Contents of this issue:
- NCLB case dismissed
- Flint in court over MESSA
- Illness affects MEAP schedule
- Lansing debates level of school cuts
- Academic credit via career classes
NCLB CASE DISMISSED
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A lawsuit against the No Child Left Behind Act — brought by the Pontiac School District and others — has been dismissed, though the National Education Association could appeal, Education Week has reported.
After 10 months of deliberation, the 16 judges making up the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit deadlocked on whether NCLB is an "unfunded mandate" which illegally requires school districts to spend their own money to comply with its provisions, according to Education Week.
The inability to reach a majority decision means that a lower court ruling to dismiss the case stands, Education Week reported.
The case, Pontiac School District v. Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, was filed by Pontiac, eight other Michigan districts and schools in Texas and Vermont, with backing from the NEA, according to the report.
Eight judges agreed at least in part that school districts could not be required to spend local funds to comply with the law; five said that the law clearly outlines the tradeoff between accepting federal money and mandated academic progress, and three judges refused to issue an opinion on the merits of the case. The latter three said that states themselves, not individual districts, were the proper plaintiffs, Education Week reported.
Education Week, "The School Law Blog: Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of NCLB Suit," Oct. 17, 2009
Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan schools in NCLB lawsuit," Nov. 26, 2008
FLINT IN COURT OVER MESSA
FLINT, Mich. - The Flint School District and its teachers union will meet in court Thursday for a hearing on whether the district can switch health insurance plans, The Flint Journal reported.
United Teachers of Flint Inc. and the district currently are in contract negotiations. The union contends that the former contract requires the district to continue providing insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association until a new contract is settled, The Journal reported.
The district says it can shift teachers to HealthPlus of Michigan — and save $3 million — as long as the new plan offers the same coverage, according to The Journal.
MESSA, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association, is a third-party administrator that sells Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance packages to a majority of Michigan public school districts.
Genesee Circuit Court Judge Joseph J. Farah called for an evidentiary hearing on the matter Thursday. The district had notified teachers that the switch will take place Sunday.
Attorneys from each side told the Journal that the key issue is whether HealthPlus and MESSA offer mirror coverage. The district looked around for less expensive insurance after MESSA costs rose 18 percent this year, district attorney Kendall Williams told The Journal.
The Flint Journal, "Flint teachers and district headed back to court Thursday over proposed health care insurance change," Oct. 26, 2009
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "On Balance, School Health Insurance Proposal an Improvement," Aug. 4, 2009
ILLNESS AFFECTS MEAP SCHEDULE
LANSING, Mich. - Flu and related illnesses have taken a toll on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, as nearly 200 schools across the state were closed due to sickness on one or more of the annual test dates, the Detroit Free Press reported.
MEAP testing, including all make-ups, was scheduled to end as of Thursday, but the Michigan Department of Education will give schools permission to test through Nov. 4 if they submit a request, department spokeswoman Jan Ellis told the Free Press.
At New Bedford Academy in Lambertville, a public charter school, about one-third of all students and teachers were absent due to illness on Oct. 19, a board member told the Free Press. None of the students tested positive for the H1N1 virus, but there have been cases of unspecified influenza, according to the Free Press.
The Hastings School District closed when it reached 25 percent absenteeism at Hastings High School, Superintendent Richard Satterlee told the Free Press.
Detroit Free Press, "Sickness extends MEAP testing," Oct. 23, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Into and beyond the MEAP," Nov. 25, 2008
LANSING DEBATES LEVEL OF SCHOOL CUTS
LANSING, Mich. - Public schools could face a $292-per-pupil cut this year, up from last week's $165-per-pupil estimate, but there is disagreement on the governor's motivation in announcing the higher amount as well as disagreement over whether it is needed, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
The $165-per-student reduction was factored into the school budget adopted by the state Legislature, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm said an additional $127-per-student reduction will be needed due to the state's declining tax revenue, MIRS reported.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said that Granholm is manipulating the public into believing a tax increase is necessary, according to MIRS. He said the school budget adopted by the Legislature is accurate, based on May revenue estimating figures, while the governor said her added cuts are based on a more recent estimate by state Treasurer Robert Kleine.
The Legislature's budget shows a $123 million surplus in the school fund after the lower level of cuts are implemented, while Kleine's estimate shows a $212 million deficit, MIRS reported.
The extra cut would take effect in December unless new revenue is appropriated, according to MIRS.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., "Granholm announces new $127-per-pupil cut," Oct. 22, 2009 (Subscription required)
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: State Government," May 30, 2007
ACADEMIC CREDIT VIA CAREER CLASSES
FLINT, Mich. - Students enrolled in the Genesee Area Skills Center Technology Center now may earn academic credit through career or technology courses taken there, according to The Flint Journal.
When Michigan increased the number of academic credits required to receive a high school diploma, Flint Community Schools staffers began to research ways in which students could earn that credit through career coursework, The Journal reported.
Under the new plan, students will be able to earn credit in math, English, science and visual performing and applied arts by taking certain courses at the technology center.
Many existing career and technical classes already contain math content, officials said.
"We're not looking to water down anything for the students," said Liz Blomquist, a GASC math instructor, according to the Journal.
The Flint Journal, "Flint Board of Education gives GASC Technology Center authorization to offer academic credit toward state graduation requirements," Oct. 21, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Finding algebra in fashion design," Aug. 5, 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
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