Metro Detroit school district budgets threaten special ed

June 7th, 2011

Detroit Free Press
June 7, 2011

Local money for special education is declining rapidly in some counties in metro Detroit, leaving school district leaders with difficult choices about how to pay for the state and federally mandated programs.

As property values decline, tax revenue has dried up from special millages that fund programs for students with autism, visual and hearing impairments and other disabilities.

Districts may have to dip further into general education budgets to cover the costs. It is unclear which programs might be at risk, but general funds pay for everything from salaries to textbooks to athletics.

Even though special education programs are mandated, some parents said they fear the declines will bring reduced services for their children.

“I’ve never seen conditions like these. They’re going to get worse,” said Marcie Lipsitt of Franklin, co-founder of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, a parent advocacy group.

Oakland County is facing an immediate problem — $150 less per pupil from its millage — and Macomb and Wayne counties are anticipating shortfalls in the next year or two.

“We’ve been warning them for years,” said Robert Moore, deputy superintendent for finance and operations for Oakland Schools, Oakland County’s intermediate school district.

“But that doesn’t make it any easier.”


Jackson schools to buy technology with IDEA stimulus…

April 20th, 2011
Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2011, 1:32 PM

The Jackson School Board on Monday approved spending $195,000 from the federal stimulus to buy technology to help students with disabilities.

The purchases will be for Bennett, Dibble, Frost, Hunt, McCulloch, Northeast and Parkside schools. Included are eight Apple iPad 2 carts with 30 iPads and one MacBook PC on each cart, 13 sound amplifications systems, three additional Mac Book Pro laptops, two days of training and other equipment and training.

The stimulus dollars are specifically for helping students with disabilities and must be spent during this fiscal year, school officials said.


Michigan advocate responds to MDE action against Detroit PS

October 22nd, 2010

Letter to the editor

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is withholding $5 million dollars of federal money from the Detroit Public Schools after finding them in substantive violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, our federal law that mandates a “free appropriate public education” for students with disabilities.   This is outrageous when the very same Department gave ALL Michigan school districts, including Detroit a “meets requirements” for their so-called performance on the special education programs and services delivered during the 2008-09 school year.  Solely to allow them to reduce their special education budgets by 50% of the one-time federal increase in special education funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan referred to Detroit Public Schools as “Ground Zero” and the Michigan Department of Education still gave them a “meets requirements” for special education as recently as June 2009 in a memo from Dr. Jacqueline Thompson, the recently retired State Director of the Office of Special Education.

Parents are now supposed to believe Dr. Eleanor White, the State’s newly installed Director when she says, “It is completely unacceptable for students not to receive the services they’re supposed to… These children have a constitutional right to a good education. It’s an entitlement. We take that very seriously.”

The Michigan Department of Education under the leadership of Governor Granholm and Superintendent Michael Flanagan have done anything but take the education of our state’s 237,000 K-12 students with disabilities seriously.  It is not only Detroit that continues to fail in its obligation to provide a free appropriate public education to the students with special needs.  Why is the MDE ignoring Highland Park, Hamtramck, River Rouge, Ferndale, Inkster, Pontiac, Saginaw, Flint, Lincoln Park, Southfield, Ferndale and Oak Park?  And yes there are many more.  Detroit children with disabilities are not the only students being denied their civil right to a public education that prepares them for post secondary education and the global workforce.  More than 28% of Michigan students with a disability drop out of school after entering the 9th grade. The achievement gaps are better than 50% points by the time these students reach the 8th grade.

Detroit children with and without disabilities grab the daily, weekly and monthly headlines due to more than 40 years of educational neglect and abuse, but they are far from the only K-12 students suffering in school districts, public academies and charters across a state that has not cared about a crumbling and archaic public education system in almost 50 years.   Our children with special needs are egregiously underserved…so why is only Detroit losing federal funds? How can the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education give the State of Michigan a “meets requirements” when Detroit has been found so out of compliance that $5 million in federal funds have been withheld?  When you have an answer will you please explain this to our 237,000 K-12 students who go to school and wonder when the day will arrive that their education and future will matter?

Marcie Lipsitt
Michigan Alliance for Special Education

State withholds $5 million from Detroit over IDEA non-compliance

October 21st, 2010

Charlie LeDuff and Marisa Schultz / The Detroit News
October 21, 2010

Detroit — The educational system for the city’s disabled children is in such disarray the state has taken the extraordinary step of withholding federal money from the Detroit Public Schools.

The man in charge of fixing the system — Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb — received a letter from the state Department of Education dated Sept. 2, informing him that the state would block nearly $5 million in cash because of persistent noncompliance with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

Never before has the state instituted a financial sanction for noncompliance involving students with disabilities, state officials said.

“It is completely unacceptable for students not to receive the services” they’re supposed to, said Dr. Eleanor E. White, director of the Michigan Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services. “These children have a constitutional right to a good education. It’s an entitlement. We take that very seriously.”

In a statement released late Wednesday, DPS spokesman Steve Wasko wrote: “The noncompliance issues cited by the state preceded this administration’s tenure in Detroit Public Schools, and since coming on board, Robert Bobb has made the quality of special education and compliance with federal law among his top priorities.”

He added: “DPS expects to meet our obligations and receive all funds owed to DPS. The threatened withholdings are standard terms for all districts cited for recurring compliance issues.”

>> Read the full article

thumbs downIDEA Money Watch comments:  What’s wrong with this picture? Under its obligation to monitor each local district’s implementation of IDEA, the Michigan Department of Education gave Detroit – and all other Michigan districts – a “meets requirements”.

Looks like this system isn’t working very well!

SEPTEMBER 2010 :: Michigan IDEA Recovery Act spending tops $195 million

October 8th, 2010

According to spending reports released by the U.S. Dept. of Education, Michigan has obligated 49% of its IDEA Part B Recovery funds, or $195,314,621 as of September 30, 2010. The national average is 50%. Spending details by local school district are available at

Latest spending reports are always available here. All IDEA Recovery Act funds must be obligated by September 30, 2011.

Michigan IDEA Recovery Act spending at 44%

September 18th, 2010

According to the August 27, 2010 spending report issued by the US Dept. of Education, Michigan has obligated $174,791,206 of its IDEA Part B Recovery Act funds – or 44%.  Information on school district spending is available at

The national average rate of obligation is 46%. The latest state-by-state spending report is always available here.

All funds must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2011.

IDEA Recovery Act spending in Detroit Midtown Academy

September 18th, 2010

From the GAO report, States Could Provide More Information on Education Programs to Enhance the Public’s Understanding of Fund Use, released July, 2010, the following information was collected via a GAO survey between March and April 2010 and through follow-up communications:

Detroit Midtown Academy
Detroit, MI 48201
Award amount: $79,647

Detroit Midtown Academy reported that it used its Recovery Act IDEA award to retain and improve the capacity of special education programming.1 These funds supported one school with approximately 52 students with special needs. Specifically, the funds were used to hire an additional full-time teacher, retain a part-time aide, purchase computer equipment for one special education lab, purchase additional instructional supplies, and purchase adaptive technology. As a result of these funds, officials reported that the school was able to maintain the current student-teacher ratio and improve scores on standardized tests because of greater use of instructional technology and new instructional materials. They indicated that their Recovery Act IDEA award activities were 50 percent or more completed.

IDEA Excerpts From: Investing Wisely and Quickly Use of ARRA Funds in America’s Great City Schools

May 26th, 2010


Detroit Public Schools hopes to use the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) grant that the district receives from Michigan for its reinvestment plan to save 192 teaching jobs and to implement a financial tracking system to monitor the spending of funds effectively. Key portions of the SFSF aim to target areas that support student achievement and graduation rates, teacher development, and technology use.

Key investments with the SFSF allocation include class size reductions in early learning grades and an extended-day program—consisting of two hours a day, three days a week, for 20 weeks—designed to provide additional support in reading and mathematics. Supplemental materials for the mathematics and literacy initiatives will also be made available to fill the gap between the district’s adopted materials and the state assessments and to offer support to students who need additional learning opportunities. The SFSF will also contribute to the improvement of graduation rates through “double-dosing” ninth-grade mathematics and English language arts courses for struggling students. The district is also working to ensure success in ninth grade, which is the greatest predictor of improved high school graduation rates, by offering credit-recovery opportunities for students and helping them to stay on track with their graduation requirements.

In the area of technology, the district plans to invest in a Web-based product that features online lesson plans, ongoing assessments to measure student achievement, and supplemental literacy materials, all of which will ensure that teachers are able to create, organize, and deliver effective, individualized instruction. Additionally, stimulus dollars will support a professional development software tracking program that will ensure that teacher professional development activities are directly tied to student achievement. The software tracking program also will help administrators determine additional professional development needs for their buildings and provide extensive professional development to address these needs.

Detroit Public Schools also plans to announce a large-scale facilities modernization and investment plan supported with ARRA resources. This plan will be a key step in reinventing the district’s education model, providing safe and modern learning environments, and ensuring student success.

For the full report Click Here.

Interactive whiteboards could be coming to special education classrooms in the Bay-Arenac ISD

March 3rd, 2010

By Andrew Dodson | The Bay City Times

March 01, 2010, 5:29PM

Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District Superintendent Michael Dewey hopes to bring some “pretty cool” whiteboards into special education classrooms.

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Dewey requested to seek bids to purchase interactive whiteboards, specifically for classrooms with special-needs students.

“It’s pretty cool and it’s very interactive,” said Dewey. “The students with special needs will use this type of equipment as part of their instructional model.”

The special whiteboards allow for moving windows of information that are projected onto it with the swipe of a hand. Special markers can also be used to circle and highlight information digitally — rather than using standard dry-erase markers.

Dewey hopes to use stimulus money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to fund the technology — a move that bothered trustee William Karbowski.

“All of these things (purchased with the ARRA funds) are supposed to be used to stimulate the economy and employ people,” said Karbowski. “Can you honesty say that that is going to create a new job?”

Dewey said he would research where the boards are made and how many people are employed by the companies that make them.

View this YouTube video for a demonstration of the whiteboards.

Special education stimulus funding only delays inevitable

September 5th, 2009

09-02-09 :: Ogemaw County Herald

Michigan’s educational funding relies solely on the number of
students enrolled in a school district. For this reason alone in
Michigan — the hardest hit state in the recession — school districts
are left scraping pennies to maintain anything close to their former

According to West Branch-Rose City Schools Superintendent
Dave Mar­ston, around the state, schools — especially in Northeast
Michigan — are being forced by tremendous declining enrollment to make
cuts across the board to staff, programs and training, which he says
can “absolutely” be attributed to the state’s failing economy…

Marston said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA
or stimulus bill) is helping schools to maintain face for a little
while by providing financial support to special education, allowing
districts to allocate local dollars towards training programs and
technological improvements, instead, over the next two years — fiscal
years 2009-10 and 2010-11. However, Marston said this is only a
temporary “band-aid” on the wound. Full article available here.