This week from Capital News Service

By Capital News Service

Fewer state employees, tougher oversight on charter schools, unmet demand for engineers and more

Friday, Nov. 22Each week, City Pulse runs a series of stories produced by Capital News Service correspondents at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism. This week’s topics cover the declining number of state employees, a proposal for tougher oversight on charter schools, unmet demand for engineers and more.

  • The number of state employees has dropped more than 20 percent in the past decade under Democratic and Republican governors. We learn why and what it means from the Snyder administration, Citizens Research Council and Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending. By Matthew Hall.
  • Vocational education programs are increasingly popular to meet employer needs and help fill the state’s need for more skilled workers. We hear from the Education Department and school officials in Traverse City, Big Rapids and Ingham County. By Stephen Ingber.
  • Senators from Taylor, Southfield, Detroit and East Lansing want tougher oversight for charter schools. The proposal would prohibit new charters run by for-profit companies. Also, to authorize new charters, the authorizer would have to show students at their existing charters perform 20 percent better than local public school students. We talk to experts at Ferris State and Northern Michigan universities. By Justine McGuire.
  • Retail sales are expected to rise modestly this holiday season, and local merchants are working to provide customer services that Internet merchants can’t offer. We hear from merchants in Three Rivers and Marquette and the Michigan Retailers Association. By Becky McKendry.
  • Michigan has more industrial and mechanical engineers than any other state. Even so, manufacturers struggle to fill engineering positions as the economy improves, especially in Southeast Michigan. We hear from a Northern Michigan University expert, MEDC and an association of engineering companies. By Lacee Shepard.
  • Public and press attention is focused on the unfunded pension obligations of financially troubled local governments, especially Detroit, but the state employee pension fund is about 60 percent underfunded. We talk to the Senate Fiscal Agency, a state worker union and an MSU economist. By Matthew Hall.
  • This month marks the 30th anniversary of the recall of two Democratic senators from Macomb and Oakland counties who voted for an income tax hike, paving the way for three decades of GOP control of the Senate. We talk about it with ex-Lt. Gov. Posthumus, a senior advisor to the governor. By Eric Freedman.
  • Climate change and more extreme weather, like unpredictable springs and long summer droughts, is to blame for changes in grape production in Michigan. Experts from MSU, Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center and Cornell explain. By Danielle Woodward.