consolidation

Today is the day. After months and months of debate, Healthy Michigan is here. That's the official name for the state's newly expanded Medicaid program. Today, on Stateside: Who is eligible for the new coverage and why are other states looking to Michigan for lessons learned?

Then, it made news: the merger between financially struggling Albion High School and its neighbor, Marshall. Now, more than halfway through the school year, we checked in on how the students are faring.

And, a new report is breaking new ground in the study of inequality among our children, and the findings for Michigan children are troubling.

First on the show, another hugely surprising retirement from Congress. Republican Congressman Dave Camp, who represents Michigan's 4th district, announced that he will not run again for re-election. Camp has served in Congress for 24 years and has been chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta, co-hosts of Michigan Radio's It's Just Politics, joined us today to talk about what’s next for Camp and what this means for Michigan in Congress.

Marshall High School
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There are 545 local school districts in Michigan and 56 Intermediate School Districts, or ISDs.

Around 50 of those districts were in the red at the end of the last school year.

And that leads to talk of consolidations, of mergers; streamlining, becoming more efficient and joining forces.

But as policymakers, educators and parents debate the merits of consolidation, what about those who will feel what that is like, day in and day out – the students and their teachers?

That’s the question Bridge Magazine writer Ron French explores in his series of reports for Bridge called 13 Miles to Marshall.

When struggling Albion High School closed at the end of the last school year, it meant more than 150 Albion high schoolers had to be bused to nearby Marshall High School. It made sense in business terms for both districts. But what kinds of challenges did this consolidation present? And were those challenges met and overcome?

Ron French joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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A record number of Michigan schools are struggling to stay in the black.

So far, the headlines have focused on the fiscal problems of some of the state’s more populated counties.

A new state law allows state officials to dissolve and consolidate small schools with big problems.

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the legality of Detroit's filing for bankruptcy, Judge Steven Rhodes and the first federal bankruptcy hearing today, and the fate of Buena Vista and Inkster school districts.

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More and more of our local school districts are in financial trouble, and State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan has a couple ideas as to what we can do about it.

As I discussed briefly last week, he is proposing either going to a system of county-wide districts, or, if that won't fly, at least consolidating and centralizing administrative and some academic functions at either a county or a regional level.

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the proposal to consolidate school districts into county-wide systems, the canceled bus tour for Detroit creditors, and the new changes on the Detroit City Council.

Detroit's pension systems vs. Kevyn Orr

Detroit has two pension systems and both have posted fairly strong funding levels. But emergency manager Kevyn Orr has questioned some of those numbers. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling says using more realistic projections changes the funding levels, but Detroit’s pension systems say their numbers are correct.

Michigan schools might consolidate services

Michigan schools could be forced to consolidate many of their services into county-wide systems if state lawmakers decide to go along with a plan released yesterday by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan. Flanagan wants services like transportation, food, and staff training to be handled at the county or regional level.

“And local districts, they can spend time on student achievement issues and not worry about all that other stuff,” Flanagan told Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher.

Detroit City Council will select new leader

The Detroit City Council is expected to select a new president today. The board typically numbers nine but now has six members after two recently resigned and the former President Charles Pugh deserted his duties.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing is joining with five of its neighbors to create something close to a regional fire department. Fire departments in Lansing, East Lansing, Delhi Township, Lansing Township, Meridian Township and Delta Township have signed "shared service" agreements. 

Under the agreements, the closest fire station will respond to local emergencies, whether the emergency is in their town or not. Under existing "mutual aid" agreements, the outside fire department has to be asked to respond. 

State lawmakers are working on legislation they hope will prevent another crisis like the one in the Buena Vista school district. Students there sat at home while school was closed for two weeks last month because the district couldn’t afford to pay its teachers. Buena Vista is not alone; a number of districts have had problems keeping their doors open because of financial problems this year.

Former Marine Adam Fields, 27, of Modesto, Calif., has been waiting since November 2010 for a ruling on his claim for benefits for traumatic brain injury.
Michael Short / Center for Investigative Reporting

A group that’s against a proposed merger of two cities in West Michigan turned in more than enough signatures today to put the question before voters.

About 2,000 people live in the neighboring cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

Matt Balmer is a spokesperson the Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities. The group collected 342 signatures in the past few weeks.

Getting along with your neighbors isn’t always easy. So Governor Rick Snyder came up with a pretty simple plan to get townships, counties and cities to find new ways to work together; give them some kind of incentive, specifically, money.

Michigan Department of Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says these Competitive Grant Assistance Grants are incentives to get neighboring cities, townships and counties to work together in new ways.

USFWS Midwest

The school board in Benton Harbor has voted to consolidate its schools as part of a five-year plan to eliminate the southwestern Michigan district's deficit.

WSJM-AM and WNDU-TV report the board voted Tuesday night to go forward with the reorganization, which faced opposition from some students and parents. Following the changes, the district will have four K-8 schools, a high school and a Pre-K program. The district's administrative offices also will move.

Superintendent Leonard Seawood says the district plans to complete the changes by 2016. He says the changes will be "historic for our students."

Officials say the consolidation is part of an effort to avoid the possible appointment of a state-appointed emergency financial manager because of the district's financial difficulties.

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concerns are pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.

Grand Rapids’ Mayor George Heartwell painted his city as a destination for medical researchers, entrepreneurs, artists and young people in his State of the City address Saturday.

Tight budgets are forcing local governments across the state to do more with less. That's easier said than done - even in traditionally fiscally conservative areas. Straight ticket republican voters in Ottawa County outnumbered their democratic counterparts 4 to 1 in the last election. Many self-described-fiscal-conservatives spoke out against the plan. They don't think the consolidation will save the county as much money as expected and worry services will suffer.