MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST July 20, 2010

High-deductible switch, data collection ruling


Contents of this issue:


  • Court: Data collection law unconstitutional
  • Schools consolidate business, technology
  • Tuition up, but so is enrollment
  • Holland workers move to high-deductible plan
  • Federal grant will cover school demolition

COURT: DATA COLLECTION REQUIREMENT UNCONSTITUTIONAL


LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court ruled last week that the state violated its own law by requiring public school districts to collect data for the Center for Educational Performance and Information without paying them for the work, according to an Associated Press report posted at mlive.com

In a 4-3 decision, the court said that a 2000 executive order and subsequent law was unconstitutional because lawmakers did not arrange for the state to cover costs, AP reported. The appeal centered on the extent to which districts had to demonstrate additional costs.

The majority opinion said that the costs were not minimal, though the three dissenting justices said that the plaintiff districts did not offer specific proof of actual costs, according to AP. The Michigan Department of Education had no comment, AP reported. 

SOURCES:
The Associated Press, "Court: Data mandate on Michigan schools is illegal," July 14, 2010 

Michigan Supreme Court, "Opinion No 137234," July 14, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Data-driven in Michigan," April 21, 2008


SCHOOLS CONSOLIDATE BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Five northern Kent County school districts anticipate jointly saving at least $430,000 in the coming fiscal year by consolidating certain business and technology services, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Comstock Park, Cedar Springs, Sparta, Kent City and Kenowa Hills plan to share payroll, accounts payable and technology services through the Kent Intermediate School District, reducing labor costs in those areas by about 50 percent, The Press reported. Other public school districts may join later, according to the report.

While larger districts like Grand Rapids Public Schools or Forest Hills would see less financial or efficiency benefits from sharing employees, the practice can help smaller districts significantly, Forest Hills Superintendent Dan Behm told The Press. Behm is chairman of the KISD Superintendents Collaboration Committee.

Several administrators told The Press that sharing business functions allows them to direct more money to classroom instruction.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, “Five northern Kent County school districts consolidate business, technology services to save money,” July 2, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, “Shared services may be in schools’ future,” Oct. 14, 2009


TUITION UP, BUT SO IS ENROLLMENT


DETROIT — Community colleges in metro Detroit are raising tuition to compensate for declining property tax revenue, a move that so far has not dampened enrollment, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Tuition at Wayne County Community College District is up by 16 percent, while Macomb and Oakland community colleges have increased rates by 11 percent, the Free Press reported. Property tax revenue in Wayne County is projected to have declined by 20 percent from 2009 to 2010, the Free Press reported.

Still, community college tuition rates remain substantially lower than rates at a four-year college or university, according to the report.

“It’s the best deal in town,” Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association, told the Free Press, one reason that enrollment is up by 20 percent over the past five years.

In addition to raising tuition, community colleges are considering offering fewer courses, asking alumni for donations and seeking foundation grants as ways to reduce costs and increase revenue, the Free Press reported.

SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, “Community college tuition - and enrollment - go up,” July 14, 2010

FURTHER READING
Michigan Education Digest, “Salary survey under way,” June 19, 2010


HOLLAND WORKERS MOVE TO HIGH-DEDUCTIBLE PLAN


HOLLAND, Mich. — Support staff employees in Holland Public Schools will switch to a high-deductible health care plan under the terms of a new, three-year contract, leaving behind the health plan provided through a union affiliate, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The employees formerly were enrolled in a health plan administered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association, The Press reported. The new plan is provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

"Everyone at the table was sensitive to the economic times currently impacting our community," Steve Grose, board of education president, said in a press release, The Press reported.

Support staff members will not receive a pay raise in the 2009-2010 contract year, but will receive 1 percent in 2010-2011 and will receive one or two additional vacation days in lieu of pay raises in 2011-2012, according to the report.

Superintendent Brian Davis has said that MESSA insurance rates in the district have increased 52 percent over the past four years, while non-MESSA insurance rates have gone down 22 or 32 percent, depending on employee group, The Press reported.

Holland Education Association President Geoff Legg told The Press that MESSA rates increased more than usual this year, but have seen minimal increases previously, The Press reported.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, “School support staff in Holland agrees to dump MESSA for high deductible health insurance,” July 15, 2010

FURTHER READING
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Districts Save With Health Savings Accounts,” June 29, 2010


FEDERAL GRANT WILL COVER SCHOOL DEMOLITION


TAYLOR, Mich. — The city of Taylor will use Community Development Block Grant federal funding to demolish three unused school buildings owned by the Taylor School District, according to The (Southgate) News-Herald.

School board President John Reilly said the city had intended to purchase one of the elementary buildings as a future park site, but that the anticipated cost of asbestos removal made funding difficult to attain, The News-Herald reported. Subsequently, the city received approval to add the demolition projects to its federal grant.

The district will retain ownership of the three sites, and Reilly said they will remain vacant for now, The News-Herald reported.

No demolition date has been set.

SOURCE:
The (Southgate) News-Herald, “Taylor: District to demolish three school buildings,” July 15, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Schools for sale," Aug. 15, 2007


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 med@educationreport.org

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