Contents of this issue:


  • 700 sign 'Race' memo
  • State board to discuss school finance
  • Health insurance database now online
  • Private students lose aid, too
  • Huron to apply for bonds


700 SIGN 'RACE' MEMO


LANSING, Mich. - Nearly 89 percent of the state's public school districts have signed a Memoranda of Understanding indicating they will support Michigan's bid to win up to $400 million in federal education funds, The Detroit News reported.

The 703 districts that had signed by Sunday included both conventional and charter public school districts, according to The News.

Signing the memorandum indicates those districts will participate in such reform measures as using student academic performance to evaluate teachers and administrators and introduction of a three-tier teacher certification process, The News reported.

Education officials have said that widespread support among districts will increase Michigan's chances of winning the Race to the Top money.

At least six Oakland County schools have said they will not participate.

The report did not indicate how many signed memos included signatures from teacher union leaders. State unions at one point encouraged local union leaders not to sign, saying the reform measures went beyond the grant requirements.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "700 districts back state's bid for fed grant," Jan. 10, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Race to the Top Realities," Dec. 22, 2009


STATE BOARD TO DISCUSS SCHOOL FINANCE


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - As part of an effort to pull together recommendations on school finance reform, the state Board of Education was to host a philosophically diverse group of panelists at its meeting today, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

At the same meeting, the board will review the state's application for federal Race to the Top grant money, according to The Press. Michigan could receive up to $400 million for education if its application is approved.

Among the guests discussing school finance will be Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes Michigan Education Digest. Other panelists include Jeffrey Guilfoyle of the Citizens Research Council, Michigan State University economics professor Charles Ballard, and economist Timothy Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute, The Press reported.

The group is expected to discuss education budgets, state tax and revenue structures and reforms in the organization and delivery of education, according to The Press.

SOURCES:
The Grand Rapids Press, "State Board of Education says school finance problems require urgent solutions, calls for bipartisan help," Jan. 9, 2010

The Grand Rapids Press, "State Race to the Top plan calls for new evaluations for teachers, interventions for failing schools," Jan. 9, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Are schools underfunded?" Nov. 23, 2009


HEALTH INSURANCE DATABASE NOW ONLINE


MIDLAND, Mich. - The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has posted an online database that reports how much individual public school districts spend on employee health insurance.

The database includes 2008-2009 health insurance costs as reported to the Mackinac Center by more than 95 percent of Michigan school districts, Mackinac Center Director of Education Policy Michael Van Beek said in making the announcement. The Mackinac Center also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

School employee health insurance collectively costs taxpayers $2 billion per year across the state.  The database lists each district's health plans, plan provider, monthly premium cost, employee contribution and number of enrollees.

The 2008-09 average annual premium for 602 family plans offered to teachers was $15,786, and the average annual employee contribution to these plans was $665, or 4.2 percent, according to the Mackinac Center. Teachers in 301 districts make no contribution to the cost of their own insurance premium.

Conversely, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average family premium in Michigan in 2008 was $11,321. On average, employees contribute $2,522, or 22 percent, to the cost of their own monthly premium.

"Rising health insurance costs combined with declining enrollment and state-based tax revenue makes it imperative for schools to explore new ways of reducing employee insurance costs," Van Beek said. "This database can assist school districts in that endeavor."

SOURCES:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Health Insurance Information for More than 500 Michigan School Districts Available Online," Jan. 6, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan School District Health Insurance."

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Chesaning: MESSA costs up," Jan. 4, 2010


PRIVATE STUDENTS LOSE AID, TOO


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - While the end of the Michigan Promise scholarship program grabbed most of the headlines last fall, students at the state's private universities saw a similar reduction, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The state cut the Tuition Grant Program that offered up to $2,100 per student to private college enrollees, affecting nearly half the student body at Davenport College and about one- third of enrollees at Baker College, The Press reported.

Davenport's total grant was reduced from $6.4 million to $3 million and Baker's from $20.9 million to $3 million, The Press reported. Grants to all other private universities combined were reduced from $29.3 million to $25.6 million. The awards are given based on need; colleges now are likely to award less per student or tighten eligibility, according to The Press. Graduate students are no longer eligible for any assistance.

Edward Blews, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, told The Press that the grants save taxpayers millions of dollars.

The state spends an average of $5,700 per student on public colleges, he said. If the 40,000 students receiving private- school grants last year moved to public universities, it could cost taxpayers $228 million in state aid, he said.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "College students at two schools — Davenport and Baker — are taking the brunt of Lansing cuts to aid program," Jan. 3, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When We Should Break a Promise," July 2, 2009


HURON TO APPLY FOR BONDS


NEW BOSTON, Mich. - Huron Schools will apply for $9.8 million in federal stimulus funds for new classrooms, technology and other improvements, according to The Monroe News.

The interest-free loans are available under the Federal Recovery and Stabilization Act of 2009. About $325 million in bonds is available to school districts in Michigan, The News reported; each district can apply for up to $15 million in aid.

Huron Schools would add six classrooms to Miller Elementary and upgrade its gym and cafeteria, and the high school and junior high school would be the site of varied improvements, including swimming pool repair and converting a lab into classrooms, according to The News.

The district would have to repay the principal amount of the loan, but with no added interest, The News reported.

SOURCE:
The Monroe News, "Huron eyes stimulus for upgrades," Jan. 9, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: Revenue Sources," May 30, 2007


MICHIGAN EDUATION 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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