Statewide unemployment drops below 5 percent but northern counties still struggle

By JOSH BENDER
Capital News Service

LANSING- The percent of unemployed Michigan workers dropped below five percent last January for the first time since 2001, the  Department of Technology, Management & Budget reported recently.

But many workers in the northern part of the state didn’t fare as well as the rest of the state.

Montmorency, Presque Isle and Schoolcraft counties all have double the state’s unemployment rate. Cheboygan and Mackinac counties have triple, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That may be due to which industries are leading the state’s economic growth.
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Poverty challenges Michigan schools

By ZHAO PENG

Capital News Service

LANSING— Numerous studies show that poverty and income are the two best predictors of a student’s success in school. This has been proven in Michigan recently, according to education experts.

The average scores of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) are low, with 12 percent proficient in science at the bottom and 50 percent proficient in English at the top, according to the Education Department. Meanwhile, 16 percent of Michigan children live in school districts with concentrated poverty, one of the largest percentages among the states, according to a Kids Count in Michigan report by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Gretchen Dziadosz, executive director of the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the state’s largest teacher and school personnel union, said the increase in poor students and poor school districts hurts students’ academic performance. She attributed that increase to the fact that Michigan hasn’t fully recovered from the recession.
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Homelessness continues despite some improvements

By ZHAO PENG
Capital News Service

LANSING — The coming winter and the dropping temperature are a great concern for people without a place to live.

Homelessness has improved across Michigan over the past decades but not enough, according to the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.

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Literally homeless are people on the streets or in shelters. Overall homeless also includes people living with friends or family due to a housing crisis. Credit: State of Homelessness in Michigan

“There are services available throughout the state. And many communities have seen increases in the types of services that are available, but those are not significant increases that are across the board,” said Eric Hufnagel, the executive director of the coalition.
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Expansion of children’s dental care stalls

By CORTNEY ERNDT

Capital News Service

LANSING – Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2014 budget proposal to expand the Healthy Kids Dental program in West and Southeast Michigan has been blocked by House and Senate panels.

West Michigan District Dental Society representative and Zeeland dentist Meredith Smedley said, “The hearts of the dentists in Ottawa County are breaking over the decision to reject the expansion.”

Snyder recommended $11.6 million to expand the program into Ottawa, Ingham and Washtenaw counties. The program now operates in 75 of Michigan’s 83 counties to provide care to Medicaid-eligible residents under age 21.
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More children eligible for free, reduced price lunches

By CELESTE BOTT

Capital News Service

LANSING – Almost half the state’s public school students were eligible for free or reduced price meals during the 2011-12 school year, according to a report by Kids Count in Michigan.

Forty-eight percent of students participate in the free or reduced price lunch program, according to the report, “Health Matters.”

Kids Count is a project that advocates for the health and wellbeing of children. The Michigan League for Public Policy and Michigan’s Children are the project’s partners.
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