detroit schools

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Members of the Detroit Board of Education have voted to reject a set of state-proposed loans to help bail-out the struggling district.

Last week, Governor Snyder signed off on a $617 million package to create a new, debt-free Detroit school system. The two rejected loans are part of the state's bail-out plan and total $385 million.

Board president LaMar Lemmons says the interest rates on the loans are too high.

The latest re-invention of public schools in Detroit is underway with the state trying yet again to overhaul the district facing huge financial and academic difficulties.

But it’s still too early to declare victory.

This new plan out of Lansing is without the support of legislative Democrats, the Detroit delegation and Mayor Mike Duggan. But it does return the Detroit public schools back to the control of a locally elected school board. This is coming after many state appointed emergency managers over seven years have tried but failed to turn around the district.

Teacher sick-outs closed up more than Detroit Public Schools at the beginning of May
user frank juarez / Flickr

The bailout of the Detroit Public Schools passed by the legislature and awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder's signature includes a provision to allow uncertified teachers.

Those who support the move say that it would help address a growing teacher shortage and allow more professionals who have a passion for teaching to enter the classroom. Detractors say that it discredits the skill and craft of teaching and is just a political move to weaken teachers' unions. 

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state-appointed manager of Detroit Public Schools laid out his plan to turn the struggling district around during a public meeting Tuesday night.

Judge Steven Rhodes told a hostile crowd that included teachers, students and community members that he's trying to set a path for long-term success for students and educators.

Dozens of people at the meeting repeatedly interrupted Rhodes during his presentation.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan with students at the Detroit Promise Zone scholarship announcement.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit is joining the list of Michigan communities offering “promise zone” college scholarships.

The program, enacted by state lawmakers years ago, but never implemented in Detroit until now, guarantees any Detroit high school graduate two years' tuition at five Metro Detroit community colleges.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A coalition of business and community leaders continues to push for reform and repair of Detroit's education system.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children's co-chairs held a press conference today to discuss the current state of the Detroit education landscape, and to renew a call for action to lawmakers.

Well, the governor is finally paying attention to the water scandal in Flint, and there seems to be general recognition that the state really screwed up. Even Rick Snyder said as much yesterday, though in convoluted language.

Children were poisoned because of actions taken by state government, and finally, belatedly, there’s an effort to do something about it.

But children are being irreversibly harmed in Detroit, too, and we’re not willing to do anything about it. I’m talking about the more than forty thousand kids who are still enrolled in the Detroit Public Schools. This time, this is not the governor’s fault.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

At least 50 Detroit schools are closed because teachers are absent, a protest that began last week over pay and general turmoil in the district.

The district posted the schools on its Facebook page Monday.

Former union president Steve Conn calls it a "continuation of the rolling strikes."

School officials warned families Sunday that "ongoing sick-outs" by teachers could keep kids at home.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Public schools in Detroit are looking at a rough year ahead.

Debt payments for Detroit Public Schools are already the highest of any school district in the state, but things are going to get even more dire next month.

Chad Livengood of The Detroit News' Lansing Bureau tells us that DPS will owe $26 million every month through 2016 to pay back this year’s operating debts, as well as debts carried over from previous years.

Dan Varner
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Many of Detroit’s potential workers are leaving school without the math or reading skills required to enter training programs.

There doesn’t seems to be a clear plan for educating Detroit’s children. There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan for training a future workforce.

Math flashcards
Ross Belmont / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Wayne State University is getting a $1.4 million grant to prepare elementary and middle school math teachers to teach in Detroit.

The grant from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program will help WSU recruit and train 56 new math teachers to teach in Detroit classrooms.

Marc Grassi watches his daughter, Franca, eat breakfast before her first day of school at St. Clare of Montefalco in Grosse Point Park, Michigan.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

On her first day of school, Franca Grassi woke up, ate a bowl of oatmeal with diced nectarines and maple syrup. She brushed her teeth with the help of a Mickey Mouse iPhone app. Then her parents, Nikki Rittenour and Marc Grassi, drove her to school in their station wagon.

Friends School Detroit / via Facebook

Michigan’s only Quaker-run school is closing its doors—at least for now.

Detroit’s Friends School told parents the news this week.

Parents and board members say it’s a huge blow to the school and larger Detroit communities.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a push to recall the head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Steve Conn has been on the job since January.  But the DFT president has ruffled a lot of feathers with his confrontational style. 

http://www.facebook.com/streetcreddetroit

Reality TV can be more than the Kardashians or the Real Housewives-of-Wherever.

It can be used to shed light, to build bridges, to increase understanding.

debt
Christian Schnettelker / Creative Commons

 A new report says restructuring Detroit Public Schools' debt could cost other school districts millions of dollars.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan says other districts would lose about $50 per student if DPS is allowed to use property taxes to pay off its debt. Schools normally use these taxes to fund operations. But if the taxes were used to pay off debt, the state would have to make up the difference.

Two days ago a group calling itself the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren presented its recommendations for how to fix the Detroit Public Schools.

They had some good ideas, such as creating a citywide data system so parents can better compare schools to find the best options for their children. 

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children
Rebecca Kruth

A coalition of business and community leaders yesterday released their recommendations for improving Detroit’s struggling school district.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren said control over Detroit Public Schools needs to go back in the hands the school board and out from under emergency management.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren is still getting public and expert input, even as its deadline approaches.

The group is coming up with recommendations to overhaul and streamline Detroit’s multiple school systems. They face a March 31 deadline to submit recommendations to Governor Snyder.

This past weekend, the coalition held several workshops to hear from Detroit children.

Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren / via Facebook

Over the past two decades, nearly everything about going to school in Detroit has changed.

School choice has meant an explosion of charters in and around the city. Now, more Detroit kids attend charters than traditional public schools.

As for Detroit Public Schools, the district has been under some kind of state control for 12 out of the past 15 years.

Despite these changes, most people feel like the schools situation in the city has gotten worse, not better.

Skillman Foundation

Locally-generated solutions should drive any effort to fix Detroit schools.

That’s the message coming from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, a group that formed just this week.

It’s an unusually broad group that includes community, business, union, and education leaders working in the city.

Sharon Drummond / flickr

Two reports out this week show Michigan as a stark outlier when it comes to charter schools.

One, from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, shows that 55% of Detroit public school students are now enrolled in charters—up from 51% just a year ago.

That’s the second-highest percentage of any city after New Orleans. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An audit of the Flint Community Schools has revealed that the district's deficit has risen to $21.9 million dollars. The district is searching for possible solutions, one of which may be state intervention or an emergency manager.

School officials know a solution is necessary, but they disagree that state involvement is the best way to solve their problems. Isaiah Oliver is the president of the Flint School Board. 

Cass Tech High School in Detroit.
DPS / Flickr

The Michigan Education Department and four of the state's school districts have been awarded nearly $3 million in federal grants to improve school safety and learning conditions.

The U.S. Education Department announced the grants as part of its effort to improve school safety around, reduce gun violence, and improve mental health services.

More from the U.S. Department of Education’s press release:

To help keep students safe and improve their learning environments, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $70 million to 130 grantees in 38 states…

“If we can’t help protect kids and staff, and make them feel safe at school, then everything else that we do is secondary,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “If kids don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. It’s that simple. Through these grants of more than $70 million, we are continuing our commitment to ensure that kids have access to the best learning experience possible.”

Here are the grants awarded in Michigan:

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This week, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy.

Mayor Mike Duggan says his top priority is reversing the city’s long population decline.

But there are a couple key quality of life issues Duggan has no control over. One of them is the city’s schools.

Here’s the story of one Detroit family’s effort to find good schools.

Meet the Hills

Three years ago, when I first heard about Governor Rick Snyder’s plans to create a special district for Detroit’s failing schools, I was enthusiastic.

I knew Detroit’s schools were a mess. I knew that the bureaucracy, the teacher’s union, and obstinate refusal to change were all part of the problem.

Something different was worth a try.

And so they invented and chartered the Education Achievement Authority, and gave it 15 of Detroit’s worst schools. The experiment began two years ago.

Nobody really expected miracles. At least nobody should have. These were schools with terrible records, and students with terribly disadvantaged backgrounds.

Since then, there have been possibly some small signs of improvement, at least as measured by test scores. Governor Snyder now wants to expand the EAA statewide. The state House of Representatives has passed legislation to do just that. The proposal is before the state Senate.

But it is clear that expanding the EAA now would be a colossal mistake.

The EAA is a total failure in terms of administration, honesty, transparency and staying within a budget.

Its chancellor, John Covington, probably needs to be fired immediately.

An investigation published in today’s Detroit News confirms rumors I’ve been hearing for a year.

Covington, who is driven around by a chauffeur in a special vehicle, charged nearly a quarter of a million dollars on district credit cards, largely so that he and his staff could jet around the country to a series of pricey conferences.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Open enrollment events are scheduled this week at nine Education Achievement Authority schools in Detroit.

Enrollment is going on for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade with welcome programs set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Phoenix, Burns and Nolan schools.

Parents can tour the school buildings and classrooms, and meet staff.

Events at the district's six high schools will begin at noon on Thursday.

Michigan’s attempt at a state-run “turnaround district” for the lowest-performing schools is bleeding students.

The Educational Achievement Authority is one of Governor Snyder’s signature policy initiatives. It launched in the last school year, with 15 former Detroit Public Schools.

State data now show the EAA lost more than 2,000 students since last school year. That’s nearly a 25% decline.

YouTube / YouTube

This week on State of Opportunity, Sarah Alvarez is taking a look at some radical decisions that have shaped the educational landscape of Detroit schools.

Today, families in the city are taking a gamble on brand-new charter schools, like the Detroit Achievement Academy.

The academy opened earlier this year, by 28-year-old Kyle Smitley. Smitley is the first to admit she lacks formal educational experience. "I’ve been laughed out of so many rooms coming into the education world," she says.

But that hasn’t stopped the unconventional school from getting national buzz. Earlier this year, Smitley and the academy were featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show.

Still, the odds are stacked up against the academy and other charter schools that pop up in Detroit. There are more seats in Detroit schools than students. Many students in the city haven’t met benchmark requirements in their grade levels.

So what do educational experts think about these experimental schools? Check out Sarah’s piece for more. 

Zak Rosen

What if something other than jobs could rebuild Detroit?

What if the purpose of education was to help children reach their highest human potential?

What if we had a conversation about the meaning of service to our community?

These are just a few of the many questions being raised at a new charter school in Detroit. It’s called the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. They opened their doors this week.

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