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Bridges4Kids LogoMichigan Senate Approves Anti-Hazing Bills
Gongwer News Service, March 17, 2004
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Hazing of school and college students in Michigan would be banned under legislation passed unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday. But in approving SB 783 and SB 784, the Senate rejected an attempt to also make bullying a state offense.

Now one of just seven states that do not officially ban the practice used as initiation rites, the two bills make a hazing a crime whether as a misdemeanor for physical injury to a felony if the hazing results in death.

But Sen. Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit) attempted unsuccessfully to graft onto the main bill, SB 783, a ban on bullying. Saying that thousands of school students are afraid to go to school, that a significant portion of the state's dropout problem is due to fear of bullies, and that most schools in the state do not have anti-bullying policies.

"By law we require them to be there at school, but we don't do anything about bullying," Mr. Thomas said. He has also sponsored SB 92, now in the Senate Education Committee, to ban bullying and require schools to take action to prevent and stop bullying.

On a party-line vote the chamber overruled Lt. Governor John Cherry's decision that the amendment was germane. But Sen. Bill Hardiman (R-Kentwood) said afterwards, he would support efforts to work on anti-bullying legislation.

And Sen. Burton Leland (D-Detroit) said that he had experience trying to help a neighbor's child who was so tormented by bullies that he committed suicide.

Under the anti-hazing bills, the act of hazing is defined as intentional, knowing or reckless acts to endanger a person's physical or mental health as part of a pledging or initiation rite. Hazing acts could include physical brutality such as whipping or branding, or physical activity such as depriving a person of sleep or confining them to a small place, forcing a person to eat or drink something that could harm them or requiring someone to perform an act that was effectively a crime.
     

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Mental Health Commission to Hold Forums
Gongwer News Service, March 17, 2004

The Michigan Mental Health Commission will hold four public forums in April to gather comments on ways to improve the mental health system in Michigan.

The forum dates are:

April 7, 2004 - Great Hall, Conference Centers, Western Michigan University, 200 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, 2:30 p.m.

April 14, 2004 - Room 44, 2nd floor, Oakland Hall, Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit, 2:30 p.m.

April 20, 2004 - ballroom of the Prahl Conference Center, Mott Community College, 1402 E. Court St., Flint, 2:30 p.m.

April 29, 2004 - Great Lakes Room, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette, 3 p.m.

The Mental Health Commission was appointed to recommend changes in the delivery of service and effectiveness of the state's mental health network.
     

Additional information from Michigan's Children:

The Mental Health Commission Website/Public Commentary Instructions for Mail, FAX, and on-line submission are available at http://www.michigan.gov/mentalhealth/0,1607,7-201-28860---,00.html

The Michigan Mental Health Commission welcomes and encourages input from the public to inform its work. There are several ways for the public to provide comments to the Commission. Public comment time will be allocated at all commission meetings, at the beginning and before
adjournment. If there are more comments than time available, a select number of those wishing to speak will be invited to speak, as determined by the commission chair and vice-chair. All written comments will be documented in the commission proceedings. Public comment can be made by writing to Public Sector Consultants and will be documented in the commission proceedings.

 

Ways to submit your comments:

Michigan Mental Health Commission
C/O Public Sector Consultants
600 W. St. Joseph Street, Suite10
Lansing, MI 48933
 

FAX your comments to: (517) 484-6549

Public comment may be submitted
on the web at http://www.michigan.gov/mentalhealth/0,1607,7-201-28860---,00.html.
 

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Michigan Senate Boosts K-12 Aid by $23M; Keeps Student Count System
Gongwer News Service, March 17, 2004

School aid spending from the general fund would be increased by $23.3 million over the recommendation of the Granholm administration under a budget approved by a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday, putting added pressure on legislators to slice spending in other areas or devise more revenue sources.

Among the significant changes made by the Appropriations K-12 Subcommittee to SB 1069 were rejecting the administration's proposal to change how student enrollments are used to calculate aid, cutting intermediate school district funding by 13.4 percent ($12.5 million), cutting funding for at-risk programs by 8.4 percent ($13.9 million), cutting $2 million each from school readiness and vocational education programs, eliminating a $15 million grant to the Detroit district and rejecting a proposal that reduced aid to the state's richest districts by up to $74 per pupil or $6.6 million statewide.

The $12.5 billion budget (1 percent more than 2003-04) maintains the minimum per pupil foundation grant at $6,700. General fund spending would be set at $155.1 million, a 40.4 percent reduction from current year levels.

Subcommittee Chair Sen. Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks) called the bill "a responsible budget. It's a pretty fair way to go under the current conditions." He said the priorities aim to protect as many existing programs as possible in tight budgetary times rather than expand or initiate new programs that the state cannot afford in 2004-05.

One reason for the $23.3 million increase over Governor Jennifer Granholm's general fund recommendation was a shift back to that revenue source from the School Aid fund of $13.4 million to reimburse schools for lost revenue from tax-free renaissance zones.

State Budget spokesperson Greg Bird said along with concerns about the higher spending level, the at-risk cut is the most troubling aspect of the subcommittee's budget.

"What's most disappointing is the severe cuts to at risk programs and the governor's early childhood initiatives," Mr. Bird said. "Those are important to the governor and those are cut quite significantly."

Mr. Jelinek said the extra spending was cleared by Senate Republican leaders, who told him "This is a good budget and we need to try to fund this." Where the money will come from has not yet been identified, he said.

The at-risk cut from the governor's proposal, which itself had provided no increase over the current year, leaves spending at $300.3 million. School readiness spending would drop to $70.8 million, vocational education spending would drop to $28 million and the budget keeps spending for parental involvement programs at $3.3 million as the governor's proposed increase of $6.7 million was rejected.

The executive budget had proposed basing 50 percent of state foundation aid on student enrollment counts in the fall and the other 50 percent on spring student counts, saving $43 million.

But the subcommittee elected to retain current provisions using an 80 percent/20 percent calculation, which translated into increases over the governor's recommendation in other areas of the budget such as $29.2 million more to meet per student guarantees under the Proposal A school finance provisions, $16.6 million in discretionary payments, $46.5 million (to a level of $929.2 million, all from the School Aid Fund) for special education programs and $18.7 million in payments for special education under the Durant settlement (to $677.3 million).

Mr. Jelinek, noting the reduction the change in aid calculation would have on overall aid to districts, said, "It's insincere to put the money in one place and take it back in another."

Ray Telman, executive director of Middle Cities Education Association, welcomed the retention of the current 80/20 formula for calculating school aid but was troubled by the subcommittee's actions in other areas. "Reducing the at-risk money is a real problem for districts with large at-risk programs," he said. "They are already facing challenges with new accountability requirements and this does not help."

That was also an item singled out for criticism by Sen. Mickey Switalski (D-Roseville) who called the cut "very painful. These are our most vulnerable citizens." A 2-3 subcommittee vote rejected his amendment that would have shifted $5 million to at-risk programs from the Freedom to Learn laptop computer program.

That would have eliminated all state monies for the laptop program for 6th graders, new last year at the instigation of House Speaker Rick Johnson (R-LeRoy). The budget retains the $17.3 million federal grant for program.

Although the cut in ISD funding of $12.5 million (about 13.6 percent) comes at the same time legislators are probing spending abuses at the Oakland district, Mr. Jelinek said the decision had nothing to do with being punitive but everything to do with finding ways to hold down overall spending.

The budget also rejected the governor's proposal to delete provisions softening state aid reductions to districts with declining enrollments and a proposal to eliminate provisions withholding 5 percent of state aid to districts that fail to meet accreditation standards.

Only Sen. Martha Scott (D-Detroit), who failed to get subcommittee support to restore a $15 million grant to the Detroit district, voted against the bill in subcommittee. The grant, supported in the Granholm budget, was initiated when the state imposed an appointed reform school board on the district, which is scheduled to vote in November on returning an elected board.
     

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Weakened ISD Bill Passes Michigan House
Gongwer News Service, March 17, 2004

Intermediate school district board members would be subject to removal from office under a bill passed Wednesday by the House.

But in passing the main bill in a wide-ranging legislative package spurred by the scandal at the Oakland ISD, the House gutted substantial portions of it against the wishes of the legislation's main sponsor.

A coalition of some Republicans and most Democrats succeeded in stripping from the legislation a critical component that would allow voters in each of the 57 ISDs to hold public votes on whether to elect their ISD boards by popular vote. Currently, all but two ISD boards have their members elected by constituent school district board members.

That same coalition also prevailed in weakening term limits language for ISD board members. The bill originally limited them to three, four-year terms. Now the bill would call for each ISD district to hold a public vote on whether to establish term limits for their ISD.

Rep. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly), the main sponsor of the legislation, said she still sees what passed the House as a triumph given the lack of accountability in current law. Although surprised at the failure to pass a popular election option for ISD boards, she praised the House's passage of provisions allowing the ISD's voters, constituent school districts or the governor to remove wayward board members from office.

"We'll continue to work on it," she said. "To me, it is a huge success."

Besides the major changes to HB 4338, which passed 102-2, the House also failed to pass a companion bill (HB 5628) on the popular election component of the package. Insufficient votes existed for the bill when House leaders ordered the voting board cleared the issue postponed. The chamber also did not take up a bill (HB 4935) allowing an ISD's voters to replace their ISD board with an accountability board.

The chipping away at the bill frustrated some Republican lawmakers who enthusiastically embraced the original legislation. Rep. Ken Bradstreet (R-Gaylord) blasted the public school lobby for resisting some of the bill's provisions.

"Never in my life have I seen so well-financed a group intent on preserving the status quo," he said. "What is there about accountability that threatens these people so much?"

The amendment to remove the popular election language from the bill was adopted on a 63-44 vote.

Don Wotruba of the Michigan Association of School Boards praised the new version of the legislation as "substantially improved," particularly with the removal of the election language. Mr. Wotruba also said the association supports allowing constituent school districts to recall ISD members.

    

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