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

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.

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:

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