We took a look this week at the challenge facing high-poverty districts like Detroit that rely on corporate and philanthropic donations to pick up where the government leaves off. Districts are happy to accept gifts from private donors but that can mean some kids get benefits that others do not. That’s why a west side elementary school has two pre-K classrooms in a popular arts and science enrichment program — and one pre-K that can’t participate.
“We get left out a lot. It’s unfortunate because I feel like all the kids should have the opportunities.”
— Candace Graham, pre-kindergarten teacher, Carver STEM Academy
Scroll down for more on that story and the rest of the week’s education news. The week included the new superintendent’s first school board meeting and a surprising announcement from the University of Michigan that it will extend free tuition to students whose families make less than $65,000 a year. That’s more than half of state residents.
A tale of two pre-Ks
All of the pre-K students at Detroit’s Carver STEM Academy are getting a quality education but some kids get to experience a program that shows how much more is possible.
A man, a plan and a budget
- At his first school board meeting, new Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti outlined his top priorities including cutting student testing time and restoring arts and music to Detroit schools. Read Vitti’s to-do list for the coming year here.
- Another Vitti priority is hiring at least 300 teachers — even though paying all those teachers could create financial challenges for the district.
- Critics say Detroit’s policy of giving teachers salary credit for only two years of experience is contributing to the city’s severe teaching shortage. That policy could also drive out teachers in the state-run recovery district whose schools are returning to the main Detroit district next month.
- As the city’s teachers union continues to negotiate a contract for next year, the new district budget assumes a 3% across-the-board wage increase.
- The district budget also assumes an increase in enrollment — but only because students in the state-run recovery district are expected to return.
- One tool the district is using to boost enrollment: Going after families whose charter schools are closing. Vitti personally visited a closing charter this week to make his case to parents. “This is what competition looks like,” he said.
Across the state
- State lawmakers narrowly passed bills Thursday that will change the way teachers and public school employees get their retirement benefits.
- An advocate writes that the state’s new education budget is a mixed bag for low-income students.
- A News columnist urges the state to avoid past mistakes as it tries to turn around struggling schools that had been targeted for closure this year.
- Here’s a Michigan think tank’s recommendations for redesigning the state’s education system.
- Michigan currently expels more kids than any other U.S. state, but new policies could change that.
- Michigan has made major strides when it comes to the number of kids enrolled in state-funded preschool. The state now ranks 15th in the country according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
- A News columnist says if President Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos want to promote school choice, they should stay away from local and state education decisions.
- The New York Times takes a look at the private western Michigan Christian schools that educated DeVos and her children in search of insight into her policy agenda, as well as a charter school founded by her family.
In other news
- Four of the top CEOs in the Detroit area say fixing city schools is one of the most pressing issues facing the region.
- A Detroit parent advocate has compiled a helpful list of some top Detroit schools that still have spaces available for students in September. She urged parents not to fall for sales pitches from school recruiters.
- A district STEMfest included a helicopter, a race car and a school bus science lab.
- A University of Michigan program let students at four Detroit schools learn about careers in architecture.
- This suburban high school produced its yearbook in braille for two visually impaired students.
- East Detroit High School alumni, parents, coaches and current students protested the recent decision of the community school board to change the district’s name to Eastpointe.
- A group planning a March for Public Education in July is holding a fundraiser next week.
- Funeral services will be held today for a veteran Detroit teacher and coach who worked in the Detroit district for more than 30 years.
- A suburban district is retiring its therapy dog after 11 years.
Awards and accolades
- These two Michigan students won national Letters About Literature prizes.
- An office supply store has awarded $1,000 shopping sprees to Detroit students with top grades to buy school supplies for college.
- A non-profit organization selected an eighth-grade teacher as its Detroit Public Schools Community District Teacher of the Year.
- The founder of a local boxing and tutoring program was named a CNN hero.
- These 40 grads have won Rosa Parks scholarships for showing promise as leaders committed to social justice.
- A top Detroit high school principal has been nominated for the 2017-2018 national LifeChanger of the Year award.