Schools of choice option gains popularity in Michigan, benefits Meridian

By Katie Dudlets
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter

In Michigan, the number of students in schools of choice increased from 66,560 in 2005-06 to 115,209 in 2012-13, an upsurge of 73 percent. Schools of choice enrollment also made up a larger percentage of the state’s overall student population, rising from 3.7 percent of 1.8 million students in 2005-06, to 7.1 percent of 1.6 million students in 2012-13. Administrators in Meridian Township are seeing a similar trend. “We do have many students that are interested and go ahead and make applications for schools of choice for Haslett [High School], and not only Haslett, but for Haslett Public Schools,” said Haslett High School Principal Bart Wegenke. “I think we’re probably about 18 to 20 percent schools of choice [students] for this district.”

According to Joshua Cowen, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University, this increase in the program’s popularity is not only a trend in Michigan, but in the nation as well.

Getting out of school to study the Bible: released time study is the law

By Diamond Henry
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff reporter

DEWITT — When you think about modern-day public education, religion does not come to mind. In the city of DeWitt, however, that might not be the case. DeWitt Public Schools participates in a program called released time. This program is not school-sponsored, but students in the district are allowed to leave school for up to two hours a month and taken to an off-campus location for Bible study. Not many people are aware of this program.

Proposal would mandate school social media policies

Capital News Service
LANSING–Social media is one of the communication ways between teachers and students. Now a pending bill would require all districts and charter schools to have a social media policy that would regulate e-contacts, especially one-on-one contacts between staff and students. Aaron Keel, assistant director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the organization thinks it is good to have such a policy because a lot of school districts don’t have one. Education experts such as Terry Abbott, the former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, have linked sexual misconduct to social media. “Two things have become popular and had a massive effect on the prevalence of sexual misconduct in schools: social media and text messaging.

Dozens of school districts running in the red, state says

Capital News Service
LANSING — Nearly 50 school districts and public charter schools across the state ended last year with a deficit, according to the Department of Education, prompting action from state officials and legislators. Although the state expects many of those districts and schools were expected to eliminate or at least reduce their deficits by the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, 22 are projected to slip even further into the red. One of the financially direst situations involves Benton Harbor Area Schools, which has a 50 percent deficit — meaning the district is only taking in half the revenue it needs to cover expenses— the result of bleeding enrollment that means less per-pupil state aid. The district’s school board agreed to work with the state on an austerity plan after Gov. Rick Snyder declared a financial emergency in August.

Dissolved districts may find way to get back in business

Capital News Service
LANSING — School districts that were dissolved may have a chance to reestablish themselves under legislation designed to address potential dissolution of more districts. Rep. David Nathan, D-Detroit, who recently introduced the bill, said no mechanism exists for school districts to reestablish themselves. The bill would give intermediate school districts the power to elect a new school board for dissolved districts. Schools in low-income neighborhoods have been facing deficit issues as a result of cuts to education funding and declining enrollment. Ironically, many families moved to these neighborhoods because of their public school systems, Nathan said.

Achievement gap widens between poorer, richer students

Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan has 1.2 million families, with 2.3 million children, 42 percent of them live in low-income families, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. And an achievement gap between them and wealthier children is widening, according to new research. That achievement gap is measured primarily by scores on standardized tests, said Pamela Davis-Kean, director of the Center for the Analysis of Pathways from Childhood to Adulthood at the University of Michigan. Davis-Kean, who studies influences of family environments on children’s development, said, “Parents’ income does have indirect influences on children’s school achievement since they don’t have extra money to pay for private day care or tutors.”
Davis-Kean’s research found that home environments are one cause of achievement gaps. “What’s more important are parents’ education levels.