Education

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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Education
4:34 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Governor Snyder: financial emergency exists at Muskegon Heights Public Schools

Governor Rick Snyder has determined a financial emergency exists in the Muskegon Heights school district. The next step is for the governor to appoint an emergency manager to the district.

“Ensuring a quality education for students in Muskegon Heights is our top priority,” Snyder said in a written release issued Tuesday afternoon.

“The appointment of an Emergency Manager is the logical next step  in restoring financial stability to the troubled district, and in fact, is a step that has been requested by members of the Muskegon Heights Board of Education,” Synder said. Unlike any other city or school district, the school board in Muskegon Heights asked for a state takeover back in December.

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Education
4:53 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

DPS turnaround plan calls for "self-governing" high schools, new accountability standards

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts laid out his latest plan for how to turn the cash-strapped district around and help students improve.

Here are the three main components of the turnaround:

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Education
4:33 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

Team recommends governor appoint emergency manager for Muskegon Heights schools

Muskegon Heights High School. The Muskegon Heights school board is asking for an emergency manager appointment.
Muskegon Heights School Board

A review team is recommending Governor Rick Snyder appoint an emergency manager to run the Muskegon Heights Public School district.

Unlike any other city or school district, the school board in Muskegon Heights voted for a state takeover.

Muskegon Heights Schools has run a deficit for at least six years in a row.

The review team found:

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Education
1:29 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

Students to rally in Lansing for higher education money

Students from Michigan’s 15 public universities are meeting in Lansing today to personally lobby lawmakers for more money for higher education.

Jay Gage is a junior at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie. He’s also the president of the Student Association of Michigan.

“I think it’s a lot more powerful a message than your average lobbyist that’s here day in and day out. To have students from every university come and say you know this is a priority,” Gage said.

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Benton Harbor
6:35 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Benton Harbor school board approves consolidation

Woodley Wonder Works Flickr

The school board in Benton Harbor has voted to consolidate its schools as part of a five-year plan to eliminate the southwestern Michigan district's deficit.

WSJM-AM and WNDU-TV report the board voted Tuesday night to go forward with the reorganization, which faced opposition from some students and parents. Following the changes, the district will have four K-8 schools, a high school and a Pre-K program. The district's administrative offices also will move.

Superintendent Leonard Seawood says the district plans to complete the changes by 2016. He says the changes will be "historic for our students."

Officials say the consolidation is part of an effort to avoid the possible appointment of a state-appointed emergency financial manager because of the district's financial difficulties.

Education
10:25 am
Wed March 21, 2012

Ypsilanti, Willow Run school districts consider consolidation

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) — Leaders of the Willow Run and Ypsilanti school districts say plans to consolidate could prevent them from being placed under the control of an emergency financial manager.

AnnArbor.com reports both school districts have been on the state's list of districts operating with a deficit consistently since 2009. Ypsilanti Public Schools has a total projected deficit of $9.4 million and Willow Run Community Schools has a $1.7 million deficit.

The superintendents of both districts said Tuesday that consolidation could prevent an emergency manager and improve student achievement.

Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin says his district has spent more than it has taken in since 2004-05. Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki says school officials are looking to take a local, proactive approach to solving their schools' growing financial and student achievement problems.

Education
1:28 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Michigan Senate passes bill banning intimate relations between school employees and students

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate has approved legislation aimed at expanding prohibitions against sex between school employees and students.

The Senate passed the main bill in a legislative package by a 36-2 vote Tuesday. The legislation advances to the House.

The legislation would make it a crime for school employees such as administrators and teachers to have sex with students even if the student is 18 or older.

Current law sets an age of consent in such cases at 18.

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