“Blues Lives Matter” Legislation continues to be pushed in Lansing

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

It is no surprise that legislators in Michigan, like all across the US, have been pushing legislation that is in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, copying the same language, naming it as Blue Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matter movement has made the issue of police brutality and the role policing in the black community a larger part of our political discourse, especially since the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2015. Blue Lives Matter is not a movement, but a racist campaign by the state to present Blacks Lives Matter members as “a threat” to social order.

2015 was the first time that Michigan Legislators attempted to get a bill passed that would make it a more severe crime for people to target law enforcement officers. The proposed legislation was HB 4585, but it never was adopted. 

In May of 2017, a revised bill…

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CURMUDGUCATION: A Charter Is a Public School

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

A charter school is a public school


If it is owned and operated by the local community and their duly elected representatives. If you can call the people who run your school to talk about your school, and it’s not a long distance call, that might be a public school. If your school is run by a board of directors who must all stand for election by the taxpayers who foot the bill for your school, you are probably a public school.

If it is operated with financial transparency. If any taxpayer can walk into the main district office and request a copy of the budget and receive a copy, that’s a public school system. If you have the opportunity to call or meet with those local elected board members t argue about how your tax dollars are being spent, it’s probably a public school.

If it cannot turn down a single student from your community. Your school system may sort students into specialized schools, or it may pay the cost of sending Very Special Need students to Highly Specialized schools, but it cannot ever deny unilaterally responsibility for students just because they cost a lot of money or require specialized programs or just fail to behave compliantly. If your school system can’t wave a student off and say, “She’s not our problem,” your system is probably a public school system.

If it provides students and staff the full amount of  appropriate legal protections, it could be a public school.

If it operates in a building owned by the taxpayers, it could well be a public school.

If it operates under the assumption that it will stay in operation for as long as the community wants it there, and plans to be there for generations irregardless of how well the “business” is doing, it is probably a public school.

And if your school does not make budgeting choices based on the notion that the less money spent on the students, the more money some private individual gets to pocket, that’s a healthy sign of a public school.

If it meets all these standards, then your charter school is indeed a public school. If not– well, it may be a lovely, delightful, popular school, but it is not a public school. A private school that collects public tax dollars is still a private school.

And if your public school system no longer meets these standards (if, for instance, your elected local board has been replaced with state or mayoral control, that’s a sign that somebody is trying to privatize it, and may have partially succeeded.

You can say that a pig is a cow. You can dress it up in a cow suit and just keep insisting over and over that it’s a cow, correcting everyone who says differently. But at the end of the day, when you butcher it, you still get pork.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: A Charter Is a Public School

“Parents Aren’t Talking to Teens About Consent, Study Finds”

The Catalysts for Change

“There’s a LOT more to cover than sex.

When you’re heading off to college, there’s obviously a lot on your mind. What your roommate will be like, how hard your classes will be, where you’ll hang out on the weekends — and sex. Many people associate college with hookups and sex, but we’ve known for a while that people aren’t having quite as much sex as we might think. But it turns out many of us aren’t exactly prepared for the reality of sex on campus. According to a new study, our parents may play a pretty big part in that.

A study from Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, found that parents aren’t having the kind of conversations with kids about sex and relationships that maybe they should be. The study found parents aren’t having conversations with their kids that…

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Betsy DeVos Watch: Protests continue to follow the Secretary of Education across the country

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Friday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke in Seattle, Washington at a forum hosted by the Washington Policy Center.

Her speech was not unlike many of the other speeches she has given since becoming Secretary of Education, especially at forums hosted by organizations that have similar a ideological framework as DeVos. 

There were a couple of things during her speech that are worth noting. First, DeVos once again used the mantra of states rights to push her education agenda, commenting that states, “are best equipped to solve the unique problems they face.” Second, DeVos argues that public money is really the taxpayers money and therefore, shouldn’t parents be able to spend that money how they want in terms of education? I wonder if Betsy feels the same way about tax dollars that subsidize large corporations, like Amway. Does she think the public should be able…

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Some of New York’s Powerful Charter School Networks Win Right to Certify Their Own Teachers


The NY Times reports that on Wednesday, “The charter schools committee of SUNY’s Board of Trustees voted to approve regulations that will allow some (charter) schools to design their own teacher-training programs and certify their own teachers.”  This is, of course, the story of a charter-school-authorizing body in one state—a committee of the State University of New York’s Board of Trustees—that has been appointed to sponsor and oversee the operation and quality of charter schools.  But it is also a much bigger story about a nationwide problem: the influence of money and power on non-elected and unaccountable bodies that states have appointed to sponsor charter schools.

CHALKBEAT NY describes what the new rule will mean for the New York charter schools sponsored by SUNY’s Board of Trustees: “Dozens of charter schools across New York can now apply to certify their own teachers after the State University of New York’s charter…

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Banning e-cigarette flavors could boost cigarette sales – Journalist’s Resource

E-cigarettes come in over 7,000 flavors. If the flavors were banned, as American regulators wish, more people are likely to smoke traditional cigarettes.


Smoking costs the American economy over $300 million annually, according to government figures. Each year, cigarettes kill almost half a million people prematurely; another 40,000 die from exposure to second-hand smoke.

So e-cigarettes might be cause for celebration. From a harm-reduction perspective, “vape pens,” as they’re also known, may be a good alternative to what researchers call “combustible cigarettes.” They do not emit second-hand smoke and may even help smokers quit.

Yet as e-cigarettes have exploded in popularity, regulators have grown concerned about the way they are marketed in over 7,000 flavors. The Food and Drug Administration tried and failed to ban the flavors in 2016, arguing that they appeal to children and that the long-term effect of e-cigarettes remains unknown.

A ban, however, could have unintended consequences, finds a 2017 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

John Buckell of Yale University and his team surveyed 2,031 adult American smokers and recent quitters about their preferences. Their findings present the net impact of different policy proposals, such as banning e-cigarette flavors, banning menthol cigarettes (the only flavor of traditional cigarettes allowed by American law) or banning both:

  • To reduce the use of combustible cigarettes the most, policymakers should ban only menthol cigarettes. This would cut the number of combustible smokers by 4.8 percent; 1.3 percent would stop smoking altogether and e-cigarette use would rise by 3.5 percent.
  • To reduce the use of all cigarette types, policymakers should ban both menthol cigarettes and e-cigarette flavors. The number of combustible cigarette smokers would rise by 2.7 percent, yet overall the number of smokers would fall 5.2 percent.
  • By contrast, the FDA’s proposed ban on all e-cigarette flavors would increase the number of combustible smokers: 8.3 percent of e-cigarette smokers would switch to combustible smokes and 3 percent would quit altogether.

Check out other research on public health and smoking.

Last updated: October 6, 2017

READ MORE HERE: Banning e-cigarette flavors could boost cigarette sales – Journalist’s Resource

Farmed versus wild: Research worth reviewing if you enjoy salmon

The debate over farmed salmon raises a number of health and environmental questions. This explainer and research review will help journalists sort through the noise.



Evidenced by the rapidly growing salmon-farm industry, salmon is one of the world’s most popular fish. The volume of farmed Atlantic salmon increased almost 1,000 percent between 1990 and 2015, according to United Nations statistics; 75 percent of all the salmon we eat is farm-raised. Wild-caught salmon, meanwhile, has become a luxury; it’s harder to find and generally more expensive.

Aquaculture is often hailed as a solution to feeding our growing planet. A 2017 study in Nature Ecology & Evolution estimates that fish farms could produce 15 billion tons of fish per year, over 100 times more seafood than humans currently eat. In the case of Atlantic salmon — the most popular farmed variety — these farms consist of large cages anchored offshore, primarily in Norway, Chile, Canada and Scotland. The sea cages are susceptible to parasites like sea lice and other predators, which pisciculturists often fight with pesticides and other chemicals.

Fish farm
(Wikimedia commons/Asc1733)

A growing body of research — accompanied by an explosion of media reports with conflicting information — suggests consumers have questions about farmed salmon and the risks it could pose to their health and the environment. This brief overview will identify trends in academic research and media coverage: the risks of sea lice and pesticides, antibiotic use and ecological concerns.

READ MORE HERE – https://journalistsresource.org/studies/environment/food-agriculture/farmed-versus-wild-salmon-research-explainer


Life expectancy may now predict American partisanship 

Americans are not all enjoying the same life expectancy gains. The differences, when mapped by county, could have predicted the 2016 presidential election.

America in recent decades has seen increases in life expectancy, a proxy for quality health care. We gained, on average, 5.3 years between 1980 and 2014. But the uneven distribution of these gains may be influencing political affiliation.

Counties that enjoyed above-average gains overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, according to a forthcoming paper. The majority of people in counties with below-average gains voted for Donald Trump.

Boston University’s Jacob Bor presents these discoveries in the American Journal of Public Health. He also compares voter shares by party in 2008 and 2016, two recent presidential elections that lacked an incumbent.

  • In 781 counties, life expectancy increased less than 3 years between 1980 and 2014. In those areas, the Republican vote share grew 9.1 percentage points between 2008 and 2016.
  • In counties where life expectancy grew more than 7 years, Democrats saw vote share grow 3.5 percentage points.
  • For each year of life expectancy gain in a county, the Republican vote share fell 2.3 percentage points.

Bor suggests the opioid epidemic and diverging access to medical care are factors in this growing divide.

Last updated: September 27, 2017

Citation: Bor, Jacob. “Diverging Life Expectancies and Voting Patterns in the 2016 US Presidential Election.” American Journal of Public Health, October 2017. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303945.

Source: Life expectancy may now predict American partisanship – Journalist’s Resource

Kidnapping: For parents of school-age kids, turns out birth mothers, along with female relatives are most likely to abduct children 

Some key findings:

  • 4 percent of children in the sample had experienced family abduction or kidnapping and 1.2 percent had experienced it within the past year. Based on this information, the researchers estimate that 875,000 children a year – 12 per 1,000 — are either abducted or kidnapped by a relative.
  • Parents were the perpetrators in more than 90 percent of kidnappings and abductions. Mothers and female family members were responsible for the majority – 60 percent. However, fathers and male relatives were responsible for 64 percent of all kidnappings.
  • Children who have been abducted or kidnapped are more likely to be from low-income households and have separated, estranged or divorced parents. In two-parent families, an estimated nine children per 1,000 experience an abduction or kidnapping compared to 84 per 1,000 in single-parent households.
  • 43 percent of abductions and kidnappings were reported to the police, including 86 percent of family kidnappings.

READ MORE HERE: Mothers, female relatives are most likely to abduct children – Journalist’s Resource

Grand Rapids Bus Driver’s Union and Equity PAC trade words over November Transit Millage

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On November 7, voters in the Greater Grand Rapids area can vote on whether or not to renew an operational millage for The Rapid bus system.

The issue has been a contentious one for more than a year, mostly because The Rapid board has failed to reach a negotiation with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 836. 

In recent months the issue has become more intense, with the ATU engaging in actions around the millage, most recently their confronting of Grand Rapids Mayor Bliss on Labor Day.

Since then, the Kent County Democrats have sided with the ATU to not support the millage, unless there is a contract agreement reached before the November 7 Millage vote. Some political candidates have also sided with the ATU in not endorsing the Millage, such as Robert Van Kirk who is running for the 77th State House seat and Rachel Hood who is running…

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