Ann Arbor Public Schools

Whitmore Lake Public Schools / https://sites.google.com/a/wlps.net/wlps/

Next week, voters will decide whether Ann Arbor schools should annex the small, struggling district next door: Whitmore Lake.  

And some Whitmore Lake students say this may be the best way to save the small-town schools they love.

The 11th-graders in Jill Henry's advanced-placement government class are bright kids.

Even before they started doing their election projects about this possible annexation, they obviously knew their district was struggling.

After all, the whole district is down to just about 1,000 kids.

It’s $60 million in debt.

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The school boards in Ann Arbor and nearby Whitmore Lake have voted to pursue Ann Arbor Public Schools' annexation of the much smaller school district to the north of the city.

Over the past few years, Whitmore Lake Public Schools has suffered steep enrollment drops as the community's population declined – and the district is moving grades out of its middle school building this fall to balance its budget.

Voters will decide the question in November. A "yes" vote in both communities would result in annexation next July.

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First, there's the mystery of the disappearing kids. 

Ann Arbor's enrollment dropped by about 200 students this year. 

That's a surprise, School Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson says, because enrollment was basically stable last year. 

Administrators do know where about 50 of those kids went: the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which offers specialized programming. 

But the other 150 students?

"I don't know," says Nelson. "And that's something I wish we knew more about." 

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"Something’s going to have to give,” says Liz Margolis, spokesperson for the Ann Arbor school district.

This fall, kids in Ann Arbor are coming back to schools with 34 fewer teaching positions, and nine fewer staff positions.

That means fewer reading intervention specialists, administrators, secretaries, facilities workers and lunchroom staff.

Carving out $8 million from this year’s budget was “severe,” says Margolis.

And it’s already having “direct impacts on our classroom."

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The Ann Arbor Board of Education voted to remove the $100 tuition it planned to charge students wanting to take a seventh hour class at Huron and Pioneer High Schools this year.

Glenn Nelson is the treasurer of the Ann Arbor Board of Education and was the first to suggest the tuition-based seventh hour program.

www.schoolbussafety.net

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wrote a letter to the Ann Arbor School Board after the Board approved charges of $100 per semester for students to take an additional class. 

Last week, two Pioneer High School students and their parents filed a law suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools, arguing that the fee is limiting for students who are involved in arts programs and who need the 7th hour to take classes required to graduate. 

The 7th hour fee was proposed because the school district faces an $18 million shortfall for the 2013-2014 year.  

But, as Annarbor.com's Amy Biolchini pointed out, this isn't the first time Ann Arbor schools have charged students.

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154 laid-off teachers in Ann Arbor have been asked to return in the fall.

Earlier in May, 233 Ann Arbor Public School teachers were given pink slips, after the district faced a $8.7 million budget deficit for the 2013-14 academic year.

Now, 154 of those 233 teachers have been recalled -- 109 were invited back on July 19 and 45 more on July 26. But as AnnArbor.com’s Danielle Arndt reported, the district isn’t saying just yet what’s happening with the other 79 who haven’t been recalled:

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City of Flint to recover tax money

The city of Flint has found a new source of income in the effort to balance the budget. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that around six thousand Flint residents paid their federal income taxes, but did not pay city income taxes. This may allow the Flint to collect around a million dollars in back taxes.

Michigan ACLU sues Ann Arbor Public Schools

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools because of its intent to charge tuition for a seventh class.  With the current plan, Ann Arbor high school students must pay $100 for a seventh-period elective class.  Kary Moss of the ACLU says “it creates a two-tiered system of education. Not only for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, but many other students won't be able to afford the seventh hour."

Detroit Schools get annual report card

Excellent Schools Detroit has released its annual report card for the school system.  Out of more than two hundred schools, twenty-five percent scored a C+ or better.  Many of these higher-ranked schools are new and “fresh-start” schools, which has officials optimistic about the future of the district.

Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Earlier this summer, some students at Ann Arbor high schools were told they would have to pay for their optional last class of the day.

Many students take music, art, drama, or additional academics during an optional seventh hour. Starting in the fall, the school district plans to charge students $100 for the seventh period class.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan is challenging that plan in court.

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LG Chem Plant begins production

The LG Chem plant in West Michigan has finally started production of lithium-ion batteries.  Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports that “the plant cost roughly $300 million to build,” and that “federal stimulus money paid for almost half that cost.”  The plant has been accused of wasting some of that money by paying employees despite them not working.

Elections Commission rejects recall request

The Washtenaw County Elections Commission has rejected a recall of Ann Arbor school board members.  Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reports the election board “ruled the petition was not sufficiently clear on why six members of the Ann Arbor Board of Education should be removed by voters.”  

Medicaid committee praised

Governor Rick Snyder has applauded a state Senate committee for advancing work on Medicaid. The committee produced three plans, one of which would expand Medicaid in Michigan.  Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports "Snyder says he’s not worried that the competing bills will peel votes away from the legislation he supports."

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The elections board in Washtenaw County has rejected a recall petition drive aimed at local school board members. It’s one of the first such actions since the Legislature passed a law making it harder to recall elected officials. The Washtenaw County Elections Commission ruled the petition was not sufficiently clear on why six members of the Ann Arbor Board of Education should be removed by voters.

The board did not rule on whether the petitions were factual. That’s also required under the new law. Washtenaw County Clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum says he thinks that would violate the Michigan Constitution.

“For us to make those kinds of determinations flies in the face of what the Constitution provides that the sufficiency of reasons for a recall is a political question, not a judicial question. It’s a political question... means it’s up to the people.”

Kestenbaum says he expects the recall law will eventually face a court challenge.
 

Ann Arbor Public Schools

Six Ann Arbor Board of Education members are defending themselves Thursday afternoon, after recall language was brought against them earlier this month.

The recall was put into motion by the Ann Arbor Public Schools Parents for Change, led by Jody Huhn, who had been pushing the district to look locally for the district’s superintendent.

From AnnArbor.com’s Danielle Arndt:

 

ACLU
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said that Ann Arbor Public Schools' decision to charge students $100 per semester to take a seventh hour class is illegal, because it violates the State Constitution.

The ACLU's press release cited the Michigan Constitution, which  says that "the Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law."

It continued:

In Bond v Ann Arbor School District, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the guarantee of free public education extends to any school district activity that is considered a "necessary element of any school's activity" or an "integral fundamental part of the elementary and secondary education."

Ann Arbor Public Schools / http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/academics/files/pre3.jpg

In case you've been living under a rock the last couple of months, many Michigan schools are in financial crisis.

It's not just separate outbreaks. It's an epidemic. Buena Vista had to shut down for two weeks when they ran out of money to pay staff. Albion is closing its high school.

About 50 districts are on the state's financial watch list (as in, watch-out-these-guys-could-go-under).

Now, Ann Arbor, the artsy cosmopolitan Disney Land of public school systems, is feeling woozy.

AAPS

Ann Arbor Public Schools' Superintendent has resigned.  

Patricia Green has been on the job in Ann Arbor since 2011.

In her letter of resignation, Green cited her 43 years in education.  Green’s resignation becomes effective in three months.  

The Ann Arbor Board of Education president praised Green’s service to the community as well as her advocacy for public education.

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Parents of children in Ann Arbor public schools are gathering signatures against what they call the overuse of standardized tests. 

More than 150 people have signed the online petition so far.

They say students are tested too often between the pre-tests, practice tests and targeted testing for reading and math. 

Gene Firn is the founder of Paint for Kids, an Ann Arbor-based organization that mobilizes parents and community volunteers to paint schools.

Firn, who teaches a DIY painting class, was looking for practice walls for his students when he learned that the Ann Arbor school system doesn't have a painting department. He thought he could help, so he submitted a proposal.

The concept is simple: an experienced painter supervises parent volunteers as they transform hallways and classrooms over holiday weekends.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Firn, who said that Paint for Kids fulfills the needs of local schools, but also attempts to create a culture of volunteering.

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Ann Arbor public schools may stop all busing to and from its high schools next year to save money.

The proposal to the Ann Arbor School board also includes bigger class sizes and cutting staff. Ann Arbor Public Schools is facing a $15 million budget deficit for next year.

Liz Margolis is a spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.