Ron French

Senior Writer Ron French joined Bridge in 2011 after having won more than 40 national and state journalism awards since he joined the Detroit News in 1995. French has a long track record of uncovering emerging issues and changing the public policy debate through his work. In 2006, he foretold the coming crisis in the auto industry in a special report detailing how worker health-care costs threatened to bankrupt General Motors. In 2007, French uncovered Michigan’s educator pension and health-care costs that are now at the center of policy debate in Lansing. He is also the author of “Driven Abroad,” a book chronicling the movement of Michigan jobs overseas. You can reach Ron via email at, or call him at 517-657-3501.


Michigan GOP proposes 0.9% funding boost for colleges and universities

September 12, 2019 | Ron French

Most universities and community colleges wouldn’t get enough of a funding hike to cover inflation under the latest budget plan in the Michigan Legislature. That’s frustrating for a state already ranked 44th in the nation in per-pupil funding of higher education.

Michigan schools would get 2.4 percent hike in GOP budget plan

September 12, 2019 | Ron French

Michigan Gov Gretchen Whitmer, who campaigned on the promise to improve Michigan’s struggling public schools, didn’t get as much as she wanted in next year’s state education budget.

Is Michigan school spending up or down? Pension problems muddy the answer

September 11, 2019 | Ron French

The rising cost of unfunded pension liabilities is a drag on Michigan schools, according to a new report.

Report: Funding cuts, high tuition spawn a cost crisis at Michigan colleges

September 6, 2019 | Ron French

A “perfect storm” of falling wages, state disinvestment in higher education and stingy financial aid has made Michigan a tough place for low-income college students to succeed.

As Lansing debates funding, schools struggle to pay teachers, fix roofs

September 3, 2019 | Ron French

Amid political disagreements about school funding, Michigan’s smallest district and its most geographically expansive face common problems: Not enough money to boost disadvantaged students. And roofs that need replacing.

Detroit superintendent: Parents should demand end of long-term subs

September 2, 2019 | Ron French

Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, center, took to Twitter over the weekend to blast the use of long-term substitute teachers to lead Michigan classrooms. And he’s doing something about it. (Bridge file photo)

M-STEP shows no progress for Michigan’s struggling third-grade readers

August 29, 2019 | Ron French

With the state’s read-or-flunk law beginning this year, Michigan’s efforts to help young readers appear to be falling flat.

Michigan M-STEP test scores are inching upward. See how your school compares.

August 29, 2019 | Mike Wilkinson, Ron French

Results from the state’s annual standardized test, given to students in grades 3-8, show faint signs of improvement. See how state students overall performed in the tests given last spring, and look up your own school.

Benton Harbor schools may be open for now, but test scores are the pits

August 29, 2019 | Ron French

The good news is Benton Harbor High will remain open this year despite threats by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to close it. The bad news is its test scores are among the state’s worst.

Michigan schools say they can’t find enough substitute teachers

August 27, 2019 | Ron French

More and more public schools are struggling to find someone to lead classes when teachers are out – a sign of a growing teacher shortage and a humming economy where people can find more lucrative jobs.

Michigan superintendent: Need more career tech, teachers, mental health care

August 13, 2019 | Ron French

Michael Rice steps into Michigan’s top education role with a list of clear initiatives he says will improve academics, and students’ lives.

Michigan school leaders decry explosion of untrained teachers in classrooms

August 9, 2019 | Mike Wilkinson, Ron French

School leaders including new state Superintendent Michael Rice say time and money are needed to reduce growth of long-term substitutes, following Bridge Magazine investigation.

New Michigan school superintendent: Keep Benton Harbor High open

August 8, 2019 | Ron French

With the new state school superintendent stating firmly he wants the troubled high school to remain open, pressure may build on Michigan officials to find a way to resolve issues with Benton Harbor.

Expert: Michigan’s reliance on long-term subs ‘should concern all of us’

August 8, 2019 | Ron French

University of Michigan School of Education dean Elizabeth Birr Moje says Michigan risks widening achievement gaps between poor and more affluent students through the increased use of untrained teachers.

An Up North charter is 44 percent subs. You can’t tell difference, supt. says

August 7, 2019 | Ron French

At the fast-growing Charlton Heston Academy in St. Helen, nearly half of classrooms were staffed by uncertified, long-term substitutes last year. Superintendent says it’s not ideal, but charter can’t attract certified teachers.

How a wedding planner became an uncertified Michigan teacher for $15 an hour

August 7, 2019 | Ron French

One was a wedding planner. The other, an assistant basketball coach. Their stories say a lot about how Michigan increasingly is using long-term substitutes, full-time teachers with no training in education to lead classrooms.

Michigan leans on long-term substitutes as its schools struggle

August 7, 2019 | Mike Wilkinson, Ron French

In the last five years, the number of long-term substitutes taking over public classrooms has risen tenfold in Michigan. Critics say reliance on subs is an embarrassment for a state with lagging school performance.

As Michigan schools struggle, Democrats and Republicans try...talking

July 26, 2019 | Ron French

How partisan are Michigan schools? Legislators say the parties don’t even use the same vocabulary on education. But an influx of educators just elected to the House and Senate wants to change that.

With city in limbo, Benton Harbor prepares new pitch to save its high school

July 19, 2019 | Ron French

As veteran teachers flee the troubled district, Benton Harbor officials will try to sell Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on giving them at least four years to fix their struggling high school.

U-M’s Schlissel: ‘Our children will suffer’ because of how we treat higher education today

July 12, 2019 | Ron French

The University of Michigan president speaks out on topics ranging from financial aid to road funding in an interview with Bridge Magazine.