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charter schools

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A new bill in the Michigan House of Representatives would allow charter schools to take a cut of regional public school millages, including online charter schools, or cyber schools. Senate Bill 574 would require intermediate school districts that pass enhancement millages to share those revenues with charter schools. The bill was passed by the House Education Reform Committee last week. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Thursday morning, the state House Education Reform Committee takes up a bill that would channel tax money raised by county school districts to charter schools.

MOTOWN31 / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

There’s a bill going through the state legislature right now that would require traditional public schools to share money raised by regional enhancement millages with charters.

Senate Bill 0574 was passed by the Senate last week after it was introduced by Representative David Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, in September.

The bill has caused a lot of controversy and complicated the ongoing debate about charter schools in Michigan.

So what would the bill change, and how would it affect schools?

Michigan State Police patrol vehicle shield
Michigan State Police

The director of the Michigan State Police will work five days without pay. That's the penalty Gov. Rick Snyder gave Col. Kriste Etue for sharing a Facebook post that called NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem "degenerates." Snyder also ordered all state departments to ensure their policies promote diversity and inclusiveness. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether the punishment will be enough for those who've called for Etue's resignation.

michigan state capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate has approved a plan to give local tax dollars to charter schools. It would require any millage for intermediate school districts to be distributed to both public schools and privately-owned charter schools. Four Republican Senators voted against this, as did all of the Democrats.

As part of its weekly political roundup, Stateside broke down the issue with Ken Sikkema, a senior policy fellow with Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican majority leader, and Vicki Barnett, a former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Legislation that would let public charter schools share in revenues from regional enhancement millages has passed 23-14 in the state Senate.

These millages are property taxes of up to three mills that voters in an intermediate school district may approve for local school district operations.

Current law restricts that money to traditional public schools. 

Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) sponsored the bill that would allow public charter schools to also share in the funds.

Lead Beyond / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Charter schools in Michigan currently don't get any money raised by regional enhancement millages. Those are property taxes up to 3 mills approved by voters in intermediate school districts. Under existing state law, the money can only go to traditional public schools.

But the Senate Education Committee today approved a bill that would let charter schools share in that money.

"We have ten percent of our students who attend charter schools in my county," said bill sponsor Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. "And I feel like it's an equity issue."

Boy in classroom with his hand raised
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

There are fewer charter schools in session this year – a first since Michigan’s first charter school opened its doors in 1994.

Five new charter schools did open, but 11 charter schools that were operating last school year closed their doors, mostly for poor academic achievement or financial problems, according to a press release from the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA). One caveat is Detroit Prep, a successful first-year school that merged its administrative oversight with another charter school, but remains open.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
BES Photos / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Last year, when Michigan Technical Academy needed money for capital improvements and operations for its elementary and middle school, it turned to private bondholders for a loan.

The contract gave bondholders the right to all but 3% of the district's state school aid money in the event of default. 

So when Central Michigan University revoked the district's charter this spring, CMU got its 3% cut of the July and August school aid payments, and bondholders got the rest.

That left nothing for teachers. 

Money
Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / Creative Commons

We have an update on the efforts to get Detroit area charter school employees paid for time worked during the school year.

Many employees at Michigan Technical Academy spread their paychecks out over the year, but late last month, the charter school's board had to divert those summer paychecks to creditors. 

Matchbook Learning is the nonprofit charter management company that directly employs MTA staff. Today, the company's CEO Sajan George sent a letter to MTA employees saying the charter's board gave its approval last night to appoint an independent "receiver" to review the payroll issue. 

tables in a classroom
Frank Juarez / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Charter school employees at Michigan Technical Academy in metro Detroit are not getting paid for time they worked in the classroom.

The charter school’s license was revoked last month for poor academics and financial problems -- it owed roughly $16 million in long-term debt and $50,000 in short-term loans, according to Central Michigan University officials. CMU authorized the school and issued its charter.

School desks
Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Court of Claims is not one of the highest-profile judicial bodies in the country, or even our state. It handles civil actions filed against the state and its various departments and agencies.

Flickr user Frank Juarez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Just before the holiday weekend, Central Michigan University’s Board of Trustees made official what parents have known for a while now: Michigan Technical Academy is closing. The pre-k through 8th grade charter school in Detroit has been open for more than a decade.

The state had threatened to close the school in the spring, over persistently low performance on standardized tests.

Keeria Myles says her 8-year-old daughter, Sonja, had only been at the school one year, but loved it.

“She’s upset about it and she feels like it’s her fault,” Myles said.

a child sitting at a desk hunched over his schoolwork
Taylor International Academy

Taylor International Academy in Southfield closed abruptly last week, 12 days before the end of the school year, after the school board, the principal and other administrators quit.

But even though the school has been struggling financially, that doesn't mean it's completely broke.

Central Michigan University, which chartered the school, will be getting state school aid payments through August for the school.

knittymarie / flickr

Michigan's average teacher salary has dropped for the fifth year in a row, according to data recently released by the state. Public school teachers are hit the hardest.

David Crim is with the Michigan Education Association. He says salary cuts drive young people away from pursuing education as a career.

"We're losing some of the best and brightest young teachers because they can't afford to pay off student loans while paying the cost of housing, food, and other essentials," Crim said.

Besty DeVos during her hearing.
SCREENSHOT / C-SPAN

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S Department of Education went before the Senate education committee yesterday for her confirmation hearing.

Senators asked many questions of Betsy DeVos – some about her Michigan family’s donations of millions of dollars to Republican candidates, others about whether she would mandate that public schools become charter or private schools.

Yet, it was an exchange between Minnesota Senator Al Franken and DeVos that caught our attention.

Take a listen:

Betsy DeVos testified at a hearing earlier this month.
Screenshot / C-SPAN

School choice advocate Betsy DeVos answered a wide range of questions during a three-hour confirmation hearing in Washington D.C. Tuesday night. The billionaire from West Michigan could head the U.S. Department of Education soon.

You can watch the hearing here or below:

Courtesy of Tashaune Harden

 

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a long-time Republican donor. DeVos is an advocate of charter schools, school voucher programs, and tax credits for businesses that give private scholarships.

Her likely appointment excites many in Michigan’s charter schools.

But not everyone.

There hasn't been a more controversial pick for secretary of education, arguably, in recent memory than Donald Trump's choice of Betsy DeVos. The Senate confirmation hearings for the billionaire Republican fundraiser and activist from Michigan start today.

A full Senate vote on Besty DeVos' U.S. education secretary nomination is expected next week.
BetsyDeVos.com

When Donald Trump announced West Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as his pick for Secretary of Education, reaction was mixed. Many wondered aloud how someone who has advocated for major changes in education, but who has never taught, would be qualified for the post. 

Recent secretaries have included a former Governor, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, a former college dean and school superintendent and others with doctorates in education. Virtually every piece written about the nomination of Betsy DeVos describes her along the lines of as a "Michigan philanthropist" or a "leading Republican donor". 

Others think at least a part of the answer as to why she was nominated for this post lies in the deep pockets of the DeVos family.

"Black people don't necessarily need choice, they need power," Perry told us. "The reason why black communities' schools are not doing well is because black communities are not doing well."
Flickr user Bart Everson/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Proponents of publicly funded, privately run charter schools hail them as the way to keep public schools and public school teachers "on their toes" by creating competition. 

Here in Michigan we have roughly 145,000 students in more than 300 charter schools, according to Education Trust Midwest.

And a report that group released earlier this year showed that charter school enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year consisted of disproportionately minority and low-income students. 

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the DeVos family has given roughly $14 million to political campaigns and causes over the last two years.
BetsyDeVos.com

President-elect Donald Trump has selected longtime school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education. (Presidential cabinet picks are subject to Senate confirmation. See who Trump has picked for his cabinet so far with WaPo's cabinet tracker.)

Trump’s stance on education policy has, thus far, been difficult to discern. His pick of DeVos indicates how his administration likely sees education policy going forward.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

 

Today is Count Day here in Michigan. That's when every student sitting at his or her desk translates into state dollars for that district.

Across the state, schools are using a variety of tactics to ensure maximum attendance, including robocalls to parents, picture days and prizes for kids who turn up to school.

Andy Simonds / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Technically, Livingston Classical Academy is a "cyber school."

In reality, though, the only class that will be online this year is health – which parents will be encouraged to participate in for the more “sensitive discussions.”

A few more online classes will be added next year, like career readiness and nutrition.

Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

When you think Hillsdale College, maybe you think private, well-respected school that makes a lot of Top 10 lists for “Most Conservative Schools.”

Now, Hillsdale is using its brand to help launch a public charter school in Michigan, but the school’s founders are trying to prove to its critics that this new school is neither biased, nor religious.

Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Tregan Bradley, a rising senior at University YES Academy in Detroit, had been hearing rumors from his teachers over the summer.

“One of my favorite teachers, she told me that they’re not sure if they’re going to be opening up the high school, like around July or June,” he says. “I called her, I was checking in with her, because I was missing her and stuff.”

The 2016 M-STEP results come out Tuesday morning
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This is an unusually slow year for new charter schools, according to the state charter association, which says the seven charters opening this fall are “among the fewest in history.”

“Only six schools opened last year,” the Michigan Association of Public Schools Academies said in its release today. “That was the fewest since 2008, when seven schools opened under the charter cap. (The cap on university-authorized schools was lifted by the Legislature and Governor Snyder in 2011.)”

Allen Academy is unimstakably a former Catholic church.
Allen Academy / via Facebook

How do you decide if a so-called “failing” school should shut down, and is there a right way to do it?

Three Detroit charter schools shut their doors forever at the end of this school year.

One of them, Allen Academy, was one of the city’s very first charters. And its closure leaves a wake of upheaval.

"The kids are going to be better off"

The ornate, red-brick complex on Detroit’s west side is unmistakably an old Catholic church.

The Saint Theresa of Avila parish closed in the 1980s. Since 1999, it’s been Allen Academy.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit charter schools are closing and two are merging this year, adding to the school turnover and churn families in that city are seeing.

One of the larger charters, Allen Academy, is being shut down because of poor academic performance.

“The test scores over the last several years, they’ve been outperformed by the resident district, Detroit Public Schools,” says Ron Rizzo, director of the Charter Schools Office at Ferris State University, which authorized Allen Academy.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

 

Governor Rick Snyder has signed an education budget for the coming fiscal year. But there are questions about a provision that will send $2.5 million to private and religious schools for state mandates such as fire drills. The provision could run against a section of the state constitution that says no public money can be used to support private or parochial schools.

Snyder acknowledged there may be legal issues with the budget. “But at this point, I thought it appropriate to move ahead and let’s address the legal questions separately,” Snyder said.

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