Budget Dec. 4, 2015

Capital News Service Budget – Week 12

Dec. 4, 2015

To: CNS Editors

From: Eric Freedman, Sheila Schimpf and Andi Brancato

http://news.jrn.msu.edu/capitalnewsservice/. For technical problems, contact CNS tech manager Tanya Voloshina (248-943-8979) voloshin@msu.edu.

You can email us at cnsmsu@gmail.com

IN-DEPTH WEEK AHEAD: Next Friday, Dec. 11, is our last in-depth week and last regular file of the semester. The following Friday, Dec. 18, will be our traditional end-of-semester Bonus Week with still-timely stories you may not have had space for.

Here’s your file:

VOCTECHOPPORTUNITIES: The must-go-to-college pendulum may have swung too far but is now swinging back towards valuing vocational and technical training for skilled trades, some experts say. We hear from the Lenawee and Traverse Bay intermediate school districts, the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators. By Stephanie Hernandez McGavin. FOR BLISSFIELD, TRAVERSE CITY, MANISTEE, PETOSKEY, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS & ALL POINTS.

VETERANSCARE: Access to medical care is a national concern for veterans but the situation for Michigan’s 660,000 vets is better than elsewhere in the country. VA facilities in the state have taken steps to improve access and reduce delays in seeing physicians. We hear from the John Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit, VA Ann Arbor HealthCare System and state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. By Zhao Peng. FOR ALL POINTS.

RETIREES: The House and Senate are near agreement on a proposal that would make it easier for retired teachers to return to work in “critical shortage” disciplines or as substitutes without reducing their pensions and health benefits. The MEA says the measure will benefit school districts that have trouble filling such positions. The Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel also favors it. Sponsors include lawmakers from Montague, Newaygo, Byron Center, Park Township, Six Lakes and Vulcan. By Yuehan Liu. FOR HOLLAND, GREENVILLE, MANISTEE, BIG RAPIDS, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS & ALL POINTS.

BUSFLEETS: The number of school districts contracting out their bus fleets has increased 150 percent in the past few years as a cost-savings measure, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy reports. Most turn to private companies but some contract out to nearby school districts. We talk to officials at the Addison and Dollar-Bay-Tamarack City districts, both of which have privatized, and from the Lake Linden-Hubbell district, which hasn’t. We also hear from Michigan School Business Officials & the MEA. By Michael Kransz. FOR BLISSFIELD, MARQUETTE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS & ALL POINTS.

CHILDCARECENTER: The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has reinstated the license of a Manistee child care center that had been suspended for alleged violations that include insufficient staff training and missing records. The center operator called the state action unfair. By Yuehan Liu. FOR MANISTEE, LUDINGTON & ALL POINTS.

SUBSTITUTETEACHERS: Many districts across the state face a shortage of substitute teachers. Experts disagree on the scope of the problem, and whether it’s a matter of quality or quantity. A Northern Michigan University expert notes that substitutes don’t need a bachelor’s degree or any coursework in education or child development. Pending legislation would make it easier for retired teachers to return without jeopardizing pensions or health benefits. The Education Department, a Newaygo representative who co-sponsored the bill, school officials from Ottawa ISD and Manistee schools and the MEA also opine. By Amelia Havanec. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, LAKE COUNTY, LUDINGTON, MANISTEE, HOLLAND & ALL POINTS.

PAROLEEMPLOYMENT: It’s tough for many parolees to find jobs after release, experts say, but the prison system is working to better prepare them for employment. We hear from the Corrections Department, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan and Networks Northwest in Traverse City. By Zhao Peng. FOR LUDINGTON, MANISTEE, HOLLAND, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, BIG RAPIDS, CADILLAC, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS & ALL POINTS.

UNIONBILL: A Republican-led proposal to bar school districts from paying employees for time they spend as union representatives faces opposition from the Michigan Association of School Boards and MEA, which argue that it would hamper collective bargaining and intrude into traditional local decision-making. But the Mackinac Center for Public Policy says it’s much-needed and would save local districts millions of dollars a year in personnel costs. Sponsors included senators from Lawton, St. Joseph, Lowell, Sheridan, Evart and Hart. By Brooke Kansier. FOR CADILLAC, MANISTEE, HOLLAND, BIG RAPIDS, LUDINGTON, THREE RIVERS, STURGIS, GLADWIN, LANSING CITY PULSE, LEELANAU, TRAVERSE CITY, CRAWFORD COUNTY, HERALD-STAR, LAKE COUNTY, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, GREENVILLE, LEELANAU & ALL POINTS.

LOSTTOWNS: Some are ghosts. Some are shadows. Some disappeared without a trace. They’re once-vibrant communities that are vibrant no longer, if they still exist as more than scattered cellar holes and crumbling walls. A new book, “Lost Towns of Eastern Michigan,” describes the dismal fate of such communities as Alcona and Mikado in Alcona County, Pere Cheney in Crawford County, Podunk in Gladwin County, McKinley in Oscoda County, Berryville in Otsego County. Some are associated with notoriety, such as a murderous minister in St. Clair County’s Rattle Run, the Oklahoma City bombers’ hang-out in Sanilac County’s Decker and the most sinful city in Michigan, Meredith on the border between Gladwin and Clare counties. Ogemaw County’s Lupton was where the Prohibition-era Purple Gang hid out. By Eric Freedman. FOR CRAWFORD COUNTY, GLADWIN, ALCONA, MONTMORENCY & ALL POINTS.

w/LOSTOWNSCOVER: Lost Towns of Eastern Michigan. Credit: History Press.

SOLAR: Assuming all goes as planned, Michigan may soon see a DTE solar project nearly 50 times larger than its largest existing installation. Traverse City Light & Power, Cherryland Electric Co-op, Marquette Light & Power and the municipal utility in Portland are among utilities working on solar energy projects. The Lansing Board of Water & Light is discussing projects, as are a group in Holland and Consumers Energy. We hear from the Michigan Environmental Council, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and DTE Energy. By Colleen Otte. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, HOLLAND, LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS & ALL POINTS.

w/SOLARPHOTO: DTE Energy’s 1.1-megawatt solar array at Domino’s Farms near Ann Arbor. Credit: Mark Houston.

LAKELEVELS: New Great Lakes water level predictions have Superior, Michigan and Huron on the same page, but lakes Erie and Ontario flow to the beat of a different drum. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predict that the bigger lakes will drop below the level they were a year ago. Erie and Ontario are set to be higher than a year ago. By Marie Orttenburger. FOR HOLLAND, LUDINGTON, ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, LEELANAU, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRIGNS, TRAVERSE CITY, MANISTEE, SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE, ST. IGNACE & ALL POINTS.


Many schools find substitute teachers in short supply


Capital News Service

LANSING – Many school administrators across the state and the private companies that provide substitute teachers are concerned that they can’t find enough of the right people for the job.

However, it’s unknown whether the shortage is due to a lack of quantity of substitutes, or the quality of them.
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Proposal to stop paid leave for school union reps draws fire

Capital News Service

LANSING – A Republican-backed bill targeting public union officers could end up leaving schools suffering, say some education experts.

The Michigan Education Association (MEA) and Michigan Association of School Boards both oppose a bill they say would hit collective bargaining and is a state overreach into decision-making by local school districts.

The bill would prohibit school personnel and all other public employees except police officers, firefighters and prison guards from having union officers with full-time union duties on their payroll. That’s something normally decided between employers, unions and employees.
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Child care center wins license appeal

Capital News Service

LANSING—The state had suspended the license of a child care facility in Manistee because of complaints and 23 alleged violations found during an inspection.

But the facility won its appeal and will reopen on Dec. 7.

The license of the Manistee Historic Red School House CDC child care center was suspended on Nov.16 and the operator, Suzanne Hamilton, was prohibited from operating any child care center before the results of the hearing.
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More schools move to private bus services

Capital News Service

LANSING — The number of Michigan school districts contracting out at least a part of their transportation services increased 150 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to a think tank survey.

The survey by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland recorded 78 school districts opting for some privatized transportation services during that time, in addition to 53 already contracting out.

There are about 540 districts in the state, according to the Department of Education. And while some districts are contracting out only a portion of the service, such as employment, most are privatizing their whole bus operation, said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the center.
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Few Access Problems For Vets, VA Center In Detroit, Ann Arbor Say

Capital News Service

LANSING — Nationally, a majority of veterans may wait more than 30 days for their appointments with doctors, according to a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, more than 90 percent of veterans in Michigan can complete their appointments within 30 days, according to VA centers in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

According to Lauren DeVol, a public information officer at the state Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, Michigan has more than 660,000 veterans, the 11th highest in the United States.

Of them, more than 220,000 — or 33.5 — percent live in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, DeVol said.

For the VA center in Detroit, the access problem is not that serious, an official said.
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Some retired teachers could teach, collect pensions

Capital News Service

LANSING—Public school retirees would retain their full pensions and health benefits while going back to work at schools with a critical shortage of teachers in their discipline or as substitutes for teachers and other instructional positions, under a bill before the Legislature.

The House and Senate have passed similar versions of a proposal to change the current law that reduces pension and health benefits for some retirees who are back teaching, depending on their retirement data and the circumstances of their new position.

The measure awaiting final legislative action lays out requirements to determine if a district has a “critical shortage” and if a retiree qualifies.
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State provides training to prepare inmates for workforce

Capital News Service

LANSING — Since 2014, only 30 percent of parolees in Michigan have found a job after being released from prison. The other 70 percent are struggling, according to the Department of Corrections.

Chris Gautz, a public information officer from the department, said parolees find jobs in sectors ranging from fast food to restaurants to factories to agriculture. Some are even starting their own business.

The department provides educational resources to help prepare prisoners for their release.
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Book explores Michigan’s shadow and ghost towns


Capital News Services

LANSING — Some are ghosts. Others are shadows. And a bunch have disappeared without a trace.
They’re once-vibrant communities that are vibrant no longer — if they survive at all as more than scattered cellar holes and crumbling walls.

“Michigan has many more ghost towns and villages that have vanished than most other states,” Alan Naldrett of Chesterfield Township writes in his new book, “Lost Towns of Eastern Michigan” (History Press, $21.99).
“There were hundreds, although many were just train whistle stops or four corner burgs with a post office.”
Naldrett, a retired librarian, said the book grew out of a long-time interest in history, including small towns and ghost towns.


Credit: History Press.

Shadow villages still hold onto a bit of life. Ghost towns have “virtually no human activity.” As for those with nary a trace left of the settlements, they’re, well, erased. Most are absent from the official Department of Transportation (MDOT) map.
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Vocational, technical programs draw more student interest


Capital News Service

LANSING — The education pendulum that directed so many students toward college degrees is swinging the other way, education experts say, now pointing students more toward skilled trade training as well as college.

The push for young students to attend college, which negatively affected those who weren’t interested in it, went too far during former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration, said Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA).

The MEA is the state’s largest union of teachers and other school employees.
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