MI Sen. Gary Peters calls for investing, expanding healthcare

January 30, 2017

Dear Mr. Salisbury,

Thank you for contacting me about Medicare. I appreciate you taking the time to express your views. Your input is, and will always be, welcomed and appreciated.

I have consistently supported legislation to keep health care costs low and expand access to health care for Americans. Medicare helps to ensure seniors and people with disabilities have access to quality health care at a cost they can afford. With over 1.8 million Michiganders receiving benefits, I am committed to strengthening Medicare and protecting it from cuts and efforts to privatize benefits. On December 7, 2016, I signed a letter to President-elect Trump urging him to live up to his campaign promise of defending Medicare and Medicaid by speaking out against proposals to privatize Medicare benefits and raise the eligibility age. I plan to hold his administration accountable and fight attempts to make any Medicare changes that would threaten the health care coverage of millions of Americans.

I believe Congress must act to extend Medicare’s solvency in a way that improves care and protects benefits. We need to invest in prevention, promote efficiency, and adopt cost-saving technologies. In 2010, I voted for provisions in the Affordable Care Act, which significantly improved care for seniors and extended the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by 12 years. However, I recognize our work is not done and that there is more we can do to protect the long-term solvency of Medicare without reducing benefits. That is why I am proud to have introduced the Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act, which expands coverage of medical nutrition therapy services to Medicare-eligible individuals with pre-diabetes or other risk factors for developing type-2 diabetes. Our nation currently spends $322 billion per year treating individuals with diabetes and pre-diabetes at a significant cost to our Medicare program. In addition, I introduced the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, which would pave the way for Medicare to cover additional telehealth services and expand access to health care in rural areas. These bipartisan, fiscally responsible bills have the potential to save Medicare billions of dollars by improving its focus on preventive care, access to care, and health care innovation.

I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to craft responsible legislation that honors our commitment to our nation’s seniors and people with disabilities and protects critical health and retirement programs for hardworking American families. Should legislation relating to Medicare reach the Senate floor, I will be sure to keep your views in mind.

Thank you again for contacting me. I always enjoy hearing from you and hope that you take the time to contact me again soon. For more information, please feel free to visit my website, http://www.peters.senate.gov, or find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @SenGaryPeters.


Gary C. Peters
United States Senator
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From High School Reporter to National Correspondent

When John Eligon wrote for the Northview High School newspaper, he dreamed of reporting on the Olympics while having fun interviewing classmates. 

Local Grad Covers Race Issues for The New York Times

by Charles Honey  

When John Eligon wrote for the Northview High School newspaper, he dreamed of reporting on the Olympics while having fun interviewing classmates. But as one of four black students in his graduating class of 2000, he also found greater Grand Rapids a pretty conservative place where it was hard to have a meaningful conversation about race.

When he returned to his hometown shortly before Christmas, Eligon came as a reporter for The New York Times, covering issues of race, gun violence and polarized politics. What he found was a city with a more vibrant urban culture and more political nuance than the one he remembered.

“It’s a rediscovery of a new Grand Rapids that I never knew,” Eligon said, sitting in The Bitter End, one of the many coffeehouses that have sprung up since he left. “It’s been pretty cool to talk to various stakeholders in the community.”

Eligon will share his insights with Times readers, in an upcoming story about how the nation’s post-election political divide looks from the vantage point of West Michigan. Spurred by President Donald Trump’s rally at DeVos Place just after midnight on Election Day, Eligon came back for the first time in 11 years to take the community’s political pulse. His reporting revealed a more complex picture than the stereotypical Dutch conservative heartland.

“It’s somewhat unique politically,” Eligon said. “The city itself is very Democratic, but the big money is very Republican. You have Republicans who are funding ArtPrize, which is more of a liberal type thing. You have Republicans funding developments that are bringing millennials, who tend to be more liberal.”

Despite culture clashes over issues like gay marriage, liberals and conservatives come together when it comes to investing in the city, he added: “Blue or red, people put green above that.”

– See more at: http://www.schoolnewsnetwork.org/index.php/2016-17/high-school-reporter-national-correspondent/#sthash.MnO4eYNh.dpuf

Source: From High School Reporter to National Correspondent

Trump’s Executive Order On Obamacare Means Everything And Does Nothing | FiveThirtyEight blog

As promised, on his first day in office, President Donald Trump took steps to undo the Affordable Care Act, former President Obama’s signature health care law.

As promised, on his first day in office, President Donald Trump took steps to undo the Affordable Care Act, former President Obama’s signature health care law. In one of his first executive orders, Trump pushed the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies to begin weakening the law. The meaning of the executive order is both subtle and bold; on the one hand, it does very little because it doesn’t grant the administration any powers that it didn’t already have. On the other hand, it signals to the public that change is coming and lets employees at HHS know that they’d better be part of that change.

Section 2 of the order instructs the secretary of HHS to “exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” parts of the law that would place a fiscal burden on states, individuals or health-care providers. Most of the provisions in the ACA can’t just be changed by HHS or the president; they require action from Congress or a lengthy period involving public comment. Which is why it’s reasonable to assume this line is targeted at the things HHS can change, like the individual mandate. The individual mandate, which requires most people to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, has always been the most contentious part of the law.

At least, that’s how the mandate was interpreted during the Obama administration. In reality, the secretary of HHS can grant hardship exemptions to the mandate as she sees fit. Under the Obama administration, the hardship exemptions were granted to people who earned below 138 percent of the federal poverty limit and lived in states that didn’t expand Medicaid, or experienced a handful of other life circumstances, including homelessness or domestic violence.

But there’s nothing preventing the HHS secretary from granting hardship exemptions to everyone who doesn’t have insurance, rendering the mandate meaningless. If he’s confirmed, Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead HHS, could have granted blanket hardship exemptions before the executive order was issued, but in case there was any question, the folks at HHS now have their bosses’ itemized list of priorities.

Read the full blog post here: Trump’s Executive Order On Obamacare Means Everything And Does Nothing | FiveThirtyEight

Three Days Into Trump’s Presidency, 45 Percent Of Americans Disapprove Of His Performance | FiveThirtyEight Blog

President Trump has been in office for three days, and on Monday he got his first job approval rating. Forty-five percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance; 45 percent disapprove, according to Gallup. That’s an improvement on his low favorability ratings, but it’s not good. Indeed, it’s the lowest job approval rating for any new president since at least Harry Truman in 1945 (as far back as we have polling), and it suggests Trump failed to take full advantage of the transition period to build support.

Every president before Trump started their first term with the approval of a majority of the country.

Read more here: Three Days Into Trump’s Presidency, 45 Percent Of Americans Disapprove Of His Performance | FiveThirtyEight

States’ Teacher Evaluation Systems Now “All over the Map” | VAMboozled!

VAMboozled!A blog by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley

VAMboozled!Source: States’ Teacher Evaluation Systems Now “All over the Map” | VAMboozled!

States’ Teacher Evaluation Systems Now “All over the Map”

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We are now just one year past the federal passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), within which it is written that states must no longer set up teacher-evaluation systems based in significant part on their students’ test scores. As per a recent article written in Education Week, accordingly, most states are still tinkering with their teacher evaluation systems—particularly regarding the student growth or value-added measures (VAMs) that were also formerly required to help states assesses teachers’ purported impacts on students’ test scores over time.

“States now have a newfound flexibility to adjust their evaluation systems—and in doing so, they’re all over the map.” Likewise, though, “[a] number of states…have been moving away from [said] student growth [and value-added] measures in [teacher] evaluations,” said a friend, colleague, co-editor, and occasional writer on this blog (see, for example, here and here) Kimberly Kappler Hewitt (University of North Carolina at Greensboro).  She added that this is occurring “whether [this] means postponing [such measures’] inclusion, reducing their percentage in the evaluation breakdown, or eliminating those measures altogether.”

While states like Alabama, Iowa, and Ohio seem to still be moving forward with the attachment of students’ test scores to their teachers, other states seem to be going “back and forth” or putting a halt to all of this altogether (e.g, California). Alaska cut back the weight of the measure, while New Jersey tripled the weight to count for 30% of a teacher’s evaluation score, and then introduced a bill to reduce it back to 0%. In New York teacher are to still receive a test-based evaluation score, but it is not to be tied to consequences and completely revamped by 2019. In Alabama a bill that would have tied 25% of a teacher’s evaluation to his/her students’ ACT and ACT Aspire college-readiness tests has yet to see the light of day. In North Carolina state leaders re-framed the use(s) of such measures to be more for improvement tool (e.g., for professional development), but not “a hammer” to be used against schools or teachers. The same thing is happening in Oklahoma, although this state is not specifically mentioned in this piece.

While some might see all of this as good news — or rather better news than what we have seen for nearly the last decade during which states, state departments of education, and practitioners have been grappling with and trying to make sense of student growth measures and VAMs — others are still (and likely forever will be) holding onto what now seems to be some of the now unclenched promises attached to such stronger accountability measures.

Namely in this article, Daniel Weisberg of The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and author of the now famous “Widget Effect” report — about “Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness” that helped to “inspire” the last near-decade of these policy-based reforms — “doesn’t see states backing away” from using these measures given ESSA’s new flexibility. We “haven’t seen the clock turn back to 2009, and I don’t think [we]’re going to see that.”

Citation: Will, M. (2017). States are all over the map when it comes to how they’re looking to approach teacher-evaluation systems under ESSA. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/01/04/assessing-quality-of-teaching-staff-still-complex.html?intc=EW-QC17-TOC&_ga=1.138540723.1051944855.1481128421

Wayland Weekly Good News | Smore

Source: Wayland Weekly Good News | Smore

January 23-27, 2017


Mrs. Licari’s 3rd graders enjoyed a fun physical science lesson this week demonstrating changes of state. First they started with a liquid, and created a solid with a temperature change (Freezing), then they created a liquid again with another temperature change (melting). These two concepts were not new to students, but when they fried up poor old Frosty and watched the liquid evaporate and then condense on the glass lid and return back to a liquid, NOW they had some excitement going on! Students learned lots of new vocabulary words and some realistic visuals for understanding.

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Wayland Chartwells Food Service recently purchased a Smoothie Bike to encourage students to eat a healthy breakfast. Students watched as staff helped prepare the fruit smoothies by riding the bike! Breakfast smoothies were made at Baker, Dorr, Steeby and Pine Street Elementary.
Baker Music Teacher presents at Michigan Music Conference


Jennifer Bailey, Baker Elementary Music Teacher, presented at the Michigan Music Conference on Friday, Jan. 20 at the Amway Grand in Grand Rapids. Her program was titled “Using Centers in the Elementary Music Classroom.”


Baker Elementary enjoyed the Jump with Jill program this week! This rock & roll nutrition show uses dance and music to celebrate healthy habits by transforming nutrition education into a live concert. The show encourages students to respect their bodies through healthy choices, fuel their engines with the best energy, get going with breakfast, enjoy natures candy (fruit), eat superpower vegetables, exercise daily, drink water, and get calcium for strong bones.

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Dorr’s Special Education Program Receives Grant


Casey Demmink and Cierra Onken received a grant from the MAASE (Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education). The Level 2 program at Dorr was chosen by MAASE to receive a $500 grant for sensory swimming at the YMCA. Students will attend the YMCA swimming facility in Grandville once a month for the remainder of the year. Mrs. Williams, WUS OT will be facilitating lessons and visits to help with gross motor skills and Mrs. Robin Sidebotham, School Social Worker, will be facilitating lessons and visits to help with social skills/community interaction. The money will cover student’s attendance at the YMCA and be able to help some students purchase swim suits, towels and goggles if needed.


Students from Mrs. Pressey’s Kindergarten class were having fun reading books in their Cereal Castle! Students collect cereal boxes to make a large castle in the classroom. They talk about the environmental print and the different letters and words they can recognize.

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Dorr's Student Council Joins PBIS Meeting


Dorr Elementary held a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) meeting before school this week. The newly formed Student Council attended to give their input.


Don’t miss the Young Americans Concert on Saturday, January 28 at 6pm at the Wayland Union Fine Arts Center. The Young Americans cast of 45 will perform the first act and the the students (over 130 WUS students) will perform the second act. is Tickets are $10/adults and $8/students and can be purchased at the door. Doors open at 5:30pm.
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CURMUDGUCATION: More Discouraging USED Appointments

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: More Discouraging USED Appointments

More Discouraging USED Appointments

The Trump Department of Education continues to shape up as a place that is, perhaps, more about patronage than education.

Today we have word from the Huffington Post that a memo from Jason Botel (another supremely reformy appointment as Senior White House Adviser for Education) that the following folks have been brought into the department:

Derrick Bolen
Debbie Cox-Roush
Kevin Eck
Holly Ham
Ron Holden
Amy Jones
Andrew Kossack
Cody J. Reynolds
Patrick Shaheen
Teresa UnRue
Josh Venable
Eric Ventimiglia
Beatriz Ramos
Jerry Ward
Patrick Young

The name that has attracted the most attention is Teresa UnRue, a 2010 grad of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh whose background is graphic design and printing and who served as an advance organizer for the Trump campaign in South Carolina. She’s also apparently given to plenty of racist tweeting. She’s passed along hi-larious Mexican jokes and a knee-slapping joke about how blacks should stop whining because they aren’t slaves any more. Ladies and gentlemen, your new Department of Education.

[Update: Politico reports that UnRue’s name has disappeared from the list of new hires. Whatever she was going to do for USED, apparently someone else is taking on that work.]

What about the rest of the list? Well, Dr. Google’s work must always be taken with a grain of salt, but here’s what I can find this morning.

There’s a Derrick Bolen who is a regional field director for the Republican National Committee who graduated from Liberty University in 2016 with a BS in Political Science and Government.

 Debbie Cox Roush has already updated her LinkedIN account to show her as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the US Department of Education. Her previous experience is running DCR Creative Solutions of Florida, “an advocacy consulting and events Management Company.” She was the Florida State Grassroots Director for the Trump campaign (she previously worked for Rubio). She’s been politically active, has not always played well with fellow GOPs, but has little education background at all (Georgetown College, BA in History/Education, 1976).

There’s a Kevin Eck who is a professional wrestler who says that Donald Trump is not fit to be in the WWE Hall of Fame. I’m guessing that’s not our guy. There are a lot of Kevin Ecks out there.

Holly Ham has also updated her LinkedIn profile. The former Hewlett Packard sales exec and management consultant was a program adviser for the Trump campaign’s data operations. Education background? Not so much.

Ron Holden is probably not the Seattle-based R&B singer, but you should totally check him out. 

Amy Jones? Another name that’s hard to filter down.

 Andrew Kossack is straight from the Richard Fairbanks Foundation in Indiana, a money-shuttling service for Indianapolis grant-seekers. Before that, Indiana Department of Revenue commissioner and chief of staff, before that a Deputy Policy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and before that on the staff of Governor Mike Pence. He did spend about seventeen months in positions with “education” in the title. But his political and reformy connections are clearly strong.

Cody Reynolds. Not sure.

Patrick Shaheen has a Trump-loving twitter account and appears to have ties to New Hampshire, which makes me think he’s this guy— a field director for both the NH Republican State Committee and the Americans for Prosperity. Shaheen has attended many schools on his path toward lawyering, but none have intersected with education.

Josh Venable  helped prepare Betsy DeVos for her hearing after previously trying to help Jeb Bush get elected. He’s also a former board member of FEE.

Eric Ventimiglia worked as a legislative aid and constituents relations manager for the Michigan House of Representatives. He graduated from Oakland University with a BA in Poli Sci in 2007.

Beatriz Ramos– well, there was a travel aide for the Lt. Governor of Florida by that name involved in a briefly salacious scandal. Jerry Ward has a notably common name. Ditto Patrick Young.

I should note that none of the names I couldn’t narrow down included people who were noted or accomplished educators.

Mostly what we have here are political operatives being rewarded. Apparently that’s the USED mission– reward folks for their assistance to political leaders.Let’s hope that eventually one or two people who actually know about public education sneak in there somewhere.

CURMUDGUCATION: ICYMI: Has it only been a week edition (1/29)

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: ICYMI: Has it only been a week edition (1/29)

ICYMI: Has it only been a week edition (1/29)

It is really hard to keep a focus strictly on education these days, and yet tomorrow morning, those of us who teach will be headed back into our classrooms whether the world is burning or not.

Media Consensus on Failing Schools Paved Way for DeVos

Making the case that years of repeating that “everybody knows” how badly schools are failing set us all up for someone like Betsy DeVos.

Channeling My Rage

Mary Holden on finding a way to turn frustration and anger into positive action.

What Taxpayers Should Know About the Public Cost of School Choice

Valerie Strauss and Carol Burris take a look at what school choice really does to public schools.

Can the President Handle the Truth

Yet another excellent response to that ignorant “flush with cash” line

Chris Christie Bashes Teachers, But Now Noone Cares

Jersey Jazzman notes that Christie has returned to his standard fallback in troubled times– those damned teachers. But this time it’s not enough to save his butt.


As our congresspersons make themselves harder and harder to contact (well, harder if you don’t have a bunch of money to flash), it’s necessary to get more creative. This website will let you send a free fax to your senator without even registering or setting up an account.


CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Friend$ of DeVos

Friend$ of DeVos

If you follow the many pieces about Presumptive Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, you will notice that there are folks who stand up for her as a super-duper prospect for Secretary of Education.

For instance, Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal spoke up for her hometown girl Betsy, and was, according to released emails, prepared to accept an all-expenses-paid trip to DC to give a public school stamp of approval to the private charter school face of Betsy DeVos. The DeVos organization American Federation for Children was all set to foot the bill– and at no extra charge, they were throwing in some dandy talking points that Neal could use while in DC. All heart, those AFC folks.

In fact, the talking points were so thorough that if Neal was questioned by reporters about how a public school superintendent from Michigan just happened to be sitting behind DeVos providing helpful optics, she needn’t worry about how to respond to that– just say

I’m proud and honored to be a guest of Secretary of Education-designate DeVos and confident she’ll be an effective, compassionate and innovative Secretary of Education.

The rescheduling of the hearing threw off the travel plans, which included a steak dinner and a night at the Marriot, costs for which fall roughly into the “loose money we dig out of the sofa cushions” category for the DeVos clan.

DeVos friendships often are tied up in money; witness the Senate Democrat’s inquiry into the several school business operators who have sent dark money floating her way. Nothing nefarious there– just being friendly with a woman who may soon decide the fate of education entrepreneurs.

But nobody is a better friend of Betsy DeVos than the organization Friends of Betsy DeVos. Here they are defending her a few days ago in the Washington Post, where they speak out against returning to “pre-Watergate” ethics standards where partisanship determines who gets chased.

Well, actually, Ed Patru spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos said it.

Patru is a busy friend, and yet, it seems that he is perhaps the only friend. I’ve looked for the organization on line and cannot find hide nor hair of it. Mercedes Schneider, who has an advanced degree in Look-It-Up-And-Hunt-It-Down-Ology, can’t find anything, either. Just a string of articles with Patru leaping to DeVos’s defense.

The most likely explanation is that Patru is paid to be Betsy’s friend, and that he is a group all by himself.

Patru is currently a vice-president at DCI, a PR firm whose self-description is “an independent public affairs consulting firm that specializes in public relations, crisis management, grassroots engagement, and digital advocacy.” A Michigan native, Patru has logged a lot of time with GOP contests, serving at one point with the House Republican Committee. Back in 2008 the Daily KOS was wondering if he was the new Karl Rove. Patru mentions that he worked on John McCain’s 2000 Presidential campaign as Michigan media specialist; he also helmed the Senate campaign of Linda McMahon (wife of wrestling mogul Vince McMahon).

He’s had some cute spats with other operatives like Jen Crider as part of his time with Freedom’s Watch, the attempt to launch a conservative MoveOn that ultimately failed due, reportedly, to lots of infighting. After FW folded, Patru launched his own firm Amplifico which was supposed to provide “corporations and business coalitions with a fully staffed presidential-campaign-style war room on a contractual basis.” Patru said that 

Amplifico is prepared to participate in today’s high speed news cycle, providing campaigns with “a turn-key, fully functional 24-hour war room [paired] with aggressive online or offline public relations.”

Which seems kind of like what he’s doing for DeVos right now.

Annnd once upon a time he was the spokesman of the American Automobile Dealers Association.

Friends of Betsy DeVos doesn’t have a twitter account, but Ed Patru does, and I’ve asked him to let me know who else is in the club with him. I’ll let you know if he replies.

In the meantime, Betsy DeVos displays another characteristic common to many reformsters– most of her “friends” are people to whom she has some sort of financial ties. They pay her, she pays them, everyone pays each other. It remains to be seen just how much she intends to turn USED into a pay-to-play business, but at least as long as the department and its secretary have a bunch of money, they will never run out of friends.

Betsy DeVos’ spokesperson, Ed Patru, works for a Washington “crisis management” firm that specializes in building “astroturf” groups | Eclectablog

Mitchell Robinson has posted a new item, ‘Betsy DeVos’ spokesperson, Ed Patru, works for a Washington “crisis management” firm that specializes in building “astroturf” groups’, at Eclectablog

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Source: Betsy DeVos’ spokesperson, Ed Patru, works for a Washington “crisis management” firm that specializes in building “astroturf” groups | Eclectablog