Contents of this issue:
- District wants health care cap; teachers picket
- Charters plan 25,000-seat expansion
- 'Neighborhood schools' bills move
- Union head alleges retribution
- Seeing the potential in deaf education
DISTRICT WANTS HEALTH CARE CAP; TEACHERS PICKET
BROWNSTOWN, Mich. - Health insurance is the sticking point in a contract dispute in the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District, according to the Detroit Free Press, with teachers protesting the district's proposal to cap the amount it contributes to health care premiums.
More than 100 teachers held an informational picket before a recent school board meeting, yelling "No contract. No work," the Free Press reported. Teachers were expected to report to work today, and classes begin Sept. 8. Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan.
Teachers told the Free Press that under the district's contract offer, they would pay up to $2,000 more a year for health insurance. The district wants to put a cap on its insurance contributions, the report said. Teachers want to keep their insurance with Michigan Education Special Services Association, the Free Press reported.
MESSA is an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association.
A fact finder from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission recommended a cap on how much the district pays for insurance, according to the Free Press.
Detroit Free Press, "Woodhaven Brownstown teachers picket before meeting," Aug. 31, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Splitting the health insurance bill," Aug. 19, 2009
CHARTERS PLAN 25,000-SEAT EXPANSION
DETROIT - Two well-known charter public school operators in Detroit say they plan to bring 25,000 new charter school seats to the city within a decade, according to The Detroit News.
Steve Hamp and Doug Ross, founders of Henry Ford Academy and University Preparatory Academy, respectively, have launched a nonprofit organization named More Good Schools and already reached an agreement with Houston-based YES Prep to open a public charter high school in the city in the fall of 2010, The Detroit News reported.
They also plan to recruit other well-known national charter operations, such as the Knowledge is Power Program, commonly called KIPP. Michigan currently caps the number of public charter schools authorized by state universities; Ross declined to say who would authorize the YES Prep school, according to The News.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm accompanied Hamp and Ross to Houston last spring to meet with YES Prep and KIPP leaders, The News reported.
Concurrently, four philanthropic organizations have announced "High School Accelerator," an initiative offering up to $1 million to create rigorous, small high schools for low-income students in Detroit, The News reported. The schools may be public, charter or private, according to information from Michigan Future Inc., the Skillman Foundation, Kellogg Foundation and the McGregor Fund.
The Detroit News, "Charter schools expanding," Aug. 29, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Jackson Learning Lab: The Hope of Success for All Learners," Aug. 4, 2009
STATE HEALTH PLAN DETAILS RELEASED
LANSING, Mich. - Public workers would receive health care under one of an array of plans crafted by the state employer if a statewide health insurance system is adopted, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The proposal, by House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, would require the state employer to draft a series of health plans with varying coverage levels and costs, and to negotiate with insurance companies to provide services. It would require all levels of government to negotiate with their respective employees over which plans to choose and how to pay for them, the Free Press reported.
Dillon released details of the plan Friday. He has said it would save up to $1 billion, according to the Free Press, though employee unions dispute that number.
A special House committee is expected to begin debate on the plan this week, according to the report.
The bill would cover all public workers, from the governor to judges to local firefighters and teachers. All units of government would pay premiums into a state fund to cover costs, the Free Press reported. Local entities could opt out by proving their existing insurance plan was cheaper.
Detroit Free Press, "Details emerge on Dillon's state health care plan," Aug. 29, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "On Balance, School Health Insurance Proposal an Improvement," Aug. 4, 2009
'NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS' BILLS MOVE
LANSING, Mich. - School reform measures that would allow parents and teachers to open public "neighborhood schools" passed the Senate Education Committee recently, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
The package of bills would allow failing schools to reorganize if a majority of parents or teachers voted to do so, MIRS reported. They would operate under the oversight of a school authorizer.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed its own school reform package, under which a state-appointed "school reform chief" would have the authority to make changes in failing schools, according to MIRS.
Some type of education reform is needed by December if Michigan wants to qualify for federal "Race to the Top" education stimulus money, Senate Education Chairman Wayne Kuipers, R- Holland, told MIRS.
Critics said the Senate plan would allow organizers to sidestep the existing cap on charter public schools, but supporters said it would give parents more choice in education, MIRS reported.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc, "Senate Panel Moves Neighborhood Schools Package," Aug. 27, 2009 (Subscription required)
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Recipe for Failing Schools," Aug. 27, 2009
UNION HEAD ALLEGES RETRIBUTION
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - While a tentative contract agreement has been reached in Traverse City Area Public Schools, the teachers union president says he has been reassigned in retribution for speaking out about contract issues, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
John Scrudato, president of the Traverse City Education Association, will teach middle school reading in the coming year rather than continue as a classroom composition facilitator, the Record-Eagle reported.
He attributed the switch to his public criticism of district administrators, but Christine Davis, executive director of human resources for the district, disputed that claim, according to the Record-Eagle. Davis said she could not comment further on individual personnel changes.
Davis called Scrudato "a wonderful union president," the Record- Eagle reported, but Scrudato said, "It's like they're setting an example of me."
In related news, the district and teachers union recently reached agreement on a new contract after two years of negotiations, according to the Record-Eagle. No details were released pending ratification votes.
Traverse City Record-Eagle, "Teachers, TCAPS have tentative contract," Aug. 27, 2009
Traverse City Record-Eagle, "Union leader reassigned, alleges backlash," Aug. 27, 2009
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Collective Bargaining Primer," Feb. 28, 2007
SEEING THE POTENTIAL IN DEAF EDUCATION
DETROIT - A grassroots group in Detroit is waiting for the chance to open a public charter school offering an integrated program for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing students.
The "bilingual-bicultural" curriculum would rest on American Sign Language as the primary language, according to an article in Michigan Education Report, and the school would focus from the start on eliminating any communication barriers that hinder academic achievement, organizers said.
The development team of the Metropolitan Bicultural Achievement Academy has been ready to move forward for more than a year, but the cap on public charter schools in Michigan has them stymied, they said.
"It's like you're trying to grab something that you see right in front of you, and we just haven't been able to latch on," project leader Ernestine Heath said.
The article is the second in an occasional series about people and organizations that want to open public charter schools in Michigan, but have been delayed by the lack of available charters. Michigan Education Report is an online journal published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.
Michigan Education Report, "Seeing the potential in deaf education," Aug. 28, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Support creation of new Detroit charters," Dec. 15, 2005
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.