Contents of this issue:
  • Web site offers private funding for classroom supplies
  • Ann Arbor district examines schools of choice policy
  • Special education teachers lose 'highly qualified' status
  • ACLU, students attack Grand Blanc technology policy
  • Private foundation grants for first-hand teacher experience
  • Comment and win an iPod

DETROIT — More than 100 teachers statewide have contacted a new philanthropy Web site that offers private funding for classroom projects and activities, according to The Detroit News.

The New York-based launched three months ago and attempts to link private donors with teachers who want additional classroom supplies. Requests from 24 teachers in Michigan have been met, according to the site's teaching engagement manager, The News reported.

Detroit Public Schools elementary teacher Linda Keteyian applied to the site to seek funding for a nature-based club. She wanted each student to have "explore packs" to help them interact with the outdoors. She figured supplies would cost $1,500 and broke down the request into two parts on the site. Keteyian submitted her request on a Friday, and by the following Monday had both requests funded.

Ann Arbor resident and University of Michigan graduate student Elizabeth Bartmess, 28, found out about the Web site via an online promotion and donated $30.

"I was looking for something science-related and ecology-related, and I wanted to help fund a school that had underprivileged students," Bartmess told The News, while adding she liked the nature club project because the teacher was requesting low-cost supplies with many benefits.

The Detroit News, "Teachers turn to Web site for classroom funding," Dec. 4, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Schools take a second look at nonprofit foundations as revenue sources," Aug. 15, 2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education recently set priorities for the upcoming year, one of which is the marketing of students through schools of choice, according to The Ann Arbor News.

Although the district is facing decreasing enrollment, it just opened a new high school and is looking to attract students assigned to other districts. Opposition to the program in previous years stemmed from issues of capacity, and also of funding because AAPS receives the most per-pupil funding in Washtenaw County. However, Treasurer Randy Friedman said that gap has been shrinking, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "Funding, schools of choice likely topics for A2 board," Dec. 5, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Foundation Allowance: General Education," in "A Michigan School Money Primer for Policymakers, School Officials, Media and Residents," May 31, 2007

LANSING, Mich. — Thousands of special education teachers in Michigan have lost their "highly qualified" designation due to miscommunication between the state and federal departments of education, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Special education teachers at the secondary level were allowed to take an elementary education exam, the Free Press reported. Those teachers now have until June 30, 2009, to regain highly qualified status. If not, the state risks possible sanctions and loss of money for not being in compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, said in an e-mail to the Free Press that, "At the time, this was believed to be an appropriate means to meet the requirements — until guidance from the federal government directed us to amend the requirements."

Stephanie Babyak of the U.S. Department of Education, however, told the Free Press she did not know of any other states facing the same dilemma.

"But we will certainly be checking," Babyak said.

Kelly Campbell, a special education teacher at Olivet High School, says the process has been frustrating.

"I just want Michigan and the federal government to be on the same page and not make us do things that are useless, not waste our time," she told the Free Press. "Figure it out and be done with it."

General education teachers must have a degree in or pass certification exams for the subjects they teach, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Special education teachers lose status," Dec. 3, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "A PLUS plan would permit states to opt out of NCLB," Aug. 15, 2007

GRAND BLANC, Mich. — Grand Blanc Public Schools is facing scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union and students for its technology policy, according to The Flint Journal.

Gregory T. Gibbs, president of the Greater Flint ACLU, sent a letter to the district claiming the policy is unconstitutional and a violation of the district's jurisdiction. The letter asked for the schools to reconsider the policy and revise the sections where it claims the right to discipline students for libelous or threatening statements, even if they are posted off campus.

Gibbs has said he will file a federal lawsuit if the district does not comply, The Journal reported.

"I haven't been contacted by the school in response to the letter, but I anticipate that we will be. If we are, we will sit down with their attorneys and come up with a solution that protects the rights of the students," Gibbs told The Journal. Some students also agree that this policy is an infringement on their First Amendment rights. Grand Blanc High School junior Chris Machielse thinks the school has a right to be concerned, but not to punish students for off-campus activity.

"I understand they don't want anyone to do or say anything harmful, but the (policy) wording is so vague. Who gets to decide what's punishable?" Machielse told The Journal.

Superintendent Michael Newton said it was not the district's intent to violate any rights.

"We are certainly not interested in trampling on the First Amendment rights of our students, but we are going to protect our students and our staff," Newton told The Journal. "The goal of the agreement is not to silence unfavorable opinions, Newton said, but to prevent harmful situations from escalating and disrupting the learning environment."

The Flint Journal, "Technology policy under fire," Dec. 9, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Strange Lessons in School Discipline," June 10, 2004

PORTAGE, Mich. — An education foundation in Kalamazoo County is offering grants to teachers for hands-on experience related to their area of expertise, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

Since 1986, 558 teachers from public and independent schools have received grants from the Kalamazoo County Excellence in Education Program. Twenty teachers received grants last year and opportunities ranged from shadowing a crime scene detective to conducting history research at different sites throughout the country. A teacher at Kalamazoo Christian High School traveled to Ethiopia to examine the Coptic and African culture to enhance his world history and Bible curricula, The Gazette reported.

Portage Northern forensic science instructor Kathy Mirakovits said this experience helped her figure out how to make her classroom instruction as real as possible.

"I just want students to have as realistic an experience as they can within the constraints of a public education," Mirakovits told The Gazette. "And I wanted to learn from a police officer so I would know what police officers know."

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Thanks to grants, teachers bring first-hand experience to classes," Dec. 9, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Schools take a second look at nonprofit foundations as revenue sources," Aug. 15, 2007

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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