Contents of this issue:


  • Teachers authorize 'further action'
  • Math, science center needs more room
  • Judge: Official can't keep both posts
  • Arizona expands tuition tax credits
  • AFT chief: DPS teachers must be open to change    
  • State proposes quicker route to teaching

TEACHERS AUTHORIZE 'FURTHER ACTION'


WOODHAVEN, Mich. - Woodhaven-Brownstown teachers have authorized their bargaining unit to "take action" to settle a contract, but stopped short of calling it a strike vote, according to a report in The Detroit News.

The dispute centers on teacher health insurance. Teachers want a plan offered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, and have offered to pay a higher deductible for some services, but the district is offering alternatives, the report said. MESSA is a third-party insurance administrator that sells Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans to a majority of Michigan conventional public school districts. It is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, the union that represents Woodhaven-Brownstown teachers.

"It means we're ready to take further action. Our desire is not to go on strike," Nancy Koziol, an MEA director, told The News.

She said the district has enough money to settle the contract.

 "They know as well as we know what is legal action and what is not," Superintendent Barbara Lott told The News. Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Woodhaven-Brownstown teachers vote for action to settle contract," June 1, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Make Unions Accountable for Illegal Strikes," Dec. 22, 2008


MATH, SCIENCE CENTER NEEDS MORE ROOM


SPRINGFIELD, Mich. - When its state funding was reduced, the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center found a different way to bring in money - selling science kits to K-12 schools across Michigan, according to an article in the Battle Creek Enquirer.

The venture was successful enough that the center has outgrown its building and is looking for a way to finance a move, the Enquirer reported.

The center is located in the former Springfield High School. In addition to hosting science classes on site, some staff members also put together equipment kits intended to help educators teach science. Curriculum is included, as is support from retired science teachers, according to the Enquirer. Kit sales are expected to bring in $2.1 million this year, nearly double a near ago, director Connie Duncan told the Enquirer.

But Duncan said she had to turn down a $500,000 order recently because the center lacks capacity to handle it, the Enquirer reported. Battle Creek Unlimited Inc., an area economic development organization, wants the center to move to downtown Battle Creek as part of an $85 million revitalization plan, according to the report, saying it would be a marketing tool to draw families.

SOURCE:
The Battle Creek Enquirer, "The right formula," May 31, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "It's hard, but it's fun," July 15, 2008


JUDGE: OFFICIAL CAN'T KEEP BOTH POSTS


MUSKEGON COUNTY - A Muskegon school board member who also is a county commissioner says he will appeal a judge's ruling that he must step down from one of the elected offices, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.

Circuit Judge Timothy G. Hicks said Charles Nash was breaching the duty of public office by serving on boards that have contractual agreements with each other, The Chronicle reported.

The Muskegon school district contracts for services from two county departments.

Nash argued that as a school board member he has little to do with the contracts, but Hicks said that board members have ultimate oversight over such arrangements, according to The Chronicle. Hicks also said Nash couldn't avoid conflict by abstaining from voting because that itself would be a breach of duty, the report said.

Nash said he would appeal Hicks' decision, but declined to comment further, according to The Chronicle.

Nash had proposed a deal in which he would resign from the school board if he were allowed to name his successor, but the board declined the offer, according to The Chronicle.

SOURCE:
The Muskegon Chronicle, "Judge: Nash must resign one of his posts," May 27, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Willow Run superintendent on Illinois school board," Sept. 2, 2008


ARIZONA EXPANDS TUITION TAX CREDITS


ARIZONA - Disabled children and those in foster care in Arizona will be eligible for private-school scholarships following action by state lawmakers, according to a report in The Arizona Republic.

The legislation was described as a "rescue plan" for students who had received help under a voucher system that later was ruled unconstitutional.

The Republic reported that the law expands the state's existing school tuition organization program, which grants a dollar-for- dollar credit against a corporation's taxes if the firm contributes to a private-school fund. The state will grant up to

$5 million total in new credits, according to The Republic.

About 473 students were receiving assistance from the voucher program, the report said.

SOURCE:
The Arizona Republic, "School-tuition program OK'd after long debate," May 28, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which is the Better Choice for School Choice?," July 27, 2004


AFT CHIEF: DPS TEACHERS MUST BE OPEN TO CHANGE


DETROIT - Detroit teachers must not only be willing to reform education, but should be contributors to the process, union leaders told them at a training session last week, according to The Detroit News.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that Detroit teachers should contribute their best ideas for reform or risk being left out of the process, according to The News. She also raised the issue of merit pay, The News reported, saying that schools in New York that participated in school-based bonus systems are reporting increased student achievement and higher teacher pay.

Detroit teachers spent the day learning about education reform and teacher pay models used in districts across the country, such as site-based management and differentiated pay, The News reported.

Contract negotiations begin soon between the Detroit Federation of Teachers and Robert Bobb, the district's emergency fiscal manager. Improving student achievement and a different pay system for teachers are expected to be part of the talks, The News reported.

DFT President Keith Johnson told teachers that, "Reform does not necessarily mean that you have to give up something, or that you have to lose something," The News reported.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Leaders call for reform at Detroit teachers meeting," May 26, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report (audio file), "The Merits of the Case," Oct. 10, 2008


STATE PROPOSES QUICKER ROUTE TO TEACHING


LANSING, Mich. - A quicker route to a high school teaching career was recently laid out for state board of education scrutiny, but the idea got a cold reception from the state's teacher colleges, according to Michigan Education Report.

Michigan Department of Education staff told the board they developed the Michigan Nontraditional Route to Teacher Certification to address predicted teacher shortages in math, science and career education, and also to tap into the talent pool of out-of-work scientists and engineers. The plan essentially would allow eligible people who hold bachelor's degrees to earn a certificate within 15 months.

But representatives from the public and private universities that currently train most of Michigan's teachers said they aren't sure a shortage exists. They also questioned whether an expedited program would turn out quality teachers.

The issue is open for debate at least until August; final approval must come from the state board.

Michigan Education Report is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

SOURCE:
Michigan Education Report, "Proposal would shorten path to teacher certification, for some," May 29, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Teacher Quality Primer," June 30, 2008


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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