Friday, June 21, 2013

Six Solstice Friday Notes

Not that these notes really have anything to do with the solstice. . .

1. The legislature adjourned today without the Senate voting on Medicaid expansion. I was soooo disappointed. Sen. Randy Richardville (majority leader) does in fact represent a small portion of Washtenaw County, and he refused to bring it forward for a vote--despite Governor Snyder's support (and Snyder is another resident of Washtenaw County). I haven't quite given up hope yet. I think you'd be surprised how much Medicaid money comes into schools; and in my day job the Medicaid expansion is super important. It will provide health coverage to many thousands of Washtenaw County residents.

2. The legislature also adjourned without supporting funding for the implementation of Common Core. Americans for Prosperity (a tea party group) touted this as a great thing. Don't get me wrong, I've got issues with Common Core. But--and this is a big but--the state has committed itself, and its schools, to implementing Common Core. So if the state is committed to something, but doesn't give money for it, guess what that means? Yes, another unfunded mandate for the schools. Meanwhile the legislature did manage to support the dissolution of school districts (Inkster and Buena Vista) in a really poorly-considered piece of legislation. Read about that here.

3. I was at one of the Superintendent Forums for the Ann Arbor Schools on Wednesday. I'm guessing that most of you weren't there, because the turnout at the first three of them was quite low. (I went to #3 so I heard a little about #1 and #2, but I'm not sure what happened at #4.) I believe Deb Mexicotte that they were still useful for the board, because we were able to have an in-depth discussion about what was important. (At the forum I went to, board members Deb Mexicotte, Susan Baskett and Glenn Nelson were there.) For me, a few things that are important include: site visits; giving local candidates (at least Michigan, preferably southeast Michigan) a chance; getting an understanding of how the candidates approach decision making; finding people with an open communication style who want to set out a vision and get some buy-in; people who embrace what it means to be working under the microscope that is Ann Arbor. You might have your own list of important things. Remember that we will never see the 90% of the candidates who don't make it to the semifinal stage (which will be decided, I believe, June 26th). That's because only the semifinalists and finalist names will be made public. I think it's important to share with the board what your "essential" things are. You can do that by emailing them at, or calling them. Contact information is here.

4. While at the Superintendent Forum, before we got started, I asked about the decision to charge for seventh hour. Glenn Nelson expressed something that (at least one of) the board members had expressed at the last board meeting, which was that a) he felt that 7th hour needed to be self-supporting and that b) charging $100 this year was a way to "try out" charging money and "work the kinks out" in the expectation that the following year they will charge $350 to $400 per semester. Now, leave aside for a minute the fact that the ACLU believes that this practice is illegal; and leave aside for a minute the fact that Michigan Department of Education rules also appear to prohibit charging for seventh hour. I also have to think that there are a lot of people who might be able to afford  $100/semester for a child but not $350 or $400 per semester. And I wonder what kind of projections the district has done to try and figure out who would opt in and opt out. My guess is that they haven't done those projections. The whole idea that rather than thinking something through in advance we'll just feel our way along through the next year and "see" if or how it works doesn't sit very well with me. And (now paying attention to the points about whether this is legal) I'm concerned that the district would walk knowingly into the expenses of a lawsuit even though there is a way to avoid it.

And I bring this up, why? Well, I bring this up because today's had an article in which it says "Some 'cleanup' is needed on approved Ann Arbor Public Schools budget for fall." So, cleanup is needed? Let's clean this up. Cut out the fees for 7th hour; try and address this issue over the coming year; and if we need to bring back the billboards to do that, then--so be it.

Again, you can contact the board with your own ideas for "cleanup."

5. You might have read about the Michigan ACLU's "right to read" lawsuit in Highland Park. Well, now the State of Michigan is trying to say that they have no responsibility for literacy in school districts like Highland Park, in which there is an emergency manager, and that because of the emergency manager law the state gets "broad immunity." Also, the ACLU has been documenting the alleged falsification of records by employees of the charter company hired to run the high school. Read more here.

6. Over on the right side of my blog I have a blogroll, and for the last several years I've listed the blog Foster Parenting Adventures there. I've been following the tale of Tikun Olam (not her real name) and her family for several years, from when they first decided to be trained as a foster family to when they finally got their first fostering assignment. And Friday, June 21st, 2013 is, in fact, Adoption Day for CD, who has been with them for several years! Mazal Tov to Tikun Olam  and family. If you have a moment, take a look at her blog.

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