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In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

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Brother O'Mara
Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Conflict of Interest in EM Ballot Challenge?

While state elections officials inspect petitions seeking a referendum that could overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law, one of the key decision-makers could have a conflict of interest. Rick Pluta reports:

One of the people in line to decide the fate of the referendum to challenge Michigan’s emergency manager law has a business interest in the outcome. Jeffrey Timmer is a partner at the Sterling Corporation. Sterling is a political consulting firm that works for the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. That’s the group that’s filed several technical challenges to the petition in an effort to keep the question off the ballot… While his firm tries to stop the referendum, Timmer also sits on the Board of State Canvassers. That’s the bipartisan panel that will make the initial ruling on the challenge. Timmer is a Republican who was appointed to the board in 2009. State elections officials say it is up to Timmer to decide whether he has a conflict and should recuse himself. Timmer did not return phone calls for comment.

EM for Muskegon Heights Schools

Governor Rick Snyder has determined a financial emergency exists in the Muskegon Heights school district. The next step is for the governor to appoint an emergency manager to the district. “Muskegon Heights Schools has run a deficit for at least six years in a row. The deficit is projected to be around $9.4 million by the end of this school year. Student enrollment has dropped by a third since 2006. Unlike any other city or school district, the school board in Muskegon Heights asked for a state takeover back in December. Emergency managers already run two school districts and four cities in Michigan. The City of Detroit is working under the terms of a consent agreement instead of an emergency manager,” Lindsey Smith reports.

High School Graduate Rates Remain Steady

The graduation rate for the high school class of 2011 in Michigan remained relatively steady compared to the previous year, despite new science and math requirements. Jennifer Guerra reports:

Wendy Zdeb-Roper is executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. She says most educators had "a certain degree of trepidation" when the requirements were introduced because they were concerned about graduation rates and how students would fare. According to the Center for Educational Performance and Information, the average graduation rate dropped by only a little more than two percent – from 76 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2011. The new high school requirements were approved by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm in 2006.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Radio’s Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.