Detroiters have to wait a little longer to find out which of 25 targeted city schools will be closed by the state in June. Gov. Rick Snyder announced yesterday that final decisions, which had been expected soon, have now been postponed until May. The state School Reform Office says those decisions will be largely based on academic concerns but our story this week looks at the tens of millions of dollars that have gone into building and renovating Detroit schools in recent years — money that could be wasted if schools are shuttered.
“These upgrades were done because the business community, the faith-based community and private individuals believe in these schools. You’re rallying that kind of support and then you’re just going to chop it off? Cut off the limb? Not only are they going to hurt children but they’re going to hurt all of Detroit.”
— Chris Lambert, the founder and CEO, Life Remodeled
Read on for more on school closings and other education issues. Also, if you haven’t yet purchased your ticket for the March 17 School Days teacher storytelling event hosted by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, get your tickets here. For a preview, watch Chalkbeat Senior Detroit Correspondent Erin Einhorn on stage last week telling the story of how and why Chalkbeat got started in Detroit.
On school closings
- The nation’s top education states typically do not close down schools, preferring to find ways to improve them. But Michigan is plowing ahead with as many as 38 school closings across the state.
- Those closings will cost money: roughly $100,000 to close buildings and remove equipment plus $50,000 in yearly security costs but state officials haven’t yet decided who will shoulder those expenses.
- The state School Reform Officer defended the much-derided letters that offered parents at targeted schools “better” options.
- The infamous letters gave parents lists of districts including some an hour away (that won’t necessarily accept their kids) — but more than half of those districts have schools in the bottom 25 percent of state rankings.
- A powerful documentary about school closings highlights the plight of special needs students, including some that are now facing their second school closing in recent years.
- The state’s Democratic members of Congress urged Gov. Snyder to stop the closings. “We ask that the state not close any schools without consultation and input from the local community,” the members wrote.
- Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he’s been “encouraged” by conversations between the district and the state. “I’m optimistic we’re gonna work things out” he said in his State of the City Address on Tuesday. He’ll fight the state if he has to, he said. “Closing a school doesn’t add a single quality seat. All it does is bounce our children around from place to place.”
- Snyder’s postponement of final decisions until May was cheered by opponents as a sign that the state is rethinking its approach. ”I hope that the delay is a recognition that the way the state was handling school closures was ineffective,” one said.
- Duggan revealed that, until recently, city high school grads lost jobs because the district took months to produce student transcripts.
- Nearly 100 teachers in Detroit’s main district got $1,000 bonuses last year for improving student test scores and meeting other criteria.
- The district is expanding its Montessori program to three more schools including Palmer Park Prep Academy, Vernor Elementary and Chrysler Elementary.
All 94 district buildings now have safe levels of lead and copper.
Across the state
- Gov. Rick Snyder is a proposing a major shift in the way schools are funded.
- A new analysis of national test scores reveals that Michigan students have shown very little improvement since 2003 — a report that one school leader said “ought to send chills down the spines of every Michiganian.”
- A state charter school group is launching a literacy campaign to honor an illiterate student athlete who starred in a historic Detroit high school basketball game.
- A bill would require full-day kindergarten across the state.
- A longtime member of the state board of education has retired but the Detroit resident says she plans to continue to fight for kids.
- More Michigan students are turning to virtual high schools.
- A Flint school official has been named a “leader to learn from.”
In other news
- The troubled website for children with disabilities that became a political symbol during the first weeks since Betsy DeVos became U.S. Education Secretary has been restored.
- One Detroit high school student says Devos used money and power to create “a lack of resources for Detroit Public Schools, as well as a negative connotation with all Detroit schools.”
- Another Detroit student is featured in a national magazine tying DeVos to a host of Detroit school problems.
- DeVos was initially opposed to rolling back protections for transgender students but then defended the changes.
- Trump’s proposed AmeriCorps cuts would trim .03 percent of the federal budget — but slash support at 11,000 schools.
- A gun hoax led a suburban school to beef up security.
- A new report examines how student transportation affects school choice in Detroit and four other cities.
- Chalkbeat staffers were featured this week on the radio, a global TV network and a local podcast. Check us out!