There was a lot to read about Detroit schools this week including our peek inside a Detroit classroom where 37 first-graders have no music, art or gym. Meanwhile, the sudden closure of a charter school weeks before the end of classes angered teachers and advocates and sent parents scrambling.

Also this week we featured a short film that asked Detroit teachers to say how they would change schools to make them better. Some offered some radical suggestions. What changes would you make ? Email us at detroit.tips@chalkbeat.org or comment on Facebook.

— Julie Topping, Chalkbeat Editor, Detroit

GETTING REAL: As new Superintendent Nikolai Vitti aspires to transform Detroit schools, a classroom with 37 first-graders who get no music, art or gym shows what he’s up against. Our story on that classroom led a Free Press columnist to argue that the school’s problems are a direct result of school choice policies. The district’s former interim superintendent meanwhile called for a focus on kids to improve education in Detroit.

STRAIGHT TALK: Vitti talked candidly about race and his interracial family in an interview in the Michigan Chronicle. “We should be proud of our identity,” Vitti said. “Far too often, whites try to erase race, which is linked to an identity. Idealistically, I look forward to a world where we recognize each other based on race because that’s linked to a history and a culture, experiences and values.”

ABRUPT SHUTDOWN: The surprise closure of a Southfield charter school left parents in the lurch and angered charter school advocates. “This was totally disrespectful and sad for families who trusted the school to inform them and educate their children,” a local advocate wrote. A state charter association has created a website to help parents and teachers find a new school for fall.

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Another sign from Detroit’s main district, which is seizing on the opportunity to lure displaced students.

PENSION COMPROMISE: Gov. Snyder and GOP leaders reached a tentative deal that would steer new hires toward 401(k)-style retirement savings plans but retain a hybrid pension option for teachers, paving the way to finalizing the state’s $55-billion budget by the end of the month.

OTHER BUDGET BATTLES: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was told by a Senate committee that proposed cuts to education in President Trump’s budget likely wouldn’t happen. DeVos suggested more money was not the answer for schools, but studies show otherwise. Local students react to the news that the Trump budget would slash their federally funded after-school program.

PAYING FOR CHOICE: Although school choice supporters are celebrating the Trump administration’s plan for funneling private school aid to the states, experts say Michigan would face huge legal obstacles in qualifying for the federal money.

TEACHER STABILITY: Detroit’s severe teacher shortage mirrors a mounting national problem. One problem locally is low teacher salaries in Detroit’s main district. Teachers protesting wages and conditions outside the district headquarters could have a new ally in Vitti who said after the protest that protesters’ complaints “all have merit.” But the teacher shortage could be compounded next year when the schools in the state-run recovery district return to the main district. Only about half of teachers in the state-run district have applied to stay on, stoking fears of a teacher exodus that could destabilize those schools.

EDUCATION EQUITY: With so much left unfinished 63 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a local schools advocate called for a conversation to “bring these stark realities out of the shadows and ensure that every conversation begins with an open conversation about educational equity.”  

POOR RESULTS: A new study shows that Michigan’s school improvement efforts since 2012 haven’t worked.

SPECIAL NEEDS: A Detroit parent advocate tells the story of a mom who is now home-schooling her special needs child after her child’s school threatened too many times to throw him out.

WHICH DETROIT? One public education advocate says she sees two Detroits: One caused her to enroll her children in 22 different schools in search of a quality education. The other Detroit is the one sold to outsiders as a hip and gritty town ripe for revival.

SUCCESSFUL GRADS: It’s graduation season and schools are celebrating success stories including the main Detroit district, which honored top students at its excellence awards ceremony. A state charter school association touted inspiring stories of charter school grads. And one charter school boasted that all of its graduates were accepted into college, trade school or the military.

COLLEGE READY: These 50 Michigan schools have the state’s top college readiness rates.

LOW-COST MEALS: Get information about a nearby food service program to find healthy meals when school is out for the summer. Families can also find information about this program by dialing 211 or texting “Food” to 877-877