Contents of this issue:


  • MEA payroll up; Salters approaching $300,000
  • California parents demand switch to charter
  • Owosso eyes salary, benefit cuts to resolve deficit
  • Survey: Social studies teachers agree on content, not impact
  • Weak dollar brings in foreign students

MEA payroll up; Salters approaching $300,000


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan Education Association President Iris Salters received total compensation of nearly $300,000 in the latest year on record, according to a report in The Grand Rapids Press.

In a separate report, Michigan Capitol Confidential said that MEA disbursements to officers and employees rose 31 percent in the past five years, while membership declined by 10,000, or about 6 percent.

Michigan Capitol Confidential and Michigan Education Digest are published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Critics said the numbers show that the union is out of touch with the average Michigan teacher, whose salary is around $56,000, but a union spokesman told The Press that the amounts are in line with what other executive leaders receive.

The salary figures were taken from a U.S. Labor Department filing. MEA members pay 1.5 percent of their salaries as dues, capped at $620 a year, The Press reported.

"This is further proof that the union leadership continues to be out of touch with its rank-and-file, dues-paying members," Education Action Group Vice President Kyle Olson said in a release, The Press reported.

“Our people are leading a huge, multi-million dollar operation, one of the largest unions in the state, and are compensated accordingly,” Doug Pratt, the MEA's public affairs director, told The Press.

MEA “net assets” worsened from a negative $124 million a year ago to a negative $132 million this year. Pratt told The Press that the deficit reflects money owed to future retirees.

SOURCES:
The Grand Rapids Press, “Watchdog group says MEA executive earning nearly $300,000 is out of touch with teachers,” Dec. 8, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Fat Years for State’s Big Teacher Union,” Dec. 13, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Association, “Union Spending in Michigan: A Review of Union Financial Disclosure Reports,” Aug. 28, 2008


California Parents Demand Switch to Charter


COMPTON, Calif. — California parents have become the first to use a so-called “parent trigger” law to force radical change at their children’s failing school, according to an Associated Press report published by the San Diego Union Tribune.

Sixty-two percent of the parents at McKinley Elementary School signed a petition demanding it be changed to a charter public school, AP reported, exceeding the 51 percent required by law. The law allows parents may choose the reform they want — conversion to a charter school, replacing the principal and staff, budget reform or even closure, AP reported.

The campus ranks in the bottom 10 percent of California's elementary schools, according to AP.

Parent leader Ismenia Guzman, whose daughter attends McKinley, told AP: "Us parents, we care. I don't want our kids struggling in poor schools."

California was the first state in the nation to adopt a parent-trigger law, according to AP. The report said that New Jersey and Michigan are considering parent-trigger laws, but did not elaborate.

SOURCE:
San Diego Union Tribune, “CA parents use new law to demand school turnaround,” Dec. 7, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “A recipe for failing schools,” Aug. 27, 2009


Owosso Eyes Salary, Benefit Cuts to Resolve Deficit


OWOSSO, Mich. — Personnel expenditures account for 89 percent of the budget in Owosso Public Schools, so that’s where the district will look to resolve a projected $5 million deficit over the next two years, according to The (Owosso) Argus-Press.

The district must submit a deficit elimination plan to the state by Dec. 15, The Argus-Press reported. A draft plan calls for reducing salary costs 15 percent, reducing benefit costs 33 percent and decreasing costs in other areas by 5 percent, board trustee General Grant said, according to The Argus-Press.

Employee contracts expire on June 30, 2011, The Argus-Press reported.

The district expects to finish the 2010-2011 fiscal year in the red by about $600,000, while the projected deficit in 2011-2012 is $4.6 million, according to The Argus-Press.

“There’s a lot of ways to get it to 15 percent without necessarily whacking everybody’s wages by 15 percent,” Washington Elementary Principal Mark Erickson said regarding reducing salary costs, according to The Argus-Press.

SOURCE:
The (Owosso) Argus-Press, “Owosso school board ponders big cuts to employee costs,” Dec. 9, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Funding Myths


Study: Social Studies Teachers Agree on Content, Not Impact


GERMANTOWN, Md. — Public and private school teachers agree on what students should learn in social studies classes, but private school teachers appear more confident that the lessons are getting through, according to a new study.

The December issue of CAPE Outlook reported on the study, titled “High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do.” The study was conducted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Program on American Citizenship.

All teachers surveyed held similar views on the importance of specific content, such as “tolerance of people and groups who are different,” and “instilling good work habits,” CAPE Outlook reported. But private school teachers were significantly more likely to say they felt confident the students had mastered the content, the report said.

Private school teachers also were more likely than public school teachers to say their school considered social studies “absolutely essential” by 68 percent to 45 percent, the study showed, according to CAPE Outlook.

CAPE Outlook is the monthly newsletter of the Council for American Private Education.

SOURCE:
CAPE Outlook, “Social Studies Teachers Agree on Content, Not Results,” December 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, “Private Schools Cope with Weak Economy,” May 26, 2010


Weak Dollar Brings in Foreign Students


LANSING — The weak American dollar has translated into higher international enrollment at Michigan colleges and universities, officials told The Macomb Daily. The nonprofit Institute for International Education said the number of international students nationwide is up by 3 percent from a year ago, The Daily said.

Northern Michigan University has seen a 15 percent increase this year, which an official attributed to a new agreement on transfer credits with a Chinese university and to a weak dollar relative to other currencies.

“So while it’s bad for us to have such a poor economy, it’s actually great for our education system because we get more international students,” Rehema Clarken, coordinator of international students and scholars at NMU, told The Daily.

Grand Valley State University had a record 322 international students this year, an official told The Daily.

“They don’t get discounted tuition, so these students are paying as much or more than the domestic students to attend the university,” Mark Schaub, executive director of the Padnos International Center, told The Daily. The students also add cultural diversity to campus life, he said, according to The Daily.

MSU has seen the number of Chinese undergraduate students rise from 43 in 2005 to more than 1,600 this year, an official told The Daily.

SOURCE:
The Macomb Daily, “Michigan colleges see influx of foreign students,” Dec. 12, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Is College Accessibility Really a Problem?” Oct. 28, 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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