Snyder’s education budget good, not great, educators say

Capital News Service

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed $128 million increase for K-12 schools has been praised by state Superintendent Brian Whiston, but some local school districts still see room for improvement.

Whiston “applauds” Snyder’s proposed budget, according to a news release from the  Department of Education.

Snyder’s budget will continue to allocate extra money to the lowest-funded school districts to reduce the equity gap between those districts and wealthier ones.

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Bill would help pay teachers’ student loans to ease shortages

Capital News Service

LANSING — To fight an ongoing teacher shortage, a Michigan legislator wants to track the problem and help new teachers pay down their student loans.

Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, has introduced a bill that would offer teachers working in shortage areas up to $1,000 a year for five years to repay qualified educational loans.

The bill, pending in the House Education Reform Committee, would also require the superintendent of public instruction to track shortages across the state and report regularly to legislators.

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School Reform Office, under scrutiny, releases failing schools list


Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s controversial School Reform Office announced its updated list of “failing schools” on Jan. 20, even as legislators move to eliminate it.

Thirty-eight schools, most in Southeast Michigan, were identified as being in the bottom 5 percent for three years. The School Reform Office will review the failing schools over the next several weeks to decide if they should be closed. Geographic, academic  and enrollment capacity of other public school options for children attending one of the 38 failing schools will be examined.

The office, overseen by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, has been supervising identified “priority schools” since the Llegislature passed the “failing school” law in 2010.

Each year the Department of Education (MDE) releases a “top to bottom” list, which ranks schools on student performance in mathematics, English language, arts, science, social studies and graduation rate data. Continue reading

Education nominee Betsy DeVos gets Michigan educators talking


Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan lobbyist and business executive Betsy DeVos’ nomination as U.S. secretary of education has been met with criticism from Michigan educators and public school advocates who have been sparring with DeVos for decades.

But some educators who have worked in Michigan charter schools, for which DeVos has been an aggressive advocate, argue that school competition has helped the state.

Those who have been pushing back against the billionaire GOP donor’s influence on state politics and legislation, including the Michigan Education Association (MEA), say that DeVos’s persistent advocacy for charter schools could prove detrimental to public schooling across the country if her nomination is confirmed.

“There has never been in [DeVos’s] history – and you only have to look at her history here in Michigan – much concern at all about the public schools,” said union President Steven Cook. Continue reading

DeVos commitment to Title IX enforcement unclear


Capital News Service

LANSING — The nomination of Michigan’s Betsy DeVos to be U.S. secretary of education has focused new attention on equity issues in public schools.

One of the many jobs schools have is to ensure gender equity through a federal law called Title IX. But Michigan schools’ understanding of their responsibilities under the law varies, and some activists worry that it will get even less attention if DeVos is confirmed.

Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in schools at both the state and federal level, according to the Michigan Department of Education. Schools are obligated to protect not only students, but teachers and staff, as well as ensure their programs and curriculum are free of gender bias.

“I can’t see her standing up for Title IX,” Steve Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association, said of DeVos. “It’s just not anything I’ve ever seen (in her record) here in Michigan for over 20 years.”

The MEA is one of the state’s major unions for teachers and other school staff.

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New push aims to close skills gap between graduates and jobs


Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan lawmakers, university officials and local school systems have taken up the fight to improve how well the state’s students learn to be high tech producers and consumers.

Just this fall, Michigan State University redesigned a course that will teach 175 student teachers to incorporate computational thinking into curriculum. And the university is offering a new graduate certificate in creative computing to about 250 teachers for professional development.

Aman Yadav, MSU associate professor of counseling, educational psychology and special education and director of its Masters of Arts in Educational Technology program, sees the greater purpose of this new approach to be “moving students from consumers of technology to creators and producers.”

Meanwhile,  lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow computer programming to count as a foreign language or arts requirement. The bill was approved by the House in May and is in the Senate Committee on Education. Continue reading

Schools could benefit from a state reform of how they can spend local tax dollars


Capital News Service

LANSING — School districts could have an easier time paying for security systems and classroom electronics thanks to a new bill that would broaden the use of the millage they collect.

The legislation would affect sinking funds, which are better than they sound. They allow voter-approved property tax to be collected and spent by a district to buy land for a new school, build a new building or repair an existing building. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills, would also allow sinking funds to buy equipment and technology.

According to a House summary of the bill, 173 districts have sinking funds. The Michigan Association of School Boards supports the bill, as it would make budgeting easier.

“Without a sinking cost fund, the money has to be taken out of a school’s operating budget,” said Jennifer Smith, the association’s director of government relations. “With it, money from the millage can be spent as it is collected.” Continue reading

Michigan legislature split on how to handle college tuition


Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan officials are weighing their options for solutions to a university funding crisis that saddles the state’s students with the ninth-highest average debt in the country.

That’s how the Michigan League for Public Policy recently ranked the state in a report that shows state support of universities dropping 30 percent since 2003.

The revelations are not surprising. In 2011 Gov. Rick Snyder cut higher education funding by 15 percent, the league said. That came after years of smaller cuts caused by the nationwide recession.

The state’s budget was in complete imbalance when Snyder took over, said Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, who chairs the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. Continue reading

Senate panel passes bill to replace Common Core standards

Capital News Service

LANSING – Some lawmakers want to change the standards for preparing students for college in hopes of raising Michigan’s education rankings.

But critics say they are lowering the standards.

The state now falls under the national Common Core standard where schools work with a state’s four-year public university system to certify that students will not need to take remedial coursework in college. Standards are based on what students must know at each grade level to graduate from high school and college to be career-ready.

Some lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would end the Common Core standard  and move to a new assessment based on one that Massachusetts used to use.

The  Senate Education Committee recently passed the bill by a 4‐1 vote.
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Bills would penalize teacher sick-outs


Capital News Service

LANSING – Teachers who strike illegally –or participate in sick outs– could lose their teaching certificate or be fined a day’s pay for each day that they didn’t teach, under recently proposed legislation.

The bills, sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, and Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg, would change the definition of a strike to include a situation when multiple teachers call in sick.

The bills were approved by the Committee on Education and await action by the full Senate.
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