Deficit district number down for first time since 2003

This news story is so rich with irony it’s hard to know where to begin. But no comment is more ironical than statements by State Rep. Tim Kelly, who moved to Michigan  20 years ago from Indiana when Governor John Engler asked him to be his Education Policy Advisor from 1995-1999. Kelly also served as Governor Engler’s special envoy and representative to the State Board of Education, all this while the Governor and his advisor were “negotiating” with then-mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, to take over the Detroit Public Schools with the help of legislation requiring the duly-elected Detroit Board of Education members to resign. 


Michigan has 41 school districts that ended the 2014-15 school year in a deficit, down from 56 the previous year.

The number of school districts in financial distress has declined for the first time since 2003, reversing a trend that saw the number grow annually as schools struggled with declining enrollment and increased costs.

But despite that progress, the Michigan Department of Treasury will begin preliminary reviews next year of 11 school districts that have dire financial struggles — a process that could lead the state to declare a financial emergency and could result in the appointment of an emergency manager, bankruptcy or a consent agreement with the state.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston said during a legislative committee hearing this morning that 41 school districts and charter schools ended the 2014-15 school year with a deficit, down from 56 the previous year. Twenty school districts eliminated their deficit, but five new districts joined the list.

Whiston called the news promising. But some lawmakers were focused on the 13 districts that saw an increase in their deficit.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, questioned whether the Michigan Department of Education is doing enough to prevent districts already in deficit from getting worse.

It’s discouraging, Kelly said, “to see that schools under our watch are growing deficits.”

For the rest of this story, follow this link: Deficit district number down for first time since 2003

Michigan audit faults EAA for poor budget controls

Findings led to FBI probe of struggling schools system? … for goodness sakes… apparently despite the full resources of Governor Snyder, his assistants and employees of the Office or Management and Budget, the Office of Emergency Financial Management, the Michigan Office of the Auditor General, the State Department of Treasury, the Office of  Department of Education, the State Legislature and its House and Senate fiscal agencies and still the agency created by the Governor cannot help but trigger an FBI investigation for its accounting practices at the troubled state-run school district. And this revelation is only seeing the light of day because the State Department of Internet Technology came upon some budget irregularities. Maybe it was the fact the DIT note EAA paid vendor(s) $23 million on IT in fiscal 2014, including a $16.6 million one-time upgrade. I guess someone thought that was a tad bit too much for a “school district” with 15 buildings and about 6000 students. 


and ,

The Detroit News-December 3, 2015

The state-created Education Achievement Authority suffered from a “consistent lack of controls” in information technology that resulted in poorly maintained budgets, vendors being paid without contracts and a lack of oversight in purchasing, a state audit concluded.

The 34-page audit, filed by the state on Jan. 10, 2014, is among the documents that EAA officials say led to an FBI investigation into the troubled school system created by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011 to turn around failing schools in Detroit. The Detroit News obtained the audit through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We have concluded that the EAA doesn’t appear to employ a comprehensive departmental budgeting, forecasting and spending tracking methodology,” the audit reads. “For example, until recently EAA finance was unclear as to how and when grant funds needed to be planned and used across EAA departments.”

“… Our observation found that multiple individuals within each school (are) performing their own purchasing function, and that the schools are not coordinating with each other for maximum potential savings through volume purchasing. We observed no process for standard checking, security checks or strategic sourcing prior to purchase … Additionally, we have seen no information that provides for penalties/deterrents for deviating from the purchasing handbook.”

No civil or criminal charges have been filed as part of the federal investigation, but The News learned in October that the FBI and Justice Department subpoenaed personnel files and bank records or email account information for more than a dozen current and former EAA officials as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation.


Source: Michigan audit faults EAA for poor budget controls


The New ESEA and Content

Posted: 03 Dec 2015 10:57 AM PST

There’s a huge amount of discussion about how the New ESEA will affect policy and the flow of money and the new ways that privateers can grub for that money and just how big a hash states will make out of education, anyway etc etc etc,

But over at the Fordham blog, Robert Pondiscio has put a bit of focus where focus ought to be– the new bill’s effect on content.

Pondiscio is a reform fan who has always been willing to see what we see in the classroom– that an emphasis on high stakes reading tests is destructive

to the teaching of reading. I’ve made the same argument. The current theories about reading embedded in both the Common Core and in Big Standardized Tests is that reading is a set of free-floating skills unrelated to content, prior knowledge, or the engagement of the reader. The BS Tests have focused on short excerpts specifically chosen to be boring and weirdly obscure so as to guarantee that students will have no prior knowledge and will not find the excerpts interesting. All this because some reformsters believe that reading is a set of skills that has nothing to do with content, which is kind of like trying to imagine waves that exist independent of any matter through which they move. As Pondiscio puts it:

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: The New ESEA and Content

Zuckerbergs Pledge Billions to “Personalized Learning,” Which Means? 

Diane Ravitch’s blog:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan are celebrating the birth of their daughter Max by promising to give away 99% of their shares in Facebook, about $45 billion. Their major beneficiaries will be public health and “personalized learning.” No one knows for sure what personalized learning is. My guess is that they want to accelerate the trend to replace teachers with computers, which tech entrepreneurs usually call personalized learning.

Source: Zuckerbergs Pledge Billions to “Personalized Learning,” Which Means? | Diane Ravitch’s blog

The GOP Response To San Bernardino: Nearer My God To Thee.

Want to know what the pro-gun crowd thinks about gun violence?  Or I should say, what the pro-gun crowd wants everyone else to think about gun violence?  All you gotta do is wait for a mass shooting to occur, then check the Twitteraccounts of the so-called GOP Presidential candidates

. I say ‘so-called’ because the idea that any of this bunch has demonstrated even a sliver of leadership, never mind the slightest attention to facts, makes me wonder how we could remotely imagine one of these clowns sitting in Oval Office after January 20, 2017. Anyway, back to the topic at hand… Source: The GOP Response To San Bernardino: Nearer My God To Thee.

Cop in Laquan McDonald video tied to another police shooting death – Chicago Tribune reports

The Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting of a black teen also played a role in the alleged cover-up of another fatal police shooting 10 years ago, according to court records in an ongoing civil lawsuit against the city.

Officer Jason Van Dyke admitted as part of that civil case that he copied the work of other officers on the scene, which made his official report match theirs, without conducting his own interviews of witnesses to the controversial 2005 shooting of Emmanuel Lopez.

While his role in that case was relatively minor, it looms larger now as the Lopez family lawsuit heads to trial in February over allegations that Chicago police shot the 23-year-old janitor 16 times without justification and then concocted a story that they were acting in self-defense because Lopez tried to run over an officer with his car.

Van Dyke’s admission about his report in a 2008 deposition comes to light as he stands accused of murder in the October 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald, 17, who was gunned down as he jogged along a Southwest Side street several feet from police officers who had responded to calls that he was breaking into cars. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, with most of the shots coming after the teen collapsed to the street.

Police at first contended that McDonald threatened officers with a knife, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought for months to withhold the police video of the shooting until a judge ordered its release last week. The video, showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald as he walked past officers, put Chicago front and center in a national debate over police misconduct against minorities.

Source: Cop in Laquan McDonald video tied to another police shooting death – Chicago Tribune

A gentle reminder to the Detroit News: Detroit is not 1/3 vacant | Blogs | Detroit Metro Times

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 11:27 am

According to the latest junk research, the total vacant land area of Detroit could accommodate three Detroits. - ILLUSTRATION BY LEE DEVITO

  • Illustration by Lee DeVito
  • According to the latest junk research, the total vacant land area of Detroit could accommodate three Detroits.

Something amazing happened this morning. I was reading an editorial in The Detroit News and I agreed with it.

The editorial concerned the need to alter local ordinances regarding the keeping of livestock. As city-dwellers know, it’s not unheard-of for people to keep chickens, goats, honeybees, or other animals. And there’s plenty of room for this to happen. The editorial said as much. What was happening here? The local conservative paper was sounding as granola as you can get. I was prepared to see pigs flying out of a frozen-over hell.

And then I saw a quote that brought me back to reality: “Detroit, at 139 square miles, occupies a huge footprint. A third of that land is vacant.”

I did the math, finding that stubborn statistic that finicky Detroitophiles like me have taken issue with time and again. It’s the stubborn, unchecked fact that, despite our best efforts, won’t go away.

If a third of Detroit is vacant, that’s 46 square miles of vacant land.

Yes, that’s true, if you include cemeteries.

And public parks, like Belle Isle and Rouge Park. And every other city park.

Source: A gentle reminder to the Detroit News: Detroit is not 1/3 vacant | Blogs | Detroit Metro Times

Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children – Chicago Tribune

“Julie Lythcott-Haims noticed a disturbing trend during her decade as a dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Incoming students were brilliant and accomplished and virtually flawless, on paper. But with each year, more of them seemed incapable of taking care of themselves.

At the same time, parents were becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives. They talked to their children multiple times a day and swooped in to personally intervene anytime something difficult happened.”

Source: Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children – Chicago Tribune

Senate OKs letting some retired Michigan teachers return with pension – Crain’s Detroit Business

“Certain retired teachers could return to the classroom because of a shortage of substitutes or not enough full-time teachers in some subjects under legislation that cleared the Michigan Senate on Tuesday…

A law allowing teachers who retired after mid-2010 to teach again without losing their retirement benefits expired nearly 18 months ago. The measure would re-enact provisions that let public school retirees work in an area identified as a critical shortage discipline, as a substitute teacher or as an instructional coach or school improvement facilitators and still get a pension.”

Source: Senate OKs letting some retired Michigan teachers return with pension – Crain’s Detroit Business

Post about Cuomo Indictment Does Not Come from a Reliable Source

I have been informed by people who live in the Buffalo area that the report about Cuomo’s imminent indictment does not come from a reliable source. I fell for it because the U.S. Attorney Preet Bahrara has taken out two of the three most powerful politicians in the state: Sheldon Silver, speaker of the Assembly, who was convicted of several felonies involving money; and Dean Skelos (and his son), who was leader of the State Senate, who was convicted but has not yet gone to trial.

Source: Post about Cuomo Indictment Does Not Come from a Reliable Source