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Education
9:21 am
Mon August 1, 2011

Michigan educators feel pressure to cheat

Shannon Muskopf Flickr

A number of Michigan public school teachers are feeling pressured to cheat. A recent Detroit Free Press survey shows one-third of Michigan educators feel pressure to cheat on standardized tests and adjust students’ grades. The problem has surfaced in public schools across the country.

Emily Richmond is with the National Education Writers Association. She says measuring teacher performance and political pressures are the reason.

"Teachers are feeling a lot of pressure – I think a lot of them are feeling threatened and I think they feel their job security is on the line," she said.

About 3-hundred public schools in the country have recently faced suspicions, claims or cases of cheating to improve test scores.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

News Roundup
8:51 am
Mon August 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, August 1st
Brother O'Mara Flickr

States Wary of Debt Deal

President Obama announced last night that leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in both the House and Senate have come to a deal to avert a default on the national debt. As the Associated Press reports, the deal will likely inflict fiscal pain on states still struggling to recover from the recession:

Although the details of the spending cuts to states remain unclear, lawmakers from both parties have discussed the need to cut or impose caps on so-called discretionary spending over the next decade.

That could mean wide-ranging cuts in federal aid to states, affecting everything from the Head Start school readiness program, Meals on Wheels and worker-training initiatives to funding for transit agencies and education grants that serve disabled children.

There also is concern among governors, state lawmakers and state agency heads that Congress will make deep reductions or changes in federal aid for health services for needy people, most notably through Medicaid. That could shift more of the costs onto states already having trouble balancing their budgets.

Snyder Recall

Organizers of a recall petition against Governor Snyder have until  Friday to collect more than 800,000 signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. “The recall campaign is being led by groups that claim Snyder’s policies are hurting Michiganders. Recall critics accuse the petition drive organizers of just trying to reverse the voters’ decision last year,” Steve Carmody reports. Tom Bryant, the recall campaign spokesman, says petition circulators will be at polling places across the state tomorrow to gather more signatures for the recall petition.

Pontiac Turns Over Police

The Pontiac Police Department is about to close, making way for the Oakland County sheriff to take over law enforcement in the financially challenged southeastern Michigan community, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The sheriff's department says the official changeover happened at  11 p.m. Sunday. The city of 58,000 is under the control of state-appointed emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler. He proposed eliminating Pontiac's police force last year. Hiring the sheriff's department to do the job is expected to save about $2 million each year.

Education Funding
7:29 am
Mon August 1, 2011

State budget director questions school aid earmarks

Woodley Wonderworks Flickr

The amount of money Michigan has to spend in its general fund for everything from prisons to health care dropped by nearly 25 percent over the past four fiscal years amid the recession and shrinking tax revenues. Yet the state's school aid fund remained relatively healthy, protected by earmarks for public schools.

State budget director John Nixon thinks those earmarks merit another look.

"It's not that I'm saying we need to cut the school aid fund ... (but) a lot of this stuff was put in place 15, 20 years ago when Michigan looked totally different," he said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. "We just need to strip things down and say, `This is the money we're bringing in, this is where it's going. Is it lining up appropriately?"'

Nearly three-quarters of the sales tax collected annually goes to the $13.3 billion school aid fund, as well as nearly a fourth of the income tax revenue, 42 percent of cigarette tax revenue and a third of the money raised by the use tax and the Michigan Business Tax. The school aid fund also receives all of the money raised through a statewide 6-mill education property tax, the real estate transfer tax, the state casino wagering tax and the net proceeds from lottery sales.

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Science/Medicine
7:00 am
Mon August 1, 2011

Questions about blood donation screening

The Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability said more research is needed before changes are made to the self-deferral questionnaire.
redcrossofnci.org

  The American Red Cross says they're facing a critical shortage to the nation's blood supply. And blood donations often drop in the summer when people are busy or traveling.

So they want you to give.

When we posted information about the appeal on our Facebook page, it sparked a debate about blood donor screening.

Not everyone can give blood. Only about 37%  of us can. Donors are pre-screened for potential exposure to diseases to keep the blood supply safe.

But many people feel some healthy donors are needlessly kept from donating blood.

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Court Rulings
6:18 am
Mon August 1, 2011

MI Supreme Court: Trails are not highways

The justices of the Michigan Supreme Court have made their final rulings of this term. That includes a decision that says Michigan cannot be sued for injuries sustained on state-owned trails for all-terrain vehicles.

A woman sued the Michigan Department of Natural Resources after she flipped her ATV while riding with family and friends on a state-owned trail. The vehicle flipped over half-buried boards sticking out of the ground. The woman hit some trees and injured her back. She argued the state is responsible for maintaining trail safety as it is for maintaining highways. She said the trail fell under the definition of a highway.

But the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a trail is a trail or a route, and the state is not responsible for safety on the trails as it is for the highways.

The court ruled four-to-three in favor of the state.

Politics
4:01 pm
Sun July 31, 2011

Deadline looming for Recall Snyder petition drive

Recall Snyder petition signature gatherer at 2011 Festival of the Arts June 04, 2011
(flickr stevendepolo)

Time is running out for the organizers of a recall petition against Governor Snyder to collect the signatures they need to put the issue on the November ballot. 

The Recall Snyder petition drive has until this Friday to collect more than 800 thousand signatures, so the voters can decide in November if they want to kick the governor out of office.    Those same voters elected Snyder less than a year ago. 

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Politics
4:00 pm
Sun July 31, 2011

Crime a major issue in Flint's mayoral primary

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Seven candidates will face off on Tuesday in Flint’s mayoral primary.   There are many issues facing the city of Flint:  The need for more economic development, the city’s budget problems.  But the biggest issue appears to be crime.  

Flint set a record last year for the number of homicides.   The violent crime rate has increased, as the number of police officers has declined.    Budget cuts have reduced Flint’s police force significantly in recent years.   

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Detroit
5:57 pm
Sat July 30, 2011

Remembering the old Cass Tech High School in Detroit (with video)

Mercedes Mejia

When a hand full of Cass Technical High School graduates from the class of '78 failed to call their fellow classmate for a field trip to the old school, Tony Lockard turned to social media.

Lockard  posted a message on Facebook calling for fellow graduates to come out and bid farewell to the old building one last time. He says he got message from people from all over the country.

"One man said that he lived in four different continents, and he’s met somebody from Cass in four different continents. So Cass Tech touches not just locally, it’s a global reach."

Since June, demolition of the almost 100 year old building has been in progress.  The facade of the building facing Second Avenue is the only thing still standing. Lockard hopes people will visit the site one last time and reunite with old friends.

Arvella Watkins says the building was special. She's a '65 Cass Tech graduate.

"Even now I have dreams about going to Cass and running up and down stairs and riding the elevators. ”

You can see video of the old school and hear interviews with Cass Tech graduates, including an interview with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

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Arts/Culture
4:59 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan’s largest contemporary arts center getting even bigger

At least a dozen 'club kids' were part of the very fancy members only 'Odd Ball' at UICA on Monday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This weekend the Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts opens at its new location.

The UICA is the largest contemporary arts center in Michigan. With the new location, it’s one of largest in the country in terms of programs and square footage.

There are five floors, including a ceramic studio, two theaters, and a place for kids to create art. There are very unique gallery spaces; this is not your average, open, white, space gallery.

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Education
3:00 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Wayne State to cut 200 positions to balance budget

DETROIT (AP) - Wayne State University is cutting 200 jobs, including 80 that are currently filled due to a loss of $32 million in funding from the state.

The Detroit Free Press reports Friday that an email about the layoffs and cuts was sent Thursday to all university employees by school President Alan Gilmour.

Gilmour writes that the school has "notified most of the affected employees."

The Detroit university looked at each of its schools, colleges and divisions for cost savings and hiked tuition for undergraduate and graduate students to keep its budget balanced.

It says no additional job cuts are planned.

Politics
2:01 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court rules on prison rape

Joe Gratz Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has dismissed the civil rights lawsuit filed by a woman who was raped by a sheriff’s deputy while being held in jail. 

The victim sued Wayne County and the Sheriff’s Department after she was harassed and raped by a deputy while being held in jail for not paying child support.

The deputy – Reginald Johnson – was fired, charged with a crime, and convicted of rape.

The victim said the county and the sheriff’s department should be held responsible because Johnson could not have attacked her unless he was a deputy assigned to the jail.

The county argued there was no way the sheriff could have known or should have known the deputy was a sexual predator.

The court’s Republican majority ruled that Johnson acted outside his professional responsibilities and in direct violation of department policies.

Democrats on the court dissented. They said the majority decision undermines protections for victims of discrimination and harassment, and weakens Michigan’s civil rights law.

Technical Difficulties
1:49 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan Radio's streaming is back up!

Update 1:49 p.m.

A power surge fried some of our equipment this morning. Including a DAT player where streaming wires were plugged in. We pulled the plugs out of the DAT machine, connected the two wires, and Voila! our stream is back up!

7:46 a.m.

Due to technical difficulties, Michigan Radio's live-streaming is currently unavailable. We hope to have the problem, which we believe was caused by last night's thunderstorms, fixed shortly. We are sorry for the inconvenience!

Health
1:04 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Rise in tetanus cases alarms health officials

Michigan health officials say all adults should get a tetanus booster every 10 years.
imelenchon MorgueFile

State health officials say three cases of tetanus have been reported in Michigan recently. The disease is serious, but it’s also preventable. 

Tetanus – also known as lockjaw --  is caused by a bacteria found in the soil and can also be spread through feces and saliva.

Pat Vranesich is with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

She says most years there are no cases reported. But in 2010 two cases were found, and there has been another increase this year.

Read more
Environment
1:00 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Your Story: Seeing the oil along the Kalamazoo River

Sasha Acker shares a story about her trip down to the banks of Kalamazoo River. She's an activist, social worker, and grad student living in Kalamazoo.
Sasha Acker

It happened a year ago. An oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy spilled more than 840,000 gallons of tar-sands oil into Talmadge Creek which flows into the Kalamazoo River.

People were evacuated, the Red Cross set up shelter, and officials were wondering if the spill might reach Lake Michigan (it never did).

Sasha Acker is a social worker, grad student, and activist living in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

She sits on the board of the Kalamazoo Peace Center. We asked people to share their experiences with the Enbridge oil spill on our Facebook page.

Acker wrote:

I was skeptical when Enbridge put out a press release that said that the oil was all cleaned up, so I went to a spot along the river near Battle Creek. I went with a group that picked up gobs and gobs of oil and video taped it.

The news story Acker saw was published in August of last year. She told us that her chance to visit the river came this past spring when activists from the Yes Men  contacted her about a planned media hoax to draw more attention to the Enbridge oil spill.

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Education
11:59 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Emergency manager imposing 10% wage cut on Detroit teachers

Roy S. Roberts, Emergency Manager, Detroit Public Schools
(courtesy of the Detroit Public School District)

Public school teachers in Detroit are getting a wage and benefit cut.  The state appointed emergency manager informed Detroit Public School unions this morning that he is imposing a 10 percent wage cut this year.   Emergency Manager Roy S. Roberts is also imposing an 80/20 split on health care benefits.    

The move is expected to save the district nearly 82 million dollars this year.  

Roberts issued a written statement explaining the need for imposing the concessions. 

Read more
Changing Gears
11:26 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Road Trip: Orrville, more than a company town (Part 5)

John Schmid vice president of Smith Dairy in Orrville, OH. The family adopted the business name Smith before World War I—a time when the German-sounding Schmid was not an asset.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Our Changing Gears team has been on the road this week traveling to some of our company towns in the Midwest.

Changing Gears is a Michigan Radio project looking at the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest.

Our final stop is Orrville, Ohio: A place that seems like a company town, but there’s long been a whole lot more going on in Orrville.

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Legal
10:57 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court rules on sexual assault case

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on a sexual assault case today.
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who was raped by a jail guard while she was being detained is not entitled to file a civil rights and sexual harassment lawsuit against the county. The court said the local government is not responsible for the behavior of a public worker who acted outside the scope of his employment. The court's Republican majority split with Democratic justices, who say the decision undermines previous rulings that protect victims of discrimination.

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Auto/Economy
10:54 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Luxury cars may not be as enjoyable as people think

Black Bentley
UggBoy UggGirl PHOTO//WORLD//TRAVEL Flickr

University of Michigan researchers suggest owning a luxury car, like a BMW or Lexus, is not as enjoyable as people think. Norbert Schwarz is with Michigan’s Ross School of Business.  Schwarz says most people appreciate a luxury car when they are driving for pleasure.

"A luxury car is indeed more pleasant than an economy car, but most of the time it really makes no difference whatsoever except for these very very rare episodes when you take your car for a fun drive and you really attend to your car, which is less than 2% of your driving."

Schwarz says consumers who are test driving a car should consider how often they will drive the car only for pleasure.  

-Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Investigative
10:26 am
Fri July 29, 2011

CeaseFire offers Flint criminal suspects a chance to change

Genesee County Courthouse
User: sarrazak6881 Flickr

Flint officials have offered seven nonviolent criminal suspects the chance to enter a program that could change their lives for the better. Five suspects accepted the offer to join CeaseFire, an initiative to end violence in U.S. cities. One of the suspects is already seeking help in another program.

Jackie Poplar is president of the Flint City Council.  She says the suspects will be working with prosecutors and social workers.

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Commentary
10:12 am
Fri July 29, 2011

What Are Michigan's Education Priorities?

These are tough times for teachers.

Actually, this is an even tougher time for education. Yet the  way in which all sides have been approaching this major and growing statewide crisis is, at the very least bizarre.

Take the Michigan Education Association, for example. It is by far the state’s largest teacher’s union, and has been around since before the Civil War. It proudly proclaims “the mission of the MEA is to ensure that the education of our students and the working environments of our members are of the highest quality.”

That sounds good. But if you watch what they do, rather than what they say, you might conclude their charter statement really says: “The MEA’s mission is to prevent our members’ salaries and benefits from being cut by any means necessary.”

That’s really what the union is about. I was reminded of this yesterday by the revelation that the MEA spent $25,000  dollars to try and get Paul Scott, a state representative from Grand Blanc, recalled. Why the union is doing this isn’t clear.

Except out of sheer vindictiveness. Scott, who chairs the House Education Committee, voted this year to slash elementary and high school funding by twice as much as was actually cut.

I wouldn’t expect the union to support him for reelection. But recalling him would in no way change the balance of power in Lansing. If you are a teacher in Holly, say, you might wonder,“Is that what I pay several hundred dollars in dues for?"

That doesn’t mean the education community should be pleased with government. Most members of the Republican majority in Lansing would enthusiastically agree  that this state needs a much better educated workforce. However, most are entirely capable of uttering in the next breath that we need to cut teacher salaries and, especially, benefits and pensions.

What is especially puzzling is that so few people see this as a contradiction. These days, Republicans control every branch of state government, and have been energetically cutting  spending on education, to give business large tax breaks instead.

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