- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

Detroit Free Press . May 5, 2016

When is $500 million worth nothing?

When you throw it away on a plan designed to fail, to prove an ideological point that has nothing to do with helping children.

Fifteen hours Michigan Republicans spent, pulling an all-nighter on Wednesday, to work out a plan to “save” Detroit Public Schools. The outcome? A package of bills that provides the framework necessary to execute Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed reforms - absent the cash required to make the plan work. It’s a set-up, one that allows state legislators to swear that they really tried to help DPS, while all but ensuring that the district will continue to fail.

Where to lay the blame for this legislative failure? Votes on the package broke down largely on party lines. And that means our gaze is focused sharply on Republican House Speaker Kevin Cotter, a leader under whose guidance of that chamber has produced little of value, and whose rhetoric grows more cloyingly sanctimonious by the day.

Snyder’s plan would create a new school district in Detroit, leaving DPS with its debt and operating millage; the new district would educate kids, using the funding the state allots to each district on a per-pupil basis. But that won’t resolve all of the district’s financial problems, so an influx of state cash - and remember, the vast majority of DPS’ debt was incurred during the district’s prolonged stint under state oversight - is required to ensure the new district can do its business.

In March, the state Senate passed a reform package aligned with Snyder’s plans, including $515 million to help pay down the district’s deficit and $200 million for transition costs, funds that would come from the state’s tobacco settlement.

The House’s plan allots DPS just $467 million to pay down its deficit - that’s not nearly enough to leave the district on firm financial footing.

The House legislation offers only the opportunity for a $33 million loan to handle transition costs - nowhere close to the $200 million the new district would require. Because of the way schools are funded, the new district won’t have cash on hand to launch. It needs operating funds until the first wave of state money comes in. Some DPS buildings need immediate repair. And there are costs associated with the work of forming the new district. Worse, saddling the new district with new debt means it won’t start with a clean balance sheet.

Provisions that would limit collective bargaining and lower standards for teacher certification in Detroit are almost as obnoxious. Notably absent from the House package is the Detroit Education Commission, a new body supported by Snyder, the Senate, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and a coalition of business, civic and labor leaders in Detroit that would serve coordinate the opening of most traditional public and charter schools and develop accountability standards for schools in Detroit.

Charter school advocates oppose the new commission, which they suggest offers a backdoor route to eliminating or severely restricting those schools. With 40,000 students enrolled in Detroit charter schools, we don’t think this is a likely scenario.

We’re also unsure why low-performing charters should continue to siphon sorely needed tax dollars - the premise of school choice being that choice is supposed to offer superior, not identical, outcomes.

We’ve yet to hear a rationale for lower teacher standards in Detroit that doesn’t involve rank condescension - Detroit kids, the theory seems to go, should take what they can get. Detroit kids, lawmakers say, need innovation to produce better outcomes, regardless of whether said innovation has been proved to work. Detroit kids, lawmakers would have you believe, are different - deserve less - than children in every other part of the state.

Because those same lawmakers are not ramming the ideology of choice through their home districts.

It’s ideological malice in the guise of noblesse oblige, and we’re hopeful that the Michigan Senate - under the more even-handed leadership of Republican Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof - will stick to its guns.

But we’re concerned.

The roads deal reached last year offered a template we hope Meekhof does not follow - the Senate passed a reasonable package of bills, the House passed a terrible deal, and the Senate caved.

That can’t happen again.

We’ve said this before, and we can’t say it enough: There are 46,000 children enrolled in Detroit Public Schools. Michigan cannot be a successful state if we allow them to become collateral damage.

They are counting on you.___

Midland Daily News. May 3, 2016

Age change gives young offenders a better shot at rehabilitation.

When does a child officially graduate into adulthood?

This is a loaded question with many answers. Is it high school graduation? Is it a certain birthday? Is it ceremonial, such as a religious ceremony or an important milestone? Is it moving out of the parents’ home?

There is no one good answer in a broad sense, but in a legal sense, it happens at a few different ages in Michigan.

A citizen cannot vote or be drafted until the age of 18. However, at 17, alleged criminals are automatically tried as adults. Michigan is one of nine states to have a threshold of 17.

That could change after a bipartisan push to raise Michigan’s age for adult offenders from 17 to 18 received a major lift in the Legislature. The Republican-controlled House approved a 20-bill package on Wednesday and Thursday; every bill won support from at least 90 members of the 110-seat chamber.

The legislation would define 17-year-olds as juveniles and make other changes. Those include prohibiting youths under 18 from being detained in adult facilities - even if they are segregated from older offenders - and no longer requiring judges to put extra weight on the seriousness of a crime and a juvenile’s prior record when considering if the offender should be sentenced as an adult.

This is a needed change.

For serious crimes, the state has always had the opportunity to try juveniles as adults. However, if this passes, it will hopefully allow 17-year-old offenders who commit minor crimes to rehabilitate without the offense following them through adulthood.

Prosecutors already had some recourse to rehab young offenders through the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. This is a special classification where those 17-24 who are charged with crimes could end their sentencing with a clean record if all terms are completed. We have seen this Act regularly used in Midland County.

Rehabilitation is the key in punishment and we think raising the age to 18 will allow more offenders to prove they can change.___

The Detroit News. May 5, 2016

What will the GOP stand for under Trump?

What does it mean to be a Republican with Donald Trump as the standard bearer of the Grand Old Party?

A political party typically stands a presidential candidate who reflects its core values and pledges to press the agenda important to its members. If that is to be true for Republicans this year, the GOP platform will have to radically shift to accommodate those Trump positions that are out of line with traditional Republican principles.

Republicans have embraced conservative, pro-growth policies aimed at lightening the government’s touch on the economy. That has meant backing free trade agreements and allowing corporations broad freedom in handling their own affairs.

That’s not Donald Trump. For someone who boasts of his dominance of the free markets, Trump strikes an almost socialist pose on some issues, trade in particular. He would roll back free trade agreements and impose stiff penalties on those companies like Ford Motor Co. that choose, for business reasons, to move production to Mexico or elsewhere. And he backs higher taxes on the investor class.

Though Republicans have taken a hard line on those who enter the country illegally, conservatives have supported legal immigration that allows employers to find the skilled workers they need. That’s not Trump, either. The presumptive GOP nominee would shut the door to nearly all immigrants, regardless of the skill set they bring.

On foreign affairs, Trump has declared himself an America Firster, preaching self-interest and isolationism. Republicans have seen a strong national defense as requiring the United States to intervene abroad to support our allies and stop threats before they reach our borders.

Republicans also view America as the unquestioned world leader. Trump is in the business of demeaning heads of state and acting the bully, and mimics President Obama in his view that other countries should defend themselves.

Trump has alienated broad swaths of the population, including Mexicans, Muslims and women. That would also seemingly conflict with the GOP’s efforts to erect a bigger political tent.

As the party’s platform is being written in Cleveland, will it reflect the strong conservative positions on social issues such as abortion that have been so dear to Republicans? Trump wobbles all over the place on those matters.

It has been fascinating this week to watch as mainstream Republicans, including many elected officials, follow the typical partisan pattern and pledge their allegiance to Trump as the party’s nominee.

But how will Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, as strong a hawk as they come, defend a candidate whose policies would neuter the military? She came out for Trump Thursday. So did Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham. Will Trott, a financier in private life, tout Trump’s protectionism and his attacks on Wall Street?

The choice Republicans face is to either embrace Trump in his entirety or to reshape him. House Speaker Paul Ryan, in withholding his endorsement from Trump, said the party’s standard bearer needs to embody Republican values. It is vital that the reviled Republican establishment have a strong hand in writing the platform. And that they surround Trump with seasoned and reasoned advisers who can help make him electable.

The bright spot is that Trump is a populist, not an ideologue. He has proven himself malleable, as witnessed by this week’s gushing praise for “Lyin’” Ted Cruz.

But if Trump won’t play along at least enough to advocate for Republican core values, those who are lining up to kiss his ring will find themselves in a peculiar spot, asking voters to support the man but not his policies.

Perhaps the biggest question of all is how tolerant the GOP will be of dissent. The New York Times reports the Republican National Committee told staffers who didn’t feel they could vote for Trump to get out by the end of the week.

If that becomes the line in the sand, and if Trump can’t be remolded, this election will end with a lot fewer Americans calling themselves Republicans.___

Lansing State Journal. May 6, 2016

Support efforts, retain talent.

Greater Lansing needs young professionals.

And to them we say: Greater Lansing wants you.This group of people tend to go out socially more often, look to spend their money locally and have energy to dedicate to regional improvement and community service.

Even five years ago, young professionals may not have thought of Greater Lansing when deciding where to pursue a career. After graduation from Michigan State University, Davenport University and Lansing Community College, many would head off to Chicago or New York - or even Cincinnati - looking for opportunities they didn’t think they could find here.

They were looking for jobs with advancement opportunities, cool living spaces in vibrant neighborhoods and plenty of things to do.

All of that is available here.

There are over 350 internships available in the region, including 30 in information technology (IT) and software, 30 in communications and journalism, 50 in education and various departments at MSU and 195 in the insurance and finance industry.

Many of these are at multi-state companies with national headquarters right here in Greater Lansing.

There are available jobs in car manufacturing, biomedical operations, nuclear science and more. The potential for career advancement and job transfer are growing.

And programs such as Lansing 5:01 - an initiative designed to connect talent to opportunity in the greater Lansing region by promoting dynamic live, work and play opportunities - will pull young professionals together for several events this summer to help demonstrate this.

Lansing has put serious effort into making young professionals feel welcome, and it is paying off.

As they are drawn to the region, developers have responded with unique housing and entertainment opportunities.

An 84-unit apartment building at Cooley Law School Stadium recently joined the growing number of cool options for people looking for walkable areas in and around their workplace.

The craft beer industry has taken off with 11 local breweries catering to young professionals.

And events ranging from music festivals to gallery walks to dragon boat races have made their home here, helping show off the vibrancy and excitement young professionals seek.

To our graduates preparing to embark on the next chapter of your journey, know this:

Greater Lansing wants you. Greater Lansing needs you. Please stay.___

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