Contents of this issue:


  • Pros, cons of social promotion
  • Union: Retirement incentive unfair
  • Judge: District can implement insurance cap
  • Summit ideas include 'spend less,' 'tax more'
  • More homeless students identified

PROS, CONS OF SOCIAL PROMOTION


DETROIT - Social promotion is now banned in Detroit Public Schools, but opinion varies on whether the ban will boost student achievement and at what expense, according to The Detroit News.

DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb signed an executive order last week immediately banning teachers from passing students who are not proficient at their grade level, The News said. School board members called it a political ploy by Bobb to gain more control, but Bobb said it was an effort to do something about academic failure in the district, according to The News.

Bobb said he particularly wants to stop promoting eighth graders to high school if they are not academically proficient, The News reported.

Others, however, said that retention alone will not work unless the student also receives intense academic intervention, according to The News.  Retention also becomes a problem if it creates a large gap in age or maturity among the students in a classroom, educators told The News.

State schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan told The News that school districts should abandon strict grade levels and allow children to progress according to their ability, The News said.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Sweeping social promotion ban could prove costly to DPS," Feb. 13, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," Aug. 31, 2000


UNION: RETIREMENT INCENTIVE UNFAIR


BAY CITY, Mich. - Teachers union officials in Bay City say that a proposal to cut off vision and dental benefits of long-term teachers who don't retire by Oct. 1 is unfair, according to The Bay City Times.

Kevin Stapish of the Bay City Education Association told The Times that, "It is wrong to choose between early retirement and the benefits they've been promised and are looking forward to."

The proposal by Gov. Jennifer Granholm offers about 46,000 public employees — 39,000 of them teachers — a pension boost if they have worked at least 30 years and agree to retire by October, according to the report.

By replacing them with fewer employees, who would earn beginning wages, the Granholm administration estimated the state could save up to $450 million, The Times reported.

Those who do not retire by October would lose dental and vision benefits upon retirement and would begin contributing an additional 3 percent to their retirement fund, according to The Times. Newly hired teachers would have to pay a minimum of 20 percent toward their health care premiums.

SOURCE:
The Bay City Times, "Bay City union calling Granholm's teacher retirement-enhancement unfair," Feb. 11, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Pension Obligation Bonds: Borrowing Our Way to Prosperity?" Feb. 10, 2010


JUDGE: DISTRICT CAN IMPLEMENT INSURANCE CAP


WOODHAVEN, Mich. - A Wayne County Circuit Court judge has ruled that the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District has the right to deduct money from employee paychecks for health insurance premiums, The (Southgate) News Herald reported.

The Woodhaven-Brownstown Education Association had sought to block the move, alleging that the school district improperly imposed the $186 biweekly deduction because the district and teachers union had not reached impasse during contract negotiations, according to The News Herald.

The deductions apply to about 260 of the district's 313 teachers who receive Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance administered through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, according to The News Herald.

Previously, the district paid the full annual MESSA premium of $15,235; now, the district has capped its share at $13,000, with employees paying the difference.

The cap is expected to save the district about $150,000 this year, according to The News Herald.

Superintendent Barbara Lott told The News Herald that the district needs to make long-term structural changes in operations in view of declining revenue. Union officials did not return requests for comment, The News Herald reported.

SOURCE: 
The (Southgate) News Herald, "Woodhaven: Judge says school district can impose insurance cap on teachers," Feb. 9, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Splitting the bill for health insurance," Aug. 19, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School District Health Insurance, 2008-2009 (Database)


SUMMIT IDEAS INCLUDE 'SPEND LESS,' 'TAX MORE'


SAGINAW, Mich. - About 200 school administrators, board members and business representatives gathered for an Education Summit at Saginaw Valley State University recently, where guest panelists made recommendations ranging from reduced spending on school employee health care to a statewide tax on services to a rigorous overhaul of public education, according to Michigan Education Report.

Robert Daddow, deputy Oakland County executive, predicted that at least 60 more school districts will be in deficit by the end of the year, the report said, partly due to the decreasing taxable value of property.

Panelists cited health care and pensions cited as two areas where education costs could be reduced, along with consolidation of services, privatization and expanded online education and dual enrollment.

One panelist proposed that the state adopt a graduated income tax or, alternatively, raise the flat tax on income as a way to generate more revenue for education, Michigan Education Report said.

A representative of the Dow Corning Corp. said public education should adopt certain reform measures first, including performance pay for teachers, business management tools and early attention to learning problems.

Michigan Education Report and Michigan Education Digest are both published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

SOURCE:
Michigan Education Report, "Tax more? Spend less? Reform first?" Feb. 10, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School Databases, "Michigan School District Revenue and Expenditure Reports."


MORE HOMELESS STUDENTS IDENTIFIED


PETOSKEY, Mich. - School districts in the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District are using federal grant funding to better identify and serve homeless students, according to the Petoskey News-Review.

The News-Review reported that an additional 83 students in the intermediate district have been identified as "homeless" since implementation of training on how to identify such students as well as naming a staff person to serve as homeless "liaison" in each district.

Those liaisons can use grant funding to purchase such things as clothing, school supplies and tutoring for displaced students, the News-Review reported.

In Harbor Springs Public Schools, the district also received donations of jackets, ski pants and hats from members of the Christ Child Society of Northern Michigan to help students in need, according to the News-Review.

The funding is awarded through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which guarantees homeless students' right to an education, the News-Review reported.

The article did not define "homeless," but information at the U.S. Department of Education Web site says the act covers "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." That would include those living in such sites as campgrounds, hotels, cars or with other people due to economic hardship or lack of alternative housing.

SOURCES:
Petoskey News-Review, "Child homelessness: A growing problem in Northern Michigan," Feb. 12, 2010

U.S. Department of Education, "Elementary and Secondary Education, Part C: Homeless Education."

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "More kids homeless, schools say," Nov. 19, 2008


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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