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11 things you should know about Detroit education

Meghan Mangrum

You’ll find that this week’s news was dominated by school closings, accountability, and the cost of education.

But first, if you haven’t yet purchased your ticket for the March 17 School Days storytelling event hosted by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, get your tickets here. For a preview, watch Senior Detroit Correspondent Erin Einhorn on stage recently telling the story of how and why Chalkbeat got started in Detroit. We hope to see you there!

— Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

DEVOS INFLUENCE: A Detroit lawsuit all but accuses U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of bribery, asserting she used campaign contributions to kill a controversial education commission last year. The suit, filed by the former Detroit school board and Detroit parents, seeks potentially millions of dollars from the billionaire Michigan philanthropist.

SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Michigan’s school reform leader defended the threatened closings of failing schools in Detroit in front of a state House panel, testifying that there was no transportation plan for students who would be forced out of their districts.

WATER ALERT: Almost 30 Detroit schools were closed after a boil water advisory was issued in the city (though the schools were open for the first day of the crisis).

PARENTS PROTEST: A rally in Lansing by a Detroit parent group urged parents to remove their children from state testing to protest threatened school closings. Parents also protested this week in Detroit and Pontiac.

GRADING SCHOOLS: More than half of Michigan’s schools would earn As and Bs under the the state’s proposed new school grading system, despite the fact that schools across the state are sliding academically. An education advocacy group believes the proposal, which is the state’s effort to comply with a new federal law, has “the potential to be a big step forward” but could undermine the state’s efforts to improve performance. The state’s proposal is open for public comment through March 16.

MONEY ANSWERS: Here’s how Michigan schools spent their money in the 2015-16 school year — and a slew of fascinating pie charts that break down how much districts spend on instruction, administration and other services.

CYBER FUNDING: State cyber schools are fighting Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to cut state aid to the schools. They could lose $16 million.

COMMENTARY: A Free Press columnist says “legislative complacency is allowing suburban school districts … to continue a dangerous academic and financial slide that’s taking Michigan perilously close to crisis.”

WOLF TRAP PROGRAM: Pairing preschoolers with professional artists in this Detroit program could lead to students with better math, science and literacy skills.

SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY: One school advocate explains why computers and technology are not essential to a 21st century education.

LIFE-CHANGING TEACHER: This Detroit teacher was named “Life Changer of the year” for helping her students advocate for the environment.

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