Michigan Education

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

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.

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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.

Peter Payette

The man who owes $1.6 million to a Traverse City charter school goes on trial this week in federal court. One state lawmaker called Steven Ingersoll the “poster child” for problems with charter schools in Michigan.

But his financial dealings with Grand Traverse Academy will not be at the center of this month’s trial. In fact, whether the missing money was actually stolen might not even be an issue that gets discussed.

Michigan's academic state champs

Feb 4, 2015

Raw tests scores can't give you a full picture of student academic achievement. There are many other factors that figure into how students learn. That's why Bridge Magazine has created a ranking that takes into account not only grade-level test results, but also students' household incomes.

A federal appeals court says a former assistant state attorney general owes millions of dollars for stalking and harassing a gay student leader at the University of Michigan.

The episode has already cost Andrew Shirvell his job as a lawyer for the state. Now, he also owes $3.5 million to former UM student body president Chris Armstrong.

Shirvell challenged the jury award. He said he was exercising his First Amendment right to protest against a public figure. He also said the judgment was excessive.

The state has rejected ACT’s claim that Michigan unfairly switched its free college entrance exam to the SAT starting in spring 2016.

ACT protested two aspects of the bidding process. It said the state changed the timeline of the proposed contract and penalized ACT for having a writing portion. It says both of those things unfairly benefitted SAT.

State officials say they reviewed those concerns carefully.

The ACT is appealing Michigan’s decision to switch its eleventh grade standardized test to the SAT.

The state gives high school juniors a free college entrance exam as part of their state assessment.

The ACT claims the state’s bidding process unfairly favored the SAT. For example, it said ACT lost points because it includes a writing portion.

State officials say they made an extra effort to make sure the bidding process was fair.

Governor Snyder has chosen Darnell Earley, Flint's current emergency manager, to replace Jack Martin as Detroit Public School's emergency manager.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey, who covers education issues for Bridge Magazine, talked to us about what this means for DPS.

From Foster Care To Freshman Year

Jan 5, 2015

By the time she aged out of foster care, Jasmine Uqdah had spent nearly half her life in the system. On a summer day in 2008, Uqdah grabbed her duffel bag and two small garbage bags, and she stuffed everything she owned inside.

It wasn't much — just some clothes and a few stuffed animals. She said her goodbyes to her foster family in Detroit and moved out. She was 18 years old.

Linda Stephan

State lawmakers have some unfinished business left over from 2014 – including legislation that would overhaul teacher evaluations in Michigan.

Both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders said it was a priority before the end of 2014. But they ran out of time to work out a final deal during the “lame duck” session.

The proposal would create a statewide system for evaluating teachers and administrators based on in-class observation and student growth on standardized tests. It would also require more professional development for educators.

Therapy dogs are helping Michigan State University students take a break this week while they study for their final exams. 

The dogs are available to students at two of the libraries on campus where some students practically live during finals week.

It’s a cold day in East Lansing, but many are braving the cold to catch a glimpse of the next major step in a $730 million nuclear physics project. 

Over the next day or so, truckload after truckload of concrete is being poured into a deep pit on the Michigan State University’s campus.

At the bottom of the 65-foot-deep trench, the concrete will form an 8-foot slab that will support a key portion of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.    

The Education Achievement Authority has been the center of controversy since its doors first opened. The idea was to create a statewide school district to take over and turn around failing schools. The EAA is now in its third year, operating schools, all in Detroit, and it remains a polarizing subject in Michigan.

Michigan isn’t the only state where policymakers have created statewide school systems to turn around their worst-performing public schools. Tennessee and Louisiana have “Recovery School Districts,” or RSDs, similar to Michigan’s EAA. Nelson Smith has been studying these state turnaround systems for the Thomas Fordham Institute. His most recent report is called “Redefining the School District in Michigan”. Dan Varner serves on the State Board of Education. He’s also the head of an organization called Excellent Schools Detroit, which is seeking ways to make school choice work better in Detroit.

Michigan Public Radio Network

The state superintendent of schools is refusing to weigh in on the debate over school funding ahead of the November election. That issue has been a central talking point in the governor’s race.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he has increased education funding every year he has been in office. He includes money that went to shore up teacher pension funds. Democratic nominee Mark Schauer says Snyder has cut funding by about $1 billion.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says he is not interested in getting involved in the debate this close to the election.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Northern Michigan’s largest school district has fewer students than it did last year – 70 fewer according to the head count yesterday. Traverse City Area Public Schools still serves more than 10,000 students.

Funding for schools in Michigan is based on student numbers. 70 fewer students would mean about $500,000 less for TCAPS.

Stobie challenges Franz on GOP's school funding record

Sep 24, 2014
David Cassleman

Politicians across Michigan are arguing about the Governor’s record on education as the November election approaches.

State Democrats say Republicans cut $1 billion from schools. But Republicans are defending their record on education.

This issue is a key one in the race for the state house district that spans from Ludington to Northport.

The head of Kingsley Area Schools says students and staff are doing surprisingly well one day after an 11-year-old allegedly brought a loaded handgun to school.

Superintendent Keith Smith says he’s proud of the quick response from his staff Wednesday – when another student alerted a teacher. He says word of the situation traveled quickly from the teacher to the principal.

“The weapon was in-hand within probably 90 seconds,” says Smith.

Smith says the gun was loaded with a single bullet. But it turned out the bullet did not match the caliber of the gun.

Peter Payette

One of northern Michigan’s most successful charter schools is trying to move on from a controversy that has stretched over the summer.

Officials at Grand Traverse Academy decided last week that they will not go after the founder of the school for $1.6 million -- or at least not now.

A financial debacle has cast a shadow over the school which has grown steadily since opening in 2000. It now has around 1,200 students. That makes it nearly as large as nearby class B school districts like Kingsley or Elk Rapids.

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