Contents of this issue:
  • U.P. charter school breaks ties with union
  • National test scores fall; average high school GPA increases
  • Detroit Public Schools spent $1 million on artwork
  • Berrien ISD settles contract, rejects MESSA
  • Coopersville Public Schools seek energy consultant
  • New issue of Michigan Education Report; win an iPod

U.P. CHARTER SCHOOL BREAKS TIES WITH UNION
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Teachers at Bahweting School voted 19-13 to decertify the Michigan Education Association as the bargaining unit at the school, according to the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

This reversed a 2005 vote to establish union representation in the school, which is affiliated with the Chippewa Indian tribe. Sault Tribe Chairman Aaron Payment was pleased with the results of the vote.

"This will pave the way for developing a stronger relationship with our teachers and allows the school to address these issues as a unified group and not as adversaries," Payment said in a prepared statement, according to the Evening News.

Teachers who supported union representation believe they were forced into the vote, the Evening News reported.

"Basically we got bullied. If a bully pushes long enough, I'm sure he'll get his way," teacher and MEA unit President Chris Gordon said.

Education Week reported that for more than a year the school administration and the union were without a contract settlement, which, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, allowed for a decertification vote to be held under Michigan Law.

SOURCES:
Sault Ste. Marie Evening News, "Bahweting teachers turn out MEA," Feb. 24, 2007
http://www.sooeveningnews.com/articles/2007/02/24/news/news284.txt

Education Week, "Mich. Charter Awaits Vote on Union," Feb. 14, 2007
http://www.edweek.org//ew/articles/2007/02/14/23tribal.h26.html?print=1

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "March 31 Deadline for Public School Decertification Petitions," Feb. 23, 2007
http://www.mackinac.org/8323

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "U.P. charter school teachers consider cutting ties with union," Feb. 20, 2007
http://www.educationreport.org/8319

Michigan Education Digest, "Upper Peninsula charter school unionizes," Oct. 25, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7391

Michigan Education Digest, "A Looming Charter School Re-Union?" May 25, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7121

Michigan Education Digest, "Charter School Ousts MEA Union In Historic Vote," Oct. 29, 2001
http://www.educationreport.org/3834


NATIONAL TEST SCORES FALL; AVERAGE HIGH SCHOOL GPA INCREASES
WASHINGTON, D.C. — High school seniors are taking more rigorous courses and receiving better grades than in the past, but are performing worse on national tests, federal data showed, according to the Washington Post.

Of the 12th graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress test in 2005, less than 25 percent scored "proficient" or better on the newly revamped math test. Also, about 35 percent scored "proficient" or better in reading, which is the poorest performance on this portion of the test since it was first administered in 1992. Additionally, 18 percent of seniors scored "proficient" or better in science. This is down from 21 percent in 1996, the Post reported.

Although performance on the NAEP has worsened, the average high school GPA has increased from a 2.68 in 1990 to a 2.98 in 2005. The percentage of students who have taken and completed a standard level of study rose from 35 to 58 percent, while students taking the most rigorous curriculum increased from 5 to 10 percent, according to the Post.

"We have our work cut out for us," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a statement, according to the Post. "If, in fact, our high school students are taking more challenging courses and earning higher grades, we should be seeing greater gains in test scores."

SOURCE:
Washington Post, "Test Scores at Odds With Rising High School Grades," Feb. 23, 2007
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/22/AR2007022201781.html

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Michigan is above average — but that's not saying much," Feb. 23, 2007
http://www.educationreport.org/8252

Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan students average; black students lagging," Oct. 25, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7391

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Ideology Perpetuates the Achievement Gap," Feb. 2, 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6974


DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS SPENT $1 MILLION ON ART WORK
DETROIT — The Detroit Public Schools is looking into the previous administration's purchase of more than $1 million in artwork, according to The Detroit News.

The district is on a state-mandated plan to eliminate its $200 million deficit and has faced criticism for its spending and contracting practices. Under state law, DPS must competitively bid for supplies and materials that cost more than $19,211. The current board is uncertain about whether or not bids were collected for the art purchase, The News reported.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "DPS investigates $1M art purchase," Feb. 24, 2007
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070224/SCHOOLS/702240348/1026

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools spends $1.3 million on travel," Feb. 13, 2007
http://www.educationreport.org/8225

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools announces school closings," Jan. 9, 2007
http://www.educationreport.org/8167

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools enrollment drops again," Nov. 29, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7448

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/6980


BERRIEN ISD SETTLES CONTRACT, REJECTS MESSA
BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. — Employees in the Berrien County Intermediate School district will receive a 2.25 percent pay increase this year, while remaining with the ISD's self-insured health plan, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Contract negotiations were stalled for seven months because the ISD wanted to maintain its self-administered health plan, rather than changing to a plan provided by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, according to the Tribune. MESSA is a third-party health insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, a school employees union.

Under the BCISD health plan, employees will contribute $77 dollars a month toward their own health insurance, while the district will contribute the remaining $1,130 per month. Next year, as health costs rise, employees will contribute $85 dollars per month, the Tribune reported.

"As the costs go up, the board pays a large share and the staff pays an increased cost, too," Superintendent Jeff Siegel said. "It's just split between the board and the employee, each picking up a portion of the increased costs." Besides receiving a pay increase of 2.5 percent for next school year, the employees' life insurance maximum was increased from $2 to $4 million and the health plan was extended to include chiropractic coverage, according to the Tribune.

SOURCE:
South Bend Tribune, "ISD employees get raise, same insurance," Feb. 18, 2007
http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070218/News01/702180481

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Berrien ISD files unfair labor practice charge against union," Jan. 16, 2007
http://www.educationreport.org/8174

Michigan Education Digest, "Hart schools leave MESSA," Dec. 5, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8104

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Decades of Dollars and Disappointment," Oct. 6, 2006
http://www.mackinac.org/7969


COOPERSVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS SEEK PRIVATE ENERGY CONSULTANT
COOPERSVILLE, Mich. — The Coopersville Public Schools would be able to cut its utility bills by $1.83 million if it contracts with a company to evaluate and manage its energy use, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The district is considering contracting with the Texas-based Energy Education Inc. to create an energy management plan for the district and to train a local "energy manager" to help employees modify their energy usage, according to The Press.

The services would cost $317,000 over 10 years, but Energy Education Inc. would refund the money if the district does not see savings because of their program, The Press reported.

"They can see things we wouldn't," Operations Director Paul Cooper told The Press.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Coopersville: District mulls energy plan," Feb. 22, 2007
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1172159773106520.xml?grpress?NECJ&coll=6

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Districts could save money with private energy consultant," Dec. 12, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8113

Michigan Education Digest, "Merrill schools move to alternative fuel," Nov. 7, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8059

Michigan Education Digest, "Private firm helps Battle Creek schools cut energy costs," July 19, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7817


NEW ISSUE OF MICHIGAN EDUCATION REPORT; WIN AN IPOD
MIDLAND, Mich. — The expanded spring issue of Michigan Education Report is being mailed now. Michigan Education Report is offering readers a chance to win an iPod when they comment on articles in its spring 2007 issue.

Comments can be made via e-mail about stories:



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

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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