Contents of this issue:


  • Few details yet on Grand Rapids contract
  • Teachers divided on fast track certification
  • School told construction loans going quickly
  • More groups back statewide health plan
  • Charter cap prevents schools from opening

FEW DETAILS YET ON GRAND RAPIDS CONTRACT


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Few details were available about the tentative agreement reached Monday between Grand Rapids Public Schools and the Grand Rapids Education Association, according to area media reports.

The sides have been bargaining since April 2007. Neither group would comment on the agreement, but WOOD-TV and The Grand Rapids Press reported that health insurance costs were a key issue during negotiations.

The district earlier asked teachers to contribute more for their own health insurance premiums and agree to higher co-pays for prescription medication, according to The Press. The teachers union said that the district had enough tax dollars for raises and to continue covering the cost of health insurance, WOOD-TV reported.

Members of the GREA will vote on the agreement in coming weeks; the school board may vote on the issue at its Aug. 17 meeting, WOOD-TV reported.

"They'll have to make a determination if this deal is acceptable," GREA President Paul Helder told WOOD-TV, referring to union members.

SOURCES:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Grand Rapids school district, teachers' union reach tentative agreement on new contract," Aug. 3, 2009

WOOD-TV 8, "GRPS, GRPA reach tentative agreement," Aug. 4, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "GR board votes 'no confidence' in union; won't collect dues," May 27, 2008


TEACHERS DIVIDED ON FAST TRACK CERTIFICATION


LANSING, Mich. - Teacher opinion is divided on a proposal to speed up the teacher certification process for people who already have a background in math or science, according to a survey reported in Michigan media. About 58 percent of educators surveyed said they oppose the idea; the poll's margin of error was 4.9 percent.

Only 19 percent of teachers who participated in the poll believed applicants wouldn't have enough subject knowledge, and only 13 percent believed applicants would not have enough classroom training to be effective, according to one report.

The poll was commissioned by the Michigan Education Association and conducted by the research firm EPIC-MRA. Reporting on results, the Detroit Free Press said that about 58 percent of respondents said they oppose the plan, which would create a 15- month route to teacher certification for people who already have training in such subjects as math or science.

The proposal is under consideration by the State Board of Education as a way to address teacher shortages in specific subject areas, but the MEA says it would weaken qualification standards for teachers, the Free Press reported. Deans of Michigan education colleges also have criticized the plan, the report said.

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Poll: Michigan educators oppose speeding teacher certification," July 30, 2009

Michigan Information & Research Service, "MEA Poll: Teachers don't like fast track certification," July 30, 2009 (Subscription required)

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


SCHOOL TOLD CONSTRUCTION LOANS GOING QUICKLY


ADDISON, Mich. - Addison Community Schools will apply for an interest-free loan for school construction through the federal stimulus program, according to The (Adrian) Daily Telegram. The school board authorized its superintendent to apply for up to $15 million, The Telegram reported.

Business manager Wendy Rokita said she was told by state officials that construction funds set aside for 2009 were already given out, The Telegram reported, and Superintendent Eileen Grant-Ball encouraged board members to apply for 2010 funds quickly.

Under the terms of the loan, the district must go to voters in 2010 to ask for an approximate 2.5-mill tax levy to cover the loan, according to The Telegram. That would cost the owner of a home with a $100,000 taxable value approximately $256 more in taxes each year during the 15-year repayment period, The Telegram reported.

The district has closed an 84-year-old elementary school and its remaining buildings range in age from 32 to 59 years, the report said.

The stimulus funding can be used for construction, rehabilitation or repair of school buildings, or purchase of land for new construction, Grant-Ball said, according to The Telegram.

"If there's any way we can pull this off and get the community to support it, I think we would be foolish not to pursue it, or at least let the community make the final decision," board Secretary Mike Murphy said, The Telegram reported.

SOURCE:
The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, "Board to apply for stimulus fund loan," July 29, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Effects of Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law," Aug. 27, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Property Taxes and Home Values Deserve Closer Scrutiny," Oct. 30, 2008


MORE GROUPS BACK STATEWIDE HEALTH PLAN


LANSING, Mich. - Support is growing for the idea of consolidating public employee health care into one statewide plan, the Lansing State Journal reported, with associations of school boards, school administrators and school business officials backing the proposal.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, said he expects to introduce draft legislation soon that would convert hundreds of local-level agreements into a state-level plan, potentially saving up to $900 million a year, according to the report.

The Michigan Education Association continues to criticize the proposal, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service, as does Lt. Gov. John Cherry, a likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010.

The Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of School Administrators and Michigan School Business Officials are among a dozen school-related associations that support the proposal, according to the Journal.

"It's time to take politics out of the equation and do what's best for Michigan's children," William Mayes, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators, said at a press conference, according to the Journal.

MEA spokesman Doug Pratt told MIRS that school employees already have saved as much as $700 million for schools in recent years on health insurance and that the state should instead close tax loopholes and wait for national health care reform.

Dillon said teachers unions still would have a role in bargaining the state-level health plan, the Journal reported.

SOURCES:
Lansing State Journal, "Public worker health plan gains support," July 29, 2009

Michigan Information & Research Service, "Flanagan, Cherry split on Dillon plan," July 29, 2009 (Subscription required)

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "On Balance, School Health Insurance Proposal an Improvement," July 27, 2009


CHARTER CAP PREVENTS SCHOOLS FROM OPENING


JACKSON, Mich. - Dr. Roxana Hopkins has administrative experience, a detailed business plan, a development team, letters of support from community groups and even a federal planning grant, but she cannot open a public charter school for underachieving high school students in Jackson.

Like dozens of other individuals and organizations in Michigan, Hopkins said she is stymied by state law that caps the number of public charter schools authorized by state universities at 150.

The result is that universities are turning away charter school applicants who have viable plans for successful schools, officials told Michigan Education Report.

In the first in a series of occasional articles about charter schools that exist on paper, but cannot open, Michigan Education Report describes Hopkins' plan for the Jackson Learning Lab, a school designed for students who are not successful in traditional school settings. The plan calls for project-based work, individual learning plans and business-school connections, among other features.

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

SOURCE:
Michigan Education Report, "Jackson Learning Lab: The Hope of Success for All Learners," Aug. 4, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Charter report favorable, state board wants more," Feb. 24, 2009


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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