Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Foster kids may get better emotional health care

By CHANTAL COOK
Capital News Services

LANISNG – The Department of Human Services wants to help foster children with emotional and mental health care with a $6 million federal upgrade that will allow them to be treated at home.

The department will use $1.77 million in state dollars as a match to receive an additional $6 million to provide more mental health services.

The waivers came from the Medicaid program for children who would otherwise be placed in an institution.

According to the department, more than 16,000 children are in Michigan’s foster care system.

Gisgie Gendreau, marketing and public relations director for the department, said once children are removed from their parents and enter the system, they are placed in a treatment center if they suffer emotional trauma.

“The waiver helps us provide children with care as soon as they are in the system,” Gendreau said.

The department partnered with the Department of Community Health to expand Medicaid availability for children with serious emotional problems. They now can receive intensive at-home care.

Currently, 33 such children are with a family in a home instead of a residential setting.

Michael Head, director of mental health and substance abuse administration for Community Health, said although this plan is expensive, it is cheaper than placing children in institutions and is beneficial for them.

“It helps kids live in the real world and not cooped up in a room,” Head said.

Gendreau said the program will also help children get adopted more quickly.

“Kids are more ready to meet and live with their new families and it is easier for the family to take in a new child,” she said.

Lutheran Social Services of Michigan (LSSM) provide foster families for children from birth to age 18.

The Grand Rapids-based-organization reports more than 18,000 Michigan children are in foster care because their birth families can’t provide a safe and secure home.

Laura Mitchell, director of West Michigan Child and Family Services for the LSSM, said children are often traumatized once in foster care.

The effects of abuse and neglect vary from child to child but generally can be traumatic. Children are afraid and most don’t want to talk to a therapist about the events they went through and instead misbehave.

Even though taking children out of a dangerous environment or away from a parent who is not capable of caring for them is the right thing to do, it still can have major negative effects on a child’s psyche, she said.

Mitchell said that the new partnership between the Community Health and Human Services will be a fantastic change in the system.

“This allows more services and support for both the child and the foster family,” Mitchell said.

She described a case where the mental health system improved the life of a child. An 8-year-old boy came into foster care and lived with the same family for two years. While in foster care, he suffered from emotional problems. His mother was young and unmarried, with no job, and was neglecting her child. The boy had problems at school due to neglect.

The boy had a hard time bonding with his foster family and his own mother. The boy threw tantrums and broke things.

Once the boy went to therapy with his mother, to learn how to bond with one another, everyone saw improvement. The boy got along better with the foster family and the mother started going to parenting classes and doing what was ask of her.

He returned to his mother last year around Christmas.

Mitchell said, “Every child deserves to have a forever family and a family they know.”

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: State Agencies

Debate swirls around Native American mascots

By CHRISTINE HOMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – The Civil Rights Commission will soon be examining its stance on Native American mascots.

At its May 24 meeting, the commission is scheduled to discuss the issue and decide whether to take action.

In 2002, it passed a resolution condemning the use of Native American mascots, but at the upcoming meeting, the commission will consider whether to issue a declaratory ruling that indicates how it would deal with the question in the future.

“As we grow more sensitive and understanding, there are certain practices we’ll have to examine,” said Harold Core, director of public relations for the Department of Civil Rights.

Opponents of using Native American mascots and nicknames for schools and colleges say they’re offensive and in some cases racist.

Core gave the example of the nickname Redskins, which many critics of Native American mascots consider a racial slur.

But those who support continued use of such mascots say they honor Native American history, culture and people.

John Johnson, communications director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said schools should choose mascots carefully and make sure they’re being respectful if they choose a Native American mascot or nickname.

The debate over Native American mascots is not new in Michigan, but a recent controversy in Lenawee County has drawn renewed attention to it.

Alumni of the Clinton Community Schools have been petitioned the district to change its mascot’s name from Redskins because they feel it is offensive.

Native American students at other schools are concerned as well.

Joshua Hudson, a junior at Central Michigan University and a Native American, said he dislikes Central’s Chippewa mascot.

Hudson took action last semester when he saw an ad for the school bookstore he considered offensive in the student newspaper. The ad contained a picture of a woman whose face was painted in a manner similar to one used in traditional Native American dance. The face paint design is considered sacred.

The ad was brought to the attention of the administration, which Hudson said was unresponsive at first. That ultimately led to a forum last November to discuss the Chippewa nickname.

Hudson said he didn’t have a problem with the nickname before last fall but would like to see it changed.

“No matter how much somebody tells me that they’re doing it to honor my people, to honor my heritage, you really can’t honor it if you’re not talking to me about it,” said Hudson. “And when I try to talk to you about it and you ignore me, you’re obviously not honoring me and you’re not honoring my people.”

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Social Policy

State board seeks comments on school finance

By CHRISTINE HOMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – In an attempt to get Michigan out of its economic rut, the state Board of Education has drafted a plan for revising the way public education is financed.

The plan outlines how the board would like the education system to look and proposes financial changes to help make that happen.

“We want children, wherever they live in Michigan, to have an equitable opportunity for public education,” said board member Elizabeth Bauer, D-Birmingham.

Bauer said the economy spurred the plan’s creation.

She said the board saw that the current system for raising and spending money isn’t sustainable.

“We just could not keep going forward,” Bauer said.

The plan has six guiding principles: equality of education; a predictable, long-lasting funding system; support for learning from early childhood to higher education; shared sacrifice; modernizing resources; and combining reforms, cuts and targeted investment.

The proposed changes include consolidating local and intermediate school district administrative services, implementing a graduated income tax and taxing private pensions.

The plan is open for public comments until May 11, when the board will begin reviewing them. Once the comments have been evaluated, the board will vote on the plan and take steps to implement it.

Bauer said, “The comments I’ve seen so far have a wide range of opinion. Some people say don’t raise the sales tax, some people say don’t raise the income tax, some people say we should fund things differently.”

Bauer said the board’s ultimate goal is a system where all students have access to a quality education and educational resources, such as technology.

“We want our kids to be players in the global economy,” Bauer said.

Doug Pratt, director of communications for the Michigan Education Association (MEA), agreed that it’s necessary to change school financing and said many components of the draft plan, such as the graduated income tax and tax on services, are good ideas.

The MEA is the state’s largest union of public school employees.

However, Pratt said many details in the plan are sketchy at best.

“Many of the reforms outlined in this board document are more games and gimmicks similar to what the Legislature has tried in recent years that have failed to fix the problem,” Pratt said.

The plan overall has good points and bad points, Pratt said. “It’s a mixed bag.”

He said the MEA will work with the state to improve the plan.

Hildy Cobett, director of public and community relations for Utica Community Schools expressed similar concerns.

“If this proposal propels Michigan into providing a more highly-educated work force, then yes, this plan would be both relevant and important,” Corbett said.

“With that said, there must be a consistent and adequate form of funding to allow school districts to provide the necessary reforms and restructuring to strengthen our educational system in Michigan. Without that, this plan is merely a grouping of ideas that can never come to fruition,” she said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Education

No app for iTunes tax in Michigan — so far

By JOSH GARVEY
Capital News Service

LANSING – iTax iTunes? Does Michigan have an app. for that?

Not yet.

Michigan doesn’t collect sales tax on such transactions, but Indiana and Wisconsin do, and Illinois’ governor considered it as a way to meet a budget shortfall before backing away from the idea.

iTunes and similar online services let people download music or videos from the Internet for about $1 a song or a few dollars for a video, which is usually charged to a credit card.

“I think one of the issues here is that there doesn’t seem to be any will to do anything that involves money in terms of a new tax,” said David Zin, an economist with the Senate Fiscal Agency.

The nonpartisan agency analyzes tax and budget issues for the Senate.

Judy Putnam, the communications director for the Michigan League for Human Services, said that although there probably isn’t the necessary political support for new taxes, that attitude may change “as people come to realize how deep these cuts are going to be,” in the state budge.

Zin said that the idea of a tax on iTunes and other-services has come up a couple of times.

“One of the issues we would have with a downloadable content tax is enforcement,” Zin said. “If I download a file from the Symantec website, and Symantec is out of California, the server is in Germany and I’m in Michigan, how do we find out that I owe sales tax on it and do I?

Perhaps I owe use tax on it because I brought an untaxed item into the state and used it,” he said.

Confusion over how such a tax would work also extends to legislators.

“The whole ‘Internet and sales tax’ problem is difficult,” said Rep. Tim Melton, D-Pontiac. “I don’t really have a comment about it.”

Melton is vice chair of the House Tax Policy Committee.

Michael LaFaive, the director of fiscal policy for the Makinac Center for Public Policy in Midland. said that his free market- oriented think tank opposes to any tax on downloads.

“Just because something exists doesn’t necessarily mean that a tax should be slapped on it,” he said. “The state takes enough from us and does enough to us already.”

Putnam of the League for Human Services said that her group hasn’t looked specifically at any sort of iTunes tax.

But the league wants to update Michigan’s sales tax to apply to services as well as products. She said an iTunes tax seems to be in line with that stance.

“In general, we advocate for a more modern tax structure,” she said. “Economists will tell you that the way to a solid, stable base is to tax the growing parts of a society.

“Downloads would seem to qualify as growing,” she said.

Part of the reason sales tax laws differ so much from state to state is a U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires only businesses with a physical presence in a state to collect sales tax on products sold there.

That dictates Wisconsin’s law, which requires retailers with a store in the state to collect sales tax. Since Apple has a store in Wisconsin, that means iTunes sales are taxed directly to state residents.

A state can only collect use tax on sales by businesses without a of physical presence in the state.

In Indiana, the tax on downloaded content is part of the state’s use tax. Use tax is supposed to be reported on a person’s income tax return.

Stephanie McFarland, the director of public relations for the Indiana Department of Revenue, acknowledged that enforcement can be difficult. Of the 3.1 million people who filed tax returns in Indiana in 2008, only 26,000 reported a use tax and the state collected $1.6 million from them.

Michigan’s use tax covers products but not downloaded content.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Budget

Budget cuts could hamper civil rights, advocates say

By JOSH GARVEY
Capital News Service

LANSING – As Michigan’s budget woes continue, the Department of Civil Rights might face another round of cuts to an already shrunken agency, a move that could hurt civil rights in the state, according to the head of the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project in Grand Rapids.

And Daniel Krichbaum, the interim director of the department said “We’re going to try and maintain our service levels. We only have a budget of about $13 million, and we’re going to try and save it.”

Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit, said that cuts to all government agencies are hard to avoid.

“There were 3 percent cuts made in virtually every department in the general government budget which I chair,” Durhal said. “The budget which passed the House reflected that.”

The department handles complaints about discrimination, acts as a mediator among ethnic and cultural groups, and offers workshops about cultural sensitivity.

“Civil Rights is one of the departments that can least afford those cuts,” Durhal said.

Harold Core, the director of public affairs for the department, said that as it has lost funding, it’s had to set priorities on what services to keep.

“Because we are so small, you reach a point where some individuals in the department are the only ones who perform a certain function, and when you lose that person, you lose that function,” he said.

“Last year we lost around 22 percent of our staff,” he said.

Core said the agency lost 25 positions in the cut and that it currently has 98 employees.

Migrant Legal Assistance Project executive director Teresa Hendricks said that the department is the “only government agency that has done an investigation that shows where the real problems lie in the farm industry in Michigan.”

Her organization provides legal support for migrants in the state.

Hendricks referred to a recent Civil Rights Commission report that showed many problems with how migrant workers are treated in the state. The commission held farmworker forums in Oceana, Lenawee, Manistee, Berrien and Arenac counties.

“If anything, its work should be justified, and it should be given more money, not less because it is the group that outlined these problems in the state,” she said.

Hendricks said that the department performs an important function, acting as a mediator among the farming community, migrant workers and the government.

She said that without the department, it would “push our organization further and further into obscurity, along with the plight of the migrant workers and their employers.”

Core said part of the department’s trimming-down effort revolves around streamlining paperwork and processes involved with complaints.

Core also said more cuts could increase the time it takes to answer discrimination complaints.

“For a lot of people, when they come here, they can’t afford a private attorney,” he said. “It puts them in a situation where they can’t get access to any remedy for their situation.”

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Budget

Schools suspend, expel black kids more often

By DANIELLE EMERSON
Capital News Service

LANSING – Youth of color are disproportionately suspended and expelled from public schools across Michigan, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Its report said they are therefore three times more likely to enter the juvenile justice system and face harsher consequences than white youth.

The report tracked the suspension rates of 40 districts in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Muskegon and Alpena counties.

For example, the ACLU found that during the 2007-2008 school year at Van Dyke School District in Macomb County, black students accounted for 32 percent of middle and high schoolers but received 58 percent of short-term suspensions.

The ACLU noted, “These problems may not always break down along simple black and white lines, and other students of color are disproportionately suspended in particular school districts.

“But based on data collected for this report, black students have been disproportionately excluded from almost every school district that supplied data for this study.”

Michelle Weemhoff, senior policy associate for the nonprofit Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, said, “There are a lot of theories as to why and a lot of it has to do with societal disparities.”

Weemhoff said that while racial marginalization and “targeting” of students of color by authorities is a concern, the council’s focus is on the school-to-prison pipeline that is so common for youth of color, especially African-American males.

The Michigan Juvenile Justice Collaboration – a project of the Council on Crime and Delinquency – reports that while African-American juveniles accounted for only 35 percent of arrests in 2009, they were more likely to be arrested, detained or confined than white youth. They were also more likely to stay in the juvenile justice system rather than be referred to community probation than their white peers.

“What we want to emphasize is that when we do have kids that come into the system that there are appropriate options for them,” Weemhoff said.

Advocates propose a variety of approaches to reduce racial disparities. For the council, it includes a re-entry initiative of the Department of Corrections, ensuring juveniles have a safe and productive environment to come back to and encouraging family involvement in a youth’s rehabilitation.

Nancy Oliver, community coordinator at the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative, said reducing racial disparity takes both an individual and community responsibility.

“Education and opportunities need to be made available across the board,” she said, “And communities need to embrace those who may not know that they have those choices and opportunities available to support them in making those different choices.”

The Capital Area Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative is hosting an event, “Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration” on May 27 at Lansing Community College. The event targets at-risk 13- to 25-year-olds and is aimed at “educating (the kids) against the criminal lifestyle,” according to Oliver.

Students will have a chance to speak with inmates at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia who are expected to “dispel the myths” of the glamour of the prison lifestyle.

The event will be co-sponsored with various youth advocacy organizations, including One Love Global, an organization based in Lansing that uses leadership development to inspire African-American youth.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Education

Migrant housing quality improves with inspections

By LAURA FOSMIRE
Capital News Service

LANSING – Without drastic action, Michigan could jeopardize billions of dollars of revenue for the agriculture industry if migrant farm workers don’t return, a state commission warned.

A recent report by the Civil Rights Commission showed that some migrants live in substandard housing and face poor working conditions and racial profiling.

The state has about 35,000 migrant farm workers and an additional 33,000 non-workers who live in the same households. The major crops they work with include apples, cauliflower, grapes, broccoli, cherries, tomatoes and green onions.

“We did find some decent conditions, but we also found some very troubling conditions,” said Harold Core, director of public relations for the Department of Civil Rights.

“There was some housing that looked like a strong wind could blow it over,” he said. “We found some trailers that either had no power or, if they did, was in the form of exposed and hanging wires. One family turned on their faucet and muddy water came out of it.”

However, the report suggests the problems are more prevalent than they are, said Ken Nye, commodity specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau.

“We’re afraid the report is slanted,” he said. “Many farms in Michigan do provide housing for migrant workers as a part of the working agreement, when other states may not do that.

“And the vast majority of housing is inspected and passes inspection,” Nye said. “The report focuses on small problem areas.”

A 2006 study by the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University counted 1,125 migrant workers in Macomb County and 611 in Lapeer County. Other counties with significant migrant populations include Oceana County with 3,321 workers, Ottawa County with 4,643 and Van Buren County with 3,002.

Ruben Martinez, director of the Julian Samora Research Institute, said the numbers have not changed substantially since then, but the trend of workers has.

“It used to be that Michigan was a family-oriented state,” he said. “Now you’re seeing more single males coming to work. That means that the housing has to be changed to accommodate more single males and less family units.”

The findings in the Civil Rights Commission’s 2010 report were based on testimony from migrant workers and conditions Core saw himself.

“We had people saying they were racially profiled by law enforcement,” he said. “Migrants were not welcome in some stores or some hospitals or some things of that nature. There were language barriers that we saw.”

According to Core, the report isn’t intended to represent all of Michigan’s migrant farm working conditions, but it does indicate problems to be addressed.

Core said that if the conditions presented in the report persist, migrants may choose other states to work.

“Most of our workers come from other states within the U.S.,” he said. “If the conditions start to slide too much, they may opt for other states in the Midwest with a similar harvesting season.”

A dwindling workforce could have devastating effects on the state’s economy, Core said.

“There’s so many crops in the agriculture industry, whether it’s picking fruit or harvesting crops by hand, that can’t be done by machines,” he said. “They’re dependent on migrant labor.”

Core said the commission recommended ways to improve migrants’ living conditions, including better housing inspections.

The Farm Bureau’s Nye said that the Department of Agriculture inspects housing to ensure satisfactory living conditions.

“But with the current financial state, that’s hard to do,” he said. “The houses have to be inspected before people move in, so it has to be timely. And more and more inspectors are retiring, or have to be let go because of funding problems.”

Nye said there’s been a significant effort to keep up with the regular inspections.

“If there truly are substandard conditions, it’s something to be concerned about,” he said. “We know every facility every year is inspected and they are all expected to meet the requirements. So if somebody thinks it’s substandard, that’s a problem.”

The research institute’s Martinez agreed that funding for the housing inspections has become a large problem.

“The inspecting program used to get funding around $800,000, but now that has decreased to $400,000,” he said. “Sometimes they even charge a fee to farm owners who do provide housing.”

The Julian Samora Research Institute’s 2006 study found that the 35,000 migrants in Michigan accounted for 58 percent of the total revenue brought in from agriculture that year, more than $6 billion.

“You’re talking about $3 billion of economic value is dependent on migrants being here,” Core said.

He added that researchers also found that migrants spend between 50 and 75 percent of their wages in local communities, generating income for businesses.

The Farm Bureau’s Nye agreed that it’s important to maintain good conditions for migrant workers so that they return each year.

“If you treat them well, they come back. We have to be good stewards of our employees so they will treat you as an employer well by working hard. It’s about having a good working relationship,” he said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: State Agencies

Dog owners, breeders mobilize for their rights

By MEGAN DURISIN
Capital News Service

LANSING – A new non-profit group is hounding the Capitol to protect the rights of dog owners.

Protect MI Dogs plans to promote legislation to benefit purebred dog owners, as well as people who are just interested in having family pets “to curl up by the fireplace,” said President Mark Jaeger of Mason.

“Down the road, there’s some things going on with animal rights organizations that have the goal of not allowing companion animals any longer,” Jaeger said.

Many people involved in the group have an interest in purebred dogs, including members of specialty breed clubs and professional trainers.

“If people want to have pets, someone has to breed them and we’d rather have it be someone in-state than having to import dogs from Missouri, Kansas or overseas,” said Jaeger, who also is the president of the Ingham County Kennel Club. “Some states are doing that already.”

Animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the U.S. Humane Society are active in trying to control dog populations, said Al Stinson of Williamston, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan Pure Bred Dogs Association and Michigan Hunting Dog Federation – alliances of about 50 clubs around the state.

Stinson said there are bills pending across the nation to limit the number of dogs anyone can own. Other proposals would require all dogs to be spayed or neutered and outlaw hunting with dogs, all of which his groups and the American Kennel Club oppose.

None of these have been proposed as bills in the Michigan legislature.

“There’s a strong group that want to eliminate the term ‘animal owner’ and replace it with ‘animal guardian,’” said Stinson, a retired professor at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

He said animal cruelty groups define cruelty too broadly and under some definitions, “cleaning out a fish tank and dumping 10 guppies down the drain can be classified as a felony.”

Stinson said anyone who enjoys dogs treats them humanely and all purebred breeders in the state breed responsibly by having them tested for genetic disease. Breeders want to improve the health and quality of life of dogs by producing healthy animals that can live long lives.

The Michigan Humane Society, which has animal adoption centers in Detroit, Rochester Hills and Westland, does not oppose “responsible breeders” or ordinances that limit the number of pets a person can own, said public relations coordinator Jennifer Robertson.

“We are currently working on legislation for minimum care standards for animals in high-volume breeding facilities to make sure they are healthy, comfortable and well-cared for,” Robertson said.

The society also supports spaying and neutering pets to prevent overpopulation, she said. Its three centers care for 35,00 to 40,000 pets each year.

Dog shows are also an important part of the pet economy.

Speaking at the Capitol, Lt. Gov. John Cherry said the American Kennel Club estimates a weekend dog show can bring as much as $1 million to a local community. He used to participate in shows as a former breeder of springer spaniels.

“It’s a hobby that gives us joy,” Cherry said. “It’s important to teach responsible dog ownership.”

Stinson said there are 50 all-breed dog shows in Michigan with a total of 50,000 entries each year plus other shows for individual breeds and obedience and agility competitions.

“It’s a big business in Michigan and an important tourism attraction,” Stinson said. “There’s usually entries from 10 to 15 different states that come in for the shows.”

Erik Bergishagen, a Labrador retriever breeder from Troy and president of the Detroit Kennel Club, said its annual show at Cobo Hall is “prestigious” and brings 1,700 to 1,800 dogs over a weekend, as well as thousands of spectators.

“We have a benched dog show where dogs have to come in by 10 a.m. and don’t leave until 5 p.m.,” Bergishagen said. “There’s only five dog shows like this in the U.S.”

The other benched dog shows take place in Philadelphia, Chicago, San Franscisco and New York City, with the most famous being the Westminster Kennel Club’s show at Madison Square Garden, Bergishagen said.

“People from all over the country come and stay in our hotels,” Bergishagen said, noting that most other dog shows are “unbenched,” so participants can arrive shortly before their dog is showm and leave immediately after.

He said the boarding business has decreased in recent years with the declining economy because people aren’t traveling as much.

However, Jaeger said a lot of money is spent on dogs, and he touted their value to the state’s economy, with groomers, trainers, dog food companies and veterinarians all benefitting.

As a breeder of Brussels griffons, Jaeger owns eight dogs but said he typically has 12 to 14 dogs at a time, with vet bills of $5,000 to $6,000 a year.

“It all builds into keeping the state’s economy going,” Jaeger said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Social Policy

Immigrants more likely to hold white collar than farm jobs, study shows

By CHENQI GUO
Capital News Service

LANSING — Zheng Wang, a computer programmer analyst who works for the state, said hes very satisfied with my work and life.

I like the work environment here. The salary is good. I dont need to worry about medical insurance for me or anyone in my family, said Wang, who lives in Okemos.

Thirteen years ago, Wang came to the U.S. from China. After earning his masters degree in computer science at Michigan State University, he started to work for the state.

Wangs experience isnt the only immigrant success story in Michigan. And he doesnt fit the stereotype that most immigrants work on farms or in menial jobs.

According to a new analysis of population data, 36 percent of immigrants in the Detroit area hold managerial or professional jobs, 25 percent have technical, sales or administrative support jobs and only 17 percent work in service jobs.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, the principal author of the report, said, Part of the story is that there are not a lot of jobs for construction workers or food service workers in metro area economies that are growing slowly.

Detroit Metro area is the third-highest in the country in immigrants’ economic contribution ratio, which means immigrants there are more likely to be in higher-skilled jobs, he said.

The Detroit area has a smaller proportion of immigrants than the nation as a whole but they contribute heavily to the economy.

The study by the Fiscal Policy Institute in New York, found that areas with immigrants evenly distributed across a wide range types of jobs and professions are more likely to experience more economic growth.

The fastest-growing metropolitan areas—Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, Portland, Houston, Dallas—all have strong growth in immigrants share of the labor force.

On the other hand, the slowest-growing metro areas—Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Detroit—have among the slowest growth in immigrants share of the economy, according to the report.

However, Kallick cautioned that the study doesnt reflect the recent national economic downturn very well. The report is based on 2008 information

We dont have very good data for the recession yet. It’ll be really interesting to see the 2009 data, he said.

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Filed under: Social Policy

Bullying bill advances but need questioned

By BRANDON HOWELL
Capital News Service

LANSING – The House is considering a bill to require stricter action against bullying in public schools

But some St. Joseph County school administrators say the legislation is unnecessary and won’t make a difference.

“Districts have been doing an awful lot about bullying anyway,” Three Rivers Community Schools Superintendent Roger Rathburn said. “But often times, when an incident happens, there’s a lot of attention drawn to it.”

The renewed call for anti-bullying legislation comes in the wake of the reported suicide of a 12-year-old girl from the Upper Peninsula in March.

Rep. Matt Lori, R-Constantine, said he doesn’t see the need for the legislation.

“In my district, schools do a pretty good job taking care of those situations,” he said. “My initial gut reaction is things are fine as they are.”
The bill to require schools to adopt anti-bullying and investigate all bullying complaints was introduced by Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Township. The House Education passed the measure by a 17-3 vote, according to Byrnes’ office. It has been sent to the floor for further action.

Judy Kuczynski of Minnesota, president of Bully Police USA, a national watchdog organization advocating in favor of bullied children and monitoring state anti-bullying laws, said the legislation is necessary.

“The thing that legislation does is provide a standard from which schools can develop their polices and by which they can be judged and evaluated,” she said. “It also gives parents some teeth if they’re having issues so they can hold schools accountable.“

Rathburn said bullying has always been a problem for his district and for all school districts.

It’s something that’s continually addressed, he said. “We have seven guidance counselors in our district. Bullying is a big reason why.”

Rathburn said incidents of bullying are sometimes reported to and handled by principals and other administrators.

“I had an isolated incident about a week ago that a parent brought to me,” he said. “We researched it and brought closure to it by bringing those involved together.”

Three Rivers elementary schools have implemented a Michigan’s Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative program to address the problem, according to Rathburn.

“It does a lot of work with treating other kids – and adults, too – in an appropriate manner,” he said. “It’s about behavior in general and how it’s impacting others.”

Rathburn said the program will be available at Three Rivers Middle School next year.

Bullying differs case by case, Rathburn said. It also differs depending on the age of the children involved, he said.

“Each case should be researched and handled,” he said. “At the high school level, the issue is that kids tend not to report incidents as often.”

Robert Olsen, superintendent of Sturgis Public Schools, said he doesn’t see the need for anti-bullying legislation either.

“It’s hard to argue against any legislation that are seen by legislators as protecting the safety and wellbeing of the kids,” he said. “But we already have legislation, rules and board policies on bullying in place.”

However, Kuczynski said it takes more than just rules and policies to adequately handle bullying.

“Some schools may have programs in place,” she said, “but without every adult in the building committed to watching, you can’t depend on the kids to stick their necks out and take initiative.

“You can’t just tell kids, ‘Don’t bully!’ You’ve got to have adults watching and intervening.”

Olsen said bullying occurs in Sturgis schools but that the staff and faculty handle it well.

“We’re on the lookout for bullying incidents all the time and we address them as vigorously as we possibly can,” he said.

Sturgis schools take a proactive approach to bullying, Olsen said.

The schools invest a lot of time in educating kids on how to be respectful of others and how to deal with others who may be different, Olsen said.

“We have counselors that actively go into classrooms and, with teachers, teach conflict resolution,” he said.

Kuczynski countered that’s simply not enough.

“Schools want to deal with these things on their own, and I really understand and respect that,” she said. “But they’re not doing it.”

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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