education

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.

DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts says without Proposal S, the district would be severely crippled.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts was supposed to leave his post tomorrow. 

Today, he announced he will stay on the job for another six months.

In a letter to the staff at Detroit Public Schools, Roberts said Gov. Rick Snyder agreed to extend his contract.

Many of you are probably asking yourselves why I requested this contract extension. My answer is really quite simple, and is the reason I took this job in the first place – it’s about educating the children of Detroit.

DPS is on a good trajectory, with improved test scores and graduation rates, a balanced budget, and a solid
strategic plan, developed by all of us, that focuses on neighborhood-centered, quality schools. I want to do everything I can to ensure that we complete this school year in keeping with this trajectory – and help begin the preparation for an even more successful 2013-14 academic and fiscal year.

The Detroit News reports that Roberts will work on a budget for the coming school year for the district "which educates about 53,000 students and grapples with a graduation rate of less than 70 percent."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Albion School Board voted last night to close the district’s high school.

Beginning this fall, the mid-Michigan district will only serve students in grades K through eight.

Some students cried.  Others just shook their heads, after the school board voted 5 to 1, with one abstention, to close Albion High School.

School board members said repeatedly they didn’t want to close the school, but a projected million dollar budget deficit could not be ignored.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Battle Creek State Senator Mike Nofs says he doesn’t think higher than expected revenue in the school aid fund should be used to bail out struggling school districts.

Nofs says at today’s revenue estimating conference, state officials will announce the school aid fund has nearly $100 million more than predicted.

Nofs expects there will be push to use that money to help the struggling Pontiac and Buena Vista school districts. But he says that’s not a good idea.

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista School District unceremoniously shut down ten days ago, sending staff and students home for the year after the district ran out of money.

At Tuesday night’s emergency school board meeting there was almost universal confusion about what happens next. 

The school board unanimously approved a deficit elimination plan they hope will allow state aid payments to start up again so students can get back in the classroom. 

If that doesn't work, the board grudgingly approved a plan for a summer "skills building camp," in lieu of traditional classroom time.

Nobody at the meeting seemed very happy about that option.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An entire school district closing before the school year ends is a bit of a black eye for public education in Michigan.

Just on perception alone, you would think politicians and administrators would jump to fix the problem. Instead, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett pointed out, many just put up their hands.

Now, some news of movement.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista school district will try to run summer camps to help students affected by the sudden cancelation of classes for the balance of the school year.

That's one of the decisions today from a meeting of state and local education officials.

The shut-down will not stop eligible seniors from graduating, or other students from advancing to the next grade. The district in Saginaw County will try to run four- to six-week camps over the summer break to help students make up what they missed, and prepare for the coming school year.

The money for those camps will not come from the state, but from federal funds.

The Buena Vista district abruptly ceased operations earlier this month. That was after the state cut off aid payments because of debts owed by the district.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

This past Thursday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Michigan can proceed with Public Act 53, a law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks.

The 2-1 ruling overturned a Detroit federal court preliminary injunction that ruled in favor of the unions. In June of 2012, U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood issued the preliminary injunction against Public Act 53.

With the new ruling, public schools are no longer required to deduct the union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other school employees.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Thursday's opinion read: “The act merely directs one kind of public employer to use its resources for its core mission, rather than the collection of union dues.” 

State signs plan to help ailing Pontiac schools

May 11, 2013
pontiac.k12.mi.us / Pontiac School District

Michigan's top education official has signed off on a plan to help the beleaguered Pontiac School District.

Kalkaska schools

No doubt, public schools in Michigan are struggling.

Around 400 students in the Buena Vista school district in Saginaw have been shut out after the district announced they couldn't make payroll.

And it was revealed yesterday that Pontiac schools are close to running out of money and might have to close their doors early.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Saginaw area school district that's closed its doors has now asked the state to review its finances.

That's the first step toward a state appointed emergency manager.

But the move does not guarantee the District's 400 students will be back in class anytime soon.

The Buena Vista school board heard from parents and students last night, angry about the abrupt and apparent early end of the school year.

“If we don’t get these kids back in school…we’re going to be the ones who destroyed their lives,” one upset father told the school board. 

Christopher Webb / Flickr

It’s day four of no school for Saginaw-based Buena Vista School District, as the district prepares to declare a financial emergency.

As Mark Brush reported on Tuesday, the school district canceled classes earlier this week after teachers were laid off. The layoffs come after the district of about 450 students learned the state was withholding funding for April, May and June.

On today's program, we explore the idea of secret work groups crafting public policy in Lansing, and how transparent Michigan's government should be.

And we look at whether expanding the lottery to the internet is a good idea.

We'll also hear how new technology being developed here in Michigan might be able to help authorities identify potential threats in airports or in large crowds.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Seven Michigan high schools received "gold medals" from the U.S. News Best High Schools 2013 rankings. 68 high schools received "silver medals," and 131 received "bronze medals."

Here's their top ten:

screen grab

The financial storm has been brewing at the Buena Vista School District outside of Saginaw for some time, but it came to a head today.

The Buena Vista School District announced that the school is closed today and that teachers will be laid off.

A community meeting is expected to be held at 6 p.m tonight.

The District has faced declining enrollment at a time when public education funds are being cut in the state.

Jake Neher / MPRN

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says public schools in Detroit have improved in the last four years. Duncan was in Detroit today with Governor Rick Snyder. They toured a traditional public school and a school in the state’s Education Achievement Authority.

The EAA is a controversial state-run authority meant to turn around failing schools. Based on his tour today, Duncan says the EAA shows promise.

“Obviously, long long way to go, and there’ll be bumps in the road and hurdles. But my only goal is to see every child be successful,” said Duncan. “I think the only way we get there is if, again, the EAA is successful, the Detroit public schools are successful, charters are successful. We just need great public schools across the state and across the country.”

U.S. Dept. of Education

DETROIT (AP) - President Obama's education secretary will be in Detroit on Monday for a town hall meeting on education issues and visits to three area schools.

The Detroit Public Schools and Gov. Rick Snyder's office say Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Snyder will visit a fifth-grade class at Thirkell Elementary School.

The school has about 490 students from preschool to eighth grade. It's about 31/2 northwest of downtown Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A pair of bills that would revoke welfare benefits from some Michigan families has cleared the state House. The legislation has support on both sides of the aisle.

One bill would let the state cut cash assistance payments to families with kids who persistently miss school.

The state Department of Human Services is already doing this – the bill would make the policy state law.

Many Republicans and Democrats say it’s a good way to promote school attendance in poor areas.

But Democratic Representative Jeff Irwin is worried some abusive parents might be keeping their kids out of school to avoid getting turned in to the authorities.

Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Here's a question to consider: are we doing the students of Michigan a disservice by steering them to the jobs that businesses are demanding in today's world?

It's certainly a big push for Governor Rick Snyder.

But MLive columnist Rick Haglund has some misgivings about this growing push to match courses with what businesses want in Michigan grads.

He joined us today from Birmingham, and we asked him why he thinks this approach could backfire in the long run.

Listen to the full interview above.

Last week, the Lansing School District and its teachers ratified a new contract that totally overhauls the way art and music will be taught in its schools.

Art, music and phys ed teachers will be replaced in Lansing elementary schools. Instead, contract consultants will teach those subjects alongside the regular classroom teachers.

This story got us wondering about the future of arts education in Michigan.

How can school districts who are coping with cuts in funding and eroding tax bases and population manage to still provide arts education?

How much does arts education really matter in these days of heavy emphasis on the STEM classes....science, technology, engineering and math?

Joining me now is Kathy White. She's the President and CEO of the Michigan Assessment Consortium and she is the Project Director of the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Program.

Listen to the full interview above.

Richard D. McLellan / Wikipedia

Chad Livengood of the Detroit News revealed the group that met in secret, which dubbed itself a "skunk works" last week:

A secret work group that includes top aides to Gov. Rick Snyder has been meeting since December to develop a lower-cost model for K-12 public education with a funding mechanism that resembles school vouchers.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Bill to decriminalize marijuana introduced in state Legislature

State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor.

"Irwin says state and local governments spend about 326-million dollars per year enforcing current marijuana laws. Republican Representative Mike Shirkey is a co-sponsor of the bill, and Irwin says it has bi-partisan support," according to Michigan Radio's Joseph Lichterman.

Legislation to tie welfare benefits to school attendance approved by House

A bill that would take away the welfare benefits from parents whose children miss too much school is on its way to the floor of the state House. The bill would take an existing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services policy and make it state law. Republican Representative Al Pscholka law says it is an effective way to keep kids in school, but opponents argue the bill doesn't provide enough safeguards to ensure low-income families are treated fairly.

State superintendent Mike Flanagan to take over secret education work group

"Governor Rick Snyder has asked the state’s education chief to take over a controversial project that’s looking for ways to reduce school costs. The new project will be narrower in scope than one handled by a controversial group that met in secret and included members of the governor’s administration. Snyder says he wants the new group to consider ways to use technology to reduce school costs," Rick Pluta reports.

http://www.daymonjhartley.com/

 Today, on State of Opportunity, I report on a troubling fact of charter school expansion in Michigan: Some of the state's best charter schools are struggling to compete against low-performing charter schools. The reason, simply enough, is marketing. Low-performing schools can easily outspend high-performing schools on advertising and recruitment gimmicks. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Education is front and center these days in Michigan.

Governor Snyder spoke today to a summit of education leaders, calling for businesses to get more closely involved with public education.

Snyder believes many students might be being pushed toward getting a four-year college degree when vocation education – technical career training or community college – might make just as much sense for them.

In the state House and Senate, there is movement towards changing Michigan’s high school graduation requirements.

I was struck by something Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan said yesterday at the Governor’s Education Summit.

This year’s summit was largely designed to examine how educators at all levels could better work with business to help students be ready for the careers for which there are jobs.

Nothing wrong with that, I suppose—up to a point. We probably need more high schools offering Chinese, for example.

Students in vocational education, or learning computer applications need to work on state-of-the-art technology. But I think having education be too narrowly focused is as ominous and scary as having kids insufficiently trained.

On today's show: the future of education in Michigan.

Governor Snyder has said he believes too much emphasis is  put on four-year degrees in our state.

Today, we take a look at the requirements to graduate high school in Michigan.

And billionaire and founder of Quicken Loans Dan Gilbert has a vision for reviving downtown Detroit, but what does Gilbert's "Opportunity Detroit" plan really mean for the city and its residents?

And it's been a challenging few days in terms of rain and flooding through much of Michigan.

In the Lansing area, the Red Cedar River has caused flooding on Michigan State University's campus, leaving some athletic fields waterlogged. This weekend the Lansing Marathon had to be rerouted along the Lansing river trail because of high water levels.
 
Residents in the Saginaw area are also seeing flooding from the Saginaw River. Over the weekend, officials opened a middle school in  Saginaw Township as a shelter due to flooding in the area. And flooding closed some area roads, and people were encouraged to avoid crossing roadways covered by water.
 
Meanwhile, water levels have lowered in the Midland area, which had been hit by flooding of the Tittabawassee River.

And Grand Rapids is still coping with the aftermath of flooding that hit downtown hotels, stores and businesses. We spoke with Michigan Radio's west Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith.

The Education Trust-Midwest

Michigan is falling behind most other states when it comes to improving student achievement.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from Royal Oak-based Education Trust-Midwest.

The report looks at the improvements in student achievement in Michigan from 2003 to 2011 and compares it to the improvements other states have seen.

On almost every measure, Michigan lags well behind the national average.

From the report:

Sadly, we have little to be proud of today. Our state’s educational performance is lackluster by practically any reliable measure.

Amber Arrellano of The Education Trust-Midwest says part of the problem is Michigan has relied primarily on charter schools to improve student outcomes, and not all charter schools have been successful.

"We're actually putting tens of millions of dollars and subsidizing the growth of some of our worst schools in the state. And that’s just not a good use of our taxpayer dollars," she said.

Arrellano says more school choice can improve outcomes, "but when the Legislature decided to lift the state cap on charter schools a few years ago, they did not include any performance standards for who gets to expand here."

Arrellano says there are high-quality charter schools that improve student performance in Michigan, but she says the lower quality charter school operators are expanding more quickly.

Arrellano says research from Stanford University shows that charter school operators with less successful track records are actually expanding more quickly than those with better track records.

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