education

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Work started on rape kit testing

When Detroit’s police lab closed three years ago thousands of rape kits were left untested.  A donation of four million dollars from the state of Michigan will go toward immediately reducing the work backlog

"Tests on a few hundred kits have already turned up suspects living all across Michigan and half a dozen other states," Rick Pluta reports.

School districts must prove budget

A new bill in the state House Legislature would require school districts to prove their funding for an entire school year.  Schools would face closure if the year’s funding could not be met. 

"Under the bill, schools that can't show they can afford to stay open all year would risk getting dissolved by the state treasurer and state superintendent. They would work with the intermediate school district to find districts nearby to accept the students," Lindsey Smith reports.

Gas prices spike

Summer gas prices in Michigan are nearing a record high due to regional refinery problems.  It may take a week for prices to stabilize and begin to decrease in Michigan and the Midwest.

State of Opportunity has a new storytelling booth that can easily go places and record lots of personal stories in one fell swoop. 

For its first trip I took the booth to J.W. Sexton High School in downtown Lansing. I wanted to catch the graduating class a few weeks before their big day.

There are stories of seeking asylum in America, learning how to control anger, what it feels like the moment a college acceptance letter comes in the mail, and wanting a second chance.

Here’s something I’ve noticed about education reform. Whenever anybody proposes anything, people tend to react in a knee-jerk fashion based as much on whom the speaker is as what they say. I noticed this yesterday, when I told a variety of people that former Washington, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee would be a keynote speaker at this week’s Mackinac Island conference. Teachers especially take a jaded view of Rhee.

They see her as anti-union, and are especially skeptical of her push for merit pay. I myself have had a somewhat jaded view of Rhee for different reasons. There is a fair amount of evidence that many of her claims have been exaggerated.

I was not impressed when her lobbying group, Students First, poured money into an unsuccessful knee-jerk attempt to fight a complex local recall election in Michigan two years ago. But Michelle Rhee said a lot of things to the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s conference yesterday that liberals and conservatives all need to hear. She began by noting that this may well be the first generation of Americans who will be less educated than their parents – which, if true, ought to frighten all of us.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michelle Rhee advocates for Common Core

Michelle Rhee spoke yesterday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in favor of maintaining the Common Core curriculum in Michigan. According to the Associated Press,  

“Rhee is a self-described lifelong Democrat who has clashed with teachers' unions, one of the party's key constituencies. During her speech, she called for honoring the teaching profession but demanding more accountability and rewarding the best teachers with more pay.”

Michigan woman killed in Syrian conflict

33 year old Nicole Lynn Mansfield of Flint, Michigan has been killed while fighting for the Syrian opposition movement.

“Speelman's mother Monica Mansfield Speelman tells the Detroit Free Press that her niece was a convert to Islam who married an Arab immigrant several years ago but later divorced him. Syrian news reports say that Mansfield and two other westerners killed with her were fighters for the opposition to Syria's government and were killed in a confrontation in Idlib,” the Associated Press reports. 

Michigan universities produce young entrepreneurs

A new report from the Anderson Economic Group states that Michigan’s three largest universities produce twice as many entrepreneurs as the national average.  According to Rick Pluta,

“The report says almost half of the new businesses started by college grads have been started or acquired in Michigan. University officials say they’ve revamped their curriculum in recent years to encourage entrepreneurship among students.”

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

It’s day-two on Mackinac Island at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference.

Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, has been in attendance, and he said there has been a lot of focus placed on education reform.

“All of this is happening under the backdrop of an education budget that was just sent to Governor Snyder that basically stalled enactment of the Common Core Standards," Pluta said. "The national standards are supposed to make sure that every state and every school are measuring student performance in the same fashion."

The other piece of legislation that is stalled right now is the expansion of the Educational Achievement Authority, which is only operating in Detroit right now. Some lawmakers want to expand it statewide.

Pluta says there's a lot of pressure on the Legislature right now.

He joined us from the Mackinac Policy Conference to tell us more about education and other topics being discussed at the conference.

Listen to the full interview above.

MIVote

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Education reform crusader Michelle Rhee says Michigan is making progress toward improving its schools but has more to do.

Rhee is the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools and founder of an advocacy group called StudentsFirst. She spoke Thursday during the annual Detroit Regional Chamber policy conference at Mackinac Island.

Rhee is a self-described lifelong Democrat who has clashed with teachers' unions, one of the party's key constituencies. During her speech, she called for honoring the teaching profession but demanding more accountability and rewarding the best teachers with more pay.

She also supports school voucher programs, which are unpopular with many Democrats who believe they drain money from public schools.

Rhee praised Michigan's Educational Achievement Authority, which was created to improve the state's lowest-performing schools.

Watch her speech here (scroll one hour in):

Steve Burt 1947 / Flickr

Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity team has been covering the research around early childhood education and the role it plays in a child's development.

That topic was discussed at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference this morning.

The Legislature and Governor Snyder have shown interest in boosting early ed programs in the state, but how much should they commit, and what kinds of programs work?

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White led a panel discussion on early education in Michigan.

Watch the discussion below (scroll five minutes in):

Panelists included:

Carla D. Thompson, vice president for program strategy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Rob Grunewald, economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Bob Harbison, board member, Smart Start Oklahoma

NPR.org

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush says Michigan should pursue more charter schools and online learning as part of the state’s efforts to improve education.

He also asked state lawmakers to stick with common national standards to measure student performance.

The Michigan Legislature’s Republican majorities just approved a school aid budget that forbid spending to enact the Common Core standards developed by the nation’s governors. Some conservatives say the standards hand over Michigan’s education policy to a national consortium.

Christopher Webb / Flickr

The Michigan Senate has passed a budget bill that would boost state funding to public schools by about 3%. Universities and colleges would also get a roughly 2% increase.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R- Monroe) praised the schools budget, saying it addresses issues like teacher retirement costs while giving more money to districts.

“The education budget this year may be the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been up here,” said Richardville.

But many Democrats say the plan does not do enough to make up for cuts to education over the past couple of years.

It sometimes seems that education reform has become a lot like the weather.  We talk almost incessantly about it these days, but you have to wonder if anybody really can do much to change things.

The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mackinac Conference begins today, and education is a heavy focus. Michelle Rhee, the controversial founder of StudentsFirst and the former head of Washington D.C. public schools will give a keynote address. There will be a panel on 21st Century jobs and education, and another, moderated by Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White, on early childhood education.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A community activist is making a unique protest, in hopes of rallying people in Albion to fight the closure of their high school.

With a kiss from one of his supporters, Bobby Holley started crawling.   He intends to crawl, on his hands and knees, the 30 miles from Battle Creek to Albion.   

He says he wants to rally the people of Albion, so they will fight the decisions to close their high school

Preschool-age boy practicing writing his name at a table in a Head Start classroom.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

"It's certainly a good day for early childhood advocates." - Matt Gillard of the Michigan Sandbox Party

Dustin Dwyer from our State of Opportunity team has more on the expected increase for early childhood education in Michigan:

The annual legislative brawl over how to spend the state's money is expected to come to a close this week in Lansing. The budgets currently under consideration include many changes. One of the biggest is a nearly 60 percent increase in the state's funding for early education.

The governor initially proposed a $65 million increase for the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) in his budget. The proposal went back and forth as it made its way through the legislature this year, but it's now looking like the governor will get his way.

Read his full report here.

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

Michigan public schools would get a three-percent overall funding boost under a plan in the state Legislature.

It comes up for final votes next week.

No school would get less money per student than it did last year under a plan approved by a state budget panel.

Lawmakers added language that would guarantee every school gets at least five dollars more per student than last year. Without that provision, some schools could have seen cuts because of reduced payments to cover teacher retirement costs. 

Schools that get the minimum amount of state funding right now could see up to $60 more per student next fiscal year. That total amount is right around $7,000 per student.

The bill now goes to the floors of the state House and Senate.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Education Trust-Midwest, "a statewide nonpartisan policy, research, and advocacy organization," released an analysis on the 32 charter schools set to open in Michigan this fall.

They say while some newly approved charter schools are run by operators with a strong track record, many others are run by operators that are “chronically low-performing.”

According to ETM’s David Zeman, the data demonstrates that “Michigan needs to seriously consider holding charter authorizers more accountable for school quality.”

Ann Arbor Public Schools

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.

user: jdurham / morguefile

This fall, 32 new charter schools are scheduled to open in Michigan.

To check out where these schools will be located, look at this Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) link.

According to MAPSA, there are currently 232 charter public schools in Michigan with over 100,000 enrolled students.

This year, there number of charter schools opening is due in part to a controversial law that lifted restrictions on charter schools.

More from MAPSA:

Michigan law allows new public schools to be chartered by state universities, community colleges, intermediate school districts and local school districts.

“Michigan’s system of charter school authorizing and oversight is considered a model around the country, and as we look at the new schools opening this year, we can see why that is,” [MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry] said. “Once again, the authorizers have done an excellent job of making sure that only the best, most promising schools will be allowed to open. You’ll notice that we aren’t seeing the supposed ‘flood’ of new charter schools that some critics feared. The authorizers aren't going to charter any new school that doesn’t offer a high-quality, innovative approach.”

All this week, we've been digging into the causes, and perhaps solutions, to the financial troubles facing our schools. As Michigan Radio has been reporting, some 50 public school districts across our state are facing deep deficits. And, for the first time in Ann Arbor history, the school district may have to lay off 50 teachers.

Today we focused on teacher salaries. Just what should determine teacher pay in Michigan?

And, Daniel Howes talked with us about the business community in Detroit.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

As the 2012-2013 school year winds down, one of the issues occupying the attention of state lawmakers is teacher pay. In essence: what should determine teacher salaries in Michigan?

A state House panel has approved a plan to tie teachers' pay to student performance. But, as Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher told us, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they're worried the bill would strip away local control.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state House panel has approved a plan to tie teachers’ pay to student performance. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they’re worried the bill would strip away local control.

Bill supporters say just because someone has been teaching for a long time, that doesn’t mean they’re a great teacher. They say educators should be paid more if their students are making progress, and less if they’re not.

umich.edu

Here's a question that colleges and universities across the country are grappling with: how does "liberal arts" fit into our futures?

We hear more and more talk about stem courses and careers: science, technology, engineering and math.

There's lots of talk about the fact that the U.S. needs people with these degrees to compete in a global economy.

So what will it take for liberal arts programs to matter to students who want to graduate with degrees that will secure a job that pays?

Those are some of the questions being tackled this week at a major conversation involving more than 50 deans at large research universities around the country coming to the University of Michigan for an unprecedented national conversation.

The focus -"The Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Research University Today: Histories, Challenges, Futures."

The Dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan, Dean Terrence McDonald was kind enough to join us in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

49 schools districts in Michigan are in the red. Albion is not one of them. To avoid the red numbers, the district cut their high school.

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista School District reopened on Monday after closing for two weeks due to a financial crisis. 

Of the 400 students that attended the school district before the closure, 77.5 percent have returned, according to Lindsay Knake at MLive:

Superintendent Deborah Hunter-Harvill said the there are 339 students back in school this week, including 151 students at Doerr Child Development Center, 97 students at Phoenix Science & Technology Center and 91 students at the high school.

"We have to keep working to receive high school students back," she said. 

The high school had about 160 students prior to the school closings, and is missing 40 to 50 students including the 25 graduating seniors, Hunter-Harvill said. There are 29 students missing at Doerr and 10 missing at Phoenix.

"Come back to us," Hunter-Harvill asked students at a community meeting on Tuesday, May 21. "Believe in us."

Knake also reports that five employees who were laid off were recalled:

For the first time in two weeks, teachers are back in the business of teaching and students are back in the business of learning in the Buena Vista school district near Saginaw.

That's after the district had to close school doors because it couldn't meet payroll. On today's show: just how bad are finances for school districts across the state? Could your district be next?

Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing, and Eric Scorsone, an economist at Michigan State University, talked with us about Michigan school finances and whether consolidation is a viable solution.

And, Buena Vista’s high school men’s basketball coach spoke about how the school is doing now that it has reopened.

Twitter

In the Buena Vista school district, teachers are back in the business of teaching and students are back in the business of learning for the first time in two weeks.

It has been two weeks since the Buena Vista school board laid off all but three staff members and closed down the schools, because there was just no money to keep things running.

It took a new deficit-elimination plan and the state releasing three months of state aid that had been withheld to recoup funding for a program for incarcerated youth. The district had stopped running the program, but had not notified Lansing.

It's convoluted and confusing, but in all of these news stories and headlines there is one crystal-clear reality: students are suffering.

So are their teachers, who actually offered to work without pay.

Students and teachers in the Buena Vista School District are back in the classroom today.

After a two-week closure of the Saginaw County district, all three schools in the district opened their doors Monday morning. To make up for lost instruction time, the school year will now end on June 21, instead of the scheduled June 13, MLive reported.

The district shut down after the state pulled some $400,000 in misappropriated funding.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Bake sales, magazine subscriptions and car washes ... it seems school systems are perennially low on money.

But with one Michigan school system closing its doors before the school year ends, others consolidating to save money, and still another giving up on its high school; Michigan schools seem to be in an especially bad spot.

Blame gets spread around.

It's the economy - mismanagement - declining enrollment - excessive funding cuts - high retiree costs - or cumbersome union contracts.

Pick whatever reason you like best, it doesn't change the fact that many Michigan schools are in trouble.

The State's Deputy Superintendent of Schools wrote this in a recent memo to local school officials:

"... we have seen a marked increase in the number of districts that have experienced a deficit fund balance. The magnitude of some of these districts seems almost insurmountable."

Let's give it a little perspective.

Over the last decade, here are the number of schools that ran a deficit in a given school year.

Michigan had 742 school districts in 2002-2003. Today, the state has 805 districts.

Of the 805 districts today, as the chart shows, 49 are running deficits.

Here are the fifteen schools in Michigan with the biggest projected budget deficits as a percentage of their expected overall revenue. It should be noted that these numbers could change as the school year advances.

Aaron Alexander / Flickr

In May's segment of The Living Room, Allison Downey tells the story of a high school dance she went to that ended a little differently than she expected. 

The Living Room is a monthly series produced by Zak Rosen and Allison Downey. 

In today's segment, we hear Allison's song 'All that Matters.'

It was produced & engineered by Michael Crittenden at Mackinaw Harvest Studios in Grand Rapids

John Austin: Electric bass

Rod Capps: Lead guitar

Brian Morril: Percussion

Annie Capps: Harmony vocals

Allison: Lead vocals and rhythm guitar

To hear the story, click the link above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint School District is planning over one hundred layoffs, the Flint Journal reported.

139 teachers and faculty in Flint will receive pink slips, with the staff cuts going into effect the day after school gets out on June 10.

While the interim superintendent emphasized the possible rehiring of many of these teachers at the end of June, the school district’s deficit reduction plan calls for firing 150 teachers over the next three years.

The Flint School District has three years to chop away at a $15.6-million deficit. If the deficit isn’t eliminated by their 2015 deadline, the district could lose state funding.

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

A public school in Michigan closing before the year ends isn't just a state story.

The Washington Post picked up on the troubles of the Buena Vista school district in a piece by Lyndsey Layton today.

Layton looks at how often these kinds of closings happen around the country:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Students at Saginaw County's Buena Vista school district may be back in the classroom soon. The state has approved the district's plan to bring itself out of debt.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has approved the release of state aid funds to the Buena Vista school district.

The district hasn't held class since May 3 because it ran out of money to pay its teachers. Last night the Buena Vista board of education approved a deficit elimination plan.

Flanagan says he is now encouraging the local school board and administration to reopen the doors as soon as possible. The state will release state aid to Buena Vista on May 20th, allowing the district to make payroll on May 24th.

The aid will put an end to any discussion of a “Plan B” that was developed earlier this week to have Buena Vista students use federal money to attend a skills camp over the summer.

The schools will be open today for those students who qualify for free meals.

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