Michigan Education

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

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:

Peter Payette

Grand Traverse Academy officials says school founder Steven Ingersoll owes the school $1.6 million dollars. Ingersoll was convicted of tax fraud in March but the federal government did not charge him with taking the money.

Northwestern Michigan College

Students at Northwestern Michigan College will pay more for classes next year. The NMC Board of Trustees voted last night to raise tuition by six percent across the board. 

Two years ago, county voters rejected a millage increase to help fund the college. NMC President Tim Nelson says the college will not be asking for another millage increase.

“Take into consideration the notion that voters are viewing college more as a personal expenditure (and) less of a public expenditure," says Nelson. "We’ve not had good luck in this state with colleges passing additional millage.”

Brett Levin / Flickr

In the last presidential election, voters in Colorado and Washington both said 'yes' to legalizing recreational marijuana. Those were the first two states to do so in the United States. Now, three groups in Michigan are trying to do the same in the 2016 presidential election.  Two of those groups have already started collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot. 

Jake Neher, Capitol bureau reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, says support for legalizing marijuana has been growing over the years and many see the 'writing on the wall' for approval in the 2016 election.


Paul Maritinez/Flickr

State lawmakers passed a budget of $13.9 billion for schools last week. The headlines say funding per student is going up across the state between $70 and $140. But Rick Pluta, the Capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, says the story is more complicated when you get beyond the headlines.


Cafemama/Flickr

The Legislature has approved budgets for the coming fiscal year.

The K-through-12 schools budget was enthusiastically endorsed by Republicans and Democrats. Every school district in the state will see a funding bump of $70 to $140 per student under the new K-through-12 budget the Legislature just sent to Governor Rick Snyder.

Snyder (R) says he’s pleased money for an early literacy project is part of the budget that’s now on its way to his desk.

A one-room schoolhouse. One teacher. Kindergarten through 8 grade. Older students helping the younger ones.

Soldiers who left school in the 1960s and early 1970s to fight in Vietnam now qualify for a high school diploma in Michigan.

As graduation ceremonies approach, leaders at Traverse City Area Public Schools are encouraging them to take advantage.

“There’s no course required for the veteran to come back to take. There’s no test that they need to pass,” says TCAPS Human Resources Executive Director Chris Davis. “It is a benefit that they deserve and that we are honored to be able to give to our veterans.”

svadilfari/Flickr

Last week Governor Rick Snyder rolled out a plan to turn around the state's largest school district – Detroit Public Schools – which is deep in debt and has been under state oversight for years.

The governor wants a fresh start for Detroit students by creating a new district for them, and he's suggesting diverting money from all the other students in the state to pay for the spinoff.

Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta breaks down the plan:

Jake Neher

Gov. Rick Snyder is renewing his support for banning openly carrying firearms in Michigan schools.

Right now, people with concealed pistol licenses can legally openly carry in schools. But they cannot carry weapons that are concealed.

  Snyder says banning open carry in schools is something he and lawmakers are discussing.

“I would imagine there’ll probably be ongoing discussion,” he said. “Because, again, open carry in Michigan schools is not a good thing. And most states don’t allow it.”

Aaron Selbig

The robotics team from Traverse City Central High School is headed to St. Louis this week to compete in the world championship of robotics. The Raptors earned their ticket with a surprise victory in the state championship.

Megan Kral is still processing that moment when the final scores were revealed and the Raptors robotics team knew it had won the state championship.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he’s open to the idea of the state taking over debt from Detroit Public Schools (DPS).

A long-awaited report released this week by the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren recommended the move. It urges the state to assume hundreds of millions of dollars in DPS debt.

The governor has stopped short of endorsing the plan – but says he’ll consider it.

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.

Faculty at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City will soon begin negotiating contracts through a union. 75 percent of the faculty voted ‘yes’ to join the Michigan Education Association – the state's largest teachers' union.

A state board has approved taking on debt to come up with $50 million dollars to help 18 Michigan community colleges ramp up their career and technical training, including Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City and West Shore Community College in Scottville.

Gov. Rick Snyder Snyder (R) has made career tech training a high priority. He says that’s because employers are looking for skilled workers, and most states have fallen behind in meeting the demand.

“So we’re going to keep growing in the skilled trades,” he says. “We’re going to be Number One.”

Deputy Diane Speas, inside the art room at Leelanau County Jail.
Daniel Wanschura

Nearly ten years ago, the jail chaplain in Leelanau County challenged the inmates to participate in a drawing contest. It was Christmas and Leelanau County Deputy Diane Speas remembers the results of that first contest.

“We looked at them and found them just gorgeous, and decided to make them into cards," she recalls.

UPDATED 1:03PM

A lawmaker from Cadillac says most schools in his district have already exceeded the number of allowed weather cancelations this year.

State Representative Phil Potvin says Michigan school districts should be allowed to cancel days more often.

“So in looking ahead, trying to be prepared, I’ve looked at moving that number that we allow from six up to nine,” he says.

Schools must make up any additional canceled days at the end of the school year. Otherwise, they risk losing some state funding.

NMC greatly expands study abroad

Feb 20, 2015

Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City has more than doubled its study abroad program since 2012. Jim Bensley, director of international services, says the school plans to send 80 students to six countries this year – including Cuba.

“Obviously, it’s a country that’s been closed for so long to citizens from the United States, so just taking a step back, not only back in time, but into another dimension of government, essentially,” he says of the trip.

Faculty members at Northwestern Michigan College will soon decide if they want a union. Ballots are being mailed today to 89 instructors at the community college in Traverse City.

The faculty has not publicly stated what it hopes to gain from a union. A spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, the organizing unit, declined to comment on the vote.

Marguerite Cotto, NMC’s vice president of lifelong and professional learning, says the concerns she’s aware of include issues like faculty wanting more say in how employees are evaluated.

Only one in three Michiganders feels Michigan's statewide school system deserves an A or a B grade. That's according to new polling from Michigan Radio and Public Sector Consultants.

Rep. Adam Zemke is the Democratic vice chair of the House Education Committee and he represents Ann Arbor.

A state Senate panel will take up a bill on Tuesday that would allow college graduates to claim a tax credit based on student loan interest payments.

Supporters say skyrocketing student loan debt is causing recent grads to move out of Michigan.

“We have kids graduating Michigan universities with an average of $30,000 in debt. Because of that, they’re having a hard time being part of our economy and also are being forced to move out of state,” said bill sponsor Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing.

The Michigan Department of Education has called it the most serious federal criminal case involving a Michigan charter school since the state gave the green light to charter schools in 1994.

Traverse City optometrist Steven Ingersoll will go on trial tomorrow on seven criminal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion.

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