Michigan Education

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

Michigan's K-12 students are among the weakest academically in the U.S., and they're falling even further behind, according to a report released today by Education Trust-Midwest, a Michigan-based non-partisan research education and advocacy organization.

The report predicts that if things don't change, Michigan will rank 48th nationally in fourth grade reading scores by 2030, far from the state's goal of becoming a top ten state in education by that year. 

Kingsley Area Schools

A student in Kingsley who identifies as bi-gender has requested use of the bathroom of the student’s choice. Kingsley Area Schools superintendent Keith Smith says the student spoke at a board meeting in April about having a fluid gender identity between male and female.

Smith says it's his impression that the student wants to be able to use either bathroom. The district is waiting to hear back from an attorney about the bi-gender student’s request before moving forward.

 

From Elk Rapids to Beaver Island, voters have approved tax millages and bonds to pay for school expenses.

Tuesday’s election was one of four dates this year when schools can ask for money.

A bond proposal for Elk Rapids Schools passed by a margin better than two-to-one, according to unofficial results. The bond will pay for technology and safety upgrades over four years.

Teachers at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City say they’re being punished for forming a union. Faculty pay has been frozen while teachers bargain for their first union contract. The group filed a complaint with the state over the issue in late April.

The complaint addresses two types of pay increases that have been typical at NMC for teachers in the past.

It says increases for teachers based on seniority, called step increases, should continue because NMC is required to maintain “status quo” during contract negotiations.  

David Cassleman

Dozens of school districts across Michigan are asking voters to approve tax proposals on Tuesday.

In northern Michigan, Elk Rapids Public Schools has a technology and safety bond on the ballot. Leland Public Schools has a similar bond proposal.

Traverse City Area Public Schools

Traverse City Area Public Schools is closing their two International Baccalaureate elementary schools –Interlochen Community School and International School at Bertha Vos. They're relocating IB to Traverse Heights Elementary School next year.

TCAPS has promoted the IB program as an innovative teaching program with a proven success rate. Statewide the Kellogg Foundation has been funding the creation of these programs in schools throughout northern Michigan. And school officials say the program is very successful with students from economically disadvantaged households.

Republican lawmakers are sending a message to the Michigan State Board of Education: "Remember who holds the purse strings."

That's from Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, who's sponsoring a resolution to replace the board with a Department of Education run by a governor-appointed director.

In the search for a better way to educate our children, many have turned to technology. Virtual schools or blended schools that combine virtual and traditional face-to-face teaching are a national trend. However, according to a study from The National Education Policy Center, these virtual schools – most of which are run by private, for-profit companies, are doing a poor job of educating our kids.

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.

Peter Payette

Students at Northwestern Michigan College are buying fewer books these days. That's because of an effort to use more online resources in place of textbooks, which can cost more than $100 each.

A report on the project suggests the college administration take steps to promote the concept. But college officials say there are no plans for that.

The issue comes up at a time when some instructors at NMC say the administration does not listen to their ideas.


Morgan Springer

The board of education for Traverse City Area Public Schools voted to close two elementary schools Monday night. International School at Bertha Vos and Interlochen Community School will close at the end of this school year.

The vote was unanimous to close Bertha Vos. Board member Megan Crandall was the only dissenting voice in the 6:1 vote to close Interlochen.

Peter Payette

Instructors at Northwestern Michigan College say union negotiations are at an impasse, and at issue is how much say the faculty has in how the college operates.

The faculty formed a union last year and is negotiating its first contract.

Members voiced their frustration on Monday night at a meeting of the board of trustees.

Detroit Public Schools

Two different plans to bailout the massively indebted Detroit Public Schools have emerged from Lansing in recent weeks. The price tag could be upwards of $700 million.

DPS could run out of money as soon as April, according to officials from the state’s largest school system, and state leaders are rushing to find a fix.

State Capitol reporter Jake Neher explains plans in the Senate and House.

 


Morgan Springer

School board members for Traverse City Area Public Schools are set to decide next month whether to close three elementary schools. But right now TCAPS officials are looking into other ways to save money. 

There were more than 25 alternative options mentioned at the last board meeting, but a number of school officials say none of them are viable. That leaves some parents wondering if a look at alternatives is a formality or is actually being taken seriously. 

 


Traverse City Area Public Schools

Some parents on Old Mission Peninsula want to know if they can pay higher taxes to keep their elementary school open. Traverse City Area Public Schools has proposed closing three elementary buildings to save money, including the school on Old Mission Peninsula.

The idea of raising taxes to keep a school open sounds simple but is something school districts are not allowed to do in Michigan. An amendment to the state constitution known as Proposal A made vast reforms to public education funding and prohibits a local school district from asking voters for more money to operate schools.

Parents on Old Mission Peninsula are talking about a way to work around that law.

Peter Payette discusses it with David Cassleman.


School leaders challenge 'gag order' with lawsuit

Jan 28, 2016
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 

Local government leaders and school officials in Michigan are challenging a new state elections law in federal court.

The law limits how local government and education officials can talk about local ballot questions, banning them from using public funds to send informational communications about ballot questions – via mass mailings, radio, television, or recorded phone messages - 60 days before an election.

Morgan Springer

The superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools says the district should close two elementary schools at the end of this year to save money, and he says a third elementary school should close in several years.

At a TCAPS board meeting on Monday night, superintendent Paul Soma recommended closing Interlochen Community School and the International School at Bertha Vos in June. The schools have the lowest enrollment of any elementary school in the district. Under the plan, the International Baccalaureate programme currently housed at Interlochen and Bertha Vos would be relocated to Traverse Heights Elementary.

 

David Cassleman

A handful of elementary schools Up North will have a better idea if they are closing next week, when the superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools gives his recommendations to the school board about how to save money.

 

But one of the other question marks is the future of an innovative program that has become popular at schools across the region.

 

 


Pathfinder School stays open in honor of Dr. King

Jan 18, 2016

 

Most schools are closed today in honor of Martin Luther King Day. But Pathfinder School in Traverse City will stay open. They're using this as a teachable day, to celebrate and practice the teachings of Dr. King.

"He’s just such a powerful example about what one person can do," says Rob Hansen, director at the school. "One person with courage, one person who has the ability to communicate. One person who can collaborate. Those types of people can be leaders within our community, and we want our students to understand that when they’re three and five years old. You don’t have to wait until you’re in your thirties to make a contribution with the talents you have."

 

Morgan Springer

Since the announcement that three Traverse City Area Public Schools elementary schools might close, people are getting together to try to save them. They’re brainstorming ways to save money, make money or increase enrollment. 

The Old Mission Community Connection Group met last weekend at Peninsula Community Library. They’re hoping good ideas will save Old Mission Peninsula School, Interlochen Community School and the International School at Bertha Vos.

 


David Cassleman

Kids struggle to learn to read in Michigan. Nearly 70 percent of students reach fourth grade without being proficient in reading, according to national standards.

Governor Rick Snyder has said that fixing this problem will be an "overwhelming task." But state Republicans have a solution in mind that includes holding back more third graders.

Teachers call that retention.

The Legislature is set to recess next week for the balance of 2015 with some big jobs left undone. Primarily, Governor Rick Snyder was hoping lawmakers would address what he says is the next stage of the Detroit turnaround -- and that is doing something to fix the city’s schools.

Instead, the governor, Detroit’s parents, and school kids will have to wait until next year.

Snyder laid out his plan to revamp Detroit’s schools back in April. The CPA governor focused on the district’s finances, specifically a debt burden of more than 500 million dollars.          

School districts in northern Michigan face declining enrollment and tough financial decisions.

"When you lose ten percent of your population in a ten year time frame, something has to give," says Paul Soma, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools.

Enrollment in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District has declined about ten percent in ten years.

TCAPS is on the brink of closing up to three elementary schools: Interlochen Community School, International School at Bertha Vos, and Old Mission Peninsula School.

Peter Payette

The founder of a charter school in Traverse City is back in federal court next week. A judge will sentence Steven Ingersoll for up to five years for his recent convictions of tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Those crimes had to do with his financial dealings in Bay City.

The hearing is also raising questions about whether Ingersoll abused his power when he was running Grand Traverse Academy. When he cut ties with the school, he owed the public academy $1.6 million dollars.

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.

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