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public education

Buena Vista schools approve plan, await state action

May 15, 2013
Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista School District unceremoniously shut down ten days ago, sending staff and students home for the year after the district ran out of money.

At Tuesday night’s emergency school board meeting there was almost universal confusion about what happens next. 

The school board unanimously approved a deficit elimination plan they hope will allow state aid payments to start up again so students can get back in the classroom. 

If that doesn't work, the board grudgingly approved a plan for a summer "skills building camp," in lieu of traditional classroom time.

Nobody at the meeting seemed very happy about that option.

Michigan Radio does an interesting occasional series called Issues and Ale, in which those who know something about a particular public policy get together with citizens in a relaxed setting to discuss things that really matter. Last night we held one on “The Future of Public Education” in an improv theatre in the city of Ferndale, which I thought was an excellent choice.

Ferndale is an older, working-class Detroit suburb which has been a distinct community since the 1920s. Times are not what were, and the city has shrunk over the years to about 20,000 people. Ferndale has become somewhat well-known over the last two decades for its welcoming of the gay and LGBT communities, who have done much to revitalize neighborhoods and the city’s downtown.

But Ferndale also has a dedicated group of parents very concerned with education, their kids’ futures, and want to make sure their children are getting what they need to succeed.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Republican state lawmakers say they are committed to passing an overhaul to public education in the “lame duck” session.

Opponents of the bills have been ramping up pressure to hold off until next year.

The bills include the expansion of a state-run district for struggling schools and a measure seeking to increase school choice.

House Education Committee Chair Lisa Lyons said the legislation can’t wait.

“We need to allow these schools and parents and students all the time, as much as possible, to transition and to plan for the education that they are going to receive next fall,” Lyons said.

A coalition of Michigan public school officials says the legislation would strip local control of schools.

Supporters say too many schools are failing to provide quality education. They say the measures are the best way to turn that around.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate Education Committee will launch two days of hearings Tuesday focused on school choice and ways to encourage more charter academies. A Senate Republican education package would lift the statewide cap on the number of charter schools academies that can be sponsored by public universities. 

The Senate GOP package would also allow more online charter schools and make it easier for parents or teachers to ask a school district to convert a traditional school to a charter.  

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.

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