Detroit schools offer Count Day bribes

Wednesday was Count Day for Michigan public schools. Ninety percent of state funding is linked to how many students show up on Oct. 2.

bikesHit hard by declining enrollment, Detroit Public Schools offered prizes to students who showed up, including iPad Minis, gift cards and bicycles.

Schools served a special menu: barbecue chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, seasoned green beans, cornbread muffins and peach cobbler

Bunche Academy made Count Day a no-uniform day and scheduled a dance for middle-school students and an ice cream social.

One lucky DPS student won an Xbox. Nearly one in four students received a prize of some kind.

A majority of school-age children in Detroit choose charter schools or district-run schools in the suburbs.

21 Detroit schools are open 7 days a week

Twenty-one Detroit schools will stay open 12 hours a day, seven days a week to provide tutoring, recreation, health care, parenting classes and other social services.

State funds and donations from local businesses will help pay the cost.

Motor City meltdown

Detroit’s incompetent school board could regain control of the city’s worst schools, reports the Detroit News.

The state’s Education Achievement Author, modeled on Louisiana’s Recovery District, took control of the lowest-achieving schools last year under a contract written by Roy Roberts, the emergency manager. When Michigan voters repealed the state’s “emergency manager” law, the Detroit Board of Education canceled the contract, writes Education Gadfly in Meltdown in the Motor City. The Detroit school board, which one newspaper columnist said was “sauced on power and staggering with incompetence,” now wants to take back the schools, which are in the lowest 5 percent of Michigan schools in achievement.

Detroit students protest missing teachers, easy A’s

Detroit high school students walked out to protest absent teachers and the principal’s removal at an all-boys public school, reports the Detroit Free Press. Fifty students were suspended.

As recently as last month, students spent weeks passing time in the gym, library or cafeteria due to a lack of teachers, parents said.

. . . “Theyre failing these young black men,” said Sharise Smith, who has two sons at Douglass.Smith said her son received an A in geometry during the first semester without taking a final exam.”It was by default, just for showing up. It wasnt because he earned an A,” Smith said.

Students chanted, “We want an education.”

All Detroit students will get free meals

All Detroit students will get free breakfast, lunch and snacks as part of a federal pilot program.

“Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income,” said DPS Chief Operating Officer Mark Schrupp.

Really? Aren’t low-income students the majority in Detroit’s public schools?

The Free Press photo of a school lunch shows something cheesy (deep-dish pizza?), cherry pie, chocolate milk and lettuce. If the program eliminates meal skipping, it will boost the demand for federal anti-obesity funding.


WILLIAM ARCHIE / DFP

Job prep becomes job one

Certificates or degrees? After pushing for more college degrees, President Obama has endorsed industry-designed certificates in manufacturing skills that will enable community college students to qualify for a job with decent pay in a year. That’s if they don’t need remedial math, reading or writing.

Also on Community College Spotlight: New York City’s P-TECH will run from ninth through “14th grade.” Graduates, who will earn a high school diploma and an associate degree in applied science, will be prepared for IT jobs at IBM or transfer to a four-year university.

Detroit-area students interested in health careers can choose a five-year high school affiliated with a community college and a health center: They graduate with high school diploma, an associate degree in science and clinical experience.

47% are illiterate in Detroit

Some 47 percent of Detroit’s adults are “functionally illiterate,” according to the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, a job training nonprofit.

That means they can’t fill out a form or a job application, said Karen Tyler-Ruiz, the group’s director. “Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks,” she said. “I don’t really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that’s another question.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Roy Roberts, a retired General Motors executive, as emergency financial manager — effectively, superintendent — of Detroit Public Schools. The state took over the school district in 2009.

LIFO is out

Last-in, first-out layoffs are out in Georgia, reports Teacher Beat. It’s a trend.

The bill, SB 184, prohibits local boards of education from using seniority as the “primary or sole” determining factor when implementing a reduction in force. Boards that don’t comply can have some of their state education funds withheld.

Georgia’s action follows that of Utah, where a similar bill was recently signed into law. Other states that have recently ended LIFO through legislation include Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona, in addition to the District of Columbia through its recent teachers’ contract.

Illinois teachers’ unions have agreed to an anti-LIFO bill that allows both performance and seniority to be taken into account in deciding who get laid off.

Dennis Walcott, New York City’s new schools chancellor, wants a LIFO exemption from the state, but the teachers’ unions and Democrats in the legislature are opposed.

Not surprisingly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a no-LIFO plan as part of his education reform bill.

Detroit Public Schools is sending layoff notices to all teachers and administrators. Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager who’s running the troubled district, said he’ll use a new law that lets him  modify or terminate collective bargaining agreements.

Detroit is losing enrollment. By pink-slipping everyone, Bobb opens the door to non-LIFO layoffs. He can  retain the teachers and administrators he thinks are best and lay off the rest.

Detroit: We’ll convert 41 schools to charters

Faced with closing 41 schools, the bankrupt Detroit school district wants charter operators and Education Management Organizations to take over its failing schools by the start of the school year, reports the Detroit Free Press. That’s six months away. It may be impossible.

However, charter school operators and advocates across the nation said they believe the time line for chartering 30% of the district is too ambitious, given the amount of work that goes into hiring and training staff and developing a school design.

Converting low-performing California schools to charters didn’t raise reading and math scores, concludes a 2010 Brookings Institution report, which found converted schools “look more like traditional public schools than start-up charters.”

“The challenge of coming into an existing school is it frequently has a strong culture which might be dysfunctional, particularly if it’s been low-performing,” said Doug Ross, CEO of New Urban Learning, a nonprofit that operates charter schools in seven locations in Detroit.

KIPP, which prefers to start schools from scratch, already has said it won’t bid on Detroit’s surplus schools. Neither will Green Dot.

New Orleans, with 61 percent of students in charter schools, has seen significant progress since Hurricane Katrina “swept away much of the school system in 2005,” notes the free Press. “Prior to Hurricane Katrina, about 62% of New Orleans students attended failing schools. Today, that number has dropped to 17%.”

New Orleans schools that don’t improve are placed under the management of a high-performing school, said Paul Vallas, Recovery School District superintendent.

DPS should close its 41 schools, let those students be absorbed elsewhere and then convert some surviving schools to charters with rigorous standards, Vallas said.

“That would not only solve financial problems, it would solve your problem of school quality,” he said.

In addition to New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Denver have given up control of the most troubled schools to outside operators, notes Ed Week.

However, only 5 percent of turnaround schools have been turned over to outside management, notes Title 1-Derland.

Detroit to close half its schools

To avoid bankruptcy, Detroit will close half its public schools, letting class sizes rise to 60 students, and contract out services. The state has refused to bail out Detroit Public Schools and the legislature is considering bills that would let emergency financial managers take over cities or school districts in fnancial crisis and “toss out union contracts, dissolve school boards and set wage and benefit levels without collective bargaining,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

In Wisconsin, protesting teachers are back in school today after four days of sick-outs. Protests continue in Madison against a bill that would limit collective bargaining rights and require public-sector workers to contribute to their health and pension plans.

The budget-cutting plan was written by Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager, as a desperation move if more revenue couldn’t be raised. The state education department has approved the plan and set implementation deadlines, though Bobb still hopes to raise more money.

Declining population and transfers to charters and suburban schools have cut the district’s enrollment in half since 1999.  Detroit now has 73,000 students in 142 schools; that’s expected to shrink to 58,570 students in 72 schools by 2014.  

Bobb was appointed two years ago to close a $218 million deficit in a district riddled with waste and corruption, reports the Journal.

But the deficit deepened during his tenure, weighed down by salary, pension and health-care obligations. The longtime municipal manager said that without the cuts and cost-savings measures he has made since 2009, the district would face a deficit of more than $500 million today.

Meanwhile, many of his efforts to restructure the district’s academics and finances were derailed by clashes with unions and with the elected school board, which recently won a court fight to control academics and select the next superintendent.

Bobb’s term ends soon; he’ll leave June 30. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder may appoint a successor,  ”which would keep the elected board of education largely sidelined on financial matters for the near future,” reports the Journal.

 The Detroit Federation of Teachers has called for an emergency lobbying day today in Lansing to protest the legislation expanding the powers of emergency financial managers.