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.


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.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Benton Harbor reach tentative deal to save high school

June 26, 2019 | Ron French

The agreement would allow the impoverished community to keep its high school if the school district improves academic performance and pays down debt.

In Benton Harbor schools, a lesson for – and about – Gretchen Whitmer

June 21, 2019 | Ron French

Bold or reckless? Confounding or strategic? Whitmer’s surprise recommendation to close Benton Harbor High School offers clues about her governing style.

Teens raped in Michigan prisons can get day in court, Supreme Court says

June 17, 2019 | Ron French

The Michigan Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal made by the state in a lawsuit filed by former teen inmates alleging the Department of Corrections didn’t do enough to prevent them from being raped.

As deadline passes, Benton Harbor and state negotiate fate of high school

June 14, 2019 | Ron French

Friday was supposed to be the day Benton Harbor learned if its high school would remain open. Instead, the district and Michigan officials may still be seeking a resolution other than dissolving the district.


Whitmer faces some backlash over Benton Harbor High closing

June 11, 2019 | Magdalena Mihaylova, Ron French

The governor is getting pushback from city activists. Meanwhile, it appears the administration may be able to dissolve the district without help from the Legislature if local officials balk at closing the high school.


Five years in, Michigan passes social studies standards as conservatives fume

June 11, 2019 | Ron French

With a few last tweaks (adding the Ten Commandments and a reference to sturgeon), Michigan’s controversial social studies standards are approved by a Democratic-leaning state education board


Albion lost its high school; students did better. Is Benton Harbor next?

June 11, 2019 | Ron French

The anguish Benton Harbor is undergoing now was felt by Albion residents six years ago. Today, Albion students, attending a high school 13 miles away, are graduating at a higher clip.

Anguish in Benton Harbor as years of mistakes lead to a school’s likely demise

June 6, 2019 | Ron French, Ted Roelofs

Teachers blame administrators. Administrators blame the board. The board blames the state. Caught in the middle are students saddled with devastatingly low rates of achievement.

Michigan is investing heavily in early reading. So far, it’s not working.

May 21, 2019 | Ron French

Only three intermediate school districts out of 56 in Michigan are showing increases in third-grade reading. A leading educator asks for patience.

Six times more third-graders may flunk next year under Michigan reading law

May 17, 2019 | Ron French

More than 5,000 students may be flagged to repeat third grade under a new law intended to ensure solid reading skills at a key age. That number sounds high, but it could have been far higher.


Will Michigan 3rd- grade reading law hurt poor? Florida’s history says yes

May 17, 2019 | Ron French

Students from less advantaged families are more likely to be held back under Florida’s third-grade reading law than white, more affluent kids with the same low reading scores. A similar Michigan law begins this fall.

Michigan’s next superintendent led gains in Kalamazoo, fought GOP policies

May 7, 2019 | Ron French

Michael Rice boosted low-income gains and has experience outside Michigan. And he doesn’t shy away from fights, which could lead to fireworks with the Legislature in his new post as the state school chief.

With schools flailing, Michigan seeks new leader from in-state. Again.

May 7, 2019 | Ron French

The three finalists to be Michigan’s next state superintendent are all Michigan connected. And did we mention that in 183 years Michigan has never had a female full-time state superintendent?

Comparing Michigan school superintendent finalists by test scores

May 7, 2019 | Ron French

Three people are finalists to be the next state superintendent. What do the test scores of students under their leadership say about whether they could turn around Michigan’s flailing schools?