Charters don’t typically have historic debts like those that nearly drove the Detroit Public Schools into bankruptcy last year, but Michigan does not provide charter schools with money to buy or renovate their buildings. Unlike districts, charter schools can’t ask voters to approve tax hikes to pay for improvements. And when charter schools borrow money, that debt isn’t supported by the state or backed up by district taxpayers the way some school district debt is. So when a charter school shuts down and money stops coming from the state, there could be many people — that includes teachers — who simply won’t get paid.
Scroll down for more on that story as well as updates on the just-ratified teachers contract and the rest of the week’s Detroit schools news.
— Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Senior Detroit Correspondent
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Paying teachers — or not
- Detroit teachers who mailed in ballots this month have narrowly approved a new three-year contract in a vote of 515 to 474. “We certainly deserve more,” the union’s president said in a statement “but the package offers us the opportunity to build our local, move our school district forward and place students first.”
- The new contract, which will now go to a state financial oversight board for approval, would raise teacher salaries by more than 7 percent over the next two years but would not increase wages enough to bring them back to where they were before pay cuts a few years ago.
- Meanwhile, teachers at the shuttered Michigan Technical Academy charter school — which had a lower school in northwest Detroit and a middle school in Redford — were furious to learn that they won’t get money they’re owed for work they did during the school year. The money will instead go to pay off debts. More than 30 teachers are collectively owed more than $150,000.
- The school is the second Detroit-area charter school to run into financial problems affecting teacher pay. Educators at the Taylor International Academy in Southfield say they haven’t been paid since their school shut down abruptly in early June. Taylor and MTA also have this in common: Both schools had their charter authorized by Central Michigan University.
- Meanwhile, across the state, Michigan’s average teacher salary has dropped for the fifth year in a row, and many districts say they have trouble retaining high quality teachers because of low pay. The finding is included in a six-story series on state teacher pay from Michigan Radio that already has detractors.
- An investor service says the controversial changes Michigan made to its pension system are a “positive” for the state.
- A University of Michigan economist says substitute teachers are paid less in Michigan than other states — part of why the state has a sub shortage.
- A suburban district got 952 applicants for a single teaching job but the district’s superintendent says that doesn’t mean there’s not a teacher shortage.
On the home front
- Detroit’s new discount housing program for educators is one of several programs across the country that are helping teachers with housing costs.
- Detroit educators interested in the housing program can register on the Land Bank’s website to qualify to buy houses at a 50 percent discount. The program requires buyers to rehab the home within six months of purchase and own the home for at least three years.
- Some Detroit educators cheered the new program but others have raised questions about whether it might drive up the price of Land Bank houses or push city residents out of their homes and replace them with educators coming from the suburbs.
- Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced that he and his wife have purchased a home in the city’s Sherwood Forest neighborhood.
- Back at his last home, Vitti was named an “outstanding green superintendent” for work he did when he was superintendent of the Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville.
- The demise last month of the advocacy group Excellent Schools Detroit is evidence that money alone can’t fix struggling schools.
- Detroit and Michigan figure prominently in an NAACP report on charter schools that calls for an end to schools run by for-profit organizations. The report, however, got some things wrong about Detroit.
- After 30 years on the office staff of Detroit schools, this school secretary says she and her colleagues do a lot more than clerical work. “We don’t work in the classroom, but the classroom wouldn’t work without us,” she said.
- Olympia Entertainment is reportedly eyeing Cass Tech’s football field.
Across the state
- A judge has blocked the state from spending public money on private schools. A Catholic leader explains why he thinks private schools should be entitled to the money.
- MIchigan has dumped its school ranking system in favor of a dashboard.
- An advocate who wants schools to face tougher consequences for poor performance slammed Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent school reform efforts. “Parents are tougher on their kids when they don’t eat their vegetables than Detroit’s turnaround plan is with its hometown failure factories,” he wrote.
- Many of the hurdles that make it difficult to provide enough early education in Detroit also exist in rural Michigan communities.
- A New York writer says Betsy DeVos might be powerful and influential in Michigan but in Washington without her checkbook, she’s “like a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”
In other news
- One Detroit school got a $25,000 grant to buy musical equipment with help from the cast of the ‘Detroit’ movie.
- These Detroit students are earning money this summer while learning to farm.
- GM employees spent the week spiffing up some Detroit schools and working at a STEM camp for kids.
- A suburban church has been stuffing backpacks for Detroit kids.
- A group that puts art teachers in Detroit schools is looking to expand.
- A back-to-school festival planned for next month will offer Detroit kids free school supplies, haircuts and immunizations.