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For the final week of her broadcasting career, Cynthia Canty lined up conversations with the people she says would be guests at her dream dinner party. First up are Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University economist Charley Ballard. They talked about how they both ended up in academia, the power of the liberal arts, and what's changed since they started in their fields.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

It’s a quiet winter morning at Neithercut Elementary in Flint, and the kids in Theresa Skene’s kindergarten class are munching contentedly on their school breakfasts: milk, Froot Loops, strawberry yogurt, some kind of strudel stick wrapped in plastic. Mindfulness music (as Mrs. Skene calls it) plays softly in the room, as she stops at one boy’s desk to praise him for cleaning up a spill.  

Utica Education Association

The state’s second-largest school district and its teachers’ union begin mediation Wednesday, in an attempt to move contract talks that have become stalled and acrimonious.

Utica Community Schools has been bargaining with the Utica Education Association since March. The union’s contract expired in June.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint voters will decide in March if they will support a millage that will help eliminate their school district’s deficit.

On Wednesday night, the school board voted to put the millage on the ballot.    

School board members had a choice of what to ask Flint voters. They could ask for either a renewal of the district’s current sinking fund millage, which pays for things like roof repairs, or ask voters to support a deficit reduction bond and a smaller sinking fund. Board members opted for the latter. 

“Doing two things: number one, helping us to make sure we reduce our deficit more quickly. And to actually also keep our buildings safe,” says Superintendent Derrick Lopez.

Documents obtained by NPR shed new light on a bitter fight between defrauded student borrowers and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

These borrowers — more than 200,000 of them — say some for-profit colleges lied to them about their job prospects and the transferability of credits. They argue they were defrauded and that the Education Department should erase their federal student loan debt under a rule called "borrower defense."

Aaron Burden / Unsplash

A federal program awarded $7.7 million to charter schools in Michigan that never opened. That's according to a report from the Network for Public Education.

A total of 257 charter schools in Michigan received money from the federal program. 72 of them never opened. No other state had that many unopened charter schools that received money from the Charter Schools Program.

Centering the classroom on climate resilience

Dec 9, 2019
Lauren Janes

Once a week, two young men take over Jessica Krueger-Koupal’s Algebra II classroom at Ypsilanti Community High School.

Their names are Logan Applebee and Keem King, and they work for the Detroit-based non-profit EcoWorks. They help teachers facilitate discussions on climate resilience, in communities that could see a disproportionate share of climate disruption.

Denise had no idea her student loans could be erased. In 2007, a truck rear-ended her car. The accident ravaged her legs and back, and the pain made it impossible for her to work.

"I have basically been in pain — chronic pain — every day," says Denise, who asked that NPR not use her full name to protect her privacy. "I live a life of going to doctors constantly."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint school district officials are putting off decisions on closing some district schools.

Flint Community Schools are facing a multi-million dollar deficit. Earlier this month, district officials floated a proposal to eliminate the debt, that included closing some schools in January.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint school officials are considering how to respond to a multi-million dollar structural deficit.

The Board of Education heard reports on Thursday night on the district’s financial position.  

There are a variety of factors contributing to the school district's financial woes, including legacy costs.  The district is also struggling to pay for the services required for students with special needs. The percentage of special needs students in Flint public schools is twice the state average.

Kevin Wong / Flickr

The second largest teachers' union in the state has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Utica Community Schools this week. The Utica Education Association states that they have lost $65 million in wages since 2011.

Ann Arbor superintendent Jeanice Swift
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

Among the school bond proposals on local ballots Tuesday, Ann Arbor’s was by the far the most ambitious – a $1-billion bond for building improvements. The measure passed with 53% of voters saying yes. Many other communities also voted on large school bonds.

Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition host Doug Tribou spoke with Gongwer News Editor Zach Gorchow about the top results and school funding across the state.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

"It seems like we're going to be able to count tonight as a win, for the district and for the district's children," campaign committee treasurer Steve Norton told a small crowd of about 20 Ann Arbor school administrators, board members, and supporters, who broke into applause at a downtown pizza place late Tuesday evening.

Multi-colored books.
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Michigan students rank roughly middle of the pack in reading on the nation's report card, inching up slightly in the latest two-year testing cycle.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress results were released Wednesday. They rank states based on a representative sample of students.

Pixabay

The Pontiac school district is "strongly discouraging" parents from sending their children to school with homemade baked snacks or commercially packaged snacks, especially with unfamiliar branding.

In a letter to district parents, Superintendent Kelley Williams explained that's because marijuana edibles often look like traditional homemade baked goods and packaged candy.

Williams said the purpose of the letter is to protect student safety, health and well-being.

The Old Main building at Wayne State University
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Starting next year, high school graduates in Detroit can receive free college tuition if they choose to attend Wayne State University.

The “Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge” covers scholarships for city residents who have applied for federal student aid. The university estimates more than 49,000 students enrolled in Detroit public schools are eligible for the program. Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson says the school has multiple funding sources for the pledge.

School bus
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers say school busses need to be more secure.

A package of bills would make it a crime to enter a school bus without the permission of the driver. In some cases, it would be a felony.

kids at computers
U.S. Department of Education

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday that almost every school in Michigan has access to reliable, high-speed internet service.

She says there are still 10 school districts, mostly in rural areas, that don’t have high-speed internet in every classroom.

outside of Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor’s school district voted to approve a community engagement and advisory committee.

This comes after the state had proposed closing down Benton Harbor High School in May to help the district, which is struggling financially.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan Board of Regents heard from students enrolled at the Flint and Dearborn campuses, who complain they are not being treated as equals to Ann Arbor students. 

The regents met in Flint Thursday.

Tyrice Denson is a recent U of M-Flint graduate. He says, from instructor pay and scholarships to health services, the Flint and Dearborn campuses don’t get the financial support the Ann Arbor campus does.

Chalkboard
user alkruse24 / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Ann Cardon is no longer the superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools.

She resigned Thursday night.

At a special meeting of the school board, school board member Stacey Hozak read Cardon’s resignation letter.

“Unfortunately things are not working out well and I believe that it is in the best interests for all concerned that I resign,” Hozak read from Cardon's letter.

The University of Michigan Union
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The University of Michigan has released a draft umbrella policy to address the problem of sexual and gender-based misconduct. 

It expects to implement the policy in early 2020 after a comment period.

U of M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said a significant change from previous policies is that the definitions of prohibited conduct are consistent across the university community. 

"That way there's no confusion about what is considered inappropriate," said Fitzgerald.

The University of Michigan Union
Wikimedia Commons

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced plans Thursday to launch two new interdisciplinary initiatives.

Schlissel said the goal of the firearm injury prevention research initiative is to develop new knowledge and data on firearm violence.

Schlissel said researchers will collaborate across fields like medicine, public health, social sciences, and engineering. 

"Our vision with this initiative is not to delve into Second Amendment politics," said Schlissel. "But rather we will address injuries and death as the public health crisis that this is."

University of Michigan sign
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan saw an increase in the number of sexual assaults reported on campus in 2018.

That's according to its Clery crime statistics report released this week.

The school reported 45 rapes in 2018 -- up from the 18 cases reported in 2017.

Heather Young is with the University's Division of Public Safety and Security.

A black woman teacher stands at a white board in front of a group of young children
Adobe Stock

There’s a distinct lack of diversity among Michigan’s educators. In districts across the state, just 6% of public school teachers are black. To fix that, you'll need more black students choosing to pursue education degrees in college. So, what is keeping them from doing so? And how can we change that?    

a black and white photo of actor Buster Keaton reading a book
International Buster Keaton Society

 


Today on Stateside, the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature passed a new budget. Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared it "a mess." What are her options now? Plus, a Detroit man returns home after being incarcerated in China for three years.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos used a visit to a Detroit charter school on Friday to push one of her policy mainstays—more school choice.

DeVos visited the Detroit Edison Public School Academy as the final stop on her national “back to school” tour. It was her first visit to a Detroit school as Education Secretary.

DeVos says DEPSA is an example of the benefits school choice can provide. Its students perform better on statewide tests than most comparable schools, and more than 95% graduate within four years.

DeVos’ choice to appear at a charter school was not coincidental. The DeVos family has been instrumental in reshaping Michigan’s school landscape to include more charters and school choice, and she appeared at the event alongside Dan Quisenberry, of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA).

Citizens Research Council of Michigan

Any growth in state education spending over the past five years is being eaten up by greater teacher retiree system costs, according to a new report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Since 2012, school districts have had to return per-pupil funds to the state to cover unfunded liabilities in the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS). According to current projections, those liabilities won’t be paid off until 2038.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The Benton Harbor School Board says it supports the concept of a new advisory committee with the state to turn around the district. But the board says it will take more time to create the committee.

The idea for the committee is the latest in a back and forth between the leaders of the district and the state over how to turn things around. In May, the Whitmer administration proposed closing Benton Harbor High School to help the district cope with its debt and low performance on standardized tests. The school board unanimously rejected the plan.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The Benton Harbor school board could vote this week to create a new advisory committee with the state to turn the district around.

The idea was floated by state officials last month, after the school board rejected an earlier proposal for the district from the Whitmer administration. The committee would include staff, teachers, and other community members, as well as state education leaders.

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