Education

K-12 schools budget
10:41 am
Thu March 24, 2011

Republican led state Senate introduces first draft of K-12 schools budget

A crowd gathers in a Grand Rapids neighborhood to protest Governor Snyder's budget plan earlier this month.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Republican lawmakers in Lansing are taking feedback on their first draft of the budget for K through 12 public schools. The plan cuts less per student than Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget.

Senator Howard Walker chairs the appropriations subcommittee on K-12, School Aid and Education. He says instead, the Senate version gets rid of line items funds in the budget that cover specific things like school bus inspections, adult education, and money for districts with two consecutive years of declining student enrollment.

 “We’re not making broad-based cuts to programs, that we’re not increasing class sizes too broadly so that the delivery of good educational opportunities is not affected.”

School districts get a certain amount of money from the state for each student. Currently, $7,316 is the minimum per pupil allowance a district gets. Governor Snyder is proposing to cut that amount by $470 (including making permanent a $170 cut made last year) for all school districts. The plan before the Senate would cut that per pupil allowance by $290.

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Education
9:15 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

Alumni: Don't write Cass Tech obituary just yet

Demolition has begun on the 1970s addition on the west side of Cass Tech.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Demolition on Detroit’s historic Cass Technical High School has begun. But a dedicated group of alumni and supporters still hope they can pull off an eleventh-hour effort to save it.

Cass Tech was and is one of Detroit’s most prestigious high schools. Alumni include Diana Ross, Lily Tomlin, and Jack White of the White Stripes.

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Education
4:34 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

College students to protest higher ed cuts at state capitol

The bell tower on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Many college students are expected to gather at the state Capitol tomorrow to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal for deep budget cuts to public universities and colleges. The protesting students may have the support of their university presidents.  

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon says she hopes lawmakers listen to the concerns of students who show up to protest at the Capitol. She says student voices still matter, even if the movement does not sway lawmakers in the Republican-led Legislature.  

“What happens today, what happens in whether or not all these changes actually balance a budget and move to prosperity will affect their lives forever."

Simon says this is a great time for students to be a part of the democratic process, and learn as much from real life experience as they could in the classroom. She told lawmakers that most students surveyed at MSU say they want to live in Michigan after they graduate. But, she says, fewer than half think they will be able to stay and find jobs in the state.

Education
7:07 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Detroit schools still face huge deficit after two-years of emergency management

Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, has until June to come up with a plan to wipe out a projected $327 million deficit
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Even though the district has had a state-appointed emergency financial manager for two years, Detroit Public Schools still face a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Robert Bobb, the DPS emergency financial manager, was appointed by Jennifer Granholm in March of 2009.

From the Associated Press:

Robert Bobb has spent the past two years closing dozens of schools and firing principals in an effort to fix the failing Detroit Public Schools. Yet, he still hasn't solved the problem for which he was hired — erasing a legacy budget deficit that now stands at $327 million.

Now, in his final months as the state-appointed emergency financial manager, Bobb is proposing several headline-grabbing ideas — including a radical plan to shut down so many buildings that some high schools could see more than 60 students per class — in an attempt to wipe out the red ink.

The AP reports that it's unclear how Bobb might use new powers granted to emergency financial managers under a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder last week. They say he "continues to push the charter school plan which is the one receiving the most support in the city at the moment — even from the school board."

Education
9:08 am
Thu March 17, 2011

Layoff notices go out in the Flint School District

Flint schools are gearing up for cuts. (The International Academy in Flint)
Sarah Razak Flickr

The Flint school board sent lay-off notices to almost all of their superintendents, principals, and other administrators, according to the Flint Journal. Linda Thompson, the paper said, was the only administrator who did not receive a notice.

From the Flint Journal:

The move comes as the district wrestles with projected revenues of $20 million to $25 million less than projected expenditures for the 2011-12 school year.

The measure is something of a technicality, a precaution that allows the district flexibility when the time comes to decide how many administrators will stay on board, said Thompson.

Thompson said its hard to predict when the district will know precisely what it's revenues for next year will be and how many  administrators will be called back.

"When are they going to settle what's happening at the state level?" she asked.

School districts across the state are anxiously awaiting state budget decisions in Lansing.

In the past few years, the districts have had to make fiscal decisions with no firm guidance from legislators in Lansing while they haggled over the state's budget well past fiscal planning deadlines.

Governor Rick Snyder hopes to change that. He's set a deadline of May 31st for legislators to settle on the budget.

The Flint Journal reports on cuts expected, "Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed budget includes a $300 per-pupil cut to school aid that comes on top of an already-planned $170 cut. Factoring in an expected rise in rates schools pay to a state retirement pool and districts across Michigan are expecting $700 less per student next year."

Education
8:12 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Enthusiasm and questions about Detroit charter schools proposal

Robert Bobb, Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools

The man in charge of the Detroit Public Schools’ finances has put forth a plan that would turn some of the district’s worst schools into charter schools.

Robert Bobb presented his “Renaissance Plan 2012” to the Detroit Board of Education over the weekend.

The plan calls for turning 41 of the district’s remaining 142 schools over to charter operators. District spokesman Steve Wasko says it would allow the district to move at least $75 million in expenses off its books.

“This is an alternative that would allow the Detroit Public Schools to shed all of the operating costs of the identified schools, to be borne by an outside management company or charter operator.”

Wasko says Bobb will identify those schools and open up the application process later this week.

Skeptics question whether the amount of money the plan saves would make up what the district would lose in state per-pupil funding. David Arsen, Professor of Educational Policy at Michigan State University, says it’s not quite clear how the plan would save so much money.

“If the 41 schools are converted to charters, DPS would avoid its current operations expenditures on those buildings. On the other hand, the district would also lose nearly all of the state funding it currently receives for educating the students in those schools.”

The State Department of Education would have to sign off too, because the proposal would change the deficit elimination plan the state ordered Bobb to implement.

Bobb says his proposal would still advance the deficit elimination plan, while avoiding what he calls “draconian” measures, such as shutting down half the district’s remaining schools.

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Education
4:36 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Michigan AG files brief in support of former EMU grad student

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
Photo courtesy of Michigan's Attorney General office michigan.gov

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a brief against Eastern Michigan University, alleging the university violated a student’s civil rights. 

Julea Ward was a student in EMU’s masters program for counseling. When she refused to counsel gay students because she’s morally against homosexuality, she tried to refer them to another counselor.

EMU says she violated the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, and removed her from the program. Ward sued EMU in 2009 for violating her constitutional rights.

A federal court in Detroit dismissed the case saying EMU did not discriminate against Ward. Now the Michigan Attorney General’s office is filing an appeal on behalf of Ward.

John Selleck is with the AG’s office. He says this case "would set a standard going forward for other students who have religious objections in any Michigan college case going forward. We think that was a very important reason for us to get involved."

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Education
7:44 am
Mon March 14, 2011

Governor Snyder to deliver Spring Commencement address at the University of Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his inaugural address, January 1st, 2011
Corvair Owner Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver the main address at the University of Michigan's Spring Commencement this year. The governor will also receive an honorary Doctor of Law degree. From the University Record

Snyder was inaugurated as Michigan's 48th governor Jan. 1. Honorary degrees for Snyder and five additional recipients have been recommended for approval by the Board of Regents at its March 17 meeting.

It is customary for the university to extend an invitation to a newly elected governor to receive an honorary degree and provide the commencement address. The university community is honored that Snyder was able to accept the invitation and looks forward to his address, President Mary Sue Coleman says.

"As a Michigan alumnus and the state's chief executive, Governor Snyder is uniquely positioned to tell our graduates about the challenges and rewards of leadership. We look forward to his message, and to presenting honorary degrees to the exceptional individuals who will join us in celebrating the Class of 2011," Coleman says.

From U-M, Snyder obtained a bachelor's degree in general studies in 1977, a Master of Business Administration degree in 1979, and a Juris Doctorate in 1982.

The University's Spring Commencement will take place April 30th at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Education
4:29 pm
Sun March 13, 2011

Teachers could see freeze on pay & benefits during negotiations

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham

A bill passed by the Michigan House would freeze educators’ salaries during contract negotiations.  It would require employees (and not their employer) to pay for increases in insurance fees during negotiations. The bill would also ban retroactive bargaining. So if an agreement was reached six months down the road, employees would not be reimbursed for the higher rates they paid.

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association.  He says the M-E-A wants the Senate to reject the bill.

“I’d like to see a real conversation in this state about what’s driving our financial crises. It’s not the compensation we provide to dedicated educators. It’s a broken tax structure; it’s a failure on the part of our state leaders to make tough choices to invest in the kind of state we all want to live in.”

Supporters of the bill say school districts cannot afford to pay the rising benefit costs, nor pay for the raises teachers get with time and experience.

Education
3:14 pm
Sat March 12, 2011

Detroit schools offer new plan to cut deficit

The emergency financial manager for Detroit's public schools is floating a new proposal to cut into the district's costs by turning over the operations of 41 academically struggling schools to outside groups or charter school operators.  

The district says Saturday in a release that Robert Bobb's "Renaissance Plan 2012" would reduce operating costs by up to $99 million and address the district's declining enrollment heading into the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year. It also would mean closing fewer schools as called for in a state-approved plan to eliminate the district's $327 million legacy deficit.

The deficit elimination plan would close 70 schools and increase class sizes in some high schools to 62 students. Bobb has said that plan would not be good for the district or students.

Crime
5:10 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Eastern Michigan University suffers security breach of personal information

Over 45 EMU students have been left vulnerable to identity theft
mconnors morgueFile

Officials at Eastern Michigan University are investigating two former student employees who allegedly stole personal information when they worked for the University. At least 45 EMU students could now be vulnerable to identity theft.

Walter Kraft is EMU’s Vice President of Communications and said the university discovered the breach during another investigation. He says the university is working with federal authorities to investigate the breach:

"We’re obviously pursuing it aggressively. Our department of public safety has notified federal authorities that are joining us in the investigation."

Students whose information was compromised have been contacted. EMU officials have not said if the stolen information was used.

Though the investigation is ongoing, Kraft encourages those with questions to visit the University's website for more information.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

Education
4:21 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

University of Michigan reviews trespass policy

Flickr user Dextera Photography

The University of Michigan is reviewing its trespass policy after faculty members have requested an update.  The review follows an incident last fall when former assistant state attorney general Andrew Shirvell was banned from campus. He allegedly harassed the U of M student body leader in person and online. The ACLU has complained about banning Shirvell from campus.  

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Education
11:12 am
Fri March 11, 2011

Residency of Detroit School Board president called into question

The Detroit News reports that court records show DPS Board president Anthony Adams is not meeting the Board's residency requirements.

From the Detroit News:

The estranged wife of Detroit school board President Anthony Adams has accused him of living outside the city — a violation of board policy.

Deborah Ross Adams, a judge in Wayne County Circuit Court, contends Adams lives in Oakland County, according to court records related to their divorce proceedings, and that he is improperly using their marital home in Detroit's Palmer Woods as the basis of residency for his school board seat.

Adams filed for divorce from his wife in June 2009 in Wayne County after 31 years of marriage. In his filing, he says the couple separated in January 2009.

One board member is quoted as saying she doesn't have any concerns about the matter.

The board's vice president, Tyrone Winfrey, says the school district has more important things to worry about at the moment.

Education
3:55 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Lawmaker suggests schools use rainy-day funds

State Sen. Jack Brandenburg may propose schools use their rainy-day cushion before they can get more taxpayer money.
senate.michigan.gov

A Michigan lawmaker says school districts that have set aside a rainy-day fund should use that money, rather than use more taxpayer funds. 

But some school administrators say  that would end up costing districts more in the long run. 

It’s common practice for Michigan school districts to aim for a 15 percent budget surplus for their rainy-day fund.

But the economy has drained those funds for about 300 districts.

About 200 traditional, non-charter districts do have reserves of 15 percent or more.

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Education
11:05 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Commentary: In defense of teachers

Classrooms could get crowded if cuts go through.
Kevin Wong Flickr

The recent debates about school funding and public employee benefits have teachers in Michigan feeling defensive.  South Lyon East High School Social Studies teacher Keith Kindred has these thoughts:

Last year about this time, I did a commentary for Michigan Radio describing the copious amount of time I had to think while I proctored state proficiency exams given to high school juniors. You may remember I used much of that time to reflect on all the wrath being directed at teachers.

Recent events in Wisconsin, Ohio, and even here in Michigan suggest I may have been prescient in recognizing how severe the disconnect between teachers and the public had become, but they also prove that my plea fell on deaf ears. Clearly, the anger I observed a year ago was but a preview and, moreover, my attempt to plead for both common sense and common ground was a failure.

So in the spirit of perseverance that all good teachers instill in their students, I want to try again.

Ready? Okay, here goes: Are people insane?

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Education
2:37 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Grand Rapids school officials to discuss potential $25 million budget gap

Carmen Seaby Flickr

Grand Rapids Public Schools is hosting a meeting Wednesday night and Friday morning to discuss Governor Rick Snyder’s state budget proposal. The district would face a $25 million budget shortfall if lawmakers approve Snyder’s budget.

Snyder is asking lawmakers to approve cutting $470 per student for all public school districts. That’s roughly a 4% cut from what the state sent them last year.

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Education
6:31 am
Wed March 9, 2011

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan to stay on the job

The Michigan Board of Education has extended the contract of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, the Associated Press reports. The AP reports:

The decision means Flanagan will remain on the job until 2014. The extension doesn't come with a salary increase for Flanagan, who currently earns $183,995.

Flanagan was first appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2005.

Education
10:48 am
Tue March 8, 2011

Report: Cuts to universities deeper than first expected

Central Michigan University could see the state's largest cut if they don't keep tuition increases under a 7.1% cap.
cmu.edu

Some officials from universities around the state are saying the Governor's proposed cuts are deeper than the 15% they expected.

The Detroit News had a piece on the reaction over the weekend by reporter Karen Bouffard.

Bouffard wrote "university officials said they discovered the cuts after pouring through the details of Snyder's proposed budget."

Mike Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said the Governor didn't portray the proposed cuts openly:

"I find it less than honest that you would portray the cut as 15 percent, and call additional money an 'incentive' if you keep tuition less than 7.1 percent. It's clearly less than transparent in the way it's been presented."

Governor Snyder's spokesperson said the proposed cuts were portrayed clearly.

To keep their cuts at 15%, universities have to agree to keep their annual tuition hikes under 7.1%.

If they don't, cuts in state aid could be greater than 15%.

The cuts proposed for the 15 public universities in the state average 21%, according to the article.

Some of the specific proposed cuts mentioned in the piece (cuts if universities don't hold tuition increases under 7.1%):

  • 23.3% for Central Michigan University
  • 19% for Eastern Michigan University
  • 21.9% for Grand Valley State University

Some university officials said "they will try to hold tuition increases under the 7.1 percent cap, although they can't be sure until their boards begin approving next year's budgets in June or July."

According to the article, the largest cut universities have seen in the last 32 years was 8.5%.

Education
4:51 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Ravitch: School reforms are "tearing education apart and demonizing teachers"

Ravitch speaking in Dallas in the spring of 2010.
dianeravitch.com

Diane Ravitch, education historian and author of the book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, spoke at the Novi Sheraton Hotel today at an education symposium about the current state of education and education reform in the country.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Michigan Education Association.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Ravitch had a welcome audience, getting a standing ovation before and after she spoke at the conference...She said national policy makers say they want to reform education. But, what they’re really doing “is tearing education apart and demonizing teachers.”

She alluded to Detroit as she talked about districts that are eliminating programs, laying off thousands of teachers, getting rid of art education and increasing class sizes, saying it’s kids in Detroit "who need much smaller classes."

Ravitch said poverty plays a big role in the success or failure of students in a school system.

The Grand Rapid Press had more on Ravitch's talk in which she said the United States is in an age of "national stupidity" in terms of how it views education.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

Ravich, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who had a role in developing No Child Left Behind and the charter school movement, renounced both reforms, saying they've given way to a culture of incentives and punishments through testing that does little to help students...Ravitch said the country can't improve schools by constantly cutting budgets and using standardized tests to paint teachers as ineffective in an attempt to “de-professionalize” the work.

She said that current reforms that rely on test scores are a mistake:

“I take standardized test scores with a grain of salt – make that a ton of salt,” she said. “We've watched a gaming of the system and an increase in cheating because the stakes are so high.”

USA Today and the Detroit Free Press had stories over the weekend on this very subject. Their investigation showed anomalies in standardized test score results - anomalies that suggest cheating may have taken place.

Here is a clip of Ravitch talking about education reform and her book on the Daily Show:

The Daily Show - Diane Ravitch

Education
3:27 pm
Sun March 6, 2011

FREEP questions test score improvements

COCOEN daily photos flickr

A newspaper analysis shows standardized test score gains from 34 Michigan schools over a one-year period are statistically improbable.

The Detroit Free Press joined a nationwide investigation with USA Today and other partners. The analysis of millions of test score results found 304 schools in six states and the District of Columbia had test scores so improbable they should be investigated.

The analysis that was specific to Michigan scores found that in 2008 to 2009, 34 schools, including 32 in the Detroit area, had test score deviations that statistical experts say are virtually impossible to explain through improved instruction alone.

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