Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 22, 2013

Many supportive, some skeptical of China plan

TRAVERSE CITY — Brandalyn Morris considers herself a global citizen.

She's also a supporter of a plan to bring up to 200 Chinese students to study at Traverse City's high schools for years to come.

"I think it's awesome," said Morris, of Traverse City. "Exposure to different cultures helps us to be more sensitive citizens and broadens our world view."

Lars Welton, of Traverse City, was more skeptical of Traverse City Area Public Schools' proposed partnership with the Weiming Education Group, a Beijing-based private school.

"I smell fish," Welton said.

The proposed deal would allow Weiming to send up to 200 students to TCAPS annually. Weiming would pay $10,000 in annual tuition per student to TCAPS under the proposal, and the district also can collect the state per-pupil foundation grant for the Chinese students during their junior year.

Welton said he thinks the proposal is a political ploy to garner positive publicity -- and votes for school board members.

"It's all about, 'Oh, can't we just get along and be socialists like everyone else,'" Welton said.

Another Traverse City resident, Tom Williams, said the partnership is a good idea, as long as TCAPS isn't doing it just for cash flow.

"I don't think money should be a factor," Williams said.

Instead, the partnership should focus on building relationships between youths in China and America, he said.

"Those are the future generations who we are going to have to be dealing with politically and economically," Williams said.

District officials have said the proposal is part of an effort to improve TCAPS students' global competency. It also will allow the district to increase the number of Northwestern Michgian College courses offered at TCAPS high schools.

Many Chinese students who will study at TCAPS as seniors will be dual-enrolled at NMC. Officials from the community college joined the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce in voicing support for the Weiming-TCAPS partnership last week.

"Chinese students are bringing their culture, their ideas and their experiences, and that's going to enrich classrooms at TCAPS and ultimately NMC classrooms," said Stephen Siciliano, NMC's vice president for educational services.

The TCAPS' Board of Education is scheduled to vote on a memorandum of understanding outlining the partnership on Monday.

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