It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.
“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”
— Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board
Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:
The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.
One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.
The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.
- A top Republican lawmaker is leading an effort to repeal the law that lets the state shut down persistently low-performing schools, calling it “deeply flawed.” He called for a discussion about better ways to deal with troubled schools but stopped short of urging Snyder to back off from plans to announce a slew of school closings later this month.
- Business and education leaders have launched a new effort to study school funding in Michigan, building on a study released last year that found serious inequities in school finances.
- GOP lawmakers are gunning for teacher pensions in the new legislative session.
- The state board of education is now evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, forcing the two parties to share power.
- Though confirmation hearings for DeVos, originally scheduled for this week, were postponed until Tuesday, the tensions over her nomination have intensified.
- The performance of charter schools in Detroit and Michigan remained at the center of the DeVos debate. A national education policy site offered a detailed analysis of the evidence on both sides of the discussion. The same site looked at DeVos’ role in last year’s fight over charter school oversight. And a pro-school choice analyst offered his view on what reporters have gotten wrong about DeVos.
- Critics say DeVos’ financial ties — including an estimated 250 entities registered to a single Grand Rapids address — could take weeks for ethics officials to untangle. That prompted the Free Press cartoonist to suggest Americans can rely on “faith-based education” to know she has no conflicts of interest.
- Her supporters — including the Detroit News, officials at a religious school she funds and Mitt Romney — have sung her praises.
In other news
- A Dearborn charter school tops a high school ranking released by a conservative think tank. The report card factors students’ socioeconomic backgrounds into its measure for schools.
- So few teachers and administrators were given the lowest rating on their annual evaluations last year that the state rounded the number down to zero.
- Detroit’s main school district has opened enrollment for its selective and specialized schools.
- The national NAACP task force on charter schools, which held a hearing in Memphis this week, soon plans to come to Detroit.