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Education

Children in a classroom
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has called for a dramatic expansion of the Great Start Readiness preschool program. She rolled out a proposal Tuesday to use $405 million in state and federal funds to make the program available to every eligible four-year-old in Michigan.

wmu sign
Flickr user Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Western Michigan University has received a $550 million donation from anonymous alumni. It’s thought to be the largest single gift ever given to a public university in the U.S.

Western President Edward Montgomery says the donation, known as the Empowering Futures Gift, will be delivered to the WMU Foundation over the next 10 years.

Headshot of high school students, Jane and Nawaff.
Courtesy Photos

There’s never been a last day of school quite like this one. Students and teachers throughout Michigan are nearing the finish line, with many keen to put the 2020-2021 pandemic school year behind them. Stateside caught up with two high schoolers about how the COVID-19 public health crisis has shaped their education and shifted their perspectives this year. We’ll be using just their first names to protect their privacy as minors.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she wants to use federal COVID relief funds and a surprise increase in state tax revenue to invest more in public education in Michigan.

Whitmer’s proposes $1.7 billion in one-time funding and over $900 million for ongoing investment. 

michigan state university sign in front of a blue sky
https://www.michiganstateuniversityonline.com/about/michigan-state/

A Michigan State University academic governance group is recommending requiring anyone on campus this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Michigan State University Council voted 87 to 11 during a special meeting Tuesday to recommend mandatory vaccinations for all students, faculty, and staff participating in on-campus activities. The resolution exempts certain individuals, like people with religious objections or those medically unable to get a vaccine.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

People in Grand Blanc are divided over a local school board member’s alleged links to the baseless online conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

“No more Q...in our school,” a group of about 50 sign waving protesters chanted as they walked outside Grand Blanc High School on Monday. A roughly equal number of counter-protesters waved their own signs in support of Amy Facchinello.

Facchinello was elected to the Grand Blanc Community Schools Board of Education last year. She started a six year term in January.

University of Michigan Stadium
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

The Michigan House of Representatives has proposed a change to the way the state allocates funding to public universities. The proposed plan would tie state funding to the number of full-time Michigan residents enrolled in a university.

Some state schools, like Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University, would get more in yearly funding. But two major research universities, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, would lose millions of dollars.

a picture of a brick building on Albion College's campus
Albion College

Albion College is requiring all students, faculty, and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to campus for the planned fully in-person fall semester. Albion is the first college in Michigan to require that everyone on campus get the shot.

Medical and religious exemptions will be granted, and students, faculty, and staff will have until August 1 to submit proof of vaccination.

The University of Michigan football stadium
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, the Ford F-150 Lightning marks the company's first foray into the electric truck market. What should consumers expect? Plus, a new exhibition tracks the killing of Black Detroiters by police during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. And, how a Michigan GOP plan to change higher education funding would impact state colleges and universities. 

U of M Bentley Historical Library

The late Doctor Robert Anderson committed sexual misconduct on “countless occasions” during his nearly four decades at the University of Michigan.

That’s the conclusion of an independent investigation conducted by the firm WilmerHale, and released on Tuesday.

A sign of the University of Michigan Central Campus
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is planning for a mostly in-person fall semester after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many operations to go remote. 

Part of that process is getting faculty and staff who have been working remotely back on campus for in-person work. President Mark Schlissel announced today that the school is beginning a gradual phasing-in of on-site work.

young woman holding a cell phone
freestocks / Unsplash

Updated Thursday May 6, 2021, at 3:31 p.m.  

Traverse City students who participated in a racist social media group chat won’t be criminally charged.

In late April, local authorities began investigating a Snapchat group titled “slave trade.” That’s where some high school students in Traverse City pretended to place bids on people of color, including their classmates. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Eli Broad, a Michigan State University alumnus who became a billionaire philanthropist and contemporary art collector, has died. He was 87.

Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, confirmed his death to The Associated Press. She said Broad died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a long illness.

WoodleyWonderWorks / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Education is offering an option to help school districts deal with what State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice calls a "critical shortage of special education teachers in many Michigan school districts." 

The MDE will allow a time limited waiver that enables a district to temporarily fill a vacancy in a special education classroom with a special education teacher whose specialty area - formally called an endorsement - differs from the classroom with an open slot.

The goal is to reduce reliance on substitute teachers in special education programs.

Selfie picture of Jane, wearing glasses and hair tired up in pigtails.
Courtesy Photo

We’ve heard a lot about schools and the pandemic this year. We’ve heard about how some schools stayed in person and how some didn’t. We’ve heard from teachers and parents about what’s working and what isn’t in this strange school year.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s talk of a major investment in Flint Community Schools.

But at this point, it’s still just talk.

Flint public schools have been caught in a downward spiral for years, declining enrollment fueled by aging buildings.

But key players in Flint have been talking behind the scenes about a plan to build new schools.

To say Leah Juelke is an award-winning teacher is a bit of an understatement. She was a top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize in 2020; she was North Dakota's Teacher of the Year in 2018; and she was awarded an NEA Foundation award for teaching excellence in 2019.

But Juelke, who teaches high school English learners in Fargo, N.D., says nothing prepared her for teaching during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The level of stress is exponentially higher. It's like nothing I've experienced before."

A group of students wearing masks look at a book on a desk together
JR-50 / Adobe Stock

Update: 8:55 p.m.

At a meeting on Thursday evening, Detroit public school board members adopted a plan to maintain a pause on in-person instruction through May 11. The district will open schools for learning labs where students receive staff oversight on virtual learning on April 26. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the district would consider suspending all in-person instruction through the end of the school year if the current COVID-19 surge continues. Positivity rates on COVID tests in Detroit are 20%.

test with bubble answers
mehmet / Adobe Stock

The U.S. Department of Education has denied Michigan's request to waive the federal requirement of year-end statewide assessments, known as state summative tests, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That means Michigan students are going to have to take the M-STEP and several other tests this spring.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

In high school English classes, students are often tasked with trudging through the classics. At West Bloomfield High School, in Jennifer Tianen’s class, they’re getting a different view of one author in the literary canon.

These students have been transcribing the letters of Marjorie Bump, a Petoskey woman who was friends with Ernest Hemingway when he lived at his boyhood summer home of Windemere. She was also a character in his Nick Adams stories, particularly The End of Something, where Hemingway’s self insert character, Adams, ends up with a broken heart.

Oakland University Campus
Oakland University

Any Oakland University student living in on-campus housing this fall will need to be get the COVID-19 vaccine before fall move-in in August. Students can get an exception for a religious or medical reason.

Bob Murphy is the chief policy officer at the Michigan Association of State Universities. He says although Oakland may be the first state university to have some sort of vaccine mandate, it won't be the last.

The Old Main building at Wayne State University
Wikimedia Commons

Wayne State University is putting classes and sports on hold, as COVID-19 rates surge in Detroit and across the state.

The 10-day pause will begin Wednesday. Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said it’s necessary because average weekly COVID-19 positivity rates in Detroit have soared above 15%, the university’s trigger metric for in-person learning.

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

Two of Michigan’s biggest school districts are taking a post-spring break break from in-person learning.

It’s a precautionary measure that Dearborn Public Schools and the Detroit Public Schools Community District will hope stem the spread of COVID-19, as cases spike again in Michigan. Both districts will temporarily return to virtual learning this week.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The rise in COVID-19 cases has forced Grand Rapids Public Schools to change plans for in person instruction.

GRPS has offered a hybrid option, with two days of in-person learning per week, since January.

The district was planning to expand that to four days a week after spring break, starting on April 12th.

Now those plans are changing.

black and white photo of ron weiser
University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Board of Regents has called a special meeting on Friday, April 2, at 9:30 a.m. "to address recent events."

Sources say the Board will consider whether to censure fellow Regent and Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser.

The meeting comes after controversial remarks he made last week at a Republican Party gathering.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, we dive into a Republican effort to tighten up election laws in Michigan. Plus, the Michigan classrooms where teachers come, teachers go, and students miss out. And we check in with a grocer about what it’s been like for him and the store during the pandemic.

Teacher at a chalkboard
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

From August of 2020 to February of 2021, 749 Michigan teachers retired. That's a 44% increase from the 519 teachers who retired in the same time period during the 2019-2020 school year.

Those who work in education say the COVID-19 pandemic has likely played a role in retirement numbers increasing, but teachers leaving the profession is an issue the state has struggled with for years.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The jury is still out on whether Michigan students will have to take the M-STEP test this year. But whatever tests students do take won’t be used for school accountability measures.

The Michigan Department of Education requested a waiver on accountability measures that tests are typically used for. That includes things like public school rankings, and measuring progress toward long-term goals.

teacher kneeling at desk, showing students papers
twinsterphoto / Adobe Stock

The remainder of the school year could be in doubt if Michigan communities don’t take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. That’s the message from some school superintendents in Wayne County.

The superintendents say that currently, they’re committed to continuing in-person learning and school-related activities. They say they’re being vigilant about precautions—and they’re confident that classroom transmission is relatively rare.

But cases in the community inevitably mean cases in schools. And that’s led to disruptive mass student quarantines in many districts.

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