Saturday Shorts: Michigan schools face credit downgrade

The Detroit News

For those who still think Michigan needs more than 540 separate traditional public school districts, Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the credit ratings of 43 systems. That’s a bad sign.

The action was taken because tight budgets have made the districts poorer credit risks. Schools face rising costs because of falling revenue from decreased student enrollment. Over the past 10 years, K-12 enrollment in Michigan public schools is down 11.1 percent, falling to below 1.5 million this past school year from just under 1.7 million in 2003.

The downgrades can increase a district’s cost to borrow money. Thus more tax dollars are used to pay interest instead of going into school programs.

With the birth rates remaining low, school districts will continue to lose students. Yet districts are still burdened with fixed costs for buildings, employees and pensions. Schools need to prepare for shrinking student populations while trying to avoid losing credit standing.

From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to merge.

Overblown controversy at OCC

Someone is trying to create a controversy at Oakland Community College, but it’s unfounded.

A story about the college not being able to confer online degrees because it lacks accreditation was exaggerated to the point where many students thought all such courses were being canceled this year.

That’s not the case. Sharon Miller, vice chancellor of external affairs, says the college applied too early for the accreditation, and that it will submit the needed paperwork next September.

She stresses OCC is accredited to offer online courses that will be available this year.

“(Online degree accreditation) is something that wasn’t a top priority for this college,” Miller said. “Only 1 percent of the students take all of their classes online. Most, 88 percent, do not take any online courses. The balance take a mixture of in-class and online courses.”

Moving away from youth crime

If Gov. Rick Snyder wants an example of success in dealing with juvenile crime for his criminal justice initiative, he should look to the S.T.A.N.D. program in the 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit.

This week, special ceremonies were conducted for 12 youths who graduated from the Supervised Treatment for Alcohol and Narcotic Dependency program, geared to promoting healthy communities by working to eliminate juvenile substance abuse. Since 2000, when it was started, more than 200 youths have successfully completed the program.

John Nevin, communications director for the Michigan Supreme Court, notes there are 15 similar juvenile drug programs throughout the state.

The State Court Administrative Office monitors the programs to keep track of their operation and their success. Research done by the office indicates that such graduates not only have a lower recidivism rate, but also improve their educational status.

Based on the results, other counties that don’t have such juvenile treatment programs would do well to emulate S.T.A.N.D.