Dec. 4 2015 12:29 PM

Dec. 4, 2015

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

Vocational, technical programs draw more student interest: The must-go-to-college pendulum may have swung too far but is now swinging back towards valuing vocational and technical training for skilled trades, some experts say. We hear from the Lenawee and Traverse Bay intermediate school districts, the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators.

Few Access Problems For Vets, VA Center In Detroit, Ann Arbor Say: Access to medical care is a national concern for veterans but the situation for Michigan’s 660,000 vets is better than elsewhere in the country. VA facilities in the state have taken steps to improve access and reduce delays in seeing physicians. We hear from the John Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit, VA Ann Arbor HealthCare System and state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Some retired teachers could teach, collect pensions: The House and Senate are near agreement on a proposal that would make it easier for retired teachers to return to work in “critical shortage” disciplines or as substitutes without reducing their pensions and health benefits. The MEA says the measure will benefit school districts that have trouble filling such positions. The Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel also favors it. Sponsors include lawmakers from Montague, Newaygo, Byron Center, Park Township, Six Lakes and Vulcan.

More schools move to private bus services: The number of school districts contracting out their bus fleets has increased 150 percent in the past few years as a cost-savings measure, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy reports. Most turn to private companies but some contract out to nearby school districts. We talk to officials at the Addison and Dollar-Bay-Tamarack City districts, both of which have privatized, and from the Lake Linden-Hubbell district, which hasn’t. We also hear from Michigan School Business Officials & the MEA.

Child care center wins license appeal: The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has reinstated the license of a Manistee child care center that had been suspended for alleged violations that include insufficient staff training and missing records. The center operator called the state action unfair.

Many schools find substitute teachers in short supply: Many districts across the state face a shortage of substitute teachers. Experts disagree on the scope of the problem, and whether it’s a matter of quality or quantity. A Northern Michigan University expert notes that substitutes don’t need a bachelor’s degree or any coursework in education or child development. Pending legislation would make it easier for retired teachers to return without jeopardizing pensions or health benefits. The Education Department, a Newaygo representative who co-sponsored the bill, school officials from Ottawa ISD and Manistee schools and the MEA also opine.

State provides training to prepare inmates for workforce: It’s tough for many parolees to find jobs after release, experts say, but the prison system is working to better prepare them for employment. We hear from the Corrections Department, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan and Networks Northwest in Traverse City.

Proposal to stop paid leave for school union reps draws fire: A Republican-led proposal to bar school districts from paying employees for time they spend as union representatives faces opposition from the Michigan Association of School Boards and MEA, which argue that it would hamper collective bargaining and intrude into traditional local decision-making. But the Mackinac Center for Public Policy says it’s much-needed and would save local districts millions of dollars a year in personnel costs. Sponsors included senators from Lawton, St. Joseph, Lowell, Sheridan, Evart and Hart.

Water level predictions illustrates Great Lakes’ complexity: New Great Lakes water level predictions have Superior, Michigan and Huron on the same page, but lakes Erie and Ontario flow to the beat of a different drum. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predict that the bigger lakes will drop below the level they were a year ago. Erie and Ontario are set to be higher than a year ago.