- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

The Mining Journal (Marquette). May 6.

Info sharing will support adoptions, foster care

A new web-based information sharing system launched in Michigan recently to streamline and improve the state’s foster care and adoption system seems like a definite step in the right direction.

The Department of Human Services initiated the online system last week in a “soft launch” of the rollout when workers can adjust to it and fix glitches, according to a story by The Associated Press.

The system consolidates databases for the state and agencies it works with, and aims to allow real-time sharing of case data - a crucial capability that was not possible in Michigan previously, said AP.

Inefficient communication and inaccessible information have left room for human error in child welfare system data, said Diane Goodemote, director of child welfare for Child and Family Charities, based in Lansing. She said one improvement in the new system is a red notification on an individual’s profile if a safety concern has been identified.

She and other child welfare professionals say miscommunications have not put children at risk, but limiting miscommunications with the new system will increase efficiency and accuracy, AP reported

For the record, it should be noted that the state was required to put in a system like this.

We like the concept and wonder why it wasn’t done earlier?

_____

The Ann Arbor News. May 4.

Tackling the future of minority enrollment at U-M following Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court’s decision last month has firmly shut the door on affirmative action in the state and at the University of Michigan. As has been the case since voters approved Proposal 2 in 2006, U-M cannot consider race in admissions.

We’re extremely concerned about the decline in black enrollment at U-M in the interim. Black enrollment at U-M is at 4.7 percent - a 33 percent decrease over the past seven years. Without affirmative action to fall back on, the university needs to look at new and creative ways to not only increase the diversity at the school, but improve campus climate for underrepresented minorities who are enrolled.

U-M is tasked with recruiting qualified minority students to apply, ensuring they choose to enroll and making campus a welcoming environment where they can learn and live.

U-M plans to build a new Trotter Multicultural Center and is investing in renovations to the current one in the meantime. It is also working to address other concerns about campus climate and enrollment raised by leaders of the Black Student Union.

The school’s admissions office should now redouble its efforts to increase socio-economic and geographic diversity in the hope that racial diversity will follow suit. Outreach in high schools has taken on a new significance. Programs that partner U-M and high-schools expose students to the college experience and opportunities and allow U-M to show what it can offer.

Minority scholarships through U-M partner organizations, such as the alumni association, will help ensure that qualified students who are accepted will be able to afford to attend.

The university should be recognized for progress it makes in improving campus climate and black enrollment, and it also should be held accountable if it’s not able to make headway. Students should have the opportunity to speak out during community forums and in meetings with administrators. Incoming President Mark Schlissel will need to make increasing U-M’s diversity and minority enrollment a priority.

The Supreme Court decision and student activists have put the national spotlight on U-M. It’s up to U-M administrators to figure out how to respond.

_____

Grand Haven Tribune. May 2.

Teacher pensions need a revamp in today’s world

It’s time to remove the teacher pension albatross from around the necks of Michigan school districts.

Much-needed classroom dollars are being sucked up by the enormous pension payments that districts have to make each year.

Sad, but true - the day of pensions is quickly coming to an end. Schools and governmental agencies can no longer afford them. And taxpayers who don’t have them are sick and tired of paying for them.

Many years ago, teachers and governmental employees did not make much, but they were given pensions and great fringe benefits to make up the difference. Then they organized as unions and their pay also went up. So, they were getting decent pay plus great pensions and great fringe benefits, such as top-on-the-line health insurance.

This was also true of the auto industry that began crumbling years ago due to extreme pension and health care costs.

Everyone would love a pension, but they just are not sustainable. Many states, cities and school districts face bankruptcy because they can’t afford to fund the pension fund.

We are not saying to take away pensions from teachers. If they signed on with the promise of getting a pension, they should receive it.

But we do agree with Michigan Senate Bill 727 that would give new school employees a 401(k), not pensions. Employees could contribute up to 5 percent of their salary to their account, and the local school district would have to contribute an amount equal to 80 percent of this.

We believe this is more than fair.

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Midland Daily News. May 5.

When protecting property goes too far in homes

Two high-profile cases are testing the lines when it comes to defending one’s home.

A Montana man is accused of setting a trap and blindly blasting a shotgun into his garage, killing a 17-year-old German exchange student. A Minnesota man is convicted of lying in wait in his basement for two teenagers and killing them during a break-in.

Both are being tried for murder due to the extreme measures they went to while defending their homes - and we think prosecutors have made the right call by taking both cases to the jury.

We strongly believe in citizens’ right to protect themselves and their property using the appropriate force necessary - but there are lines.

The Montana case involves a man who blindly blasted a shotgun into his garage, killing an exchange student. Markus Kaarma, 29, who said he had been burgled twice, left a purse in his garage as a carrot to a prospective intruder. He allegedly told his hairdresser he stayed up three days waiting to spring the trap and now Diren Dede, 17 of Hamburg, Germany, is dead. It is not known why Dede was in the garage as he was shot without warning.

The Minnesota case is gruesome. Byron Smith, 65, was convicted of murder in the shooting deaths of Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, when the two broke into his home in 2012 looking for prescription drugs. Audio recording detailed a disturbing scene.

Smith moved his vehicle to make it appear he wasn’t home and waited in the basement with supplies and weaponry in what was described as a “deer stand.” According to prosecution, Smith shot Brady three times then put the body in a tarp and moved it into a different room. Kifer, looking for her partner in the break in, came down to the stairs and was shot six times, including what Smith himself described as a “finishing shot.” Police were not called until the day after the shootings.

Smith was afraid. His home and safety was violated. However, as Smith’s situation progressed, it became harder and harder to defend his actions as reasonable self-defense. We think the jury made the right call.

Again, we do support private citizens’ right to defend of their homes and property, but these cases go too far.

If you feel the need to buy a firearm for that purpose, by all means exercise that right.

But please hope and pray it never comes to that point. The weight of a taking a life is a burden no one should have to bear.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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