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The city of Detroit is signing onto a federal lawsuit that claims many Detroit students are being denied a fundamental “right to read.”

Activists and pro bono legal groups filed the suit last September, with support from groups like the American Federation of Teachers.

But now the city of Detroit is also jumping on board. City lawyers filed an amicus brief this week.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Legislature is back in session, and the bills are rolling in. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and Michigan Radio senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry look at a bill that would phase out the state income tax, and another that would end daylight saving time in Michigan.

They also discuss Education Secretary nominee Betsy Devos' rescheduled confirmation hearing, Detroit's newly elected school board, and Gov. Rick Snyder's upcoming State of the State address.

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

A ceiling hole at Noble Elementary Middle-School in early 2016
Detroit Federation of Teachers

There was movement Thursday on two federal lawsuits filed over poor learning conditions in Detroit schools.

The American Federation of Teachers announced a settlement with the Detroit Public Schools over decrepit building conditions in some schools.

The settlement lays out a process for reporting, logging and prioritizing requests for building repairs, as well as timelines for following through.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

New Detroit school board members officially took office Wednesday night.

It’s the first time the district has had a true school board since a series of emergency managers took over in 2009.

The district is in much better financial shape after a state-sponsored aid package passed in June. In fact, it currently has a budget surplus.

But it faces a number of chronic problems, including 264 vacant teaching positions. 163 are now being staffed by substitutes, interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather told board members.

For the first time in seven years, an elected school board is in place in Detroit.
Matt Katzenberger / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

This is an important week for Detroit schools. For the first time in seven years, an elected school board is in place. The board takes control of the schools that have been run for nearly 20 years by state-appointed managers. 63 candidates were on the ballot. The voters chose seven of them to make up the new school board.

One of those is Sonya Mays. She graduated from Detroit Renaissance High School and then went on to the University of Michigan, where she worked her way to a bachelor's degree, an MBA and then her law degree.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - It was an expensive year for Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers who spent hundreds of millions of dollars to address Flint's water emergency and to rescue Detroit's school district from massive debt.

  Legislators also authorized higher speed limits and allowed the testing of self-driving cars on public roads without a driver or steering wheel. Other top laws include new medical marijuana regulations and the authorization of higher speed limits on rural highways.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

The Green Party is expected to file paperwork to formally request a recount of the presidential election votes in Michigan. This Week in Michigan Politics, senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talks with Morning Edition host Doug Tribou about why he's already confident the results are correct.

They also discuss President-elect Donald Trump's choice of Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education, Congressman Sander Levin's decision not to seek re-election as leader of the Ways and Means Committee, and the transition of the Detroit Promise scholarship from a two year to a four year program.


Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

The Detroit Pistons are coming back to ... well, Detroit.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about who stands to win and who stands to lose after the Pistons leave the Palace of Auburn Hills for the new Little Caesar's Arena in downtown Detroit.

They also discuss the State's argument that literacy is not a constitutional right when it comes to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Detroit school children, and the future of Detroit's two major newspapers.


Rosenbaum told us the state’s assertion that there’s no fundamental right to literacy is “nonsense.”
flickr user Thomas Galvez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


On September 13, seven Detroit school children sued state officials.

The suit was filed in federal court in Detroit. It claims that literacy is a fundamental right, and that the state has denied that right by fundamentally excluding Detroit students from the state’s educational system.

Now attorneys for Governor Rick Snyder have fired back. They say there’s no fundamental right to literacy, and this suit is “an attempt to destroy the American tradition of democratic control of schools.”

Flickr user jdog90 / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit has itself a new school board chosen from a field of 63 candidates. Bridge Magazine reporter Chastity Pratt Dawsey joined Stateside to talk about the seven winners and what’s ahead for them.

From left to right: EAA chancellor Veronica Confirme, DPSCD interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather, DPSCD transition manager Steven Rhodes.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

What remains of the Education Achievement Authority will merge with Detroit’s public schools district, then dissolve next July.

That’s when the EAA, Governor Snyder’s fumbled attempt at a state-run “turnaround district” for the lowest-performing schools, will finally cease to exist.

Making that transition as smooth as possible will be the mission between now and July, according to Detroit Public Schools Community District transition manager Steven Rhodes.

DPSCD Superintendent Alycia Meriweather
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The new Detroit public school district has a new academic plan.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District got a fiscal overhaul after nearly going bankrupt last year.

Now, Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather says it will take a fresh approach to teaching and learning, too.

For the first time in seven years, an elected school board is in place in Detroit.
Matt Katzenberger / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

The latest list of Michigan's worst-performing schools is due to be released any day now. Under state law, the School Reform Office can close schools that have been mired in the lowest five percent for three straight years. But what of schools that say they've begun to turn things around? Or schools in challenged neighborhoods, whose students started very far behind? What happens to those students if the state shuts down their school?

Erin Einhorn looked at one example of this dilemma in a report for Chalkbeat Detroit. It's a charter school in Detroit called the Michigan Technical Academy and they are asking the state to give them more time.

user Gage Skidmore / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

We’re 12 days out from Election Day.

Throughout the long months of campaign speeches, Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes believes both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have missed the mark in addressing an issue that is key to Michigan’s future.

In his column today, he wrote that the candidates and their surrogates are putting out a message that better fits the Carter era than the era of Apple and autonomous vehicles.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a crowd in Detroit Monday that we can expect "a positive message" during the last month of her campaign.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Doug Tribou discuss whether that will resonate with Michigan voters. Lessenberry and Tribou also look at a Detroit Free Press investigation that finds the state may have overpaid for supplies it bought in response to the Flint water crisis, and the teacher shortage that continues to plague Detroit Public Schools.


sign saying a high quality school
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The new Detroit Public Schools Community district fell just shy of its budgeted enrollment goal for the year.

The district counted 45,265-45,365 students at the state count day last week. That’s about .5% shy of what the district had budgeted for. 

But coming off a tumultuous year that saw the district almost go bankrupt, district leaders see the numbers as a victory of sorts.

Steven Rhodes
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A new community center will soon open up inside a Detroit school.

The Ford Resource and Engagement Center is at Fisher Upper Magnet Academy, on the city’s east side.

The Ford Fund, the Ford Motor Company’s philanthropic arm, is sponsoring the $5 million project. It’s part of a $20 million commitment to community causes in Southeast Michigan.

The Count from Sesame Street.
World Bank Photo Collection / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Today marks the first "Count Day" of the school year in Michigan. The second count day will happen on February 8.  

Count days are designated days when Michigan's schools take attendance to determine the number of students they serve. A blend of the attendance numbers will determine the school district's budget.

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

Looks like we've got another tug of war between Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

At stake? Whether failing schools within the new Detroit Public Schools Community District can be shut down at the end of this school year.

Today, Attorney General Bill Schuette issued his legal opinion on the matter and Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio’s Lansing Bureau Chief, joined us to explain what went down.

wikimedia user motown31 / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

One of the state of Michigan’s former emergency managers says the strategy might work for some cities, but an emergency manager just doesn’t work that well for school districts.

Tony Saunders is the former emergency manager of Benton Harbor.

Room in an abandoned school in Detroit
user Freaktography / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More than 152,000 students in metro Detroit attend class in a district or charter other than the district where they live. As minorities move into some districts, other students use the state schools-of-choice law to move to less-diverse districts.

Families say they use "choice" to move their kids to higher-performing, or safer, schools. Consciously or not, however, this law has left many districts in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County more racially segregated.

Teacher Anastasia Katapodis with her Montessori students at Maybury Elementary School.
Sarah Cwiek / Michgian Radio

This year marks a fresh start for the newly restructured Detroit Public Schools.

The district is unrolling some new, experimental programs for students. They’re meant to entice parents who might otherwise take their kids elsewhere.

After years of upheaval in Detroit schools, success isn’t guaranteed. But at least one school has high hopes they will.

Montessori: Learning together

Anastasia Katopodis has taught young kids in Detroit for 20 years.

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

More than 3000 Detroit teachers are close to a new contract.

Detroit Federation of Teachers members in 94 schools approved the deal this week.

Union leaders say it’s good enough for now. For the first time in a decade, there are no concessions or cutbacks. Most teachers will get modest bonuses.

“We’re not jumping up and down, hollering that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Because I believe and I know that our teachers deserve more,” said DFT Interim President Ivy Bailey.

What is the average class size in Michigan's schools?

Sep 15, 2016
Michigan teachers on whether they've noticed class size changing over time
Courtesy Caroline Gearig / Michigan Radio

Pinning down the average class size in Michigan's public schools is not an easy thing to do.

For example, the Michigan Department of Education reports a student/teacher ratio of 23 to 1. But the way that number is calculated isn't necessarily a good reflection on how many kids are in the class.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Learning conditions in many Detroit schools are so bad, they violate students’ basic rights under the U.S. Constitution.

That’s what a new federal lawsuit contends. It was filed on behalf of students at five of the lowest-performing Detroit schools, including one charter school.

The suit cites an ongoing lack of basic educational resources, including teachers, that together deny children of their “constitutional right to literacy.”

School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight

Sep 13, 2016
Photo courtesy of Chastity Pratt Dawsey / Bridge Magazine

When the high school in Eastpointe recently welcomed the football team from Lakeview High, it was a homecoming of sorts.

That’s because nearly 700 students from Eastpointe actually attend school in Lakeview, a public school district five miles away in St. Clair Shores. As it happens, many of the students who left Eastpointe for Lakeview are white.

A newspaper clipping of Detroit's busing era.
clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

The U.S. Department of Education says kids at schools with mostly black or Latino students don’t get as good of an education as kids at schools with mostly white students. Generally speaking, their teachers are not as experienced and their buildings are in worse shape.

You can see that in Detroit, Flint, and other Michigan cities.

There was a major Michigan court case that could have ended segregated schools and made it possible for children to have a good education no matter where they lived.

Here's how that court case might have made a difference today.

I am a little overweight. Not grossly fat, but I could certainly lose a few pounds. I could say this is because I was bullied as a child, because I heroically work too hard and don’t have time to eat properly, or because of my existential angst.

Actually, existential angst sounds like a good, all-purpose excuse for everything, especially given the current climate, political and otherwise. But the fact is that I am overweight because I eat too much and don’t exercise enough.

User thinkpanama / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Peer pressure is often cited for regretful behavior, but now an ex-principal is using it to explain why he stole almost $59,000 from the school district that employed him.    

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After a summer of negotiating, Detroit teachers are preparing to vote on a new contract.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District — the new, restructured entity that replaces the debt-ridden Detroit Public Schools — and the Detroit Federation of Teachers announced a tentative agreement on Labor Day.

The agreement “provides members with some money in a number of ways,” DFT leaders said. “And for the first time in a decade, this agreement contains no concessions.”

Some highlights:

·        Pay increases for all teachers, based on seniority.

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