Contents of this issue:


  • Michigan 21st in 'Race to the Top'
  • Bill would require spending fund equity
  • Charter high school to close
  • Construction, closings in Detroit
  • MEA won't let Riverview open contract

MICHIGAN 21ST IN 'RACE TO THE TOP'   


LANSING, Mich. - Michigan lost points in the "Race to the Top" competition when teachers unions declined to sign on, officials who reviewed the applications reported, according to The Detroit News.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that Delaware and Tennessee were the only first-round winners; Michigan placed 21st among 40 applicants.

The reviewers noted that, while most local school boards in Michigan agreed to support the state's education reform plans, the Michigan Education Association and most local teachers unions did not, according to The News.

"Teacher union buy-in is extremely important to the effective implementation of several of the RTTT goals," the reviewer comments said in part, according to The News.

The technical review form also indicates that Michigan lost points in the areas of improving student outcomes, alternative teacher certification and implementing data systems.

Tennessee and Delaware will receive cash awards of $500 million and $100 million, respectively. Approximately $3.4 billion remains in the "Race to the Top" fund, and Michigan officials have said they will apply again in the second round of competition this summer.

SOURCES: 
The Detroit News, "Michigan 21st in push for Race to the Top aid," March 29, 2010

U.S. Department of Education, "Race to the Top, Technical Review Form - Tier 1, Michigan Application #3600 MI1"

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Nicely played, MEA! Race to the Top is starting to look like a fiasco," March 9, 2010


BILL WOULD REQUIRE SPENDING FUND EQUITY


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - State lawmakers are considering a plan to withhold state funding from public school districts that have set aside what lawmakers think is too much fund equity, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The legislation would trim aid from any district in which general fund equity amounts to more than 15 percent of annual expenditures.

While supporters, including the Michigan Education Association, say the state should force districts to spend savings above that level, opponents say the plan would punish districts for being frugal, The Press reported.

Intermediate school districts are under particular scrutiny, The Press reported. The Ottawa Area Intermediate School District had fund reserves totaling $6.3 million, or 86 percent of its annual expenditures of $7.5 million, according to a House Fiscal Agency report, The Press reported.

Superintendent Karen McPhee told The Press that the percentage has dropped to 60 percent and will drop to 30 percent in the future, due to declining property tax revenue.

Statewide, public school reserves total $1.1 billion, with $154 million of that above the 15 percent threshold, according to The Press.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Michigan lawmakers consider penalties for school districts with big savings," March 25, 2010

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan Votes, "2010 House Bill 5963 (Limit school district fund balances)," March 17, 2010


CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL TO CLOSE


MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Morey Public School Academy is closing its high school program at the end of the school year, according to The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun.

School officials said the school could not offer a quality academic program with enrollment at just 63 students in ninth through twelfth grades, The Sun reported.

"For eight years, it has been a question of whether we can continue," school board member Megan Goodwin said, according to The Sun. She said the high school was designed for about 40 students per grade, but the lower enrollment meant significantly less state funding.

The Sun described some parents and students as "devastated." The school will continue its prekindergarten through eighth-grade programs, which will feature a Montessori-style approach in the lower grades, The Sun reported.

SOURCE:
The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, "Morey to close high school," March 22, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Charter students growing up," Nov. 14, 2007


CONSTRUCTION, CLOSINGS IN DETROIT


DETROIT - Detroit Public Schools is accepting proposals for new high school construction while also conducting a series of public forums on plans to close 42 buildings, according to media reports.

The district has issued a request for proposals for construction of a new, 185,000-square-foot Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School to open in the fall of 2011, according to Crain's Detroit Business. The school will house 1,200 students and include a swimming pool, gymnasium and community health center, Crain's reported.

In a separate report, the Detroit Free Press said that parents and students warned of gang violence, transportation problems and a shift to suburban or charter schools if the district carries out plans to close as many as 42 buildings by next year.

Many who attended a community forum asked the district's emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, to spare their particular school, the Free Press reported.

Bobb warned that the schools collectively have thousands of empty seats and that some must close, though he agreed to meet with parents, according to the Free Press. A final decision is expected by mid-April, following nine community forums.

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "DPS parents, kids make case for saving schools," March 30, 2010

Crain's Detroit Business, "Detroit Public Schools solicit bids for new high school construction," March 26, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Case for Private School Choice in Detroit," March 22, 2010


MEA WON'T LET RIVERVIEW OPEN CONTRACT


RIVERVIEW, Mich. - The Michigan Education Association will not allow teachers in the Riverview Community School District to open their contract to consider a pay freeze, The (Southgate) News-Herald reported.

All other district employees have agreed to a freeze in the coming year, The News-Herald reported, but Riverview Education Association President William Beson told the school board that the MEA believes the district "should be able to meet its obligations as far as the REA contract is concerned."

The MEA does not have a process under which local unions can appeal such decisions, Beson told the school board, The News- Herald reported.

Board Vice President Kathleen Bosman said that, according to the MEA, the district should have been making budget cuts in recent years, The News-Herald reported. The district has relied on fund equity to cover its spending, the report said.

The district now is considering increased class sizes, potential layoffs, closing a pool and reductions in extracurricular programs, The News-Herald reported.

"The shocking part is that our teachers were not even given an opportunity to vote on this," Bosman said, according to The News-Herald.

SOURCE:
The (Southgate) News-Herald, "RIVERVIEW: School district notifying 36 teachers of possible layoffs," March 27, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "'Cause You Know It Don't Matter Anyway: Why the MEA Keeps Going Too Far," March 30, 2010


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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