Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit Public Schools announces school closings
  • Wait lists for charter schools grow as enrollment soars
  • Lansing area school districts could move election dates
  • Birmingham cracks down on residency fraud
  • Oakridge nonunion employees leave MESSA

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools officials have decided to close 47 schools this summer and close another five in 2008, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The closings are a part of the district's state mandated deficit elimination plan to close 95 schools by 2009. DPS has an enrollment of 119,000, but its 232 buildings can hold more than 180,000 students, The Detroit News reported.

"We really have over 60,000 seats available and no students sitting in them," Darrel A. Rodgers, chief of Facilities Maintenance and Auxiliary Services, told The News. "You can't operate like that."

The closings will affect about 18,000 students and save the district almost $19 million a year.

"The tremendous underutilization of our buildings cannot continue. Spending money on empty spaces is unwise and steals valuable resources from the students and families who have stayed with the district," Superintendent William F. Coleman III said in a plan submitted to the Detroit Public Schools Facilities Committee, according to the Free Press.

The district will have meetings in January and February to measure public response and finalize its decision in the latter part of February, according to The News.

Detroit Free Press, "Officials announce school closings in Detroit," Jan. 5, 2007

The Detroit News, "Detroit schools to list closings," Jan. 4, 2007 701040329

Michigan Education Digest, "Ten alternative schools may close in Detroit," Dec. 19, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools enrollment drops again," Nov. 29, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

DETROIT — Demand for charter public schools is rising and enrollment is at an all-time high, but more parents are finding their children on wait lists because of the state cap on charters, according to The Detroit News.

Michigan's 229 charter schools educate nearly 100,000 students and have seen significant increases in enrollment over the past two years. Charters are in such demand that many citizens are pushing for the removal of the 150-school cap on university-authorized charter public schools, despite disinterest from the new legislature, according to The News.

"We have roughly 50 groups that are interested in starting charter schools, but most of them are waiting on the sidelines because when there are no charters available, you really have to look yourself in the face and wonder why go through the effort," Jim Goenner, executive director of Central Michigan University's Center for Charter Schools, told The News.

There are 10,000 students on the waiting list at CMU's 58 charter schools, according to The News. However, new House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, wants to limit Bay Mills Community College, a major source of new charters in the state, according to The News.

"We need a fair and level playing field between charters and public schools," Dan Farough, spokesman for Dillon, told The News.

Although there is little interest in charter schools from the state Legislature, many parents are still looking for an alternative to conventional public schools, according to The News.

"I want something different for my son — a different type of teaching and learning. He's an excellent student," Marvalena James, the mother of a Detroit Public School student, told The News. She has recently placed him on Detroit University Preparatory Academy's waiting list, which is now stands at 600 students, The News reported. "The school he goes to now is an excellent school, but there's too many things I'm not pleased about. I'll wait as long as it takes."

The Detroit News, "Space tight at charter schools," Jan. 1, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Should Michigan lift the cap on charter public schools? Yes," Nov. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Report: Charters have higher teacher certification," Nov. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Court of Appeals rejects MEA suit over Bay Mills charters," Sep. 6, 2006

LANSING, Mich. — Grand Ledge and Waverly schools will see the cost of running school elections increase significantly this year, and are examining the possibility of moving their election dates to November, according to the Lansing State Journal.

The Grand Ledge school district will see its costs increase by 10 times what they paid to run elections before the state passed legislation to consolidate election dates, according to the Journal. Waverly schools will see its costs double, the Journal reported.

Prior to 2004, districts ran their own elections and set their own election dates. However, election consolidation legislation limited the number of possible election dates to four and placed city or township clerks in charge of school elections, according to the Journal.

Both districts could reduce their costs to nearly nothing if they were to hold elections in November and align their election cycle with those of other elected offices, the Journal reported.

Lansing State Journal, "Schools will face election dilemma," Dec. 31, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Avondale moves elections to November," Dec. 12, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Rochester moves school board elections, lengthens terms," Nov. 14, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Secret Ballot?" May 22, 2006

DETROIT — Birmingham Public Schools officials are creating new rules to remove students who claim to live inside the district, but don't, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Residency fraud is common in metro Detroit, where there is a significant difference in the quality of bordering school districts. In 2005, Grosse Pointe re-enrolled all of its students to remove nonresidents from the district, according to the Free Press.

The Birmingham school board has adopted some policies from Grosse Pointe and will make parents pay for the period of time a student attends the unassigned schools illegally. The district already has investigated more than a dozen cases of fraud and has removed a few students. Most of the parents, however, have proved that they live inside the district, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Birmingham school district tightens residency rules," Jan. 3, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Thousands of parents exercise limited school choice rights," July 5, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 24, 2000

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Oakridge Public Schools will save $74,000 per year as a result of changing health insurance plans for 19 nonunion employees, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The district currently pays for coverage from the Michigan Educational Special Services Association, a third-party health insurance administrator. MESSA is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, a school employees union. Under their new contract, administrators, some community education teachers, administrative assistants and secretaries will receive coverage from Priority Health, according to The Chronicle.

Tom Paniucki, Superintendent of Oakridge schools, told the Chronicle that the coverage will be similar and, in some cases, better than MESSA. Employees will also receive a 2.5 percent pay raise for switching insurance providers, The Chronicle reported.

"We feel that we have created a win-win situation in very difficult financial times," Paniucki told the Chronicle.

Muskegon Chronicle, "District trims $74,000 in heath-care costs," Jan. 2, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Saline teachers get new contract," Oct. 17, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Blue Cross and MESSA," Sept. 6, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA Reference Page," March 10, 2006

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of approximately 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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