we run out of funding, we would need to do a couple of things,” Minicuci said. That includes asking state lawmakers for new funds or finding another source of them or cutting the program.

“We could partially fund some programs,” she said. “We might need to change the types of coverage that some programs have.”

What happens depends on whatever funding solutions state legislators develop.

“There is the possibility that should we not have federal funding identified and the state is unable to identify funding to cover that CHIP funding, individuals could lose the coverage that they receive through CHIP funding,” she said.

Schwarzkopf said the league hopes if funding is not restored, the state will find a way to pick up the tab.

“Obviously that would be a lot of money that the state would not be receiving from the federal government, so you have to look at what funding is available,” she said.

Policies that protect high school athletes under scrutiny

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is fighting a national report that says it isn’t doing enough to protect student athletes.

The claim was in a nationwide study that analyzed policies related to student athletes. The Korey Stringer Institute, a part of the University of Connecticut that advocates for student athletes, ranked Michigan at 41st.

While Michigan scored points for heat exertion policies it has in place, it lost points for not requiring athletic trainers be onsite for contact sport practices, as well as having an undeveloped athletic emergency action plan.

MHSAA says the institute’s method for ranking states is flawed.

“They try to take a one-size-fits-all approach, and basically it’s a one-size-fits-nothing,” said John Johnson, MHSAA’s director of broadcast properties. “There’s lots of things it totally misses the mark on.”

Michigan has a coaches’ education policy and mandatory concussion reporting, two policies that Johnson said aren’t acknowledged in the report.

“There are too many things that vary from state to state, that you can’t just dump it into a matrix and it spits out rankings.”

The reason behind the study is to develop better state policies to address common reasons students die in high school sports, said Samantha Scarneo, the director of sport safety at the institute. The four primary causes of death in high school sports are heat stroke, brain-related trauma, cardiac arrest and a sickle cell trait, she said.

“We appreciate states that aren’t happy with where they are ranked,” Scarneo said. “The purpose of this study was not to point fingers, but to educate parents.”

The rankings were based on public information that the institute compiled. Any policies or laws the state and athletic association mandated for school districts to follow, coupled with how clear the wording of those policies were, helped determine the score each state received.

The ranking relied too much on the same laws standardized across all states, Johnson said. If you think about summer conditioning and climate change, it’s very different for those that practice in the middle of July in Alabama or the end of August in Michigan, he said.

“You’re not going to get that kind of standardization in 50 states on anything,” he said. “Even in Michigan, you can go to DeTour and find completely different weather on any given day than what you find in Detroit or Decatur.”

But the ranking method accounts for these factors, modifying the scores to reflect laws relative to the state, Scarneo said.

“We’re not saying every state has to have the same exact policy. What we’re saying is every state has to have a policy. That’s what sets the standard of care.”

For Michigan’s athletic trainers, the standard of care means taking a proactive role in keeping student athletes healthy. Some cultures promote a win-at-all-cost mentality, Mitch Smelis, who chairs the secondary school committee of the Michigan Athletic Trainers Society, wrote in an email.

“At some point a student’s participation in competitive athletics will come to an end. When that happens, what is the health status and how then are they able to function in society in the years ahead?” he said.

The trainers’ society says it looks at the institute’s report as a bridge to discussion about being more prepared.

“As an organization we look forward to partnering with others across the state,” Gretchen Goodman, the society’s president, wrote in an email, “as we engage in meaningful dialogue and implementation of plans and resources to help promote the safety and well-being of our secondary school athletes.”

In 2011, the Licensure of Athletic Trainers in Michigan was enacted to require that all athletic trainers meet several standards if they want to practice in the state. That includes a degree from an accredited college program, a certification from the Board of Certification and maintaining continuing education every three years.

Between 1982 and 2015, 735 students died as a result of participation in high school sports, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.

MHSAA mandates its members report head injuries and, offers concussion insurance and sideline testing programs. We’ve been at the leading edge of addressing issues like concussions, Johnson said. “We’re not Johnny-come-late to the party when it comes to head issues.”

Johnson says there are enough policies in place that some high school coaches and administrators think MHSAA has too many rules. “So maybe the silver lining in the institute’s ranking is so we can point to it and say ‘here is someone who thinks differently.’ But there’s no way we’re 41st.”

State program boosts school nutrition with local foods

Capital News Service

LANSING — More Michigan students can enjoy fruits and vegetables from local farms because of the expansion of a state program that supports buying them.

The 10 Cents A Meal program is administered by the Department of Education.The state offers up to 10 cents per meal for schools to purchase Michigan grown or processed food.

Sixteen school districts joined the program its first year in 2016, serving more than 3.8 millions meals to 48,000 students, according to the program’s legislative report.

The state recently announced that 32 school districts will receive the funding this year. More than 90,000 students will benefit from it.

Almost 80 schools applied for the program this year, according to the Department of Education. Criteria for choosing them includes whether they are near farms, distributors and food hubs.

The grants are for foods such as local fruit, vegetables or dry beans, said Diane Golzynski, the interim state child nutrition director at the department.

“We’re just very excited about this program,” Golzynski said. “It’s really exciting and we’ve seen Michigan farms be able to get additional funding to help them grow and provide more products to local schools.”

This is the fifth year that Traverse City schools have participated in the program because it started there as a pilot program.

The Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District partnered with the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities to launch the initial version, said Tom Freitas, food service director for the district.

The local program prompted Sens. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, and Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s K-12, School Aid, Education Subcommittee, to initiate a statewide program two years ago.

“We are pleased that this is something that is being seen as a win-win by legislators for investing in the health of our kids and the health of Michigan’s economy, and we’re pleased that it is getting bipartisan support,” said Diane Conners, senior policy specialist at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, a nonprofit organization based in Traverse City.

“The 10 Cents a Meal program is helping expose children to locally-grown produce options in the school setting and is creating partnerships between school districts and their local agricultural producers,” Hansen said in a news release.

And students apparently notice.

“Kids can tell differences. When the food service ran out of Michigan apples, they can tell the difference and say ‘what’s going on with the apple?’” Conners said.

Freitas agrees: “If you get a Honeycrisp apple versus a Red Delicious apple, they just like Honeycrisp much better, which is more of a local apple.”

Traverse City Area Public Schools receives produce almost everyday, Freitas said.

Even in the winter, when there is nothing growing in Michigan, schools still have supplies of frozen cherries, blueberries, strawberries and apples from local processors.

James Bardenhagen is the owner of Bardenhagen Farms. His farm and his co-ops sell apples, potatoes, grapes, apricots, nectarines, plums, leafy greens, carrots, kohlrabi to schools in Leelanau County and Traverse City.

Kids now want to eat at school rather than bring their own lunch, said Bardenhagen.

10 Cents A Meal means a new market for him.

“It’s a great program, and it benefits the farmers and school and the kids,” he said.

“Our hope is to get it across all of Michigan,” Freitas said. “Every time it grows a little bit, that is a good thing not just to schools but the Michigan economy and the farmers.”

Districts now in the program include Alanson Public Schools, Bear Lake Schools, Benzie County Central Schools, Boyne Falls Public School District, East Jordan Public Schools, Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools, Glen Lake Community Schools, Harbor Springs Public School District, Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools, Manton Consolidated Schools, Onekama Consolidated Schools, Pellston Public Schools, Public Schools of Petoskey, Traverse City Area Public Schools, Belding Area Schools, Coopersville Area Public School District, Grand Haven Area Public Schools, Hart Public School District, Holland Public Schools, Lowell Area Schools, Montague Area Public Schools, Saugatuck Public Schools, Shelby Public Schools, Thornapple Kellogg School District, Whitehall District Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Bedford Public Schools, Dexter Community School District, Hillsdale Community Schools, Jackson Public Schools, Monroe Public Schools, Ypsilanti Community Schools.

CNS community:

Harbor Springs Public School District, Public Schools of Petoskey, Traverse City Area Public Schools, Holland Public Schools, Glen Lake Community Schools, Kaleva Norman Dickson School District


Most Michigan kids lag national average in well-being; African-American students at the bottom

Capital News Service

LANSING — African-American children in Michigan score the lowest in the nation in a complex measure of their well-being, a new report shows.

“The data really shows that African-American kids here in Michigan are faring much more poorly compared to African-American kids in every other state in the country,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, the Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The Race for Results report, produced by the Kids Count project at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, measures the well-being children of all races. It takes into account 12 indicators, including education, work experience, family support and neighborhood conditions. It looks at how children progress in education, health, economic security and other spheres.

The scores are based on a scale of one to 1,000.

African-American children in Michigan scored 260, far below the national score for African-American children, which is 369.

“Kids of color fare worse on most indicators compared to their white peers,” Guevara Warren said. “We have a lot of work to do around racial disparity.”

Latino children in Michigan fared better than their national counterparts. They had an index score of 446, which is above 429, the national score. Native American children in Michigan scored 511; the national score for that group is 413.

That said, both the state and national index scores for these minorities come up far short of the national index score for white children. The national score for African-American children is 369. For white children, it is 713.

White children in Michigan, while better off than their minority counterparts in the state, scored 667, below the 713 national average for white children.

Asian/Pacific Islander children in the state scored 804, which was better than the national score of 783.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Education declined to be interviewed about the report. Instead, department communications oficer William DiSessa, emailed this  statement:

“We need to work harder at getting every child to be successful in school, including children of color who have to overcome risk factors like poverty, undernutrition and lack of educational resources. Michigan has begun investing more heavily in early childhood education and programs to help at-risk students in our schools, and providing free nutrient-rich school meals for kids. When Michigan becomes a Top 10 education state in 10 years, it will be the result of these additional resources and greater focus on meeting the needs of our at-risk students.”

Guevara Warren said the League for Public Policy said it’s concerned that the Michigan fourth-grade reading level is low in all racial and ethnic groups. “The biggest and most troubling statistic is the rate of reading for African-American fourth graders in Michigan, which is the lowest rate of reading proficiency for African-Americans in the country.”

The Michigan Education Association says there is hope for the future, especially with the recent passage of a new law that requires school districts to assess the reading skills of students in kindergarten through third grade three times a year and requires districts to develop individual reading plans for deficient students.

“The new third=grade reading law will help make sure students are proficient in reading by the time they reach fourth grade,” said David Crim, a communications consultant at the MEA, the state’s largest union of teachers and other school personnel. “It will take some time, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Guevara Warren said the report looks at 12 indicators because children are impacted by where they live, how much they eat, their families, their education, health care and a variety of other influences.  

“If you’re hungry, you’re not going to read well,” she said. “If you’re stressed out because you live in an area of concentrated poverty with high crime rates, you’re going to have a harder time in school. There are all these things that are interconnected that are important to addressing the whole child.”

Crim said social conditions are huge determinants of success.

“Where a child starts doesn’t have to determine where they end up,” he said. “We need to address social issues that impede student success.”

Michigan school enrollments projected to drop

Capital News Service

LANSING — A forecast for Michigan’s public school enrollment is bleak.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently predicted that public school enrollment in Michigan will decline more than 5 percent by 2025. It is one of only nine states facing that fate.

“Most districts have seen a decrease in enrollment over the past several years, granted some more than others, but this is widespread throughout our state,” said Chris Wigent, the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

As of 2017, a little more than 1.3 million students are enrolled in  public schools. A 5 percent drop represents a loss of 65,000 pupils.

A school district receives a little more than $7,500 from the state per enrolled student. To put those numbers in perspective, if a district has 1,500 students and loses 30 children a year, that’s more than a $225,000 loss. But when losses pile up, it doesn’t mean other expenses can be cut, said Wigent.

When students leave, it doesn’t happen in only one grade, but across the entire kindergarten through 12th grade system, Wigent said. That means the number of teachers can’t necessarily be reduced. And expenses like transportation remain the same, he added.

“Quality education is one big part of the equation to continue to have our state move forward in a positive economic direction,” Wigent said. “There are many parts of that equation. They all have an impact on each other. It’s like a Rubik’s cube.”

And enrollment is a significant piece of that puzzle.

Enrollment doesn’t just fall for no reason. Michigan’s state demographer, Eric Guthrie, says it can be because of a fall in birth rate, an increase in deaths and migration out of the state.

Michigan hasn’t had an increase in its mortality rate, so that leaves the other two options.

”When we look at the structure of the population, we see fewer people of early childbearing years, so we’re going to see a decline of young persons,” Guthrie said. “If you look at the population structure of Michigan, you can see right after those college years, we have a reduction in populations in that 25-40 year age group.”

U.S. census figures show Michigan saw .7 percent of people ages 22-34 migrating from the state between 2014 and 2015.

But that’s only part of the puzzle. For those who stay in the state, Guthrie said many delay having children to complete their own educations.

“These things mixed together are driving down our school aid populations and will continue to do so for the near future,” Guthrie said.

The author of the study that cites those projections says the prediction model is usually fairly accurate. Those projections come from an analysis of the number of students enrolled in one grade, compared with the number of those enrolled in the grade below.

Michigan public school enrollment has been declining for some time. The National Center for Education Statistics reports its K-12 enrollment is at its lowest in five decades — from 2.1 million in 1971 to 1.4 million in 2016.

A reduction in enrollment also leads to a reduction in educators, Wigent said.

“The biggest impact that we’ve seen is a reduction of salaries for teachers, for support staff and administrators,” Wigent said. “And the outcome of that is we have this shortage of educators in our state.”

Allegan Public Schools has had a decline in enrollment for the last 10 years, and like much of the state has suffered a decline in teachers.

“Obviously, the biggest impact is going to be on our staffing levels,” said Allegan Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Harness. “If you budget-crunch for that long, you start to lose a lot of important people.”

Wigent says the state needs to pay attention to studies that show where the money for education is going. Those numbers will play an important role in how the state tackles future education reform.

“I think we’re going to need to look at those carefully and we’re going to have to prioritize and pay attention to how schools need to be funded,” Wigent said. “And really take a look at school reform in Michigan. It seems all the arrows point to that right now.”

Michigan passed major tax and school finance changes 20 years ago. As everyone knows, things have changed over the past 20 years, Wigent said, and it’s time to look at it again.