Category Archives: Public Education

Lansing, Michigan Recycles Old School Buildings


Interesting post on the Next American City web site about high-tech firms in Lansing, Michigan converting old school buildings– “Thanks to their expansive plumbing systems, large spaces and impervious surfaces that allow for easy cleanup, the old schools are perfect lab settings,” one user told the magazine.

Furthermore, “Not only are these companies revitalizing the region’s economy by providing jobs, they’re also revitalizing neighborhoods. Unlike many newer schools that sit off of highway exits or in the middle of fields, Lansing’s old school buildings are smack in the middle of neighborhoods,” according to the story.

This story caught my eye because I remember there were a number of older, unused school buildings in Toledo. They would have been perfect for senior housing, a community center, or projects like the ones described in this article.


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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Headline, Public Education, Real Estate, regionalism, The Media, Urban Planning

The Rust Belt’s “Unfinished Business” of School Desegregation

Take a look at this column, published in Buffalo’s weekly Artvoice.

It reviews a book, Hope and Despair in the American City by Gerald Grant (Harvard University Press 2009), which examines school desegregation through metropolitan-wide school reorganization.

The premise? This work “compares the sorry recent history of Syracuse, New York with the glad success of Raleigh, North Carolina. One town tried desegregation within the boundaries of the old city and failed, and is dying, while the other town regionalized schools, and has been growing by leaps and bounds,” writes reviewer Bruce Fisher. (Fisher is the founding director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State College, where he is visiting professor of Economics. He lives in Buffalo and served as deputy county executive from 2000 to 2007. Nepotism alert: he’s also an old friend of my Dad’s.)

Metro-wide school districts are an intriguing idea. I’m not really familiar with school districts in the South, but apparently, “in the South, there are city districts and county districts, but not the little micro-districts that track closely to town boundaries. Unifying Raleigh with Wake County took a decision between two districts. In Erie County (New York), there are 29 school districts.”

Fisher explains, “Up until 1974, the trend was toward breaking down the barrier between city and suburb. Metro-wide schools early on proved dramatically successful in integrating poor and rich, black and white, urban and suburban kids, and the outcomes since then consistently prove that that success is academic as well as social. Test scores for kids of all income backgrounds and colors are much higher than in the isolated, city-only districts that are the norm throughout the Rust Belt; and in these metropolitan-wide districts, there is so high a level of civic engagement and popular support for maintaining the system that race- and class-based appeals for a return to segregation get voted down.”

The book identifies Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s as a turning point – for the worse.

This definitely sounds like an interesting book. “Gerald Grant’s short book tells this story very well. It is that rarity among policy tomes: a page-turner. The author interweaves his own experiences as a parent, teacher, and researcher into a coherent narrative of the forces that alternately evil and dim-witted politicians loosed upon the North,” Fisher says.

I’d love to hear the thoughts of anyone else who has read this.



Filed under Book review, Education, Good Ideas, Politics, Public Education, Race Relations, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, The Media, Urban Poverty

Innovative Schools Make the Grade

I didn’t expect to hear anything encouraging about the Cleveland Municipal School District in this year’s round of state report cards. And as expected, the district overall performed poorly, registering at “academic watch,’ the equivalent of a D grade.

There’s a silver lining, however. The Plain Dealer is reporting the district’s “innovative” schools are performing relatively well, even some of those that are designated for at-risk students.

Cleveland’s MC STEM High School, Cleveland School of Science and Medicine and Warner Girls Leadership Academy all outscored the district overall on standardized tests. Three innovative schools registered as “excellent;” two others rated “effective.”

One standout was Ginn Academy, a school begun by the high school coach and adoptive father of Ohio State star running-back Tedd Ginn, Jr. The school earned a “continuous improvement,” or C grade, despite enrolling only “at-risk” boys.

Three high-performing charter schools, Citizen’s Academy, Cleveland Entrepreneurial Prepatory School and Intergenerational School, were also praised Monday for high marks on state proficiency tests.

Students and a volunteer at Cleveland's Intergenerational School, a high-performing, "innovative" school.

Students and a volunteer at Cleveland's Intergenerational School, a high-performing, Cleveland charter school.

Congratulations to everyone who contributed to these successes, including the George Gund Foundation, school administrators, volunteers and students!

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Filed under Featured, Public Education

From Auto Workers to…


This past week, The New York Times highlighted Sinclair Community College, a school in Dayton helping to retrain workers for the “new” economy.

This glowing piece highlights the school’s low tuition, well-respected programs, aid for displaced G.M. and Delphi workers, and growing enrollment.

“We help people go from $8-an-hour jobs to $18-an-hour jobs,”the school’s president told The Times.

It’s also good to see a Dayton institution get good press after all the negative “dying cities” stuff.

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Filed under Economic Development, Education, Good Ideas, Public Education, U.S. Auto Industry

Depressing Detroit Story of the Week


Several Detroit Public School employees have been charged with felonies in connection with corruption and missing funds totaling tens of millions of dollars, as The Wall Street Journal reports.

This is on top of another pressing problem the school is struggling with, a $259 million budget deficit.

The charges are pretty shocking – “A probe launched by [Emergency financial manager] Mr. Bobb uncovered paychecks going to 257 “ghost” employees who have yet to be accounted for,” the Journal explained.

“He said that approximately 500 illegal health-care dependents he uncovered have cost the district millions. A separate Federal Bureau of Investigation probe in May led to the indictment of a former payroll manager and another former employee on charges of bilking the district out of about $400,000 over four years.”

Wow. Seriously? 257 ghost employees???

Additionally, the district’s emergency financial manager  must “decide this month if the school system will seek protection under Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code, which, though rarely used, allows public entities like utilities, cities and counties to restructure debt and even tear up contracts. A filing would be unprecedented: No other large school district in the country has ever gone through with bankruptcy proceedings.”

To help with the deficit, the district is taking measures such as closing schools, allowing private companies to take over 17 of the districts 22 high schools and lay off more than 2,500 of its 13,000 employees.

What do you think? Does this help? Or does closing schools and laying off teachers accelerate the problem even more?

Should the district join GM and Chrysler in bankruptcy?

As the story points out, the district has lost half its students in less than a decade.

Allowing 17 of 22 high schools to be privately run sounds extreme. If you’re going that far, why not just get rid of the public system all together?

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Filed under Education, Featured, Public Education, Urban Poverty

Urban Agriculture, Quality Public Education, Sustainable Living: Detroit’s Boggs Educational Center is running an interview with Detroit teacherAmanda Rosman, one of five founders of the Bogg’s Educational Center, set to open on Detroit’s East Side in 2011-2012 year.

The school was inspired by the Boggs Center, a development center for leaders and grassroots organization named after two prominent Detroit activists James and Grace Lee Boggs.

Rosman and her group plan to use urban gardening and other nontraditional education approaches to encourage critical thinking as opposed to test-prep memorization.


Here’s a quote from the interview:

“We want to work on teaching kids about sustainable living. How can we produce for ourselves, put our resources back into our community, not be in isolation from the community but work within it. So urban gardens would be one way to do that.

“We’re just starting with the kindergarten and adding a grade every year. So with the kids, what we hope to be able to do is identify problems or at least needs within the community, and use those as lessons for problem-solving but building in academic skills or meet needs of the community.”

This sounds like a wonderful project conceived by a bunch of very talented people.

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Filed under Good Ideas, Headline, Public Education

Chicago School Students Demand Equality in Education Funding

  This is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever read. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 1,000 students from Chicago Public Schools skipped the first day of class, rode a bus to a wealthy district and tried to register as students in order to highlight the gross inequalities that exist in the Illinois’ public schools.

  The story follows Brandon, a student from Chicago’s mostly-black South Side, whose school spends about $11,000 per student per year, and Amanda, who attends one of the nation’s wealthiest schools a short distance away. Her district spends $17,000 per student.

  This is the best part: the former school district, New Trier, welcomed the protesters.

  “This was not done to embarrass us, but to call attention to the fact that not every school has the resources we do,” said Superintendent Linda Yonke. “We may disagree about his methods, but there is really very little disagreement about the state of funding in Illinois.”

New Trier High School in one of the country's highest-income zip codes

New Trier High School, spending per pupil: $17,000.

  The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Illinois contributes the second least of any state to primary and secondary education, which could help to offset funding inequalities caused by variable property values.

  Of the 51 poorest school districts in Illinois, more than half are majority black. Three out of four of the state’s black children and two out of three of the state’s latino students attend a high-poverty school.

Chicago's Morgan Park High School, spending per pupil: $11,000.

Chicago's Morgan Park High School, spending per pupil: $11,000.

  Students from both districts have combined to form the Illinois Council of Students. They drafted a “Students’ Bill of Rights” and are traveling the state to champion education-spending reform.

  We need a group like this in Ohio.

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Filed under Featured, Good Ideas, Public Education