Contents of this issue:
  • Saginaw Township Schools cap schools of choice
  • Michigan Center Schools consider privatizing coaching positions
  • Mackinac Center launches school checkbook transparency project
  • Washtenaw County ISD examines insurance pooling
  • Kalamazoo County schools might ask for millage renewal
  • Comment and win an iPod
  • New issue of Michigan Education Report released

SAGINAW TOWNSHIP SCHOOLS CAP SCHOOLS OF CHOICE
SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The Saginaw Township Board of Education has voted to put limits on its schools of choice program, a move that will cost the district approximately $150,000, according to The Saginaw News.

In response to concerns from community members, the board unanimously voted to deny schools of choice applications for students in grades seven through 12. The district will still be open to out-of-district students in grades K-6. In addition to the loss of funding, the new plan may also force parents to separate siblings between districts, The News reported.

"Hopefully, (this puts) us where the community wants us," board member Barbara Russell told The News.

Superintendent Jerry Seese said the cap was a compromise between a divide in the community — some opposed schools of choice altogether while others found it beneficial. There is no cap on the number of elementary students who can be accepted, as each building principal will be able to determine capacity. The loss of revenue do to the change in policy will be taken from district savings, according to The News.

SOURCE:
The Saginaw News, "District limits choice pupils," March 11, 2008
http://www.mlive.com/news/saginawnews/index.ssf?/base/news-25/ 120524524792260.xml&coll=9

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Conclusion: Competition Is Improving Public Schools for Michigan Children," in "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 24, 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/2979

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Foundation Allowance: General Education" in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007
http://www.mackinac.org/8628#nonassign


MICHIGAN CENTER SCHOOLS CONSIDER PRIVATIZING COACHING POSITIONS
JACKSON, Mich. — The Michigan Center School District will examine the possibility of contracting for coaching positions, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

The board gave approval at its last meeting and Superintendent David Tebo will head the investigation. The neighboring Jackson Community Schools began contracting for coaches this year with savings of approximately $17,240, The Citizen Patriot reported.

"Mr. Tebo will be looking to see if any savings are possible by going that direction. I know Jackson High has privatized coaching, but I understand the savings have been minimal," Board President Gerald Holda said during the meeting, according to The Citizen Patriot.

SOURCE:
The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Board to study privatizing school coaches," March 13, 2008
http://www.mlive.com/news/citpat/index.ssf?/base/news-24/ 1205417117102180.xml&coll=3

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Services Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007
http://www.mackinac.org/8881


MACKINAC CENTER LAUNCHES SCHOOL CHECKBOOK TRANSPARENCY PROJECT
MIDLAND, Mich. — The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has launched a new initiative to open up the check registers of Michigan's public school districts and place them online for easy public access, according to a Center press release.

The Center will contact school districts, explain the importance of spending transparency, and compile any information on the Web.

"Michigan spends about $19 billion a year in local, state and federal tax dollars on public education," Mackinac Center Policy Analyst Kenneth M. Braun said. "That's quite a significant number when you realize that the state's total budget is $43 billion. Anything school districts can do to be open about how they spend tax dollars will enhance peoples' confidence and promote accountability."

The Montrose Community Schools in Genesee County has set the precedent for financial transparency, as parents, taxpayers, school employees, reporters and anyone else can access the district's Web site to monitor how resources are spent, according to the press release.

"It is admirably open and detailed," Braun said. "We know that Bushey Radiator charged the district $45.50 for repair work, and we can see exactly how much was spent on buns and milk for the cafeteria."

The St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency is an intermediate school district with a commitment to spending transparency. Checkbook transparency will join the Mackinac Center's Michigan School Databases, which already provide revenue, expenditure and collective bargaining agreements for every public school district in the state, the press release reported.

It is anticipated that the Web site may save taxpayer dollars by allowing schools to shop for more cost-effective suppliers of goods and services.

"We want taxpayers to know where their money is going, and school districts to find out if they're getting the best deals on everything from hamburger buns to bus radiators," Braun said. "In the long run, this can only benefit schools. Voters tend to reward good public stewardship."

According to an editorial from The Detroit News, "Since more than 40 percent of state dollars are spent on public education and revenue is tight, public scrutiny is more important than ever."

SOURCES:
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Celebrating Sunshine Week: Mackinac Center Launches School Checkbook Transparency Project," March 13, 2008
http://www.mackinac.org/9330

The Detroit News, "Put school expenses on the Web," March 15, 2008
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080315/OPINION01/ 803150306/1008

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School District Checkbook Register Report," March 13, 2008
http://www.mackinac.org/9329


WASHTENAW COUNTY ISD EXAMINES INSURANCE POOLING
ANN ARBOR, Mich.- The 10 districts in the Washtenaw County Intermediate School District are hiring a consultant to explore the possibility of creating a pool for employee benefits, according to The Ann Arbor News.

The consultant will help the ISD examine the options made available by legislation passed in October. Most of the county's districts are also on different collective bargaining schedules, making uniform changes more difficult.

Brian Marcel, the ISD's superintendent of business services, said districts may join up in smaller pools, as opposed to one countywide pool. Kevin Harty, a lawyer from a Lansing-based law firm, told district representatives there was only one question when considering benefits consolidation.

"Can we maintain the same level of benefits at a lower cost? Looking at it objectively, with a large group of employees, you should have some economies of scale," he told The Ann Arbor News.

SOURCE:
The Ann Arbor News, "Districts consider consolidation of health-care benefits," March 14, 2008
http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/03/ districts_consider_consolidati.html

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "(4) Pooling/Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement Plans," in "A Collective Bargaining Primer," Feb. 28, 2007
http://www.mackinac.org/8307


KALAMAZOO COUNTY SCHOOLS MIGHT ASK FOR MILLAGE RENEWAL
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Kalamazoo County's public schools are proposing the renewal of a countywide millage as district officials claim to be in dire financial situations, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

In general, Kalamazoo County school districts have seen an increase in their per-pupil allotments from the state since 2003-2004. But most districts have also seen enrollment drops that have typically negated any state funding increases. Additionally, the districts have been seeing sharp increases in the cost of contributing to employee retirement. Kalamazoo County schools have seen a combined increase in state funding of $13.7 million compared to 2003-2004, however, retirement contributions have increased by $8.7 million, The Gazette reported.

Ray Wilson, spokesman for the Kalamazoo County Taxpayers Association, said the 1.5-mill request was "betraying" taxpayers because the tax was presented in 2005 as temporary, and questions whether the districts really needs more revenue, according to The Gazette.

The most financially viable district in the county, Kalamazoo Public Schools, is also trying to regain ground lost before the Kalamazoo Promise brought students to the district.

"In the seven years before The Promise, we cut a total of $19.3 million from our budget," KPS Deputy Superintendent Gary Start told The Gazette. "In the past two years, we've been able to restore a million dollars each year. But there's still lots and lots of things we haven't restored — for instance, we only have two librarians among our 16 elementaries."

SOURCE:
The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Schools see money woes two ways: bad, worse," March 15, 2008
http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/03/ schools_see_money_woes_two_way.html

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007 http://www.mackinac.org/8534


COMMENT AND WIN AN IPOD
MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to http://forum.educationreport.org and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.


NEW ISSUE OF MICHIGAN EDUCATION REPORT RELEASED
MIDLAND, Mich. — A number of intermediate school districts in Michigan spend thousands to provide a vehicle or vehicle allowance for top administrators, according to state-required financial reports. Michigan Education Report lists those districts and the dollar value of the personal use of the vehicles in an article in the spring 2008 edition, now available online at http://www.educationreport.org.

The new edition also features articles about the lack of data available to school districts trying to seek competitive bids for health insurance, increased income and spending reported by the Michigan Education Association, efforts to change special education laws, and opposing viewpoints on the question of linking students' standardized test scores to individual teachers.

Michigan Education Report is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Readers are invited to comment on articles in this issue, and about Michigan education in general, at the Report's forum site, http://forum.educationreport.org. The names of all individuals posting comments will be entered in a summer drawing for an iPod.


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper 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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