If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Michigan might have something to learn from Florida.
The West Michigan Policy Forum sure hopes so.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (commonly known as the nation’s “report card”), Florida is one of the few states that has shown real student improvement in K-12 education in recent years. Last year, more than 86,000 Florida students graduated with job-ready industry certifications, preparing them for work in high-demand fields.
WMPF last week announced Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, will speak at the organization’s biennial conference Sept. 24 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
During his eight years as governor, Bush introduced a suite of education reforms called “The Florida A+ Plan for Education.” The reforms included bringing transparency and accountability through specific school measurements that parents could understand. Schools in Florida now are graded A-F, tied to student performance.
“We adopted an accountability formula based on students’ academic performance, requiring schools to focus resources on elevating achievement. Our letter grade system gave parents a ready tool to assess school quality and make informed choices for their children,” Bush said.
He will help headline a series of discussions and policy initiatives during the WMPF tied to improving Michigan’s ability to grow, attract and retain talent.
WMPF also announced Arthur Brooks will be the conference’s keynote speaker. Brooks plans to provide a fresh look at the workforce and how gaps can be filled to bring people back to work.
Brooks, an American social scientist, serves as the president of the American Enterprise Institute, as well as a bestselling author and regular columnist for The New York Times. He also is a frequent guest on MSNBC and CNBC. Based in Washington D.C., he works closely with political and intellectual scholars and policymakers to fight for all Americans’ access to enterprise and earned success.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Brooks as a keynote speaker in this year’s critically important conference,” said John Kennedy, chair of the WMPF. “With a historically low 4.6 percent unemployment rate, businesses are seeking talent and workers in every area, and we need to learn more from cultural thought leaders like Brooks as he brings new perspectives and strategies on how to bring people back to the workforce by expressing why work matters.”
Brooks also has written 11 bestselling books on topics that include the role of government, economic opportunity, fairness, happiness and the morality of free enterprise.
Need for speed
A major internet service provider has increased the speeds of select internet tiers for Michigan customers.
Comcast has increased download speeds for Xfinity Blast! and Xfinity Extreme 150 tiers as of July. Blast! download speeds are up from 100 Mbps to 150 Mbps, while Extreme 150 has been raised from 150 Mbps to 250 Mbps.
“We want to ensure our customers have all the speed necessary to power the growing number of devices they are connecting to and controlling in the home,” said Tim Collins, regional senior vice president for Comcast in Michigan. “For Comcast, we are constantly enhancing the value of our service, whether that’s by boosting speeds, building out our Wi-Fi and fiber networks or introducing industry-leading innovations like Xfinity xFi.”
To upgrade to the higher speeds, most customers will only need to restart their modems, which either can be done via the xFi app, through the Xfinity My Account app or manually. Customers who lease modems from Comcast and need a new one can upgrade to an xFi Gateway for no additional cost.
According to Comcast, about 75 percent of Michigan customers are subscribed to these two internet tiers.
Comcast also increased download speeds of its Blast!, Performance and Performance Starter tiers in Michigan in December 2017.
The Native American Heritage Fund Board selected projects in three Michigan communities to be the fund’s first grant recipients.
The 2018 grants approved include: Belding Area Schools, $334,690.60, to support the replacement of equipment, apparel and signage following revision of the district’s mascot from Redskins to Blackhawks; city of Battle Creek, $3,377.50, to assist with removal and replacement of a stained glass window medallion in city hall; and city of Kalamazoo, $76,765, to assist with the removal of the Fountain of Pioneers and site improvements at Bronson Park.
Six other applications still are under consideration by the NAHF board for possible funding in 2018.
Michigan’s K-12 schools, colleges, universities and local units of government were eligible for funding through the NAHF to defray the costs of projects that promote positive relationships and accurate information about the history and role of Michigan’s Indian tribes and Native Americans in the state.
The fund, which was approved in 2016 as part of the Second Amendment to the Tribal-State Gaming Compact between the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and the state of Michigan, allocates a portion of NHBP’s state revenue sharing payments to the NAHF.
Up to $500,000 per year from NHBP's state revenue sharing payments go into the fund.
A five-member board governs the fund: two members appointed by the NHBP; two members appointed by the governor of Michigan; and the director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights or their designee.
The 31st annual Grand Rapids Ophthalmology Drive for Vision Charity Golf Outing raised $62,000 to benefit community members whose lives are improved by the services of the Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired and the Grand Rapids Lions Club Vision Clinic at Cherry Health.
Over the past three decades, more than $700,000 has been raised by the golf outing.
“We are grateful to all who have contributed to the success of the event over the years. Generous support has aided many thousands of people in our community challenged by vision loss and the need keeps growing,” said Bill Hughson, CEO of Blue Sky Vision, a company created in early 2017 through a partnership between Grand Rapids Ophthalmology and Sterling Partners. “Eye health is our passion, and this event is an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for local, nonprofit organizations.”
Each year, the Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired helps more than 1,000 family members, friends and neighbors who live with blindness or severe vision loss to live more independently. Annually, the Grand Rapids Lions Club Vision Clinic at Cherry Health provides eye care and glasses to more than 12,000 people.
Researchers estimate 80 percent of the sensory information the brain receives comes from the eyes, and most Americans report that, of all disabilities, loss of eyesight would have the greatest impact on their daily life.
“On behalf of the Grand Rapids Lions Club, we deeply value the success derived from our longstanding partnership with Grand Rapids Ophthalmology,” said Kyle Travis, Grand Rapids Lions Club board member and chairman of the Drive for Vision golf outing.