Education

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today’s the first day of school for most children in Michigan.   In Lansing, this is also the beginning of the final year on the job for the district’s  school superintendent.  

As the public address system blared instructions for which classroom or auditorium they should go to, hundreds of students found their way around Lansing’s STEM Academy this morning.  District Superintendent T.C. Wallace was there to help them find their way.  

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will make an appearance in Detroit this week, just days after a visit from President Obama. It's part of a three-day “Education and the Economy” tour Secretary Duncan is taking through the Midwest.

Detroit Public Schools, the city of Detroit, and several public safety agencies are launching what they call an “unprecedented, multi-agency” school safety initiative. The initiative includes updated monitoring equipment; designated safe routes and patrols around three schools deemed “hot spots”; and monitoring social media sites for potential problems.

The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan

A coalition of Michigan’s public university officials says college is still affordable, despite tuition hikes.

A report from the Presidents Council says need-based financial aid is on the rise, and universities are covering more student costs.         

Michael Boulous is executive director of the Presidents Council.

"The bottom line is aid is available if you have need. College still is affordable, and we don’t want that to be a discouraging piece in attending any post-secondary institution."

Boulous says a college education is more important than ever for workers in Michigan.

"The number of jobs for workers with high school diplomas is shrinking rapidly," says Boulous. "In many cases, entire industries that employed these workers are vanishing. Unemployment for people who have gone to college is half the rate it is for those who have only a high school diploma."

        The report says merit-based scholarships have decreased slightly over the past few years. But the report says need-based financial aid has nearly doubled in that time.

The Presidents Council says the average student pays about $4,800 in tuition at a public university. Housing and books can add about $9,000 to that price tag.

School officials say about two-thirds of students qualify for financial aid.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The school system in Highland Park is getting closer to the possible appointment of an emergency manager because of its troubled finances.

Michigan schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder this month saying "probable financial stress exists" in the Detroit-area school district. The letter says a recently revised state law requires that the governor appoint a review team to dig deeper into the district's finances.

The letter summarizing a preliminary financial review of the 1,300-student district was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The letter cites "unsatisfactory progress" in eliminating budget deficits and audit problems.

A message was left Tuesday seeking comment from School District of the City of Highland Park officials.

The district still could avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new program launching this fall in Grand Rapids will try to help high school dropouts earn both their high school diplomas and some college credit.  The program is a joint effort of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College. 

College president Steven Ender says they’re reaching out to 16 to 19 year olds who otherwise would have a hard time finding a future in Michigan’s economy.  

Woodley Wonder Works / Flickr

 A new report, released by the Citizen's Research Council, says declining enrollment is one reason many Michigan public schools are facing financial struggles. From the Associated Press:

About 61 percent of Michigan's 551 traditional public school districts faced some degree of declining enrollment between the state's 1995 and 2009 fiscal years...

It's an important factor because much of the state aid that goes to school districts is granted on a per-student basis. The report says about half of Michigan's school districts saw a decline in their total state aid foundation revenue between the 1995 and 2009 fiscal years once it's adjusted for inflation.

The report says the per-student gap between the state's highest and lowest funded districts has shrunk but still exists.

The 87 page report, titled Distribution of State Aid to Michigan Schools, can be found here.

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

The board that will oversee Michigan’s lowest-performing schools has chosen John Covington as its chancellor.

Covington plans to leave his post as superintendent of the Kansas City school system to take the job. He’s overseen efforts to close schools and balance the budget in that job, which he’s held for the past two years.

Covington says he’s the job offers a unique chance for innovation in education:

MDE

Education officials from the state of Michigan released two lists on public schools today.

I posted earlier on Michigan's list of "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools."

Here's a look at the state's "Top to Bottom Ranking" (follow the link to find the list, it's an excel spreadsheet).

The Top to Bottom ranking lists all public schools in Michigan that have more than 30 students who were "tested over the last two years in at least two state-tested content areas." (You can read more about how the schools were ranked here - warning - It's Power Point file.)

There are 3,010 schools listed.

The Michigan Department of Education says "this list is being published to provide information to all schools and to provide 'light of day' reporting on the achievement, improvement, and achievement gaps of all schools in the state."

The rankings are based on graduation rates and the following three areas of student achievement:

  1. Achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels
  2. Improvement in achievement over time
  3. The largest achievement gap between two subgroups calculated based on the top scoring 30% of students versus the bottom scoring 30% of students

The school districts that had schools in the 99th percentile rank (highest) were:

  • Forest Hills Public Schools
  • Ann Arbor Public Schools
  • School District of the City of Birmingham
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Bloomfield Hills School District
  • Rochester Community School District
  • Berkley School District
  • Lake Orion Community Schools
  • Grand Blanc Community Schools
  • Novi Community School District
  • Saginaw City School District
  • Farmington Public School District
  • Spring Lake Public Schools
  • Hudsonville Public School District
  • Detroit City School District
  • Ottawa Area ISD
  • Grand Haven Area Public Schools
  • Troy School District
  • East Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Livonia Public Schools

And school districts that had schools ranked at the bottom (0 percentile rank) were:

  • Detroit City School District
  • Buena Vista School District
  • Benton Harbor Area Schools
  • Center for Literacy and Creativity
  • Willow Run Community Schools
  • Ecorse Public School District
  • Tuscola ISD
  • Monroe ISD
  • Flint City School District
  • Pontiac City School District
  • Lansing Public School District
  • River Rouge School District
  • Saginaw City School District
  • Southfield Public School District
CMU

Both sides in the Central Michigan University fracas seem to like the court order issued today.

Judge Paul Chamberlain said members of the CMU Faculty Association must continue to work, but they are allowed to picket.

From the Saginaw News:

An Isabella County judge extended a court injunction that prevents Central Michigan University faculty from holding a strike or work stoppage.

The court order, signed by Circuit Judge Paul H. Chamberlain just before noon on Friday, states faculty are restrained from holding a work stoppage but are allowed to picket.

Laura Frey, Faculty Association president, said the court hearing was a "win" for the faculty.

"Our First Amendment rights have been restored," she said.

In a statement, CMU Provost and Executive Vice President E. Gary Shapiro said "we are extremely pleased with today’s court action, which places the priority on student learning and academic achievement. We now look forward to reaching an agreement through fact finding."

The University is seeking to cut faculty pay and benefits in response to state budget cuts. Members of the CMU Faculty Association, the union representing faculty, have said University officials are not bargaining in good faith with them.

A fact-finding process set up to resolve the dispute will begin on September 7.

In the Saginaw News article, Laura Frey "said the faculty intends on exercising their First Amendment rights when asked if they would picket."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Education has revealed its list of "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools" (follow the link to see the list - it's an excel spreadsheet).

The annual listing is required by state law. The state started the PLA listing last year, when 92 schools were called out.

Mercedes Mejia

Since taking office Governor Snyder has proposed many new education reform proposals, including mandatory Schools of Choice, which would allow students throughout the state to attend schools outside of their district.

In this weeks political roundup we take a look at Schools of Choice with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Opposition is mounting to a proposed requirement that all school districts in Michigan accept students from outside their borders. It’s part of Governor Snyder’s education reform plan. Legislation could be introduced as early as today.

Lynn Jacobs co-founded the group Michigan Communities for Local Control to fight the proposal:

Andrew Kuhn / Central Michigan Life

The administration and faculty of Central Michigan University have been unable to negotiate a contract. Tenure and tenure track faculty called for a stoppage and didn’t attend the first day of classes. But then a judge yesterday ordered tenured and tenure track faculty back to the classroom after ruling their strike illegal.

In today's Newsmaker interview we talk with Laura Frey, Faculty Association President.

CMU

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association organized a work stoppage on the first day of classes yesterday after they said the CMU administration was not bargaining with the union in good faith.

CMU officials filed in injunction and a judge ordered the faculty members back to work (state employees are not allowed to strike under state law).

The dispute is over cuts to salary and benefits.

Now, a fact finder has been assigned to help the parties resolve the dispute. From a CMU press release:

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission has appointed Barry Goldman to oversee the fact finding process involving the CMU Faculty Association and Central Michigan University.In addition, hearing dates of Sept. 7, 9 and 13 have been accepted by both parties. Fact finding is a process in which an impartial party is assigned to hear both the university’s and the FA’s positions and then render a recommendation on a collective bargaining agreement. Both the FA and CMU filed petitions for fact finding July 14.   

CMU spokesman Steve Smith says Goldman will listen to both sides on the hearing dates and will later issue a recommendation.

Update: 5:08 p.m.

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association plans to comply with Judge Duthie's order.

From their press release:

Laura Frey, CMU Faculty Association President said, “We will obey the court order and return to work tomorrow. But this does not end the issue. The faculty remains strong and committed to securing a fair and equitable contract for members.”

CMU

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association declared a strike on the first day of classes today.

Members of the Faculty Association and those supporting the union formed picket lines around the campus today.

Reporter David Jesse described the scene on the CMU Campus for the Detroit Free Press:

CMU

Faculty reports and the student newspaper say CMU faculty went on strike tonight. The faculty say the administration did not bargain in good faith. The move comes one day before classes are scheduled to start tomorrow.

CMU officials call the faculty strike an illegal work stoppage. They say students should report for the first day of classes tomorrow. The university says it will seek a court injunction tomorrow to stop the strike.

CMU’s 439 fixed term faculty and 591 graduate assistants will still hold classes as scheduled.

Michigan Radio will have more on the story Monday as it develops.

Update 9:40 p.m.

Here's the University's statement:

Central Michigan University is disappointed that members of the CMU Faculty Association have voted to engage in an illegal work stoppage. This action creates an unfair disruption to the start of the academic year for CMU’s students.

CMU students should report for classes Monday and staff should report for work. CMU’s 439 fixed term faculty and 591 graduate assistants will still hold classes as scheduled.

The impact of the FA’s action places an unfair burden on students who want to graduate in a timely fashion, pursue graduate school or launch successful careers. As such, CMU will request a court injunction Monday to get the faculty back in the classroom.

CMU remains committed to working with the FA toward a contract that is fair and equitable to all parties. CMU and the FA have both petitioned for fact finding, which is the appropriate process to follow in coming to terms on a collective bargaining agreement.

 

The Detroit Free Press reports the strike came after a week of concentrated negotiations:

The move tops a weeklong, last-ditch effort to come to some sort of agreement between the more than 600 members of the union and the school.

The union voted on Monday to authorize the bargaining team to take any job related actions, including a strike.

After that vote, the two sides sat down at the bargaining table every day last week, but made little to no progress on the big issues separating them, such as pay and benefits.

Central Michigan University says there’s been some progress involving contract talks with the faculty union this weekend. The progress has been related to non-economic issues, but there’s still a big gap having to do with pay and benefits.

Talks took place Saturday. Classes are scheduled to start Monday on the Mount Pleasant campus.

The faculty union has a meeting planned Sunday afternoon to discuss whether or not to hold a job action. A job action could include a strike over the failure to reach a labor contract. The professors have been without a contract since June.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State University says 220 top nuclear scientists from around the world are coming to the East Lansing campus for a three-day meeting starting Thursday.

The university says it's the first joint user meeting of researchers who work at four of the nation's leading nuclear science facilities.

Those are Michigan State's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and its upcoming Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, and the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility at Oak Ridge National laboratory in Tennessee.

The meeting runs through Saturday at the Biomedical and Physical Sciences building.

The university says scientists are coming from 48 institutions in 23 states and nine countries.

Terry Whitfield/Partnership for Youth

A group of teenagers in Detroit has been pounding the pavement this summer and surveying local organizations. Their goal was to find out which organizations offer jobs and internships to young people.

The teenagers surveyed 150 organizations and mapped out their results using a data analysis program. One of the things the kids learned was that transportation becomes an issue for kids who are far away from resources.

The program is run by Partnership for Youth and is affiliated with the larger organization, Southwest Solutions.

A new pilot program will offer all Detroit Public Schools students free breakfast, lunch and snacks starting this fall. Michigan is one of three states selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture program.

Kisha Verdusco is spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools.

"The plan is to roll this out nationally across the country. We are among the first, and more states will be added each year, and in the year 2014 to 2015 the entire nation will have this program."

Other Michigan school districts can qualify for the program if 40 percent of their students are from low income families.

A new federal mandate could make it easier for families to budget for college. Net price calculators will be required by all colleges and universities starting October 29th. At a minimum, net costs are based on a student’s income, how big their family is and their dependency status.

Keith Williams works in the financial aid office at Michigan State University. He says MSU’s net price calculator has been around for several years.

"It just allows a student to make a real, realistic comparison as to what the net price will be at one school versus another school," Williams said.

Margaret Rodriguez works in the financial aid office at the University of Michigan. She says the mandate is a good thing.

"The more information that we can make available to families about the availability of financial aid, the better it is," she said.

Schools can use their own system or the generic calculator provided by the federal government.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

cmich.edu / Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University classes may not start as planned on August 22nd. The faculty and administration have been fighting tooth and nail in contract talks since April. The two sides have not met since last month. Union members are expected to talk about informational picketing or a strike in a meeting 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Jeffrey Weinstock is a professor at CMU. He says he feels as if the faculty is being strong-armed by the administration.

"We have never not had an extension of the current contract during bargaining and we’ve never struck and nobody really wants to but … I get the sense we’re really being backed into a corner and being dared," Weinstock said.

The administration released a statement today welcoming students back for the start of school. The statement says students are moving in and freshmen are attending orientation activities to prepare for next week.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The number of schools in Michigan meeting federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" goals dropped off in the last academic year.

Adequate Yearly Progress goals are part of the No Child Left Behind law.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett has more:

Fewer schools in Michigan met federal benchmarks for students’ academic progress this year, and state officials blame the slide on higher standards required by the federal government.

midnight_peace89 / flickr

A new state Web site goes live tomorrow that will give parents better access to information about Michigan schools. The Web site, mischooldata.org, will compile data that parents used to have to hunt for in different places.

Tom Howell of the Center for Educational Performance and Information says eventually there will be more information available – like graduation rates, and how well high schools are preparing students:

Flickr user SvobodaIT

Michigan State University will be a little more crowded this fall. The incoming freshman class at the East Lansing university will be the largest and most geographically diverse in the school's history.

That’s according to The Lansing State Journal.

MSU is expecting about 7,800 students.

BAMN / bamn.com

Prosecutors have dropped charges against 10 people who were arrested for civil disobedience at a Detroit school in April.

Students and a teacher at the Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens were arrested during a sit-on to protest the school closing.

The Detroit Public Schools later announced that a charter operator would take over the school.

Ben Rollman / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers want legislation in place to improve parental involvement in schools. The lack of involvement is seen as one cause of Michigan’s low education scores.

Representative Bob Genetski of Saugatuck is a Republican. He says welfare reform is necessary for education reform.

“I believe much more in workfare than in welfare,” Genetski said. “I think that we need to instill in our kids that nothing comes free and that you earn everything you get.”

Representative Tim Melton of Auburn Hills is a Democrat. He says Child Protective Services should be involved if younger children don’t come to school every day.

“These kids are going to end up in the system either way,” Melton said. “If they’re not showing up at school, that’s an early warning sign of child neglect.”

Melton says Child Protective Services has said they don’t have the resources to take this project on.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

The board that will run the statewide district for Michigan’s lowest-performing schools met for the first time in Detroit Thursday.

Governor Snyder says the Education Achievement System will eventually take on the bottom 5% of schools across the state, starting in Detroit in 2012.

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts is also heading the EAS. That’s a concern for some, including Detroit Federation of Teachers Vice President Mark O’Keefe.

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