Michigan Education

Education is a big issue in northern Michigan, whether we're reporting on school funding issues to breakthroughs in the classroom.

Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District

The Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District plans to give out fewer dollars this year to local schools, like Traverse City Area Public Schools, for special education.

This funding is extra money for schools, drawn from the Intermediate School District's fund balance – and doesn't affect the many services provided to school districts by the ISD.

But Paul Soma, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools, says the ISD is not giving enough money to local schools.

He says the ISD is sitting on tens of million of dollars, which should be spent on special education classrooms.

"Our fundamental issue is that those dollars are not serving the needs of the children of our region while they're sitting in a bank account of the ISD," says Soma.

David Cassleman

The number of kids enrolled in public schools is dropping across northern Michigan.

That’s putting pressure on school districts to downsize because state funding is based directly on the number of kids enrolled.

Traverse City Area Public Schools could soon close up to three elementary schools to save money, including Interlochen Community School.

Linda Stephan

More eight and nine-year-olds would be held back in school as a result of legislation meant to boost the reading skills of kids before they reach fourth grade. House Bill 4822 passed the state House earlier this month, and largely split the chamber along party lines.

Democrats and other opponents argued that holding back more third-graders would create lasting social problems for kids.

But Republicans supported the bill, like co-sponsor Rep. Lee Chatfield. He is a former high school teacher who represents Emmet, Mackinac and Chippewa counties.

"The fundamental principle of this bill ultimately is that reading is a building block to learning," Chatfield says. "Studies show that children who are not proficient in reading by the fourth grade end up struggling for the rest of their lives in school."

Linda Stephan

Kids in Michigan are struggling to read, compared to students in other states. Nearly 70 percent of students are not proficient in reading when they begin fourth grade, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Baldwin Community Schools

In schools throughout Michigan, students aren't the only ones who get grades. Teachers get a report card, too, and the way that teachers are evaluated could be changing in Michigan.

A bill passed the state Senate this past spring that would reform how evaluations are done, giving local school districts more power to decide how they want to grade teachers. The bill would also reduce the importance of standardized testing to teacher evaluations.

Jake Neher, Capitol bureau reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, explains the bill: