This Week & Next (Feb 5, 2016)

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First Hearing on DPS bills focuses on finances
The first hearing on SB 710 & 711 (Hansen), the DPS reform bills, was held yesterday in the Government Operations Committee. Providing testimony during the 2+ hour hearing was Sen. Hansen; John Walsh, Office of the Governor; Natasha Baker, State Reform Office; Mayor Mike Duggan; and Tonya Allen, Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.

Click here to download their complete presentations. While SB 710 & 711 outline the $515 million bailout of DPS and creating a brand new traditional school district with elected board, much of the testimony examined what’s NOT in the bills, like the creation of a “command and control” bureaucracy to manage school choice and the control charter schools. Again, GLEP continues to work with key legislators to ensure that any education reforms in Detroit will preserve school choice, keep parents in charge of their children’s education, and increase accountability over poor performing schools.  Next week the committee will have a hearing at 12:30 pm on Tuesday, February 9 and potentially at 1:00 pm on Thursday, February 11.

Detroit Democrats Drive a Hard Bargain on DPS Reform
Conventional wisdom in Lansing is that any DPS reform bills that become law should have bi-partisan support, especially from Detroit Democrats who are most impacted by the failure of DPS. Because of you’re going to hand over $715 million from taxpayers to pay off the operational debt of DPS and kick-start a brand new school district, you have to sweeten the pot in order for Detroit Democrats to “accept” such an arrangement.  Despite the fact that 9 of the 10 key “demands” from Detroit Democrats are being met here (see chart below), they continue to hold out support for the bill package until their true #1 priority is met, which is to suppress parental choice by limiting and controlling charter school growth in the city. This was the message from Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) who told MIRS “These bills do not contain all of the things that we Detroiters want to guarantee and protect our school district and that includes tighter regulation over charter schools with the DEC in control. We need to reign in charters that suck the life blood and marrow out of DPS.” It’s our hope that Governor Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Meekhof and Speaker Cotter will find that 9 of 10 priorities is enough of a sweetener to get Detroit Democrats to grudgingly accept this $715 million bailout.

Darnell Earley Resigns as DPS Emergency Manager
On Tuesday this week, Darnell Earley, Emergency Manager at DPS, notified Governor Snyder that he would be resigning his position, effective February 29, 2016. Despite the fact that his appointment was scheduled to end in June, controversy over his stint as EM in the City of Flint and recent revelations as to school building conditions at DPS appear to be too much to overcome for him to remain in his current position. Governor Snyder will name a transition leader for the post soon, and negotiations over DPS reform will determine how long the next Emergency Manager (the 5th for DPS) will need to be on the job.

EAA coming to an end
Controversial since its inception, the Education Achievement Authority was created by Governor Snyder to intervene in the bottom 5% of schools in the state and was formed through a mutual agreement between DPS and Eastern Michigan University. Originally provided 15 schools from DPS, the EAA was never made official by the legislature to take on other schools. Mixed academic results, constant criticism and recent FBI investigations into corruption (Ex-EAA principal pleads guilty: I betrayed public trust, Detroit Free Press) have continued to tarnish the EAA. Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Arlan Meekhof announced the EAA would be abolished as part of the negotiations over DPS reform, andEAA Chancellor Veronica Conforme yesterday urged Eastern Michigan University Board of Trustees to pull their support at today’s board meeting (which they did at 1:55 pm, with the withdrawal is effective June 30, 2017). You know you’re in trouble when your top executive is asking for the plug to be pulled. It appears that responsibility for involvement with the state’s poorest-performing schools will be coordinated by the State Reform Office. As it should be.

Senate Committees Hears from MDE on Failing Schools
Supt. Brian Whiston and his leadership team made a presentation on school reform efforts to the Joint Senate Education and School Aid Committees on Wednesday this week. In addition to reporting on the efforts of the MDE and the State Reform Office, Whiston’s presentation followed Tuesday’s announcement from Governor Snyder that 30 schools had been released from the list of Priority Schools and that 4 buildings in East Detroit Public Schools would be assigned a CEO. This is the first time the state has exercised the ability to appoint a CEO over failing schools.  Click here to download the MDE presentation from the hearing.

House Education Committee Passes PD Bills
The House Education Committee, on a refreshing 17-0 vote, passed HB 5156-5159 (Lyons, Garcia, Price, Hooker), a package of bills dealing with professional development for teachers and administrators. The committee also heard testimony on a bill dealing with social media policies for schools.

Charter School Gives Hope to Kids in Detroit
From our friends at Choice Schools Associates, you’ll want to check out this feature story on Dove Academy in Detroit, a public charter school that is giving hope to Detroit kids every day. In the midst of chaos within Detroit Public Schools, where building conditions have been deemed unsafe, teachers aren’t teaching due to sick-outs and students aren’t being educated, there sits a community school who has quite a different story. Dove Academy of Detroit serves over 475 students in preschool through 8th grade, and sits nestled in a Detroit neighborhood that serves predominantly African American working families who want the best education possible for their children. This neighborhood isn’t just any neighborhood… its crime and drug scene has earned it a top spot on the not-so-prestigious list of most dangerous zip codes in America. The administrators, teachers and staff are dedicated to making a difference in the children’s lives not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well.

Why we believe fixing education can fix poverty
Denisha Merriweather has told the story of school choice changing the trajectory of her life countless times. On Wednesday, for the first time, she brought that story to Congress.
She told the House Education and Workforce Committee that she moved from school to school constantly as a child, struggled to read and master multiplication, was picked on and got into fights, and seemed on a path to follow the path of her biological mother and other relatives who dropped out of school. That all changed when she moved in with her godmother, who found her a private school that would push her to become the first in her family to graduate from college — and all because of a Florida scholarship program that puts kids first. You can read more here.

Michigan Charter School Essay Contest
The National Charter Schools Institute is proud to sponsor the 2016 Charter Schools Essay Contest. This year’s theme is: “What My Charter School Means to Me.” The contest is open to students in middle school and high school. Student are invited to tell their story and share what their charter school means to them. Is it a safe place with a great teacher that cares? Is it a special class or program? Is it being prepared for college and life? Entries are being accepted until April 1 and will be reviewed by a panel of qualified judges. Prizes will be awarded for the first, second, and third place winners in the middle school (grades 6-8), and high school (grades 9-12) divisions. First place winners of each division will be invited to Lansing for special recognition during National Charter Schools Week, May 2-6.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday February 8

Tuesday February 9

  • Senate Government Operations Committee hearing re: DPS bills, 12:30 pm

Wednesday February 10

  • Count Day in schools
  • Governor’s FY ’17 Budget Presentation, 11 am
  • Senate Education Committees

Thursday February 11

  • House Education Committee, 9 am
  • Senate Government Operations Committee hearing re: DPS bills, 1 pm

Friday February 12

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please considermaking a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!


Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director