Several teachers unions, locals and other groups have abandoned MESSA recently, continuing a growing trend across Michigan. Administrators in Whitehall will receive annual 3 percent raises for three years, as well as health savings accounts, after switching health insurance plans. The Michigan Education Special Services Association is a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the MEA. Teachers in the Forest Hills district will have to pay a portion of the costs starting next year if they choose to keep a more expensive MESSA plan. Bay City schools could trim $4 million of a projected $7.5 million deficit if all eight of the district’s unions would switch to less expensive insurance. More than 100 employees in the Zeeland schools left MESSA in favor of the West Michigan Health Insurance Pool.
Violence continues to plague Detroit Public Schools, with more than 30 incidents of shootings, stabbings and robberies since classes began last August. Among the more serious crimes occurring on or near school grounds were the shooting of a janitor during an armed robbery and the alleged stabbing of two students by the mother of another student. Teachers have also been robbed inside schools. The district said it would spend $600,000 to pay laid-off city police officers to work in the schools, and a group of ministers is trying to recruit 2,000 volunteers to beef up the district’s security force.
Central Michigan University reports that it has saved about $5 million since 2003 by dropping MESSA. The Michigan Education Special Services Agency, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, no longer oversees health insurance services for a large number of CMU employees. Less expensive health insurance plans, some costing $3,350 less per year than MESSA, along with a wellness program, have saved taxpayers $5.3 million over three years, and CMU expects to save another $5 million this year.
More than 1,700 Detroit Public School teachers called in sick in late March, forcing the district to close more than 50 schools for the day and deny instruction to more than 36,000 children. The teachers were upset over a contract provision they approved, calling for them to loan five days of pay this semester to the district.
Hillsdale College will offer a free summer seminar July 16-22 as part of "The Gillette Company Economics for Leaders Program." Economics, social studies and history teachers are invited to attend. Each attendee will receive a $150 stipend, and credit hours are available. Visit www.fte.org/teachers/programs for more information.
A South Carolina school district is being sued for using tax dollars to fight tuition tax credit legislation. Randall Page, president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, says District One violated his First Amendment rights by denying him use of its "information distribution system" to support a tax-credit bill. The school used e-mail and newsletters to oppose the legislation. Page said that meant the publicly funded communications were a "limited public forum." He filed suit in federal district court.
The Connecticut branch of the NAACP is supporting the No Child Left Behind legislation in a federal court battle. The group filed paperwork in January asking a judge in the Connecticut vs. Spellings case to allow the group to intervene on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. The NAACP is working on behalf of three minority students.
Students in Georgia would need parental permission to join clubs at school under a proposal now being considered in the state legislature. If approved, parents would have to be told the name of the club, its purpose, faculty adviser and activities before students could join. The issue arose after one school allowed a gay-straight alliance club, then eliminated all extracurricular groups after parents complained.
The Maryland Legislature voted to block action by the state Board of Education that would have made Maryland the first state to exercise a school takeover provision of the No Child Left Behind Act. The legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a law that bars the state superintendent from getting involved with failing Baltimore schools for one year. The Maryland Department of Education had planned to hire private managers to run four high schools, while seven middle schools would have been converted to charter schools. NCLB calls for state action in schools that fail to meet performance standards five years in a row.
The mayor of Hartford, Conn., appointed himself to the school board and was elected chairman, causing Superintendent Robert Henry to resign. Changes to the city’s charter gave the mayor a majority of appointments and increased the board from seven to nine members. Mayor Eddie Perez used one of the appointments for himself, saying he was impatient with the pace of improvements.
New York Gov. George Pataki wants to allow 200 new charter schools to open, including 50 in New York City. Pataki is seeking legislation that would exempt charters in New York City from being approved by the State Board of Regents, which currently must authorize new charter schools anywhere in the state. Currently, New York is at its charter cap of 100 schools.
High school seniors are improving their performances on Advanced Placement tests, according to information released by the White House. The percentage of seniors passing at least one AP exam has increased in every state since 2001. The number of students enrolled in AP classes who take the tests has also increased, going up 3 percent a year, and now stands at 74 percent. Studies have found performance on AP exams is a good indicator of future college achievement.
The Miami-Dade County school district in Florida is attempting to fire 30 teachers who were allegedly part of a false credentials ring. About a dozen teachers have resigned and another 350 are still under investigation. A former teacher last year admitted to selling continuing-education transcripts to teachers who never took the classes.
The former finance manager for the Chicago Public Schools is accused of embezzling more than $450,000. Authorities say the woman wrote 319 checks to herself for $456,000 from an account at Simeon Career Academy. She resigned in October. If convicted, the woman could spend 30 years in jail.
The Kentucky Senate wants teachers with a history of drug problems to face random drug tests. The bill, which passed unanimously, would also allow superintendents to reassign teachers accused of drug-related crimes in order to keep them away from students.
An Indiana mayor wants to pay college tuition for children of city residents. Thomas McDermott Jr., mayor of Hammond, Ind., is asking the city council to approve the plan as a way to boost home ownership in the Lake Michigan town. Qualifying students would get up to $7,500 a year for college if they qualify academically and their parents or guardian remains a resident and homeowner of Hammond while the student is in college. Graduates of public and independent high schools in the city would be eligible, and the money could be used at any public or private university in Indiana.
Educational options can now be accessed by parents online in the St. Paul, Minn., school district. Parents can visit a Web site and enter their address to see a list of schools to choose from for their children. Details including maps, test scores and demographics for each school are available, and can be read in four languages. The site recorded more than 1,000 visits in its first month.
Parents, school officials and doctors are protesting a requirement in North Carolina that all children receive an eye exam before entering kindergarten. The policy, which is to take effect this fall, is being called onerous and expensive. North Carolina Speaker of the House James A. Black, who sponsored the measure, is an optometrist.