Contents of this issue:
- Bobb named DPS money manager
- Health insurance divides Caseville
- Jackson opens online courses to home-schoolers
- Ingham ISD proposes cuts
- Schools should resist green jobs fads
BOBB NAMED DPS MONEY MANAGER
DETROIT - Robert C. Bobb, the new emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, said he will begin his work by examining the system's structure and contracts, and finish with systems in place to correct the district's fiscal woes, according to The Detroit News.
A financial consultant and former Kalamazoo city manager, Bobb was named to the position by Gov. Jennifer Granholm for a one- year term at a salary of $260,000, according to The News. Though the term can be renewed, Bobb told The News that he plans to leave after a year with a five-year financial plan in place.
During his tenure, Bobb will control all financial matters, including balancing the budget and spending, The News reported.
He also can hire and fire staff and negotiate contracts, according to The News.
Bobb told The News that he took the job, in part, to make sure that taxpayer dollars are "being spent appropriately and, at end of the day, being sent to the classroom."
"Now that (the governor) has made her decision, I look forward to working cooperatively with Mr. Bobb to stabilize the district's finances and generate new revenue," DPS board member Tyrone Winfrey told The News.
The Detroit News, "New manager takes on DPS," Jan. 27, 2009
Michigan Education Digest, "DPS board ousts Calloway," Dec. 16, 2008
HEALTH INSURANCE DIVIDES CASEVILLE
CASEVILLE, Mich. - Health insurance costs continue to divide the Caseville Board of Education and Caseville Education Association, according to the Huron Daily Tribune, with teachers requesting benefits that the district says are not affordable.
The teacher contract expired in 2006, according to the Tribune.
Considering the sides to be at impasse as of September 2008, the board implemented a health plan that pays the full premium for each individual teacher and makes an additional $8,995 contribution toward family coverage, if the teacher chooses it, the Tribune reported. Teachers must pay the remaining amount for family coverage, typically $100 a month, for a policy that costs the district nearly $16,000 a year.
Teachers say that Caseville is the only district in the county that does not provide fully funded health care for teachers' families and also that their salaries are second lowest in the county and "considerably lower" than the Michigan average, according to the Tribune.
"If our teachers want to continue to drive a Buick and the board can only afford a Chevy, what's wrong with asking them to pay the difference?" board President Mike Siegfried said in a press release, according to the Tribune.
But the 18-member CEA said the district is ignoring a fact finder's opinion that the district has not demonstrated it cannot afford salary and benefits on par with comparable districts, the Tribune reported.
A bargaining session with a state mediator is scheduled for Feb. 19.
Huron Daily Tribune, "Caseville teachers picket," Jan. 20, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed, but not resolved," Sept. 16, 2008
Michigan Education Report, Michigan Schools Collective Bargaining Agreements, "Caseville Public Schools," March 4, 2008
JACKSON OPENS ONLINE COURSES TO HOME-SCHOOLERS
JACKSON, Mich. - Jackson Public Schools has recruited about 10 home-schoolers to take online elective courses as a way to serve that population, while also reaping increased state funding due to the higher student headcount, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.
The district received a "seat-time waiver" from the Michigan Department of Education that allows it to offer up to 150 students the opportunity to take as many online classes off school grounds as the students wish, according to The Citizen Patriot. Current state law allows students to take an unlimited number of online classes on campus, but only two digital classes per semester off campus.
The home-schooled students take the classes off campus, and a certified teacher serves as a mentor and supervises their progress, according to The Citizen Patriot. The district may target teen parents, dropouts and working teens as potential online enrollees in the future, The Citizen Patriot reported.
"We're not booming yet, but we do see the future in these programs," Superintendent Dan Evans told The Citizen Patriot.
The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Jackson Public Schools recruits homeschoolers for online classes," Jan. 14, 2009
Michigan Education Digest, "Online classes get a boost in some districts," Jan. 5, 2009
INGHAM ISD PROPOSES CUTS
MASON, Mich. - Anticipated declines in property tax revenue, coupled with rising costs, could lead to cutbacks in staffing and programs offered by the Ingham Intermediate School District, according to a report in the Lansing State Journal.
The ISD board of education is considering eliminating funding for Reading Recovery and the Galileo Early Childhood Center as of next year, it said in a report provided to the Journal. Other potential cuts include eliminating classes in construction, early childhood education, marketing, Microsoft certification and the Lansing Area Manufacturing Partnership, the article said.
In recommending cuts, administrators considered cost, mandates, available alternatives and enrollment, according to the report.
Trend data showed low enrollment in the career classes tapped for elimination, the State Journal reported; the district also may reduce career planning and placement services as well as reduce staff in those areas.
Staff workshops and conferences will be cut in half in 2009- 2010, the article noted.
"Our organization is not in an immediate crisis," Superintendent Stan Kogut said in the report. "However, if we fail to act and take steps to address the situation now, we will be in a crisis."
The majority of the ISD's funding comes from property tax revenue, according to the report.
The Lansing State Journal, "ISD board considers series of budget cuts," Jan. 25, 2009
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: Intermediate School Districts," May 30, 2007
SCHOOLS SHOULD RESIST GREEN JOBS FADS
MIDLAND, Mich. - Educators are correct to be concerned about preparing their students to compete for jobs. But they should resist "green jobs" fads and instead focus on preparing students in math and sciences, a Mackinac Center for Public Policy scholar says.
In an article published by Michigan Education Report, Russ Harding, director of the center's Property Rights Network, writes that while world consumption of energy is predicted to increase by 50 percent in the next two decades, the sources of energy production and market share of each is highly uncertain.
That is particularly true among alternative sources like wind and solar, Harding writes.
The article points out that federal and state governments have "lavished subsidies" on the ethanol industry in recent years, but that today many ethanol refineries are going bankrupt.
The future does hold promising job prospects in the energy industry, Harding says, but students can best prepare for that market by taking math and science courses in high school that lead to college-level studies in math, sciences and technology.
Michigan Education Report, "Schools should stick to basics and resist green fad," Jan. 27, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Molding minds with a green curriculum," Nov. 14, 2007
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (https://www.educationreport.org
), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org
), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.