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Article of Interest - Michigan

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Bridges4Kids LogoSpeaker Backs Subpoena Power for All ISDs
Gongwer News Service, June 30, 2004
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A special House committee that currently has the power to subpoena witnesses related to investigating the Oakland Intermediate School District may be given subpoena power for all ISDs.

The House Education Intermediate School District Review Subcommittee has for the past year been investigating controversy surrounding misspent funds at the Oakland ISD. It was given subpoena power in October after Rep. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) complained that Oakland ISD officials were slow to respond to her requests for information.

In announcing his support for expanding subpoena power to all 57 ISDs, House Speaker Rick Johnson (R-LeRoy) ripped the districts Wednesday, accusing them of misspending taxpayer funds and stonewalling legislative efforts to get answers. Ms. Johnson said the Genesee, Iosco, Kent and Macomb ISDs have been slow to respond to her requests for them to testify and provide information.

"These people are afraid to come in and testify," Mr. Johnson told reporters. "Why on God's green Earth are they so afraid to let this information out. ... They're all about covering things up."

Mr. Johnson accused public education associations, including the Michigan Association of School Administrators and Michigan Association of School Boards, of "lying" by mischaracterizing his now defunct proposal to allow voters in four counties to dissolve their ISDs and instead have the local school districts run programs now run by ISDs.

Mr. Johnson said the House would vote Tuesday on a resolution expanding the committee's subpoena powers. It will require a majority of those present for adoption.

Don Wotruba of the school boards association said the four ISDs that Ms. Johnson criticized for not responding to her requests for testimony have had her request for just one week and have every intention of finding time to appear before her. He also refuted Mr. Johnson's allegations of lying about his ISD proposal, saying his letter only reasonably extrapolated that the House might later let voters in all ISDs vote on whether to dissolve their ISD.

Mr. Wotruba called subpoena power unnecessary, even for the Oakland schools.

"There's no reason to do subpoena power on ISDs," he said. "Typically, subpoena power is used when people refuse to do something."

One of the Democrats on the ISD panel ripped House Republicans for moving toward giving the committee wide-ranging subpoena power for all districts. Rep. Andy Meisner of Ferndale called the effort a "smear campaign" orchestrated by Republicans and Republican Party Chair Betsy DeVos to demonize the public school structure.

Mr. Meisner said ISDs enable teachers to find best practices in special education and to be efficient with equipment instead of having every district buy its own.

"(It) is extreme, inappropriate and would do incredible harm not only to the special education students across Michigan, but also to the vocational education programs offered by the intermediate school districts," he said.


Lead Commission Gets OK From Senate Panel
Gongwer News Service, June 30, 2004

A lead poisoning prevention commission would be created by the governor under a bill reported by the Senate Families and Human Services Committee Wednesday.

HB 5118, which is part of a package of bills (HB 5116, HB 5117, HB 5119) aimed at dealing with the state's lead poisoning problem, would require the commission study the threat and impact of lead poisoning on children, take blood tests of all Medicaid children, hold public hearings, work on prevention and education programs, and annually report progress to the governor and Legislature. The legislation also is a companion bill to SB 0753.

There is a range of potential commission members, including representatives from various medical, environmental, and development associations, parents of children with lead poisoning, a local housing authority, and community reinvestment officer. Members would not be compensated for their time on the commission, which would sunset in 2007.

Little testimony was taken on the issue, with the Department of Community Health, the Michigan Association of Health Plans, and the city of Grand Rapids also supporting the legislation.


Adrian Training School to Become Female Facility
Gongwer News Service, June 30, 2004

The Adrian Training School, which for decades has housed delinquent youth, will be converted into a juvenile justice facility for girls. Department of Human Services Director Marianne Udow said Wednesday the conversion will best meet the needs of single-gender juvenile justice programming for girls in the system.

The decision should end questions about the future of the school, Ms. Udow said, and is based on current trends and demographics in juvenile justice.

The FIA will start restricting new placements at Adrian to girls, Ms. Udow said. Boys still at the facility will be able to complete their programs, and if continued treatment and counseling is needed then the state will look at placing them into other public or private counseling.

In a separate move, because of continued increases in the number of boys into the juvenile justice system, the state will not close the Sequoyah Center at the Maxey Training School near Howell. To meet budgetary restrictions for the school, hiring freezes will be implemented and building renovations will be limited.


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