Lance Cohen is a correspondent for Capital News Service for fall 2018. He primary serves Cheboygan Daily Tribune, Lake County Star, Sturgis Journal, Three Rivers Commercial-News, Blissfield Advance, Montmorency County Tribune and Big Rapids Pioneer.
LANSING — Nearly $4.5 million in federal funding will be provided to 72 Michigan school districts to increase academic performance. Districts plan to use this money to address large scale problems regarding teacher retention and the recruitment and hiring of new teachers, said David Crim, a communication consultant for the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest union of school personnel. “There is a historic number of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years and teaching colleges and universities across the state are producing 50 percent less graduates than 10 years ago,” Crim said. School districts also plan to use money from this grant to fund professional development training for administrators and teachers, according to Rebekah Emmerling, a manager for the educator evaluation unit for the Department of Education. The 72 grant-receiving districts were chosen in three separate rounds from a pool of 182 applicants and the first round of 12 school districts were academically struggling partnership districts, Emmerling said.
LANSING — The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is offering up to $500,000 in grants to improve local recycling programs and boost Michigan’s recycling rate. Critics argue that this isn’t enough to pull the state up from one of the lowest recycling rates in the nation. The goal is to assist with recycling infrastructure including public space recycling, bin-to-cart transitions and public drop-off recycling locations, said Elizabeth Garver, a DEQ recycling specialist. Public space recycling is when bins are placed in public parks and city streets to encourage people to properly dispose of recyclables rather than throwing them in the trash.
Eligible applicants include cities, villages, townships, charter townships, counties, tribal governments, municipal solid waste and resource recovery authorities, school districts, health departments, colleges or universities, and regional planning agencies.
LANSING — A wireless all-weather infrared camera system will be placed around Van Etten Lake in Oscoda Township to detect PFAS discharge from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. It’s the latest addition in a high tech monitoring of the contaminant that has already included the use of drones. State officials expect to increasingly use such technology in pollution investigations. PFAS compounds — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a group of harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging and many other consumer products. Research conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that PFAS leads to an increased risk of cancer and learning defects among children.
LANSING — Michigan is creating Facebook and Google ads as part of a new digital marketing effort to encourage single parents to sign up for child support payments. Michigan is one of 14 states to be awarded a total of $2.2 million in federal grants to fund the initiative. The state’s share is $170,000. While not all details have been determined, the focus of the program revolves around creating content for social media, said Bob Wheaton, a public information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. This includes Facebook paid ads and Google ads to encourage single mothers to seek child support if they haven’t already, and to encourage parents currently involved in the system to continue to contribute, Wheaton said.
LANSING — More high school students are taking an alternative approach to their education, according to a new report. Career and technical education (CTE) programs in Michigan added more than 1,300 students during the 2017-18 school year, according to the Department of Talent and Economic Development. The departments of Education and Talent and Economic Development work in partnership to meet the needs of students, said Bill DiSessa, a a communications officer for the Education Department. “The department’s goal is to ensure that students are career-and college-ready after they graduate from high school,” DiSessa said. “Since not everyone wants to go to college, career and technical education classes allow students to gain necessary knowledge and skills that can be used immediately after graduation.”
Programs such as information technology, computer science, and other STEM fields require more education following high school while those in agriculture or manufacturing courses may be able to start their careers shortly after graduation, said Dan Olsen, communications and media relations manager with the Talent and Economic Development.
LANSING — If you plan to work this year’s general election, be ready to share your political party affiliation with local officials.
Applicants for poll workers, technically called election inspectors, must identify with one of the seven political parties: Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, U.S. Taxpayers, Green, Natural Law and Working Class. These parties are designated because they received at least 1 percent of the total votes cast for Secretary of State during the 2016 general election. Independents can work the election, but they don’t count towards a state requirement that at least one Democrat and one Republican work as election inspectors and that elections officials strive to make their numbers equal, said Karen Brewster, Cheboygan County clerk and register of deeds. According to state law, at least three election inspectors must be at every election site and the board of election commissioners must appoint at least one election inspector from each major political party.
Michigan law enforcement officials are worried about how they will enforce driving while high laws if the recreational marijuana ballot proposal is approved this November. They say there is no good roadside test like a breathalyzer for alcohol. We talk to the Cheboygan County undersheriff and the executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
LANSING — A new task force will sort through thousands of comments to help educational officials update social studies standards. The Department of Education recently selected a task force made up of volunteers to review an online survey and comments from 18 statewide hearings. The department received more than 4,000 comments both online and in person, said Bill DiSessa, a communications officer for the agency. The task force will prepare a draft of standards that will go before the state Board of Education, he said. The goal is to provide educators with better guidance on what they should teach.
LANSING — Michigan health officials now have access to national records that will help them examine disparities in life expectancy in different parts of the state. The U.S. Small Area Life Expectancy Project is the first initiative to measure life expectancy at birth for neighborhoods across the country.
This data has provided insight into community health and shows that not everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy where they live, said Bob Wheaton, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “There can be big differences between health outcomes even within the same county, so this narrows it down to neighborhoods and communities,” Wheaton said. “From this information we can examine the factors that might be influencing longevity whether it be access to health care, safe or affordable housing, educational opportunities and other factors as well.”
One of the largest problems with previous data is that life expectancy in counties and zip codes is not uniform, said Glenn Copeland, registrar from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.
County veteran services are poised to get an additional $2 million this year that could lead to more counties opening offices and counties with offices expanding their services. The new County Veteran Service Fund will give at least $25,000 to each county that fund veteran service programs or open new offices and that apply. But some counties have suggested that the paperwork is too demanding.