MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST August 10, 2010

Edujobs, i3 grants, MESSA competition


Contents of this issue:


  • 'Edujobs' relies on cutting other programs
  • College president says MPSERS too costly
  • Grantees say they'll spend money in Michigan
  • School leaders: MESSA facing more competition
  • Summer school at farmers market

'EDUJOBS' RELIES ON CUTTING OTHER PROGRAMS


WASHINGTON, D.C. — An "edujobs" bill that is largely expected to win approval today would shift money from other education and food assistance programs into a $10 billion teachers' job fund and Medicaid payments to states, according to various media reports.

Supporters say the bill would ward off public school teacher layoffs, according to The Grand Rapids Press. But critics point out that the funding comes from other programs intended to serve students and that teachers unions are among the beneficiaries.

Union officials said that legislators who vote against the measure can expect repercussions during fall elections, according to one report.

Citing information from Education Week, the Press reported that the bill takes $50 million from the Striving Readers adolescent literacy program, $10 million from the Ready to Teach program and $82 million from student financial aid administration.

The Washington Independent reported that the bill, which increases Medicaid payments to states, also relies on rolling back benefits in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as of 2014. Those benefits were increased under the federal stimulus program, it reported.

The Michigan-based Education Action Group said that the bill would effectively funnel money to teachers unions, estimating the amount at about $36 million for the National Education Association and $14 million for the American Federation of Teachers, The Press reported.

Several major unions said they will campaign against legislators who vote against the measure, according to The Hill.

SOURCES:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Edujobs bill closer to clearing Senate, though critics argue unions, not students, gain," Aug. 4, 2010

The Washington Independent, "Senate Makes Further Cuts to Food Stamps to Pay for Medicaid, Edujobs," Aug. 4, 2010

The Hill, "Teachers' unions plan to rev up recess action to protect Dem majority," Aug. 8, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Policy Analyst Reaction: The Teacher Salary Bailout," May 30, 2010


COLLEGE PRESIDENT SAYS MPSERS TOO COSTLY


ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Washtenaw Community College could save about $1 million a year by removing 1,100 part-time employees from the payroll and rehiring them as contract employees, an idea that President Larry Whitworth has recommended to the board of trustees, according to AnnArbor.com.

The change would mean the college would no longer contribute to the state retirement system on behalf of those employees, according to the report.

Whitworth told AnnArbor.com that he also supports Senate Bill 802, a separate plan that would allow the college to enroll all new employees in a defined contribution retirement plan rather than the current defined benefit plan managed by the state.

The college will have to pay $9.8 million into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System this year, up from about $3 million a decade ago, AnnArbor.com reported.

Brit Satchwell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, told AnnArbor.com that if community colleges opt out of the state retirement system, then the K-12 school system would have to pay more in order to provide the promised benefits.

SOURCE:
AnnArbor.com, "Washtenaw Community College considers converting part-time faculty to contract employees to avoid state pension contribution," Aug. 7, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "15 Specific Ideas to Move Michigan Forward," June 7, 2010

Michigan Votes, 2009 Senate Bill 802 (Not include community college employees in school retirement system).


GRANTEES SAY THEY'LL SPEND MONEY IN MICHIGAN


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two reform groups that stand to receive a combined $48 million in federal "i3" innovation grants intend to spend part of their money in Michigan public schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The department on Thursday named Johns Hopkins University and California-based WestEd as two of 49 i3 winners, though final awards depend on whether each winner can secure a required 20 percent private matching grant, the press release said.

Johns Hopkins University reported that it already has secured matching funds for its $30 million award, and that it will use part of the money to bring its "Diplomas Now" program to selected Detroit Public Schools high schools and their feeder middle schools.

The goal of the program is to attain an 80 percent high school graduation rate and a 30 percent reduction in the number of middle-schoolers who arrive at high school behind grade level, the university stated in its application.

WestEd plans to use its $18 million award to implement the "Reading Apprentice-ship" program in 300 schools in four states, including Michigan, its application said.

The program focuses on professional development for teachers in English, biology and history as a means to improve student literacy. The application names the Livingston and Washtenaw intermediate school districts as partners, as well as Lincoln Consolidated, Willow Run and the Ypsilanti school districts.

SOURCE:
U.S. Department of Education, "Nation's Boldest Education Reform Plans to Receive Federal Innovation Grants Once Private Match is Secured," Aug. 5, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Underfunded Myth," June 2, 2010


SCHOOL LEADERS: MESSA FACING MORE COMPETITION


JACKSON, Mich. — The number of school districts moving out of its insurance plans is forcing the Michigan Education Special Services Association to offer more competitive pricing and varied health plans, school administrators told The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Support staff employees or administrative employee groups in three Jackson-area school districts have agreed to switch to a different provider in order to save money, The Citizen Patriot reported. Those districts may ask teachers to do the same, the report said.

MESSA is a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association; it sells Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan health insurance packages to a majority of Michigan public school districts.

MESSA spokesman Gary Fralick told The Citizen Patriot that MESSA lost about 2,000 members in the past year, partly due to school district downsizing. The association is prepared to compete with other providers, Fralick told The Citizen Patriot.

"I think MESSA's going to have to lower their premiums and make it more affordable to districts," Northwest school board President Chris Kelly told The Citizen Patriot.

SOURCE:

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Is this the beginning of the end for MESSA?" July 31, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Rate hike takes up most of savings," May 7, 2010


SUMMER SCHOOL AT FARMERS MARKET


WYOMING, Mich. — Summer school is in session at the farmers market in Wyoming this year, where students practice math by making change and develop social skills by waiting on customers, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Students from nine summer school sites in four area public school districts are taking turns staffing the booth each week at the Metro Health market, selling a variety of handcrafted items and foods, The Press reported.

It's the first time some students have ever visited a farm market, Courtney Stevens, a program coordinator, told The Press.

Nine-year-old Luis Suarez told The Press that the 25-cent magnets were big sellers, "because they're beautiful and shiny."

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Farmers market summer school teaches Wyoming students math, marketing, social skills," Aug. 2, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Eating veggies in Taylor," May 16, 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 med@educationreport.org

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