Education

This fall Grand Rapids Public Schools will be able to avoid cuts to transportation, art and music. But Michigan’s third largest school district will eliminate close to 140 positions as part of a plan to deal with a projected $22 million dollar budget shortfall.

The vote for the budget was unanimous, in sharp contrast to last year. That was a huge relief for Superintendent Bernard Taylor, for a moment anyway.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham moderated a panel discussion looking into the current state of education in Michigan (K-12 and higher education) at the Mackinac Policy Conference last week.

He spoke with Peter Spadafore, the Assistant Director of Government Relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, and Michael Van Beek, the Director of Education Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

They explored how education funding can be improved in the state; and the potential impacts of Governor Rick Snyder's reforms on school districts, teachers and students in the state.

You can watch the discussion below.

Education Panel: Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Hundreds of people banned from the University of Michigan campus may soon be able to walk again freely on the Ann Arbor campus.  More than 2 thousand people landed on U of M’s lifetime campus ban list during the past decade for a variety of offenses.  

In the past, if you landed on the list, you had little chance of ever getting permission to walk again on the Ann Arbor campus. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is facing a $22 million dollar budget deficit for next school year. That’s the largest shortfall Michigan’s third biggest school district has faced.

The plan to close the gap includes eliminating close to 140 positions and use $5 million in savings. Despite that, no one showed up to speak at a public hearing on the school budget Thursday night.

facebook.com

A Michigan school superintendent’s open letter to lawmakers makes a startling request and it’s getting national attention.

Nathan Bootz runs Ithaca Public Schools,  a district with about 1,300 students.

Bootz wrote a letter to the Gratiot County Herald newspaper and suggested that the state turn his school district into a prison.

He says the state spends a lot more money on inmates than students.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan Senate has approved a bill that would cut funding for the state's public schools.

The measure approved 21-16 mostly along party lines Wednesday would cut per student funding by an additional $300 per pupil in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. A portion of those cuts would be offset by money to help schools pay employee retirement system costs. Some districts also could get about $100 per student if they meet certain so-called "best financial practices."

The cuts will come on top of a $170 per student cut that's already in place and would be carried over into next fiscal year.

The bill will be sent to the House, where it will be folded into a larger budget bill and likely approved this month.

Jacob Tanner, 13, from Saline, Michigan will go to Washington D.C. to participate in the 23rd annual National Geographic Bee. He’s a student at Saline Middle School. He recently spoke with Michigan Radio’s Jenn White. Here’s the interview.

This week, 54 of the nation’s brightest young people will compete for a top prize of a $25,000 in college scholarship money and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

The finalists are all winners of their state-level geographic bees. Tanner says winning the competition would be the biggest accomplish of his life so far.

Tanner prepares for the GeoBee with his teachers and parents and says making up rhymes helps him retain information.

"A couple days ago I was studying the geography of Germany, so I just made all the cities that I needed to remember into a rhyme."

In addition to knowing the names of cities and countries, Tanner says he also has to know a lot about science and economics.

In his free time, Tanner says he likes to "read books, play video games, go on the internet, those kinds of things." And when he grows up, Jacob says he wants to be a professor.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

About 500 people in West Michigan spent a couple hours Friday night in Grand Rapids, talking with their state representatives about how to fund public education. 

The forum was rescheduled from last week after a fire marshal shut it down in Lowell (20 miles west of Grand Rapids) because so many people showed up it broke the fire code of the building.

Last night the crowd was  passionate, at times interrupting and booing Republican lawmakers.

State lawmakers are still expected to cut the funding they provide K-12 public schools. But that cut could be lower than initially expected because the State of Michigan is projected to collect $429 million more in tax revenue than first expected.

Administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools are pushing lawmakers to restore so-called categorical cuts before anything else. These are separate funds for schools to better handle specific issues– like declining enrollment, and bilingual and special education.

User P.E.C. / Flickr

The American Federation of Teachers says its Michigan “Lobby Day” will “educate” legislators about the effect of state education cuts.

Teachers and school employees from all over the state descended on Lansing Tuesday for the Lobby Day, including a group from Detroit.

Ivy Bailey is with the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ Peer Assistance and Review Program. She was on board a bus headed to Lansing from Detroit.

Administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools are proposing to eliminate close 138 positions. Most of those are teachers and support staff, but include cuts from many departments. The cuts are part of a plan to help solve a $22.2 million budget deficit for next school year. School officials say that’s by far the largest cut they’ve faced.

Grand Rapids schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor has made a number of trips to Lansing lately, petitioning state lawmakers to reduce the cuts to K-through-12 schools.

Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools’ new Emergency Financial manager started the job Monday.

Former GM Executive Roy Roberts toured several Detroit schools and met with staff.

Roberts says the district must undergo a “cultural change” and reject a “Rodney Dangerfield kind of mentality” for students to succeed.

user BES Photos / Flickr

This week, What’s Working focuses on education by taking a look at one Michigan school that went from academic mediocrity to being a model for educational reforms in the state. North Godwin Elementary is located just south of Grand Rapids in a working class community with a high immigrant population. Many families in the area are refugees from countries such as Bosnia, Cuba, Vietnam, and Liberia. A high number of students spend a few years learning English as a second language. 

When Arelis Diaz arrived as a teacher at North Godwin Elementary in 1995, the students were struggling to reach proficiency in basic skills. She spent five years as a teacher, and then served as principal of the school from 2000 to 2005. In that time, North Godwin’s students began excelling on standardized tests, bringing student proficiency rates to upwards of 80 percent across all subjects. That academic success at North Godwin continues today. The school has been the recipient of praise and awards for its turnaround, including the “Dispelling the Myth” award in 2010, given by The Educational Trust. 

user hotblack / morguefile

The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit will perform a play this weekend to commemorate the anniversary of a student walkout at Detroit Public Schools.

starnewsonline.com

Norovirus is the buzz killer that can bring a cruise ship home.

And now, it looks like the little bug is postponing the fun at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI.

The university has postponed its graduation ceremony for one week while it tries to contain a norovirus outbreak. Instead of being held this Saturday, the commencement will be held Saturday, May 21.

The university says more than 170 students are reporting an illness.

University officials are working to contain the outbreak and are consulting with the Jackson County Health Department and the State Health Department.

From Spring Arbor University:

All non-academic related activities have been cancelled from Wednesday, May 11, through Sunday, May 15, 2011. These activities include alumni events, National Christian College Athletic Association baseball regional tournament, and other public-related events. The fitness room, pool and other facilities are closed to the public through Sunday, May 15.

“These decisions are preventative and consistent with the medical advice received. Of utmost concern for all of us is the safety and health of our campus community and the families and friends planning on participating in the various academic year-end activities. Spring Arbor University has a responsibility of doing what is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus,” says University President Charles Webb.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people become infected with the virus by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth, and
  • Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

Food and drinks can easily become contaminated with norovirus because the virus is very small and because it takes a very small amount (fewer than 100 norovirus particles) to make a person sick. Although the virus cannot multiply outside a human body, billions of norovirus particles are shed by infected people. These shed particles can cause illness if they get into food or water.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In the past two years, Detroit has closed 59 schools and cut 30 percent of the school system's workforce. But the district is still staring at a deficit of more than $300 million, and thousands of students continue to flee every year. In a story produced for NPR's All Things Considered, we take a closer look at a plan to help the troubled district out of its downward spiral.

Update 5:25 p.m.

The fire at the Paul Robeson Academy has caused extensive damage. Students from the school are being relocated and will resume classes Friday.

From the Detroit News:

District officials said 16 available classrooms at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School are being readied to accommodate 435 students from Paul Robeson Academy, heavily damaged by the blaze...DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb said district employees are locating books, desks and supplies to prepare the classrooms at Marshall — just a few blocks from Robeson — so Robeson's first- through eighth-grade students can resume their studies with minimal disruption. Teachers, support staff and all employees will be sent over to Marshall from Robeson to make the transition work, Bobb said.

8:31 a.m.

There’s a fire this morning at Paul Robeson Academy in Detroit. Some 660 students attend the K-8 school.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. It began around 4 a.m.  and firefighters are on the scene.

The Detroit Public Schools calls Robeson Academy one of its premier learning institutions. Students who enroll at Robeson must carry at least a 2.5 grade point average.

Here's some video from Fox News in Detroit:

Fire Rips through Robeson Academy on Detroit's West Side: MyFoxDETROIT.com

screen grab from HDNet clip

Detroit public schools face many challenges, and Dan Rather wants you to know how bad it is.

HDNet, a cable and satellite television channel aimed at "men's interests", will air "Dan Rather Reports: A National Disgrace" tonight at 8 p.m. (and again at 11 p.m.).

Here's a clip from the program:

HDNet says the program is "full of heartbreaking images: children sitting in class for days without a teacher; a principal addressing graduating seniors with stories of the violence they’ve seen; and abandoned schools left to rot in an increasingly empty city."

Dan Rather spoke with Paul W. Smith on WJR this morning. He told Smith that he hopes people learn that the nation's public education system needs to be changed:

"What I hope the takeaway will be is that we all, not just people in Detroit, we all should be ashamed of what's happening to our schools and we can change it. But we can't change it on the present course where all decisions are top down instead of being bottom up."

user ppdigital / morguefile

Michigan and other states may soon compete against one another to try to win a new round of grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Congress allotted another $700 million to Race to the Top, the education reform program where states compete for federal grants.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A leader in Michigan’s higher education community says state universities may urge the governor to veto the state education budget bill.   He says it’s a question of ‘micromanaging’.    

Michael Boulus is the executive director of the President’s Council, a group that lobbies on behalf of Michigan’s public colleges and universities. 

Pages