Contents of this issue:


  • DPS willing to sell to charter operators
  • Retirement takes bigger chunk of school budgets
  • Total enrollment down, but some schools gain
  • Parents say volunteer policy is unfair
  • Baltimore may eliminate 'step' increases

DPS WILLING TO SELL TO CHARTER OPERATORS


DETROIT — Legacy Charter Academy opened this fall at the site of the former Atkinson Elementary School in Detroit, demonstrating a policy shift at Detroit Public Schools to allow selling closed buildings to charter school operators, according to The Detroit News.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb approved selling 11 buildings to charter operators and others during his first year on the job, The News reported, including National Heritage Academies, which operates Legacy Academy. No buildings were sold in the year prior to that, although the district has closed 150 schools in the past decade, according to The News.

"It really is a new day" for the district, real estate developer Joel Landy told The News. Landy owns three former district schools, according to the report. "They are for the first time selling them to charter schools because there's no other agenda other than educating kids and that's an amazing thing."

School district spokesman Steven Wasko told The News that the former policy of refusing to sell to charters did nothing to slow down charter growth in the city, while school board member Russ Bellant called it a "bad policy change."

New charter schools weaken the nearby public schools and contribute to the loss of enrollment revenue, Bellant told The News.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "DPS schools get new life as charters," Oct. 2, 2010

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


RETIREMENT TAKES BIGGER CHUNK OF SCHOOL BUDGETS


LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. — Michigan public school districts began paying higher retirement contributions for their employees in October and will see a second increase in November as a lawsuit over retiree health care plays out, according to media reports.

The amount districts pay into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System moved from 16.94 percent to 19.41 percent of payroll in October and will increase to 20.66 percent in November, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

One reason for the increase is a lawsuit over a new requirement that school employees contribute 3 percent of their salaries toward retiree health care, the Press & Argus reported. A judge has ordered an injunction in that case which puts the employee contributions in escrow until the case is resolved, The (Adrian) Daily Telegram reported.  

The payroll contribution might be reduced if the injunction is lifted or if the employee contributions ultimately can be used, according to a memo from the Michigan Office of Retirement Services, The Daily Telegram reported.

SOURCES:
Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "Districts see little assistance in budget," Oct. 1, 2010

The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, "Michigan public schools hit with another pension cost increase," Oct. 1, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MEA Lawsuit on Retiree Health Benefits Misguided, Aug. 9, 2010


TOTAL ENROLLMENT DOWN, BUT SOME SCHOOLS GAIN


MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Total enrollment in public schools is down by 800 students in Muskegon County and 700 in Saginaw County, but some districts and charter public schools have seen gains, according to media reports.

Officials pointed to lack of jobs and smaller families as reasons for the overall decline, according to The Muskegon Chronicle and The Saginaw News.

Enrollment shifts were apparent in Saginaw, where nine districts said enrollment had fallen, but four districts and three charter public schools reported gains, according to The News.

At the International Academy of Saginaw, a charter public school, director Christi A. Seiple-Cole agreed that one reason for the academy's 24 percent enrollment increase might be that parents are leaving schools that have been named "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools" by the state, The News reported. There are four such schools in the Saginaw area, according to The News.

In Muskegon County, 11 of 16 public school districts and charter schools reported lower enrollment, including a 16 percent decline in Muskegon Heights Public Schools, The Chronicle reported.

Muskegon Public Schools enrollment was boosted when Three Oaks Academy, a charter public school, decided to stop offering grades six, seven and eight, the report said. The academy reported an enrollment decline of 137 students.

SOURCES:
The Muskegon Chronicle, "Muskegon County schools lose 800 students as families move out," Sept. 30, 2010

The Saginaw News, "In Chesaning and Saginaw County, student enrollment down from last year," Oct. 2, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Common School Funding Myths," Sept. 7, 2010


PARENTS SAY VOLUNTEER POLICY IS UNFAIR


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Individuals with a felony conviction are not allowed to be in-school volunteers in Grand Rapids Public Schools, a policy that some parents say is unfairly distancing them from their children's education, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

A group of parents distributed petitions at a recent open house at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy asking the school board to reconsider, The Press reported. Grand Rapids parents with felony records can attend parent/teacher conferences, but otherwise must be escorted by a principal when inside a school, according to The Press.

The affected parents agree that convicted sex offenders should not be allowed to volunteer, The Press reported, but object to the same ban for such offenses as writing a bad check at any time in the past.

Officials in other districts told The Press that they may or may not limit volunteerism based on felony convictions, depending on the circumstances of each case.

A local church has offered to help parents who are non-violent offenders pay the legal cost of having their records expunged, the report said.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Parents with felony convictions want to volunteer at Grand Rapids school," Sept. 15, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Superintendent: Teacher behavior 'deplorable,'" Oct. 16, 2009


BALTIMORE MAY ELIMINATE 'STEP' INCREASES


BALTIMORE — "Step" increases may be erased in Baltimore public schools in favor of a contract that pays teachers partly according to students' performance and gives them more input on working conditions, according to the Baltimore Sun. A ratification vote is planned this month.

The Sun described the new pay structure as "radical." City teachers would receive a 2 percent pay increase the first year, but increases of 1 percent and 1.5 percent in the next two years would depend on student performance, teacher evaluations and any courses educators have taken to improve instruction, according to the Sun.

The contract also calls for provisions which allow 80 percent of teachers in a school to help set working conditions not already specified in the contract, such as more planning time, the report said.

By the end of the contract in 2012, a standard teacher could earn up to $53,400, a professional teacher as much as $84,011, a model teacher up to $92,700 and a lead teacher as much as $100,800, the Sun reported.

SOURCE:
The Baltimore Sun, "City teachers would be able to earn significantly more under new contract," Sept. 29, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Recaps of New Teachers Union Contracts," Sept. 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 med@educationreport.org

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