FRIDAY, Jan. 20 — A roundup of news from around the state, provided by our partners at Capital News Service. Follow the links for the full stories.


Rural schools have pluses, minuses: Schools out in the country face unique challenges that don’t affect urban and suburban districts. Small staffs and big geographic areas lead to big responsibilities for school leaders, like the Mason County superintendents who get up at 4 a.m. on winter mornings to drive their districts and determine whether it’s safe to take kids to school. Transportation, teacher retention and internet access are all special challenges for rural educators.


DeVos commitment to Title IX enforcement unclear: The nomination of Michigan’s Betsy DeVos to be U.S. secretary of education has focused new attention on equity issues in public schools. There already appears to be confusion in many Michigan school districts about their responsibilities under Title IX, and some activists and senators worry that it will get even less attention if DeVos is confirmed.


Lack of school supplies affects schools throughout state: Michigan’s school districts face a constant supply problem caused by lack of funds, but advocates and state agencies are working to fill the gaps. More than 250 schools in 34 counties benefit from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Pathways to Potential program, where caseworkers go to the schools and work with students and families in need. School districts like Grand Rapids Public Schools don’t have textbooks in some cases and are forced to utilize free resources.


School Reform Office, under scrutiny, releases failing schools list: Michigan’s controversial School Reform Office announced its updated list of “failing schools” on Jan. 20, even as legislators move to eliminate it. Each year Michigan Department of Education (MDE) releases a “top to bottom” list, which ranks schools on student performance in mathematics, English language, arts, science, social studies and graduation rate data. The bottom five are singled out for particular scrutiny. The process has many critics. Sen. Phil Pavlov, a St. Clair Republican, has introduced a bill to repeal Michigan’s law regulating underperforming schools.


Climate change threatens Great Lakes forest health, researchers say: Great Lakes forests will get warmer and suffer more frequent short-term droughts, say scientists, including a U.S. Forest Service climate change expert based in Houghton. Researchers discuss their studies that examine what tree species show the most impact from climate change in forests in the region.


Winter camping — in the cold and snow — more popular every year: Winter camping is gaining popularity in Michigan, the DNR says. We talk to folks about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campground, Muskegon State Park, a private RV campground in Traverse City and Mitchell State Park.


Judge rejects challenge to Leelanau trail: Opponents of a 5-mile segment of the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route Trailway have lost a court challenge to the planned route. A federal judge in Grand Rapids threw out a suit claiming the National Park Service failed to fully disclose and analyze environmental impacts along the north side of Traverse Lake Road in Cleveland and Centerville townships. When completed, the trail will connect southern Leelanau County with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at Good Harbor Beach. The trail runs on Park Service land and on existing public rights-of-way.


Edamame could find natural home on Michigan farms: There's growing interest in how to grow edamame in the Great Lakes region — and Michigan is ripe for the picking. Edamame has been an untapped crop for farmers here since its rise in demand has developed over the past decade, and Southwest Michigan has the facilities available to process them. We hear from experts at MSU, University of Illinois and the Center for Innovative Food Technology.


Who believes in conspiracies? Not who you think: Who’s more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, the politically knowledgeable or the politically ignorant? The politically ignorant, right? Wrong, at least when it comes to conservatives, according to a new study by political scientists. In Michigan, conspiracy theories concerning the Flint water crisis have poked up their ugly heads. The broadest ones allege a racially and politically motivated plot by the governor, his appointed emergency managers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and high-ups in the departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services to poison the predominantly poor, non-white, Democratic-voting residents of Flint.


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