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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

November 26, 2018

The Detroit News. November 22, 2018

Kids get grades; so should schools

Michigan’s resistance to common-sense education reforms has continued to hold back progress in K-12 schools. Case in point: Lawmakers have tried for years (and failed) to pass a clear and transparent A-F school grading system. It’s on the docket for lame duck, and the Legislature should get it done this time.

This ought to be a no-brainer. At least 17 states, including high-performing Florida, have a letter-grade accountability system. And guess what? They all are outpacing Michigan on national standardized tests.

This state’s confusing range of school rating systems has included a bizarre color-coded model, a top-to-bottom ranking and now a dashboard.

Education wonks may enjoy sifting through the data to decipher what it means. But most parents would appreciate something a little more concrete.

House Education Reform Committee chairman Tim Kelly has long believed that an A-F grading model is right for Michigan. Term-limited in the House, the Saginaw Township Republican is making a final attempt to get this passed.

Kelly’s bill deserves the support of his colleagues.

In a letter to fellow lawmakers earlier this month, Kelly laid out three bills he wants to prioritize in the final weeks of the legislative session. In addition to A-F, he is pushing a package of bills that would address teacher preparation. Other legislation would seek to give innovative schools more flexibility in instruction.

“A-F ratings, incorporated into the State Board of Education-approved dashboard, are crucial for promoting transparency and establishing effective incentives for schools,” Kelly wrote. “Not surprisingly, these ratings are popular with parents who repeatedly poll well over 75 percent in support.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has also been a vocal supporter of an A-F model, as have school advocacy groups, including the Education Trust-Midwest.

Kelly’s bill, which he introduced in February, would create a commission to develop a grading system that is based on achievement in six areas, including math and English proficiency and progress, graduation rate, absentee rate and participation on taking statewide tests.

The topic of letter grading came up two years ago, when lawmakers passed a $617 million bailout of Detroit Public Schools. Part of the deal was that the state School Reform Office would create an A-F model for all Detroit schools. That’s just now getting done, and Kelly has said he doesn’t find initial reports very encouraging.

If the Legislature adopts a statewide model, that would replace Detroit’s. It’s only fair that all Michigan’s schools be subjected to the same grading measures.

This is a good bill, and should stand on its own merits. Some are concerned that in an effort to get enough support, the A-F bill will get paired with another bill that would take the backward step of weakening current teacher evaluation standards.

We’ve cautioned against doing that — the original law was hard fought and fairly done, with plenty of compromises already in place.

Stripping the heft out of teacher evaluations wouldn’t be a good trade for the school grading model.

Kelly is right to push the A-F concept, and his fellow lawmakers should join him.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). November 21, 2018

City avoids costly mistake — for now

Isn’t this where we started? When St. Clair County made its misguided decision to purchase the building that had once housed an Art Van grocery store, the property’s proposed fate was an outdoor entertainment venue and parking.

Technically, county commissioners justified the purchase with arguments about which county departments would need the parking spaces in the future. And unwrapping the arched roof of the building to turn it into an amphitheater made it recreational.

About $670,000 later, the county still can’t find a productive use or a buyer for the block bounded by Grand River Avenue and Michigan, Fort and Quay streets.

Having failed to learn from the county’s experience, Port Huron City Manager James Freed and the Downtown Development Authority have been tinkering with ideas for the property. The ideas have grown from an open-sided pavilion and park to a grand indoor marketplace anchored by a bar, a restaurant and penthouse views of the downtown parking lots that would surround it.

That dream would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million, with no clear explanation of who would pay for the construction — beyond donations and grants — and who would pay to operate it — no donations and grants for that.

Fortunately, the marketplace got put out of business before any more money went into the grand boondoggle.

Thank you, Michelle Jones and Steve Fernandez.

Fernandez and Jones own the Woolworth’s building at Grand River and Huron avenues. Their plans to renovate and revitalize the long-empty building includes putting a grocery store in its ground level space. Instead of dreaming of a store, though, they went out and bought one — Country Style Marketplace on Pine Grove Road in Fort Gratiot.

We have to admit we love Country Style Marketplace. From mustard potato salad and mushroom swiss burgers to Sander’s confections and Michigan wines, the store’s selection, quality and service is hard to match.

It is bad news, though, for anyone who had been hoping to dine at the restaurant atop the Art Van building’s vaulted roof.

So, it is back to the drawing board for the county’s property.

What is on Freed and the DDA’s drawing board looks a lot like the county’s original premise: Tear down most of what’s there, leave the arched roof and pave the rest for parking. We don’t understand why the county doesn’t do that itself.

And we’re still not persuaded downtown Port Huron needs another ugly expanse of asphalt for parking. If it does, though, it better come with parking meters.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). November 20, 2018

Show your support for UPAWS by voting online

We were encouraged to learn that our local animal shelter was again the recipient of some much needed financial support.

As many of you know already, the Upper Peninsula Animal Shelter is in the process of a major capital campaign to raise money for a new shelter building. So far, the Imagine the PAWSibilities has brought in more than $3 million for the $3.7 million needed to build the new facility.

That money will allow UPAWS to retire the dated 40-year-old building that’s currently being used to house its operations and the 1,500 animals that are sheltered there each year.

The push toward securing the needed financing has been outstanding by the community, and a young boy named Will, and his pet bunny named Oreo, recently helped UPAWS secure another $25,000.

A story about how Will adopted Oreo was submitted to a grant competition hosted by the Petco Foundation, and guess what? It won. Now, the community can vote online to help UPAWS get another $25,000 from Petco through the competition’s People’s Choice Award category. To vote, visit www.petcofoundation.org/holiday-wishes/ and vote for Will and Oreo.

If that first $25,000 wasn’t enough good news for UPAWS, more came at the shelter’s annual Cause for Paws gala on Nov. 10. There, Hall Contracting made a $20,000 donation to UPAWS capital campaign, bringing the shelter that much closer to having all the money it needs to build the new facility.

It’s worth highlighting the exceptional work that the tremendous volunteers and employees at UPAWS do every day, and if you want to show the shelter how much you care, go online and vote for it. One click could mean $25,000 for a very deserving organization.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. November 21, 2018

Safety first: Let’s be careful out in the woods

It’s too early to know the exact circumstances behind the shooting deaths of three men in Michigan this week. But all three were celebrating the Michigan time-honored tradition of deer hunting in the woods.

Justin Beutel, 38, of Sanford was hunting on private property near Alden and was apparently shot by a 45-year-old Gaylord man hunting nearby.

Matthew Boeck, 29, of Howell, had been hunting in the woods near Lewiston when his body was recovered by Oscoda County authorities.

Chong Yang, 68, of Lansing, was found on public property northeast of his home after he was hit by a bullet “from someone else’s” gun.

Investigations are ongoing in all three cases, but the term “accident” has been used twice. And while one Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer told a Record-Eagle reporter that — while they examine every case for possible motive — at least one hunter mistook another for a deer.

This is unusual, at least for recent times.

Hunting, in general, has become safer through the years. According to DNR stats, 89 people were killed hunting between 1940-1970.

Fatalities hovered in the double digit teens until the late ’70s when it started to taper. Hunter safety training became mandatory for first-time hunters ages 12-16 in 1971. The Mandatory Hunter Orange law became effective in 1977 and expanded in 1984. In 1988, hunter safety education became mandatory for all first-time hunters born after January 1, 1960.

In three of the last five years, 2014, 2015 and 2017 — no hunting fatalities were recorded in the state, DNR statistics show.

“Michigan has an incredibly low rate of hunter incidences when you look at the number of people who hold licenses,” Lt. Thomas R. Wanless of the DNR’s law enforcement division told a reporter this week.

But the number of people buying deer licenses is also dropping.

A recent Detroit Free Press tally noted a decline from a high of 785,000 licenses in 1998 to 621,000 licenses sold during the 2017 firearms deer season.

More women are hunting, the DNR has noted, but the state is facing a general loss of youth and has put in place many incentives to draw young people in as well as make the sport more comfortable for hunting’s aging population. The DNR is forecasting a good year for hunters in our area: the 2018 hunting prospectus forecasts an upswing beyond last year’s gain of 15 percent over 2016.

We need a good white-tail deer hunting season — just ask anyone of the 50,949 people involved in vehicle-deer crashes last year. Of those, the Office of Highway Safety Planning reports that 1,254 people were injured and 17 people (13 on motorcycles, 2 on ORVs and 2 in passenger cars) were killed.

Please, when you head out there, be mindful of your surroundings and know that you’re potentially sharing the woods with thousands of like-minded hunters. Remember, hunters must wear orange outergear visible from all sides, all day, on any property. Never ever scope another hunter. Remember that moment when you decide to take a deer’s life is an awesome responsibility, and make triple sure of your target before you squeeze. No deer is worth taking chances.

As hunters, we are responsible for each and every bullet and shell discharged from our firearms. Be safe out there.

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