Week In Review

Week in review: A new start for Head Start

We reported this week on the frantic push to create new Head Start programs for hundreds of young Detroit children who were affected by a social service agency’s unexpected decision last year to stop providing the federally funded preschool program. We also took a look at the 4,000 Detroit students who remain in limbo as the main Detroit school district delays a decision about whether it will continue to authorize charter schools. And, we reported that the Detroit Prep charter school now has a clear path to buy and renovate a vacant former district school building on Detroit’s east side.

Also this week, we had some big news of our own: Chalkbeat Detroit has grown! We’ve added a new reporter, taken on some new roles, and are gearing up to do more stories and more of the kind of journalism that sheds life on the challenges and opportunities in our schools. Please send us suggestions for stories you’d like to see.

Meanwhile, if you count on Facebook to alert you when we have a new story, please tweak your settings to make sure we still appear in your feed now that the company has changed its algorithm to give users more personal updates — and fewer news stories. Here’s our guide to keeping Chalkbeat in your Facebook feed and other ways to stay informed about your schools. Thanks for reading!

— Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Detroit Bureau Chief

In Detroit

  • Social service providers scrambling to get new centers licensed and up to code were able to offer spots to all Head Start students who were affected by Southwest Solutions’ exit from the program — while also creating 100 additional classroom spots for kids.
  • Charter schools overseen by the main Detroit district say they need a decision from the school board so they can make arrangements to stay open. But although an answer was expected in December, families in the 13 schools are still waiting.
  • The governor signed legislation last Friday invalidating a deed restriction that has held up a charter school’s purchase of a former Detroit Public Schools building, prompting schools superintendent Nikolai Vitti to say he would drop the district’s opposition to the sale. The Detroit News backed the charter school’s effort, saying Vitti’s opposition is “hard to defend, given the benefits for kids and the community” of allowing the vacant building to be restored and occupied by a successful school.
  • About 30 teachers have been chosen from among 100 who’ve applied so far to be “master teachers” in the main school district. Master teachers will get an extra $5,000 in their paychecks annually to help train other teachers while also teaching kids.
  • A schools advocate makes the case for taking the politics out of parents’ school choices. “Let’s stop creating new fights that don’t solve the ‘true’ problems that our kids and parents face everyday,” he writes.  
  • The main district is now providing child care at school board meetings.
  • A group of Detroit students who have perfect attendance will get a free trip to see the new Black Panther movie.

Across the state

  • Gov. Rick Snyder plans to call for increasing school funding by more than $233 per student — the largest hike since 2007.
  • A business leader who played a role in publishing a major study recommending that Michigan overhaul the way it funds schools writes that the “current, obsolete school funding system … does not recognize the very unique needs and challenges of students in all corners of Michigan.” That study, which has gotten support from school leaders and others, also prompted a dispute between a Democratic lawmaker and a conservative news site over whether or not state education funding has increased in recent years.
  • A package of 22 bills introduced last week in the Michigan Senate would reward and help recruit teachers.
  • A new program gives Michigan high school dropouts a chance to earn a diploma while receiving job training.
  • Michigan has seen exponential growth in its early college programs with the number increasing 69 percent to 135 programs. The state pays for a fifth year of high school plus all college tuition credits and text books, shaving $10,000 to $50,000 off the cost of a college education.
  • A pro-charter school think tank released a study that finds Michigan charter schools are 32 percent more cost effective than traditional public schools.
  • Despite heightened awareness and concern about the risk to children who are exposed to lead, neither the federal government nor the state requires schools to test their water. The Michigan Legislature appears unlikely to change that anytime soon, despite proposed legislation.
  • The state is creating Career and Education Advisory Councils to build connections between the skills employers need and those that students are learning in school.
  • Michigan’s largest teachers union has a new leader.
  • Though only 561 Michigan students are registered as being homeschooled, some estimates put the real number at over 42,000.