public schools

Michigan students are a signature away from getting four snow days forgiven after a brutal winter left some schools closed for weeks. The state Senate sent the bill to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk Thursday. 

Public school advocates and the ACLU of Michigan want the Michigan Supreme Court to take their case. They want the court to reverse a decision that lets the state give public money to private schools in certain cases.

Back in March of 2010, I did a commentary on Michigan Radio about the animus being directed at teachers.  I expressed a common sentiment among educators at the time that we were bewildered by this development. 

A year later, I followed up with another one, an update if you will, where I expressed surprise that the situation had actually worsened.

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S Department of Education went before the Senate education committee yesterday for her confirmation hearing.

Senators asked many questions of Betsy DeVos – some about her Michigan family’s donations of millions of dollars to Republican candidates, others about whether she would mandate that public schools become charter or private schools.

Yet, it was an exchange between Minnesota Senator Al Franken and DeVos that caught our attention.

Morgan Springer

Two elementary schools in Traverse City are closing. The board at Traverse City Area Public Schools made that decision a few months ago. Parents were torn up about it, but now the kids are dealing with the reality of having to find a new school. Around 70 students from Interlochen Community School, one of the schools that’s closing, visited Westwoods Elementary School last week to get to know their future school.

 

Traverse City Area Public Schools

A large financial gift to the public school system in Traverse City might save an elementary school. The last minute offer from an unknown individual has put Traverse City officials in an unusual position.

Traverse City Area Public Schools district has long been a leader in demanding that support for education in Michigan not depend on where a child lives. But school officials say this offer is one they have to consider.

This isn’t a new issue. Infusing private money into public schools is happening nationwide.

Supporters of transgender rights are responding to Republican attacks on proposed  guidelines for school districts in Michigan.

“[The guidelines are] really all about creating a safe and supporting learning environment for all Michigan students,” says attorney Jay Kaplan of the ACLU of Michigan. Kaplan worked on writing the recommendations.

Kaplan spoke to IPR News Radio about the policy statement the state Board of Education will soon be asked to vote on:


A group of Republican lawmakers is attacking recommendations from the Michigan Department of Education on how schools should treat transgender students. State officials say the guidelines are meant to protect a group of students who often face assaults and threats on campus.

One recommendation is that schools allow transgender students to use the bathroom “in accordance with their gender identity.” Another would allow students to be called a name other than the one on their birth certificate.

Each of the 17 guidelines are recommendations — not mandates for schools. The elected state Board of Education will vote on them in May.

State Rep. Triston Cole of Antrim County says he is particularly opposed to a guideline advising that school officials ask students if they want their parents to know they are transgender.

“Parents have got to be involved in this,” Cole told IPR News Radio in an interview last week. “This cannot be something kept secret from a parent.”

 


Brian Kay

A decision to remove the word “fighting” from the football stadium at Petoskey High School has some parents up in arms. A slogan over Curtis Field used to say “home of the fighting Northmen” but the word “fighting” was painted over this weekend.

Voters believe providing education for Detroit students is the state's duty, but don't think Governor Snyder's recent proposal is the way to do it, according a recent poll conducted by Public Sector Consultants and Michigan Radio.

There's wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how students do in school.

Russ Climie / Tiberius Image

Gov. Rick Snyder has taken direct control over the state office tasked with monitoring Michigan’s worst performing schools.

The elected state Board of Education previously had control over the state School Reform Office. Snyder signed an executive order on Thursday that moves the reform office to his budget office.

“Which will give us an opportunity for me to be more proactive on educational issues,” Snyder said at an unrelated event in Dearborn.

What might the lame-duck legislative session hold for Michigan schools?

This is the time lawmakers often make a big push to pass pet bills and there are several in play right now that could mean big changes for students and teachers.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey, reporter for Bridge Magazine, and Michelle Richard, senior consultant for Public Sector Consultants, joined us today.

You can listen to our conversation with them below:


Michigan's Education Achievement Authority, formed in 2011, was created to help failing schools. It currently operates 15 schools in Detroit.

EAA Chancellor John Covington stepped down with one year left on his contract. What does this mean for the EAA and the students in its 15 schools?

Bridge Magazine education writer Chastity Pratt Dawsey covers the EAA extensively. She said there had been talk for months that Covington was going to resign.

Veronica Conforme was named the interim replacement. She’s from New York City, where she was Chief Operating Officer for New York City public schools. Pratt said it's unclear if they are going to keep Conforme at the helm or if they are going to hire someone new.

Pratt added that the EAA had to do damage control in the media and let everyone know that they are trying to do better.

“There were some misgivings about [Covington's] leadership and whether or not the EAA was going in the right direction,” Pratt said.

Pratt added that the EAA had problems since it was put together hastily in 2011. In its first year, it was supposed to be funded by donations, which has not been done for any school in the United States.

“The first year, the donations did not come in as expected. They get the kids the second year of operations, they don’t get the Title I money that they think they are going to get,” Pratt said.

The EAA had to borrow money, using the Detroit Public Schools as a conduit. They started to lose students. MEAP scores were lower than promised. Their online individualized education plan did not see the success people thought it would. State legislators even complained about a lack of transparency in the system, and that Covington had a lucrative contract.

Pratt said that the EAA needs to turn around their academics. Parents and teachers are saying they want results, not excuses.

“Do something, make it happen. Otherwise, what was the point?” Pratt said. 

*Listen to full interview above.

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

The way Michigan schools are funded is complex and emotionally charged.

Proposal A was passed in 1994. It was a new system for funding schools. It stopped the use of local property taxes as a source of school funding. Instead, it created a new state education tax, and it boosted the state sales tax from four to six cents on the dollar. The extra two cents goes to the school aid fund.

Twenty years after the changes, one thing many Michiganders agree on is that it's time to overhaul Proposal A, but there are many views on how to do that.

This week, Bridge Magazine is featuring a series of reports by Chastity Pratt Dawsey looking at how we fund schools in Michigan.

Dawsey joined us today.

*Listen to our conversation with her above.