Education

Education
5:59 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Teacher retirement fund needs help

There’s an ongoing debate about how to sustainably fund the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System.

According the Bridge Magazine, an online publication of the Center for Michigan, the retirement system is underfunded by $45 billion.

Bridge Magazine staff writer, Nancy Derringer, has taken an in-depth look at this issue.

Derringer notes that Senate bill 1040 would change the way the retirement system is funded. "If you are a new employee your contribution to the retire system would increase to 8%. And they currently pay 3 and 6.2 % of their salary. And then if you are a retiree you currently have your health care premiums 90% paid by the state and you pay 10%, that would switch to 80/20."

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Education
4:10 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Pontiac school finances face state scrutiny

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan
Michigan.gov

The state is set to take a preliminary look at the financial situation of Pontiac's public schools, a step that could eventually lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.

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Newsmaker Interview
8:33 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

More cyber schools for Michigan?

SpecialKRB / flickr

The State House recently passed legislation that would allow an increase in the number of Michigan cyber schools.

Cyber schools provide instruction via the internet. There are two currently operating in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Republican State Representative Dale Zorn. He voted in favor of the legislation after promising to vote against it.

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Education
2:56 pm
Sun April 29, 2012

New anti-bullying book

Students at Michigan State University have published a book about bullying in the age of social media. The book is a project of an advanced undergraduate journalism course on the East Lansing campus.

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Education
7:00 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Detroit students suspended over walkout start "Freedom School"

Western and Southwestern High School students staged a walkout Wednesday
via ourvoicessouthwestdetroit.tumblr.com

More than 100 students were suspended from Detroit’s Western International High School this week.

Those students were part of a group that walked out of school to protest district policies, and what they say is a poor-quality education.

Now, some of the students are setting up what they’re calling a “freedom school” to attend while they’re suspended.

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Education
2:55 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

U of M, Focus Hope team up on Detroit community development inititaive

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad creative commons

Focus Hope, a well-known social services organization in Detroit, has spent decades providing food, career training and other services to people throughout southeast Michigan.

Now the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute is kicking in roughly $200,000 to help the nonprofit with its Focus Hope Village Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to transform the 100-block area around the Focus Hope campus, where thousands live at or below the poverty line.

John Callewaert is leading the U of M side of things. He says they’ll be working on six projects ranging from legal issues around vacant land to developing playgrounds to "moving towards college readiness" within the community.

He says the strategies developed could be used as a model for other areas with "lots of open space and economic decline." 

According to Focus Hope, their Village Initiative is based on a successful model being used in New York:

This initiative is inspired by the adage that it "takes a village to raise a child.” Much like the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, the HOPE Village Initiative will bring together whatever resources are necessary to transform our community. Already, parents, businesses, retirees, educators, block clubs and others are working together to create opportunities for our children.

Each of the six projects will receive up to $30,000 over 18 months.

Education
6:51 pm
Sun April 22, 2012

Campus safety after Virginia Tech

Flickr/York College of PA

The shootings at Virginia Tech happened five years ago this month. That event caused many colleges and universities to reevaluate safety issues on campus.

Pat Gotschalk is associate dean of students at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  She says after the Virginia Tech shooting, her university created what they call an “early intervention team.” The team is made up of staff members who identify students who may be struggling.

Gotschalk says originally the team looked for students with academic problems. But over time, they’ve broadened their focus. She says now they deal with students struggling with behavioral, conduct, mental health, or adjustment issues.

The team reaches out to about one-hundred students each year and helps connect students with counselors or support services. Gotschalk says most large schools and universities have programs that are similar.

Education
5:02 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Madison Heights teachers get 10% retroactive pay cut, may sue district

user kconnors morgueFile

A public school district in Oakland County imposed a ten percent pay cut on its teachers retroactive to the start of the school year.

Now it is likely the teachers will sue the district.

Teachers in the Madison Heights school district have been working without a contract for three years. In that time there’s been lots of bargaining, a fact finding mission, mediation - but to no avail.

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Education
4:31 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

Ann Arbor schools face $17.8 million budget deficit

user jdurham morgueFile

Michigan school districts are struggling with growing budget deficits. Even relatively wealthy districts are facing unprecedented cuts.

The Ann Arbor Public School district faces a $17.8 million deficit. The district's budget for the 2011-12 school year is $183 million. 

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen met with the district's Board of Education on Wednesday, where he laid out three possible plans to deal with the deficit in Ann Arbor – each one progressively more severe. 

All three proposals include:

  • teacher layoffs: Plan A: 32 teachers; Plan B: 48 teachers; Plan C: 64 teachers
  • closing Roberto Clemente, one of two alternative high schools in the district
  • cuts to transportation*

*Plan C calls for getting rid of high school bus routes entirely.

Ann Arbor School Board president Deb Mexicotte says the cuts are "reaching the bone," and "if you keep cutting, you’re going to reach the place where you can no longer maintain what you do well."

Mexicotte blames the state for what she says its chronic under-funding of education:

"This is not the story of our smallest districts or our districts that have struggled because of their tax revenue package. We’re talking about districts that people generally think are insulated from these kinds of things." She adds, "we’re all in this together."

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Education
10:34 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools 3rd district with emergency manager

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed Donald Weatherspoon to run the Muskegon Heights school district. The appointment is effective Monday, April 23rd. A link to the governor's press release is here.

Dr. Weatherspoon has spent the past 27 years working in the education community, both as a professor at Michigan State University and as a government executive, and currently serves on the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

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Education
6:06 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

U of M grad students challenge ban on forming unions

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008.
U of M GEO

The issue of whether or not certain University of Michigan graduate students can unionize is back in the news.

Two graduate students at the University of Michigan have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in an effort to overturn a new state law that prohibits U of M graduate student research assistants, or GSRAs, from collective bargaining.

Public Act 45 effectively says GSRAs are primarily students, not public employees, and therefore don’t have the right to form a union.

Sam Montgomery is with the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), a labor union at U of M. She says the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. constitution:

"It singles out this group of individuals and withholds them from a right that is granted to other public employees without giving a rational based in fact as to why they are not employees."

Last May, the U of M Board of Regents voted 6 to 2 to recognize the university's roughly 2,200 GSRAs as public employees with the right to vote to form a union.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission found otherwise in a 1981 ruling. The Commission was in the middle of holding its own administrative hearing on the issue when Governor Snyder signed Public Act 45 into law.

Education
12:53 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

U of M to offer free online classes this summer

U of M to offer free online classes ranging from finance to literature
user jdurham morgueFile

Beginning this summer, the University of Michigan will offer a number of online classes that anyone from anywhere in the world can take…for free.

A professor from the U of M business school will teach a class on finance. Want to know about electronic voting in time for the November presidential election? You can take a course called securing digital democracy.

U of M English professor Eric Rabkin will teach a class on fantasy and science fiction, which is scheduled to go live this summer:

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Education
8:00 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Detroit students will learn math and science--at the racetrack

Students pose with a racecar at Emerson Elementary
via detroitgp.com

About 600 Detroit Public Schools students will visit the Detroit Grand Prix in June.

Before their visit, they’ll spend a few weeks learning about racing-related science and math concepts. They’ll then get a chance to apply those skills at the real racetrack, during events at the Grand Prix.

Grand Prix’s event chairman Bud Denker says this won’t just be a “field trip” for the students.

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Education
2:54 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Online petition seeks to reinstate fired Pontiac teacher

screen grab of Harris on Democracy Now

A Pontiac teacher who says she was fired after helping her students organize a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin is receiving support in the form of over 200,000 petition signatures. According to the Detroit Free Press, the online petition calls for Brooke Harris to be reinstated to her post at Pontiac Academy for Excellence and organizers plan to present the signatures during a meeting of the school's board at 5p.m. today.

From the Free Press:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit based in Montgomery, Ala., started the petition.

The district has denied Harris was fired because of the fundraiser, but Superintendent Jacqueline Cassell previously told the Free Press she could not discuss a personnel issue.

According to Harris, the Free Press writes, students in her yearbook class planned to raise money and pledged to wear hoodies to school, a violation of the school's dress code meant to show solidarity with Martin who was wearing one when he was shot and killed in Florida earlier this year.

Harris told the Free Press that when school administrators became aware of the plan, they moved to block it:

Harris said Cassell said no, and when she asked whether students could meet with Cassell to make their case, she was suspended for two days for being insubordinate.

Harris said she came to the school while suspended, so her suspension was extended to two weeks, but she was fired after questioning it.

It remains to be seen if the petition will have any effect on Harris' employment status.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
11:36 am
Tue April 17, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools likely to get emergency manager

Muskegon Heights High School
Muskegon Heights School Board

Today is the deadline for the Muskegon Heights school board to ask the governor for a hearing on his impending appointment of an emergency manager to the district. It appears unlikely the school board will request the hearing.

Last December the Muskegon Heights school board laid off its superintendent and asked the state for an emergency manager. Four months later, Governor Rick Snyder agreed a financial emergency does exist and the school board has no real plan to fix it.

Unless the school board requests a hearing today, the next step is for Snyder to appoint the manager. That could happen as soon as this week.

Muskegon Heights schools would become the third school district run by an emergency manger in Michigan. Four cities are run by emergency managers as well. The City of Detroit is working under the terms of a consent agreement instead of an emergency manager.

Education
5:29 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Last day for open enrollment in Detroit schools

Monday was the last day for parents of Detroit Public Schools students to pick schools for their children.

The district has a citywide open enrollment policy this year.

Parents who want to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhood can rank their preferred schools. The district takes that into consideration when placing kids.

Sonya Smith, a DPS parent who also works at the Parent Resource Center at Osborn High School, says the district has made the whole process easier for parents this year.

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Commentary
11:56 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Commentary: Who really runs Michigan’s universities?

Most people would probably say their presidents. Based on a non-scientific experiment I’ve been conducting in casual conversations, a fair number of people, can even name the presidents of those schools.

Well, at least the one they attended.

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Education
10:36 am
Fri April 13, 2012

Detroit Public Schools sends layoff notices to all teachers

user kconnors morgueFile

Around 4,100 Detroit Public Schools teachers received layoff notices and will have to reapply for their jobs next month if they wish to continue to work for the district.

The Detroit News reports the layoffs are effective just days ahead of the next school year on August 24.

School district spokesman Steve Wasko said the letters were mailed on Tuesday.

"This was done previously; what's different and what parents should be aware of is the process to call staff back," Wasko said. "Based on new state law, all school districts are precluded from making hiring decisions based solely on seniority; thus decisions will be made based on evaluations."

Wasko said this will help ensure that the district brings back "the right number of teachers given its need to downsize andplaces only teachers in the top categories based on objective evaluations" in front of children.

The News reports DPS did the same thing last year "and spent the summer calling back teachers for positions."

The district experienced an attendance spike in September and after many classrooms became overcrowded had to call back additional teachers. All but about 400 teachers were eventually called back.

President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers Keith Johnson said "they are doing this again like they did last year and it's going to be chaos again in September... I'm preparing for battle."

Education
12:57 pm
Wed April 11, 2012

University of Michigan regents wants more info on "tuition equality"

The Michigan Union on UM's Central Campus.
Andrew Horn wikimedia commons

Making a case for in-state tuition at the University of Michigan has been tough battle for some students - especially undocumented immigrants.

Daniel Morales was an undocumented resident when he was accepted by the University of Michigan, but he was told he'd have to pay international tuition despite growing up in Michigan.

Morales petitioned the U of M Board of Regents for policy changes, and it seems like they're listening.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The Board of Regents asked Provost Phil Hanlon to prepare a report on tuition equality for undocumented students, which could be presented as soon as its meeting next week.

It's unclear whether that will lead to a policy change at U-M, which currently charges students without citizenship or a green card out-of-state tuition.

Morales has said that U of M's tuition policies are unjust.

"This is a civil rights fight in which we are restraining a certain population of our community because of something that is not within their control."

Western Michigan University already charges in-state tuition for undocumented Michigan students.

Education
5:48 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Michigan high school grad rates remain steady despite more rigorous standards

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The graduation rate for the high school class of 2011 remained relatively steady compared to the previous year, despite new science and math requirements students had to pass in order to graduate.

Wendy Zdeb-Roper is executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. She says most educators had "a certain degree of trepidation" when the requirements were introduced because they were concerned about graduation rates and how students would fare.

According to the Center for Educational Performance and Information, the average graduation rate drop by only a little more two percent – from 76 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2011, which is statistically insignificant:

"That number is pretty minimal compared to the Armageddon that was predicted," says Zdeb-Roper.

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