Contents of this issue:
  • Battle Creek moves to consolidate schools, reduce deficit

  • Detroit schools, union strike early-retirement deal for 200 teachers

  • State school board votes to ask federal government to ease standards

  • Grand Rapids company donates $500,000 in books to district

  • Granholm withdraws proposal to eliminate middle school scholarships

  • Former Grand Rapids school board members seek charter authorizations


BATTLE CREEK MOVES TO CONSOLIDATE SCHOOLS, REDUCE DEFICIT
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The Battle Creek school board was to have heard a proposal last Thursday to consolidate buildings as one option to help relieve the district's $6 million deficit, reported the Battle Creek Enquirer.

The district's financial problems stem from operating inefficiencies, according to Assistant Superintendent Kathy Griffey. "What we have at Battle Creek is a dysfunctional system that's not working for us, but against us," Griffey told the Enquirer. The current size of schools in the district is not effective, added Griffey. "We don't have small schools, we have tiny schools — so tiny they are dysfunctional," she said. According to district officials, each combination of two schools into one could save $365,000 per building.

A facilities task force, composed of over 80 community members, will decide which elementary schools they believe should close or consolidate. The task force held its first meeting in early February and has held two public forums since. Parents, students and other community representatives will be allowed to give their input at a public meeting on Mar. 17; the district is expected to make its decision on Mar. 21.

SOURCES:
Battle Creek Enquirer, "School proposal moves ahead," Mar. 10, 2005
http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050310/NEWS01/503100302/1002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3683

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Districts: Is Less More?" July 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3544

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," December 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4891


DETROIT SCHOOLS, UNION STRIKE EARLY-RETIREMENT DEAL FOR 200 TEACHERS
DETROIT — Approximately 200 teachers have accepted an early-retirement deal that was struck between the Detroit school district and the local school employees' union in a bid to reduce the district's $200 million deficit, according to the Detroit News.

District and union officials had originally planned to have those teachers retire during winter break, but an agreement was not completed in time. Teachers who have accepted the deal will leave at the end of this month, which some parents called untimely and awkward. "In an ideal world we would have wanted to time this better ... with a more natural break," Debra Williams, chief human resources officer of the Detroit Public Schools, told the News. According to Detroit Federation of Teachers President Janna Garrison, officials began work on the deal last May.

The move will save the district an unknown amount, as officials have not completed final details of the deal. Additionally, district officials had initially hoped 500 teachers would take advantage of the deal, but, said Williams, "Even a few million dollars ... in an already strapped budget, you have to do it."

SOURCES:
Detroit News, "200 Detroit teachers to go in April," Mar. 10, 2005
http://www.detnews.com/2005/schools/0503/10/C01-113235.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Government Encouragement," February 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6988

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The $200 Million Question," January 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6947

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Ironic Choices," November 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6895

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Playing Monopoly With Detroit's Kids," July 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6688


STATE SCHOOL BOARD VOTES TO ASK FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO EASE STANDARDS
LANSING, Mich. — The State Board of Education voted last week to ask the federal government to relax standards mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in order to keep many Michigan schools off the U.S. Department of Education's "failing" schools list, reported Booth Newspapers on Friday.

The board's unanimous vote called on the Education Department to ease federal requirements for the state of Michigan. Under the current requirements, 1,444 schools will likely fail to meet federal standards, up from 861 this year, according to Booth. If the changes are accepted, just 762 schools will not meet Adequate Yearly Progress, or about 21 percent of schools statewide.

The changes requested by the board include a variability for error in calculating AYP, adding a provisional status for schools that initially fail to meet AYP, and altering testing requirements for students in special education. "For the purposes of meeting AYP, we're going to give schools the benefit of the doubt," said acting state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jeremy Hughes.

SOURCES:
Booth Newspapers, "Michigan asks for changes so more schools meet federal standards," Mar. 9, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/statewide/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1110366610203080.xml

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4082

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4846


GRAND RAPIDS COMPANY DONATES $500,000 IN BOOKS TO DISTRICT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Children's Publishing Division of Frank Schaffer Publications announced it would donate $500,000 worth of books and related materials to the Grand Rapids public school district, reported the Grand Rapids Press.

The company first asked the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation for a list of books the foundation thought would meet the district's needs, according to the Press. "We sell things all over the country, but Grand Rapids is our back yard, and we wanted to help the people right here," said Children's Publishing Division publisher Gary Richardson.

The impact of the donation will be noticeable, said Foundation Executive Director Susan Heartwell. "This is going to have a huge impact on our classroom literacy efforts," she told the Press. "Almost every class will be touched in some way by this company's generosity."

SOURCES:
Grand Rapids Press, "Company gives GRPS $500,000 in books, other literacy materials," Mar. 12, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-20/1110626170324420.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits," April 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4191


GRANHOLM WITHDRAWS PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE MIDDLE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS
LANSING, Mich. — In a reversal of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's position staked out earlier this year to eliminate scholarship awards to students who successfully complete the middle school MEAP tests, spokeswoman Liz Boyd announced Friday that the administration would support funding for the scholarships.

According to the Jackson Citizen-Patriot, many parents whose children had qualified for the scholarships — up to $500 for passing the middle school MEAP tests — were sent letters that confirm their children would receive the money. In her earlier statements supporting elimination of the scholarships, Gov. Granholm said the students who qualified could not be tracked by the state.

Critics of Granholm's plan to eliminate the scholarship, including some Republican legislators, told the Citizen-Patriot that her reversal would be beneficial for Michigan students. Granholm should be applauded for "deciding to do the right thing when it comes to honoring the promise made to thousands of hardworking kids in Michigan," said House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi.

SOURCES:
Jackson Citizen-Patriot, "Granholm reverses on scholarships," Mar. 12, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/jacitpat/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1110625533281650.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6980

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3683


FORMER GRAND RAPIDS SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS SEEK CHARTER AUTHORIZATIONS
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Two former Grand Rapids school board members have formed a charter school management company they hope will obtain authorization to open competitive schools throughout the city, according to the Grand Rapids Press.

The company, Classical Education Inc., has been in talks with St. James Catholic School to consider converting it to a charter school, as the school is currently struggling, according to the Press. Jeff Steinport, co-founder of the company, said he believes opening charters would be beneficial for students in Grand Rapids. "Competition makes everybody better, so I think we should all look forward to it," said Steinport, who served one term on the Grand Rapids school board.

Though Grand Rapids Superintendent Bert Bleke questioned the company's motivation for opening charters, School Board President Dave Allen said he was not surprised by the move, and welcomed the competitive challenge. "Bring it on," he told the Press. "We're building a great school system here in the city of Grand Rapids, and time will bear out which institution stays and which institution goes away."

SOURCES:
Grand Rapids Press, "GR school leaders question charter bid," Mar. 14, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-20/111081513886150.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When Will Conventional Public Schools Be As Accountable as Charters?" July 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6684

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4864


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at
med@educationreport.org.

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