Stories indexed with the term ‘equity’

Council Agenda: Transportation Governance

On the Ann Arbor city council’s Nov. 18, 2013 agenda is an item that first appeared on Oct. 21 – approval of a change to the governance of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. How would the AAATA’s governance change? And why did the Ann Arbor city council delay its vote?

Ypsilanti Township is now a member of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, pending consideration by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti city councils.

Ypsilanti Township would become a member of the AAATA, if the Ann Arbor city council approves a change to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting.

The governance change would grant a request from Ypsilanti Township to be admitted as a member of the authority, joining the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. The city of Ypsilanti requested membership in the AAATA just this summer, and that request was granted.

Some of the recent community conversation about the topic has included the idea that the governance changes were long overdue. That’s based on the fact that some transportation service to the two Ypsilanti jurisdictions – the city and the township – has been provided by the AAATA through year-to-year purchase of service agreements (POSAs) since at least the early 1980s.

As a result of action earlier this summer, the AAATA board has already expanded from seven to nine members, with one of the additional seats appointed by the city of Ypsilanti. The now-pending governance change, to add Ypsilanti Township as a member, would bring the total number of board seats to 10. [Amendment 3 of the AAATA articles of incorporation]

But the Ypsilanti jurisdictions asked for membership in the AAATA not just because they wanted a seat at the table. They also want to use that membership to help generate additional revenue in the AAATA geographic area – to pay for additional transportation services in all three jurisdictions. Those additional services are described in a five-year service improvement plan the AAATA has developed. The additional services – which include extended hours of operation, greater frequency, and some newly configured routes – were the topic of a series of 13 public meetings that were scheduled from Oct. 17 through Nov. 14.

For the city of Ann Arbor, the five-year plan would mean 33% more service, according to the AAATA. It’s the additional services, and the revenue needed to pay for them, that gave some Ann Arbor city councilmembers pause on Oct. 21, 2013, when the item first appeared on the agenda.

This article reviews some additional context, including the taxing powers of the AAATA, the issue of equity among jurisdictions, the AAATA’s performance as a transit authority, and a couple of vignettes from the series of public meetings held over the last month by the AAATA. [Full Story]

AAPS Gets Update on Achievement Gap

The April 13 study session of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board was highlighted by an update on the district’s efforts on equity initiatives, as well as some blunt discussion about race in the Ann Arbor public schools. Study sessions are meetings of the board scheduled as needed to gather background information and discuss specific issues that will be coming before them in the future.

The session included a presentation from Glenn Singleton, a facilitator for the Pacific Educational Group (PEG). PEG was hired by AAPS in 2003 to assist in the district’s efforts to close the achievement gap – a disparity in academic performance between minority students and other students.

Singleton, who led a majority of the discussion, criticized the board on a number of points, contending that a lack of continuity in leadership has impeded progress in closing the gap. He also said the board has not shown full support for closing the achievement gap, resulting in uncertainty for principals, administrators and other building leaders as to the board’s commitment to solving the problem.

Interim superintendent Robert Allen was on hand and provided background on the district’s involvement with PEG. Allen said that Singleton was touching base with the district and visiting AAPS schools. Singleton was doing walkthroughs to evaluate the district’s progress on closing the achievement gap using techniques suggested by PEG.

“At this point we can have a meaningful evaluation of where we are with the equity work and what we’ll need to do to achieve our goals,” Allen said. The study session focused on lack of board support, failures in leadership structure and the need for “courageous conversations.” [Full Story]