Contents of this issue:


  • Supreme Court to hear education tax credit case
  • Buena Vista must 'restructure'
  • Some say retirement plan won't help much
  • School aid fund has unexpected surplus
  • Charter goal: Produce global citizens

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR EDUCATION TAX CREDIT CASE


PHOENIX, Ariz. - The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the future of an Arizona program allowing tax credits for private and parochial school scholarships, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Since 1997, Arizonians have been allowed a credit against their income taxes for donations to organizations that provide private and parochial K-12 school scholarships, according to the Daily Star.

A federal appeals court ruled in 2009 that the program was unconstitutional, saying it resulted in the government supporting and providing favorable financial treatment to religious schools, the Daily Star reported. The 9th Circuit Court found it objectionable that some of the organizations only grant scholarships to families if they agree to send their children to a religious school, according to the Daily Star.

The program's supporters argued that many entities offer scholarships only to specific schools and that in this case taxpayers, not government, direct the money to the chosen organization, he Daily Star reported.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in early November.

The Daily Star reported that in 2008, the latest tax year for which numbers were available, the state's residents donated

$55.2 million to scholarship organizations, while corporations donated an additional $10.8 million under a similar tax credit program.

SOURCE:
The Arizona Daily Star, "Private-school money to get high court look," May 25, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Education Reform in a Fiscal Crisis," March 19, 2010


BUENA VISTA MUST 'RESTRUCTURE'


BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Consistently poor academic performance will require Buena Vista High School to be "restructured," though officials aren't saying exactly how, according to The Saginaw News.

The high school has not made "adequate yearly progress" for five consecutive years as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, according to The News.  The school dropout rate was 19.6 percent in 2009, and the graduation rate was 56.7 percent, The News reported. About 6 percent of juniors taking the MME in 2009 reached "proficiency" in math and about 15 percent in English, according to The News.

New state law offers several restructuring options, including replacing the principal, converting the school to a charter public school, or changing the curriculum and instructional methods, Sharif M. Shakrani, Michigan State University College of Education professor, told The News.

Superintendent Sharron Jenkins Norman did not return phone calls and also canceled a meeting with The News, the paper reported. A district teacher who asked not to be identified told The News that educators have been told the school must develop a restructuring plan.

School board member Randy Jackson told The News that the district is waiting for information from the state and that it hopes to retain local control of the school.

SOURCE:
The Saginaw News, "State, federal mandates call for Buena Vista restructuring," May 23, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "The shell game of making AYP," March 18, 2009


SOME SAY RETIREMENT PLAN WON'T HELP MUCH


LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. - A new school employee retirement plan probably won't bring much extra money into Livingston County schools, officials there told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

The state plan is expected to save money by encouraging higher- paid, more experienced teachers to retire, and then replacing them with beginning teachers at lower wages or not replacing them at all. Employees who do not retire will have to contribute an amount equal to 3 percent of their wages into a retirement health care fund.

However, a number of teachers already have retired under incentives offered by their local districts, leaving fewer eligible to retire under the new state plan, county superintendents told the Press & Argus. Also, one teachers union president told the Press & Argus that the new health care contribution will have ramifications at the bargaining table.

At the Livingston Educational Service Agency, about 88 employees are eligible for the new state incentive and 20 have shown interest, Superintendent Scott Menzel told the Press & Argus. Of those 20, half had already planned to retire, he said.

Mary Aldecoa, president of the Fowlerville Education Association, called the new 3 percent contribution from teachers an "automatic pay cut" and said it would affect current bargaining between the teachers and Fowlerville Community Schools.

Superintendent Dan Danosky told the Press & Argus that while the plan likely won't entice more employees in Pinckney Community Schools to retire, the health care contribution will be of benefit.

SOURCE:
Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "Retirement plan likely won't help area schools," May 21, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The School Employee Concession Myth," May 18, 2010


SCHOOL AID FUND HAS UNEXPECTED SURPLUS


LANSING, Mich. - Surplus money in the School Aid Fund makes it likely that public school districts will not see reductions in 2011 state funding, but neither should they expect reimbursements for this year's $165-per-pupil cut, legislators told WLNS-TV 6.

Higher-than-expected sales tax revenue has helped generate a $348 million surplus in the school fund, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

While 2011 budget talks to date have included suggestions of a $400-per-pupil cut in school funding, Rep. Terry Brown, D- Pigeon, told WLNS, "Right now it's looking very positive that we'll be able to balance this budget without doing further cuts." Brown is chairman of the House K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

Rather than dole out the extra money now, Rep. Chuck Moss, R- Birmingham, told WLNS, "We don't know what the future holds and it's not the time to stop tightening the belt."

SOURCES:
WLNS-TV 6, "More Money May Save Schools," May 19, 2010

Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., "Schools Shouldn't Start Spending Surplus," May 20, 2010 (subscription required)

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding Myths," 2010.


CHARTER GOAL: PRODUCE GLOBAL CITIZENS


LIVONIA, Mich. - Ted Delphia has worked as a school teacher, a school business manager and in information technology, but he's using sales skills to accomplish his next goal: opening a public charter school for Japanese and American children in southeast Michigan.

Delphia describes his idea as meeting three needs within one school: Japanese students temporarily in the United States would have a place to learn English language and culture; American children would have a place to learn Japanese language and culture; and Japanese-American students would have a place to develop and maintain their Japanese heritage and language.

Add a 200-day school year and an academic program that meets the standards of both countries, and Delphia believes the result will be the kind of global citizens that Michigan says it needs.

"Our American children need every opportunity possible to gain an understanding into other parts of the world," Delphia said in an interview with Michigan Education Report. Michigan Education Report and Michigan Education Digest are both published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Before the Japanese American School of Southeast Michigan can become reality, Delphia will have to acquire a charter from an authorizing agency. Currently he is in talks with Livonia Public Schools about becoming his authorizer, according to Michigan Education Report.

SOURCE:
Michigan Education Report, "Two languages, two cultures, one global citizen," May 21, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Michigan charter school law," Aug. 4, 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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