Contents of this issue:
- State: Fix budget or go to jail
- Students billed for Promise costs
- Bridgeport ties bonus pay to AYP
- Parents sue over school closing
- School accreditation plan hits snag
STATE: FIX BUDGET OR GO TO JAIL
MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. - Board of education members in the Madison School District passed a budget Monday to address overspending revenues by $1.35 million — as well as to avoid jail time, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The budget requires a 5 percent cut in human resources for the next three years, to be accomplished through retirements, resignations, job reassignments and a combination of pay and benefit cuts, board attorney George Butler said, according to the Free Press. The district has tentative agreements with district workers to accept the cuts, the Free Press reported.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan had warned the board he would invoke penalties, including fines or jail time, if it did not submit a revised budget, according to the Free Press. The Free Press reported that the district has been operating under a state-approved deficit elimination plan since 1994.
State law on fiscal responsibility allows such penalties, though it would have been the first time they were used by the department of education, spokeswoman Jan Ellis told the Free Press.
Board members recently gave up their $30-per-meeting pay, the Free Press reported, and said they were doing all they could to keep the district solvent.
The Detroit Free Press, "Deficits have Madison Heights board members facing jail time," Aug. 18, 2009
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: Deficits," May 30, 2007
STUDENTS BILLED FOR PROMISE COSTS
GRAND RAPIDS - At least three state universities already are billing college students for what used to be Michigan Promise scholarship money, while others are taking a wait-and-see approach, according to The Grand Rapids Press.
The University of Michigan and Central and Western Michigan universities all have removed Promise scholarship funding from student accounts and are informing students that they must cover the amount until the state Legislature makes a final decision on whether to fund the program, The Press reported.
Other universities are retaining the scholarship on student accounts, but warning students that they will have to pick up the cost later if the state eliminates funding.
The Promise Scholarship gives qualified students up to $4,000 for college tuition over the course of four years, but the state Senate has moved to eliminate the funding as a way to close the state budget gap, The Press reported.
"We've heard a lot of noise, but the state Web site is still telling students the scholarships are there, and they're getting letters from the state Treasury letting them know that they earned them," Lynn Blue, a Grand Valley vice provost and dean, told The Press.
Calvin and Hope colleges also are not asking for the money in advance, and Ferris State University has not yet determined what it will do, a spokeswoman told The Press. The University of Michigan told students to pay the extra amount by Aug. 31 or face late fees, according to The Press.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Some universities demanding extra $500 in tuition in case state cancels Michigan Promise scholarship program," Aug. 15, 2009
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How to Control College Costs," Dec. 8, 2008
BRIDGEPORT TIES BONUS PAY TO AYP
BRIDGEPORT, Mich. - Superintendent Gloria J. Rubis will make $95,000 as the new chief administrator in Bridgeport-Spaulding Community Schools, but can earn up to $3,000 more if district schools make "adequate yearly progress," according to The Saginaw News.
The school board signed a two-year contract with Rubis that includes a $1,000 bonus for each school — Bridgeport High School, Atkins School or White Elementary School — that meets the AYP standard set by the federal No Child Left Behind act.
"This is as close as we can get to any kind of merit pay," board President Micheal Tate said, according to The News.
Former Superintendent Desmos R. Daniel had an annual salary of $104,022, a yearly annuity of $4,000 and a $3,900 annual car allowance. Rubis won't receive an annuity or car allowance, though she will be reimbursed for mileage for school-related travel, The News reported.
A car allowance "sounds to me like one of those things that belongs in the past and not something for these economic times," Rubis told The News.
The Saginaw News, "Bridgeport schools use merit pay for superintendent," Aug. 13, 2009
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Merit-Pay Pilot Program for Michigan Public Schools," Sept. 23, 2008
PARENTS SUE OVER SCHOOL CLOSING
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - A judge has said he will rule by the end of the month on whether Bloomfield Hills Public Schools must continue to operate Pine Lake School, according to The Oakland Press.
Parents and nearby property owners sued the district over its decision in February to close the elementary school, The Press reported. Judge Michael Warren sided with parents in ruling that the closing violated a deed restriction placed on the property when it was donated to the district in 1955, according to the report.
Warren said that the school board's action violated a charitable trust that requires the property be used to educate Bloomfield Hills students; however, he did not specify a remedy, The Press reported.
Parents want the district to open the school to Bloomfield Hills students for the coming school year, according to The Press, but the matter is complicated by a lease that Bloomfield Hills has signed with the Waterford School District allowing Waterford to use the school for special education programs.
A school district attorney raised the possibility of using the building for both Waterford and Bloomfield Hills students, The Press reported, but the judge did not rule on that issue.
The Oakland Press, "No decision yet on fate of Pine Lake School property," Aug. 13, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Schools for sale," Aug. 15, 2007
SCHOOL ACCREDITATION PLAN HITS SNAG
LANSING, Mich. - State education officials and some legislators are divided over whether and how much the federal No Child Left Behind act should affect Michigan public school accreditation, according to media reports.
The State Board of Education has approved a new accreditation plan under which it would evaluate schools on the basis on standardized test scores and other criteria, but would not allow a school to reach full accreditation unless it also met federal academic goals set by NCLB, according to the Detroit Free Press.
But members of the House Education Committee told MDE officials that they won't approve the plan if it allows a school's accredited status to be lowered due to NCLB, the Free Press reported.
Member of the state board said they want to meet with House and Senate education committee members to resolve the issue, the Michigan Information & Research Service reported.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan said the new plan would allow the department to intervene at problem schools, the Free Press reported. While no schools are unaccredited under the current system, the new system would likely cause 100 to lose accreditation when implemented, according to the report.
Detroit Free Press, "School accreditation plan faces opposition," Aug. 11, 2009
Michigan Information & Research Service, "Another quadrant?" Aug. 11, 2009 (Subscription required)
Michigan Education Report, "The shell game of 'making AYP'," March 18, 2009
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.