Ten Things Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Should Do for Detroit

There are two reasons Detroit should have a special place in President-elect Joe Biden’s heart. First, because Detroit needs real help–now. And second is because Detroit is one of the key places that brought his victory. Detroiters voted in massive numbers for him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Democrats will need Detroit voters to win again. As the saying goes, you need to dance with the ones who brung you.

Here, then, are ten agenda items Biden and Harris should prioritize—giving back to a City that helped bring them into office.

1.Make plenty of vaccine doses available. Unemployment linked to COVID-19 closures have hit the poor and those in service jobs far harder than other industries. Unemployment numbers are more than double in Detroit than in Michigan. More vaccines mean it’s safer to go back to work, and Detroiters need that work and the accompanying income now. That will improve many other things mentioned here, including reducing violence.

2. Reduce the violence. We’ve seen major increases in murders and shootings. On surveys through the years, Detroiters have consistently said public safety is at the top of their agenda, but that does not translate to a desire for heavy duty police enforcement across the board. Rather than defund the police, Biden should talk about demilitarizing the police and making them responsive to the true needs of the community. Detroit citizens want tough action against the repeated violent offenders, but they want first time offenders and others diverted out of stigmatizing court process into community service, education and job training programs. For example, police regularly stop hundreds of people and arrest them for carrying illegal weapons. We need to divert these citizens into training programs that teach them about the risks of violence. We need to use conflict deflectors and de-escalators to reduce violence. Increased participation in youth sports and utilization of open community centers will also help deter violence. While many of these outlets have been closed and cancelled due to COVID restrictions, we must find ways to continue to offer such opportunities.  

3. Reduce domestic violence. Domestic violence, already high in Detroit, has increased under COVID-19, and the enforcement of parole violations for domestic violence offenders by Michigan Department of Corrections has declined.

Detroit has far fewer shelter beds than surrounding communities for survivors of domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV). This needs to be corrected immediately. Beyond that, survivors need to have far more access to advocates who can help them navigate the complex legal and support systems that do exist. They need more financial help to pay for things like moving to safe locations and serving Personal Protection Orders that are intended to help shield survivors from further violence.

4. Increase jobs for youth.  Detroit youth have extraordinary unemployment levels, well above the already high adult unemployment levels. This is a crisis, especially because we know that this will affect their lifetime earnings and connection to the workforce. Such high levels have led to challenges to democracy itself in other times and countries.

We need broad, youth employment programs funded by the federal government and operated by non-profits that do real work to help improve Detroit.  These jobs must create job ladders for youth so they have a future in which to invest.

5.Increase support for youth to go to college, apprenticeships, and training at community colleges. Many youth have no real way to pay for college.

We need to increase Pell Grants very substantially so youth who want higher education can get it without having a lifetime of debt, as so many do now. Apprenticeships and training in the skilled trades also often lead to good jobs with benefits and high wages—sometimes higher than college-educated jobs. These opportunities also need more funding so the youth have access to an even wider range of skills and jobs.

6.Fully fund special education. In Michigan, charter schools are implemented in a manner where they generally recruit higher performing students from the public schools, leaving the public schools with fewer higher performing students—who tend to cost less to educate. In major urban areas, charter schools proliferate and the public schools end up with a disproportionate share of special education students, which the charter schools avoid. These students cost more to educate. Because special education is not fully funded by the federal government, the costs are off loaded onto urban school districts in Michigan. These costs drive urban school districts into debt and decline. None of this makes it onto the debate stage, but this is the crucial work that needs to be completed to help Detroit and other cities like it. More federal funding is needed for special education students.

7.Invest massively in home repair. Detroit’s housing is crumbling with 63% of the housing units having at least one major health hazard. Lead paint, lack of heat, flooding, asbestos, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), structural hazards, fire hazards—these are all present across the range of homes in Detroit both for homeowners and renters.

Detroiters don’t have the money to pay for all these repairs, and Community Development Block Grant dollars continue to decrease. Money for repairs of existing homes is needed to make them safe and to protect existing residents from disease, injuries and break-ins. This will also protect them from gentrification.

8.Protect homeowners from foreclosure. This is a perennial issue in Detroit that turns into a crisis with every recession. In the Great Recession, many thousands of homes were wrenched from homeowners. Now foreclosures are high again.

Short term cash and longer term re-writing of mortgage agreements are critical to short circuiting this endless cycle of foreclosures that has already made Detroit a majority renter city. This too will protect existing homeowners from gentrification.

9.Invest heavily in weatherization. One the highest costs that Detroiters face are their utility bills, both for renters and homeowners. Leaky old houses mean huge heating bills that often take up a large part of the budgets of low and moderate income households. In neighborhoods like Southwest Detroit, where industry and traffic pollute the air, this weatherization should also include air filters to clear the air that people breathe most of the time (Americans typically spend 80% of their time in their homes).

The Obama Administration initiated a large weatherization program but the budget for that got nixed by the GOP in Congress. Now is the time to move forward with this both for the sake of everyday Detroiters and the sake of the planet.

10.Build Community Solar. Unlike many cities, Detroit has lots of open space that could be used for solar energy production. DTE, our local utility, mainly produces electricity from coal, which hurts the planet and the lungs of Detroiters. And, Michigan produces none of this coal. Another way to help Detroiters reduce their utility cost is use some of the massive amount of vacant land in the city for building community solar installations. With investment from the federal government, these could be owned by Community Development Corporations or others who could sell the solar power at cost to homeowners nearby. Investing in these small-scale production facilities would produce installer jobs for Detroiters, increase reliance on alternative sources of electricity, cut costs for citizens and make appropriate use of vacant land.

Highland Park School District Has Highest Percentage of Single Parents

In Southeastern Michigan there are 17 school districts with 50 percent or more of the households being run by a single parent. This is an important statistic as it can relate to the financial well-being of a family, which often correlates with a child’s access to quality education and educational and extra curricular opportunities. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017, 32 percent of parents were unmarried. Of the 110 public school districts in Southeastern Michigan 44 have 32 percent or more of households with a single parent.

The district with the highest percentage of single parents is the Highland Park School District where 83 percent of households with school-aged children have a single parent.  Highland Park School District also has the lowest median income for single mothers at $15,224, and, while the two are not mutually exclusive, it does provide insight into the economic and family backgrounds of many of the students in the district.  The district with the second highest percentage of single parents is the Ecorse Public School District at 74 percent; the median income for single mothers in that district is $16,108. Following the same pattern, Detroit Public Schools has the third highest percentage of single parents at 71 percent.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Garden City School District in Wayne County has the lowest percentage of households with a single parent at 8 percent. The next two districts with the lowest percentage of single parents were Milan and Saline public schools, both in Washtenaw County, at 10 percent. In Oakland County, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham school districts have the highest median income for single mothers at just under $83,000, and the percentage of single parents in these districts is 16 percent for both.

As we’ve noted throughout this series, family income does often have an affect on the type of education a child receives, and this post highlights that while tying in how family background may also have an affect.

Grosse Ile Schools Has Highest Graduation Rate in Southeastern Michigan

For the 2016-17 academic year, Grosse Ile Township Schools had the highest graduation rate in Southeastern Michigan of the school districts in Southeastern Michigan (this excludes charter schools) at 97.6 percent; the district had a 0 percent dropout rate that year as well. Universal Academy and Universal Learning Academy had the highest overall graduation rates in the region at 100 percent; both of these schools are charter schools with Universal Academy being located in Detroit and Universal Learning Academy being located in Westland. The Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy had the lowest graduation rate in the region at 5 percent. This academy is a charter school based in Detroit for youth who have been expelled from or referred by other school districts; according to the school’s website it is closing at the end of the academic year. Clinton Community Schools, a Macomb County School District, had the lowest graduation rate of all school districts (non-charter schools) in the region at 29 percent for the 2016-17 school year.

For the purpose of this post, charter schools were not mapped, only the school districts in the region, which is why you see the lowest graduation rate starting at 29 percent on the first map below. Charter schools are often a single school, and in several cases are online schools, making them difficult to map. Data for this post was provided by the Michigan Department of Education.

In total, there were only eight school districts in the region with graduation rates below 57.5 percent; four of these school districts were in Wayne County. The four school districts in Wayne County with the lowest graduation rates for the 2016-17 academic school year were:

  •             Westwood Community Schools (43.14%)
  •             Redford Union School District (52.9%)
  •             Romulus School District (54.5%)
  •             Harper Woods School District (57.5%)

While Wayne County had the most number of school districts in the bracket with the lowest graduation rates, Oakland County had the most number of districts with graduations rates in the highest bracket, which ranges from 90.8 percent to 97.6 percent. Aside from charter schools in Oakland County, Rochester Community Schools had the highest graduation rate at 96.1 percent in Oakland County. In total, there were 12 school districts in Oakland County with graduation rates between 90.8 percent and 96.1 percent.


The Detroit Public School District had a 72.9 percent graduation rate, with a dropout rate of 11 percent. No school district in the region (this excludes charter schools) had a dropout rate above 31 percent. Westwood Community Schools in Wayne County had the highest dropout rate for the 2016-17 academic year at 31 percent. According to the data, the Westwood Community Schools District had 79 dropouts in the 2016-17 academic year; the total number of students who graduated from that district that academic year was 110.


There were four school districts in the region with a 0 percent dropout rate. As mentioned earlier, Grosse Ile Township Schools was one of these districts, as was Birmingham, Whitmore Lake and Northville school districts.


Strong Correlations Exist For High Education Levels and High Incomes Throughout Most of Southeastern Michigan

In our last post we showed there is an area of overlapping high median incomes and high educational attainment running through Washtenaw County, western Wayne County, southern Oakland County and western Macomb County with nearly the opposite—lower median income and lower educational attainment–south of that in the region. In this post, we discuss explicitly the correlation between the levels of education examined in the last post (less than high school education, high school education, associate’s degree or some college education, bachelor’s degree, and graduate/professional degrees) and median incomes. The correlations are calculated for medians and percentages of municipalities across the region.

A correlation is statistical technique that can be used to describe the relationship between two variables. The correlation coefficient, often expressed as ‘r,’ is a numerical value that is always between +1 and -1. When r is closer to +1, it implies a positive correlation; as one variable increases, the other does as well. When r is closer to -1, it implies an inverse correlation; as one variable increases the other decreases. When the value of r is closer to 0 the implication is that there is no relationship between the two sets of data.

Educational Attainment Correlation Value
Achieved less than a high school diploma -0.74
Achieved only a high school diploma -0.71
Achieved some college or an associate’s degree -0.57
Achieved only a bachelor’s degree 0.75
Achieved a graduate or professional degree 0.77


Looking first across the region incomes tend to be lower for those municipalities with a higher percentage of people who do not have a high school degree, with a correlation of -0.74. This tends to indicate that less education leads to lower incomes. At the same time, it could mean that people with lower incomes have less of chance of completing their education. For those with a high school diploma the effect was slightly smaller, with a correlation of -0.71, and similarly for those with some college or an associate’s degree the correlation was -0.57.

For those at the upper end of education distribution the opposite holds true—there is a positive correlation between higher educational levels and higher incomes. Across Southeast Michigan for the municipalities with a higher percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree, incomes tend to be higher, with a correlation of 0.75. The relationship between income and educational attainment is even stronger for those who have attained graduate or professional degree, with a correlation of 0.77.

Next we examined these relationships at the county level—for all municipalities in a county. Of the seven counties in the region, Wayne County had the strongest correlations of (0.91) in relation to those with bachelor’s degrees and the median income. For those with graduate or professional degrees in Wayne County the correlation was 0.90 percent.  Monroe County had the weakest correlation value between those with bachelor’s degrees and the median income, with a correlation value of 0.22; it also had the weakest correlation between income and those with graduate or /professional degrees, with a correlation value of at -0.13 percent. Such values for Monroe County indicate that the relationship between higher levels of education attainment and higher median incomes are weakened or reversed in that largely rural setting. For several of the other counties, the correlation between these variables was much greater. In addition to Monroe County having a weak relationship between median income and those with a bachelor’s degree, there was also a weak relationship between those same two variables for St. Clair and, surprisingly, Washtenaw counties. For Washtenaw, it may occur because there are many students with higher education who are still pursuing degrees and have relatively lower incomes.

At the other end of the education spectrum, there exist a strong tendency for lower incomes to be associated with lower levels of education. Each county has either a moderate to strong correlation between incomes and lower levels of education. Monroe County again had the lowest correlations between median income and educational attainment for attainment, this time for less than a high school education and up to a high school education.

Overall, these analyses show a range of correlations across counties between higher median incomes and higher levels of educational attainment, some high and positive, others weak. Monroe County stands out as the only county one where there was a weak correlation between median income and all levels of educational attainment. It could be speculated this is because it is a more rural county and much of the work there relates to agriculture, work that is often learned at home within families.  In southeastern Michigan as a whole, there are relatively strong positive and inverse correlations between incomes and education attainment. There is a positive correlation between those who have achieved a graduate or professional degree and incomes–people with higher education tend to have higher incomes.  There is an inverse relationship between those who have not achieved a high school diploma and incomes–those with less education tend to have lower incomes.

Median Income, Educational Attainment Highlight Segregated Classes in Southeastern Michigan

Using Census data, this post examines the visual correspondence between income and educational attainment across the region. It clearly portrays the continuing association between these two critical variables with one region of high income and high educational achievement arching across the region from Washtenaw County, through Western Wayne County and up through Oakland County and western Macomb County. South of this is a region of lower income and educational attainment with a few islands of higher income and achievement. In all, this represents a strong and largely consolidated portrait of segregated classes in this region.

In Southeastern Michigan the City of Highland Park had the lowest median income at $17,250, with 33 percent of the adult population only having a high school diploma. In terms of educational attainment in Highland Park, those who had some college education or an associate’s degree represented the highest percentage of residents, as opposed to the other categories (less than high school, high school education, bachelor’s degree, graduate or professional degree). On the opposite end of the spectrum, the City of Bloomfield Hills had the highest median income at about $173,000, with the largest percent of its adult population having a graduate or professional degree (38%). Such trends are not unique to Highland Park or Bloomfield Hills.

Above the maps show what the median income of each community is with an overlay that shows what the percentage of educational attainment is at five different levels. These levels are: graduate degree, bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or some college, high school diploma or an equivalency and less than a high school diploma. The overall purpose of each map is to present an image on how educational attainment and at each level may, or may not, relate to the median income.

When looking at the maps above we see that the communities that have more than 18 percent of its adult population with graduate or professional degrees tend have median incomes above $77,000. In total, there were only 10 communities, out of 46, where more than 18 percent of its adult population had graduate or professional degrees but the median income was below $77,000. Of those 10 communities, the City of Ypsilanti had the lowest median income at about $31,000 and 18 percent of its adult population had a graduate or professional degree. The community with the highest percentage of adult residents with a graduate or professional degree  is Ann Arbor, where both the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Hospital are located. The median income for Ann Arbor in 2015 was $103,000. There was no community in Southeastern Michigan where more than 30 percent of the adults had a graduate or professional degree and had a median income below $95,000.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are 154 communities in Southeastern Michigan where 10 percent or more of the adult population had less than a high school education in 2015. The City of Hamtramck had the highest percentage of adults without a high school education at about 31 percent; the City’s median income was about $23,000. There are nine communities in the region where 20 percent or more of the population had less than a high school education. Of those nine communities, with the exception of Lincoln Park, none had a median income above $33,000. The median income in Lincoln Park was $41,000 in 2015. The City of Detroit is included in that list of nine communities, with a median income of about $26,000 and about 22 percent of its adult population having less than a high school education. Additionally, in Detroit, about 32 percent of the adult population had a high school education, and about 32 percent had some college education or an associate’s degree.

The percentage of Detroit residents with a bachelor’s degree was far lower than any of the statistics mentioned above. In Detroit, about 8 percent of residents had a bachelor’s degree in 2015. In terms of the percentage of residents throughout Southeastern Michigan with a bachelor’s degree, the average percentage was 18 percent and the median income was about $66,000.

Regionally, the community with the highest percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree was the Village of Grosse Point at about 62 percent; the city had a median income of about $139,000. The City of River Rouge had the lowest percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree at about 4 percent; it had a median income of approximately $26,000. In total, there were 46 communities in Southeastern Michigan where less than 10 percent of the population had a bachelor’s degree. Exeter Township, located in Livingston County, had the highest median income of the 46 communities that had less than 10 percent of its adult residents with a bachelor’s degree. The median income in Exeter Township was about $68,000.

Overall, this post shows that there is a correlation between median incomes and educational attainment, a deeper conversation that we will dive into next week. The maps and the data show that it is the communities with the higher percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree and/or a graduate degree that have amongst the highest median incomes.

Four Southeastern Michigan School Districts Eliminate Budget Deficits

By the end of Fiscal Year 2016 there were four public school districts in Southeastern Michigan that eliminated their deficits while one new district was added to the list of having a deficit, according to the Michigan Department of Education. The four public school districts that eliminated their deficit by June 30, 2016 were Clintondale Community School (ended with a fund balance of about $1.4 million) and Warren Consolidated Schools (ended with a fund balance of about $5.7 million), both in Macomb County, Southgate Community Schools (ended with a fund balance of about $375,000) in Wayne County and Lincoln Consolidated Schools (ended with a fund balance of about $3.6 million) in Washtenaw County. Grosse Ile Township Schools in Wayne County began FY 2016 with a fund balance of $189,441, but ended the fiscal year with a deficit of $152,299. This was the only public district in the region and state to be added to this list. However, there were four charter schools in the region (Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy, Experienca Prepatory Academy, Frederick Douglas International Academy, Taylor International Academy) that began FY 2016 with a fund balance and ended with a deficit.

While there were districts that eliminated their deficit by the end of FY 2016, there were five public school districts in the region that ended the fiscal year under the oversight of the Michigan Department of Treasury (these districts are distinguished in red in the map, however if a district also increased or decreased its deficit they are highlighted in a different color in the map). A district is put under the oversight of the Department of Treasury if it maintains a deficit for five years. The public districts in the region under such oversight are: Detroit City School District, Hazel Park City School District, Mt. Clemens Community School District, New Haven Community Schools and the Pontiac City School District. Additionally, while the New Haven Community Schools and Hazel Park City School District began and ended FY 2016 with deficits, and under the supervision of the Department of Treasury, by the end of FY 2016 both districts had reduced deficits. At the beginning of the fiscal year New Haven Community Schools had a deficit of about $296,000 and by the end it had a deficit of about $65,000. The Hazel Park City School District had a deficit of about $8 million at the beginning of FY 2016 and by the end the fiscal year the deficit was reduced to about $6 million. There were also three other public school districts in the region that began FY 2016 with a deficit but reduced it by the end of the year; these districts were Dearborn Heights, Garden City and Pinkney.

The Detroit school district and Mt. Clemens Community Schools were the only two public districts in the region that began FY 2016 with a deficit and ended the fiscal year with an increased deficit; these distinctions are shown in the map although they too ended the year under the oversight of the Michigan Department of Treasury. Detroit Public Schools began FY 2016 with a deficit of about $1.8 million and ended the fiscal year with a deficit about $1.9 million. The Mt. Clemens Community Schools district began FY 2016 with a deficit of about $1.3 million and ended the fiscal year with a deficit of about $2.2 million.


Nearly 40 Percent of Southeastern Michigan Schools Receive Lowest State Aid Funding

In 2015 Michigan school districts received a per pupil school aid funding increase between $70 and $140 per student, leaving the Southeastern Michigan per pupil funding amounts between $7,391 and $12,004. For 2016 the Michigan Legislature approved lower funding increases at $60 to $120 per pupil, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. This funding increase was approved by the Legislature on Thursday, June 9, but Gov. Rick Snyder still needs to sign the bill.

While we wait on this action, Drawing Detroit created a map showing the per pupil funding, also known as the foundation allowance, for Southeastern Michigan school districts in 2015. This shows how funding ranges numerically and geographically in the region.

Before we address the current and State Legislature approved per pupil funding for the 108 Southeastern Michigan School districts, it is first important to have a basic understanding of how Michigan schools are funded.

Public schools have three funding streams: state funding, federal funding and local taxation. The main revenue source districts is from the state. Prior to 1994 school districts received majority of their funding from property taxes. However, with the passage of Proposal A in 1993 most local real and personal property taxes for school operating purposes were exempt. To make up for this loss the sales tax in Michigan increased from 4 to 6 percent; that additional 2 percent was dedicated to school funding. Also, cigarette taxes increased and a real estate transfer tax was created to offset the loss of local tax revenues. Additional revenue sources for state school aid funding are the state education tax (6 mills) and portions of revenue from the lottery and casino and industrial facilities taxes.

Prior to Proposition A, local taxation accounted for 69 percent of the state/local funding ratio for public schools, according to the State Senate Fiscal Agency. Now, with the exception of hold-harmless districts (which will be discussed later) operational funding for a district comes from state funding, but local taxes can be levied for school construction, technology and other infrastructure and debt related needs, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.

The amount originally allocated per pupil per district was determined for the 1994-95 school district based on each districts’ 1993-94 per pupil funding basis, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. This initial per pupil funding equation varied vastly across the state because it was largely based off of the property values and taxes that were used to fund districts prior to Proposition A. In an attempt to close funding gaps, the state began to give the lowest funded schools double funding increases. While these increases helped make the funding gap smaller in several cases, there are also more than 50 of the about 550 public school districts in the state considered to be hold-harmless districts. This designation means that prior to Proposition A the taxpayers contributed more than $6,500 per pupil in a district. The state decided these districts could continue to levy additional property taxes for school operations.

There are 21 hold-harmless districts in the region, all of which are listed below.

Hold-Harmless Schools
School District Funding County
Bloomfield Hills Schools $12,004 Oakland
Birmingham Public Schools $11,924 Oakland
Jefferson Schools $11,180 Monroe
Southfield Public School District $10,971 Oakland
Lamphere Public Schools $10,429 Oakland
Farmington Public School District $10,045 Oakland
Grosse Pointe Public Schools $9,864 Wayne
Center Line Public Schools $9,503 Macomb
Ann Arbor Public Schools $9,170 Washtenaw
Warren Consolidated Schools $9,006 Macomb
Troy School District $8,955 Oakland
South Lake Schools $8,874 Macomb
Melvindale-North Allen Park Schools $8,675 Wayne
Warren Woods Public Schools $8,638 Macomb
School District of the City of River Rouge $8,505 Wayne
Dearborn City School District $8,482 Wayne
Grosse Ile Township Schools $8,474 Wayne
Trenton Public Schools $8,426 Wayne
School District of Harper Woods $8,169 Wayne
Livonia Public Schools $8,169 Wayne
Northville Public Schools $8,169 Wayne



The Bloomfield Hills School district had the highest foundation allowance in the region for the 2015-16 academic year at $12,004; its proposed funding increase for the upcoming school year is $60 (the lowest proposed increase, which is equivalent to the rate of inflation). There were only 10 districts in the region with foundation allowances above $9,000. These 10 districts, and the other 10 hold-harmless districts are all expected to receive the $60 inflation rate increase in the Legislature approved school funding package. Typically, according to The Bridge Magazine online, the hold-harmless districts tended to be located in wealthier communities. While this doesn’t still hold true for all the districts on the above list (i.e. Harper Woods and River Rouge) there are still some districts on that list where wealth is substantial. One example would be the district at the top of the list—Bloomfield Hills. The Census reported that in 2014 (most recent data) the median income in Bloomfield Hills was $163,462.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 42 of the districts, or 39 percent, received between $7,391 per pupil (the lowest funding tier) during the 2015-16 academic year. The Detroit Public Schools systems didn’t receive the lowest funding tier, but close to it at $7,434. Districts that had a $7,391 funding allowance for the 2015-16 academic year are all expected to receive a $120 per pupil increase for the 2016-17 academic year, which is the highest proposed increase. The Detroit Public Schools system is expected to receive a $118 increase. This increase is not reflective of the $617 million bill the Michigan Legislature passed on June 9 in an attempt to fix the Detroit Public Schools district; the School Aid Fund doesn’t contribute to this package.

The map below highlights that majority of the districts with the lowest state aid funding are either located in more rural or urban areas.

Student Funding

The Legislature approved funding allowance for the 2016-17 academic year does aim to further close the gap between lowest and highest funded schools, but doesn’t come without criticism. Michigan State University Education Policy Professor David Arsen said in a June 9 Lansing State Journal article that recent state aid funding increases barely stay ahead of inflation increases. Additionally, he noted that schools facing enrollment decline won’t necessarily feel the affects of the funding increase because of the overall monetary loss associated with losing students. According to the State Senate Fiscal Agency, about 65 percent of a public school districts budget is now made up of funds provided by the state, which further emphasizes the budget constraints a district can feel when students leave one district for another.


Once the 2016-17 per pupil funding package is signed by Gov. Snyder, Drawing Detroit will provide an updated map, along with a more in-depth look at the funding increases in relation to student e

Northville Public Schools have top ACT scores in region

For several years Michigan has required juniors in high school to take the ACT as part of their preparation for college. The overall results recently became available. For the 2014-15 academic year, Washtenaw County had the overall highest average ACT composite scores at 22.5, but it was the Northville Public School District in Wayne County that had the highest composite score for the 110 districts in Southeastern Michigan. At 24.6 (out of 36 points), Northville Public Schools had the highest ACT composite score and it was the Pontiac City School District in Oakland County that had the lowest score in the region at 14.3. The Pontiac City School District was one of nine districts in the region with ACT scores below 16. Another one of the nine school districts with an ACT score below 16 was the Detroit Public School District with an ACT composite score of 14.9. Wayne County had six of those nine districts with ACT composite scores below 16.

With a state average ACT composite score of 19.9 for the 2014-15 academic year there were 52 districts in the region that outranked the overall state score. Livingston County had the highest percentage of districts with ACT composite scores above the state average of 19.9 at 100 percent and Macomb County had the lowest percentage of districts at 24 percent.

The ACT test has been given across the United States as one way to measure a high school student’s readiness for college. It is a standardized college entrance exam where students are tested on math, English, social studies and natural sciences. In 2007 when the state started using the ACT test as the state-wide accepted exam. The 2014-15 academic year was the last year Michigan students were given the ACT though as a standardized test, and instead they will be taking a revamped SAT test, one that the state has concluded is more in line with college readiness standards, is lot less expensive, but some say is also more difficult.

Michigan also uses a standardized test for assessment of students’ academic progress. The current test is the M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress), which replaced the MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program). This week is when M-STEP testing begins in Michigan schools.



Percentage of Special Education Students Higher in Urban, Rural Districts in Southeastern Michigan

In the state of Michigan, 13.3 percent, or about 206,000 students, were considered to be Special Education students for the 2014-2015 school year. Many urban and rural districts had a higher percentage of special education students than their suburban counterparts in Southeastern Michigan. However, according to a 2014 Bridge article, special education designations vary from district-to-district; it comes down to a very local decision.

According to the state of Michigan there are 13 disability types that may cause a student to be considered a special education. These disability types are:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Early Childhood Development Delay
  • Emotional Impairment
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Physical Impairment
  • Severe Multiple Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Speech and Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment
  • Other Health Impairments

At the county level (which is represented by data provided for the county intermediate school district or regional education service agencies), the St. Clair County Regional Education Agency had the highest percentage of special education students at 14 percent and the Livingston Education Service Agency had the lowest at 12 percent.

SEMI Special Education1

Of the 100 public school districts in Southeastern Michigan, Mount Clemens School District had the highest percentage of special education students during the 2014-2015 school year at 26.5%. In Macomb County, 36 percent of the school districts had a higher percentage of special education students than the state average of 13.3 percent. Macomb and Oakland counties each had eight school districts with a percentage of special education students that was higher than the state average. It was St. Clair County though that had the highest percentage of public school districts with a higher percentage of special education students over the state average. Of the seven public school districts in St. Clair County four had more than 13.3 percent of its student body designated as special education. Capac Community Schools had the highest percentage in the county at 17 percent.

In Wayne County, the Wyandotte School District had the highest percentage of special education students at 24.7 percent. The Detroit Public Schools had 18.2 percent of its student body categorized as special needs during the 2014-2015. The Wayne County public school districts that had a higher percentage of special education students than the Detroit Public Schools were:

  • Garden City Public Schools (18.8%)
  • Redford Union Schools (19.9%)
  • Southgate Community School District (18.9%)

Below are the public school districts in each county, not already discussed, with the highest percentage of special education students

  • Monroe County- Jefferson Public Schools (15%)
  • Oakland County- Pontiac Public Schools (19.2%)
  • Washtenaw County- Whitmore Lake Public School District (21.1%)

Southeastern Michigan Special Education

While special education designations remain a local decision, Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley recently called for special education reform, including “breaking down the walls between general education and special education” and creating a multi-tied system of support that is centered around the philosophy that each student is unique. Calley said he doesn’t want a child’s education to be tied to their diagnosis, but rather their specific needs. For more on this click here.

Southeastern Michigan’s Charter Authorizers rank below state averages academically

In Southeastern Michigan there were 15 charter school authorizers during the 2013-14 that were included in the state’s Top-to-Bottom (TtB) list; only one of which was ranked among the best (above 80). The TtB list is an accountability system that ranks Michigan schools based on student performance in math, reading, writing, science, social studies and graduation rates (24 total charter school authorizers were included throughout the state). This list allows for schools to be compared on the same scale, regardless of size. The charts below presents each authorizer’s portfolio as a single entity, rather than by individual schools, by a methodology developed by the Michigan Department of Education’s Bureau of Assessment and Accountability. Like schools and districts throughout the state the charter school authorizers are ranked on a scale of 1-100, 100 being the highest ranking.

It was the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (ISD) that ranked at 85, being the only charter school authorizer to rank above 80 in the region. The only other charter school authorizer to even rank of above 50 in the region was Wayne Regional Education Service Agency (RESA), which ranked at 52.

The Educational Achievement Authority, which authorizes several schools is the city of Detroit (click here for locations) was ranked the lowest authorizer in the region and among the lowest in the state with a ranking of 1 (Kellogg Community College and Muskegon Heights School District also received a 1).Top-to-Bottom Rankings

The Overall Performance Index uses an achievement index, which is a weighted average of two years of achievement data, and achievement gap index, which is a weighted average of two years of top/bottom 30 percent of students’ achievement data, according to the 2014 Michigan’s Charter School Authorizer Reporter. The negative scores show that authorizers whose performance index fell below the state average.

The only two authorizers that performed above the state average in the region were the Washtenaw ISD and Wayne RESA. The Washtenaw ISD ranked the third highest for its performance index score (.91) among the 24 authorizers. On the other end the Education Achievement Authority (-1.74) and the Detroit City School District (-1.57) ranked among the lowest authorizers, both in the region and throughout the state. The Muskegon Heights School District (-1.83) and Kellogg Community College (1.75) had the lowest performance index scores in the state.

An achievement gap smaller than the state average is represented by a positive number and means that students in the top 30 percent of state standardized test scores perform at levels closer to the bottom 30 percent, according to Michigan’s Charter School Authorizer Report. It has also been described as the performance gap in a subject between the top 30 percent and bottom 30 percent of a student body. A positive number means that gap is smaller than the state average and a negative gap means that number is larger than the state average.

The achievement gap accounts for 25 percent of the TtB rankings and below we see that six of the authorizers with charter schools in the region have an achievement gap smaller than the state average. Authorizers with small achievement gaps, such as the Education Achievement Authority and Highland Park City Schools, are more likely to have a concentration of low or high proficiency rates, according to Michigan’s Charter School Authorizer Report.

In the five charts below we see the percentage of students deemed proficient on the 2013 Michigan Education Assessment Program for the five subject areas students are tested on (math, reading, writing, science and social studies). The authorizers represented above all had charter schools existing in the region during the 2013-14 academic year. The Washtenaw ISD was the only authorizer in the region with students outperforming the state in all subject areas. Wayne RESA was the only other authorizer in the region with students outperforming the state on the 2013 MEAP; this authorizer outperformed the state average in reading.

The Detroit Community School District had the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students at 88 percent. Eighty-five percent of students in the Highland Park, Educational Achievement Authority and schools authorized by Saginaw Valley State were economically disadvantaged. Schools authorized by Northern Michigan University had the lowest percentage of economically disadvantaged students at 27 percent.

The Michigan Authorizer report references the correlation between poverty and the percentage of African American students to proficiency rates on state standardized tests. There were no authorizers with schools in the region where more than 10 percent of the student population was economically disadvantaged that ranked above 50 on the TtB list.

When reviewing the above information with our previous post we know that majority of charter schools in the 2013-14 academic year in the region were located in the City of Detroit and that the city also had the highest number of closed charter schools at 28. Additionally, we know Central Michigan University had the largest number of schools closed in the region. Although Central Michigan University didn’t rank lowest on the TbT list, it didn’t rank high. With a TbT ranking of 21 Central Michigan’s MEAP proficiency rates were all below the state average (9% below state average for math and reading; 5% below the writing average; 6% below the science average; 7% below the social studies average). Central Michigan University was 19 percent above the state average for economically disadvantaged students.

Of the authorizers with schools in the city only Wayne RESA had students outperformed the state standard, and that was in math. Still, when only looking at authorizers in the city of Detroit Wayne RESA had the largest number of shuttered charters at 8.

While standards for Michigan charter schools have gained more attention in recent years, the above information highlights that the charter school authorizers in the region fall below state standards when it comes to educational assessment. Former State Superintendent Mike Flanagan did say the state would suspend charter authorizers if they did not offer “high quality education options and cultivate better outcomes, especially for low income children.”

In June of 2014 it was announced that 11 charter authorizers were at risk of being suspended by the Michigan Department of Education. These authorizers were: Detroit Public Schools, Eastern Michigan University, the Education Achievement Authority, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Highland Park Schools, Kellogg Community College, Lake Superior State University, Macomb Intermediate School District, Muskegon Heights Public Schools and Northern Michigan University. In 2015, 7 of those authorizers were removed from the list; those remaining are: Detroit Public Schools, the Education Achievement Authority, Highland Park Schools and Eastern Michigan University. What qualifications those authorizers had to meet to be removed from the list are unknown though, according to a Free Press article.