Contents of this issue:
- Dillon plan sparks insurance debate
- Attorney general: Door open to more Detroit charters
- Policies vary on hiring family members
- Cadillac cuts Great Start
- Little improvement on high school tests
DILLON PLAN SPARKS INSURANCE DEBATE
LANSING, Mich. – A proposal to create a statewide health insurance pool for all public employees is drawing support from some southeast Michigan business representatives, but criticism from labor unions, according to media reports.
Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, announced the plan last week, saying that the state could save up to $900 million through such means as volume discounts, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.
The Detroit Regional Chamber, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Small Business Association of Michigan, and Detroit Renaissance Inc. are among the organizations that have expressed interest or support, Crain’s reported.
A 2008 study by Detroit Renaissance concluded that Michigan employees' family health coverage costs are 23 percent higher than the national average, the report said.
“We've been calling for out-of-the-box reforms, and Speaker Dillon is stepping up to the plate,” Sarah Hubbard, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Chamber, told Crain’s.
Others are opposed to the plan, including the Michigan Education Association and its insurance affiliate, the Michigan Education Special Services Association, according to The Associated Press.
Spokesmen from those organizations said that teachers already have accepted low or no wage increases in order to maintain health benefit levels, according to an AP report published by WDIV-TV, Detroit. MEA spokesman Doug Pratt also said the union questions the ability of the state to run a major health plan efficiently.
WDIV-TV, “Teachers Question Consolidating Benefits,” July 19, 2009
Crain’s Detroit Business, “Dillon’s health insurance pool plan draws business backing,” July 19, 2009 (Subscription required)
Michigan Education Report, “MESSA says no to requests for insurance data,” Feb. 29, 2008
ATTORNEY GENERAL: DOOR OPEN TO MORE DETROIT CHARTERS
LANSING, Mich. – State Attorney General Mike Cox said in a legal opinion Monday that declining enrollment has triggered the mechanism allowing more charter public schools to open in Detroit, according to The Associated Press.
Detroit Public Schools had been designated as a first-class district under state law, preventing certain community colleges from opening charter schools there as long as district enrollment remained above 100,000, the report said.
Enrollment dropped to about 93,000 in the last school year, AP reported, and Cox’s opinion confirmed that Bay Mills Community College or a Detroit community college may authorize charters within DPS boundaries. No community college has contacted the state about expanding into Detroit, according to Martin Ackley, a Michigan Department of Education spokesman, AP reported.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan requested the opinion, which is binding unless a court reverses it, according to AP.
Bay Mills Charter School Office Director Patrick Shannon told AP it currently has no plans to move into Detroit, though it already authorizes 41 schools around the state, including some in Warren, Inkster and Highland Park.
“We feel we’re already servicing that population,” Shannon told AP. “We recognize communities need their traditional public schools.”
Robert Bobb, DPS emergency financial manager, issued a statement welcoming competition from charters but also saying that, “Charter schools must not continue to be allowed the luxury of picking and choosing their students,” AP reported.
The Associated Press, “Mich. AG: Detroit can have more charter schools,” July 20, 2009
Michigan Education Report, “Colleges: ‘Wait and see’ on Detroit charter schools,” April 7, 2008
POLICIES VARY ON HIRING FAMILY MEMBERS
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Allegations of criminal sexual conduct brought against a Grand Rapids Public Schools employee has raised questions about the practice of hiring family members of school board members or administrators, according to The Grand Rapids Press.
Kenneth D. Hoskins, son of the Rev. Kenneth W. Hoskins, was charged last week with third-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with his work as a youth advocate in the district, according to The Press. The elder Hoskins is a GRPS board member.
Three of nine youth advocates hired during the past year are close relatives of board members or administrators, the report said.
Grand Rapids has no policy on the hiring of family members, The Press reported. Several board members told The Press that it may be time to study the issue.
District spokesman John Helmholdt told The Press that none of the employees were hired because of their relatives’ positions and that all went through the district screening and recommendation process.
Policy in nearby districts varies, The Press reported. Lowell Area Schools and Wyoming Public Schools prohibit hiring people related to administrators or board members, while Kentwood Public Schools requires the related official not to take part in the hiring decision.
The Grand Rapids Press, “Grand Rapids Public Schools lacks policy to deal with hiring of officials’ close relatives, as criminal case brings to light,” July 19, 2009
Michigan Education Digest, “Teacher/coach jailed on sex charge,” Jan. 10, 2009
CADILLAC CUTS GREAT START
CADILLAC, Mich. – Cadillac Area Public Schools will essentially eliminate its Great Start Readiness Preschool Program as a way to reduce spending, though the district superintendent praised the program as effectively helping youngsters prepare for kindergarten, according to the Cadillac News.
Superintendent Paul Liabenow said the state is considering cutting funding for Great Start programs, which was a factor in the school board’s decision to lay off staff members in that area, the News reported. The program previously enrolled 140 students.
The district is addressing $682,000 of overspending in its 2009-2010 budget, according to the News.
Liabenow said that anecdotal reports from teachers about the program were positive, the News reported.
"There will be a dramatic change in public education if we can’t find ways to reduce costs or increase revenue," he said, according to the News.
Cadillac News, “Cuts mean loss of 17 employees for CAPS,” July 15, 2009
Michigan Education Report, “Don’t expect long-term gain from early education money,” Aug. 15, 2007
LITTLE IMPROVEMENT ON HIGH SCHOOL TESTS
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Merit Exam scores in math and writing increased slightly in 2009, but less than half of all test-takers were proficient in either subject, according to results released last week by the Michigan Department of Education.
Statewide proficiency levels in reading, science, language arts and social sciences were nearly unchanged from a year ago.
A press release announcing the scores said that 49 percent of Michigan juniors who took the MME earned proficient or advanced scores in math, while 44 percent did so in writing. Proficiency levels a year ago were 46 and 41 percent, respectively, the release said.
Statewide, 60 percent of students were proficient or advanced in reading in 2009, down from 62 percent a year ago; 52 percent in English language arts, unchanged; 56 percent in science, down from 57 percent; and 81 percent in social studies, up from 80 percent.
The MME includes the ACT college entrance exam; the statewide average composite score on that portion of the test was 19, compared to last year’s 18.8. A perfect ACT score is 36.
Reporting on the results, The Grand Rapids Press said that Grand Rapids City High School juniors posted an average ACT score of 26.3, second highest in the state. City High enrolls only top-performing students, according to The Press. The state’s highest average ACT composite score, 28.7, was reported at International Academy of Bloomfield Hills, according to The Press.
The Grand Rapids Press, “Grand Rapids school leaders find ‘nothing shocking’ in Michigan Merit Exam results; statewide math, writing scores improve,” July 15, 2009
Michigan Department of Education, “High School Writing and Math Scores Improve on Michigan Merit Exam,” July 14, 2009
Michigan Education Report, “State: juniors must take ACT,” Sept. 6, 2006
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.