Contents of this issue:
- Consolidation vs. cooperation
- Los Angeles Times rates city teachers
- Americans owe more to student loans than credit cards
- College comes early for some home-schoolers
- Riverview cuts supply budget, restores busing
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Consolidation of public school
districts as a way to save money is on the front burner again in Michigan, but
many districts say they're already saving cash by sharing services, according
to media reports around the state.
The discussion centers on a study by Michigan State
University's Education Policy Center that concludes Michigan could save up to
$612 million a year if smaller school districts consolidated into larger
operations, mainly through economies of scale and eliminating duplicative
Lesser amounts could be saved by sharing services
like accounting and transportation without complete consolidations, the report
The study was jointly commissioned by eight
affiliated Michigan newspapers. The Kalamazoo Gazette reported that many school
districts already are sharing employees or contracting for services with
private firms or with other school districts as a way to trim spending.
"If we can merge our support services for technology
and business and food services and maintenance and still maintain our community
identity, we'll have the best of both worlds," Sue Wakefield, superintendent of
Plainwell Community Schools, told The Gazette.
Consolidation supporters say it would offer more
course options to high school students in small districts and would help retain
teachers, the media reports said. Opponents say smaller districts offer smaller
class sizes and more personal attention, and questioned if predicted savings
would be realized.
"I'm tired of the
simplistic battle war cries for consolidation that don't factor in all the
variables that are going to differ from district to district," Godfrey-Lee
Public Schools Superintendent David Britten told Michigan Capitol Confidential.
Several media reports cited a 2007 study by the
Mackinac Center for Public Policy that concluded that consolidation would save
money in some cases, but would be impractical most of the time. That study, "School District Consolidation, Size and Spending:
An Evaluation," also concluded that the state would save more money
by breaking up large districts than by merging smaller ones.
The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education
The Kalamazoo Gazette, "School districts in
Southwest Michigan moving toward merging operations to save money," Aug. 15,
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School District
Consolidation, Size and Spending: An Evaluation," May 22, 2007
Michigan Capitol Confidential, "School Consolidation
is no 'Silver Bullet,'" Aug. 17, 2010
ANGELES TIMES RATES CITY TEACHERS
Editor’s Note — This article has been corrected from a previous version. The LA Times did not hire the RAND Corp. to conduct this analysis, but was assisted by a RAND Corp. researcher.
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Times is publishing an independent analysis of the best and
worst teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District using a "value-added"
approach that shows wide variation in teacher effectiveness, it reported. The
city teachers union is launching a boycott of the newspaper in response, the
Aided by a RAND Corporation researcher, the newspaper conducted a statistical analysis of student scores on standardized tests in math and English over seven years.
the results by teacher and found that students of some teachers consistently
made larger gains in a single year than those in other classrooms, and more
than would be expected based on the students' past scores, the report said.
Conversely, it found that students of other teachers consistently lost ground, the
difference could not be attributed to class size, socioeconomics or parental
support, the Times reported. The Times said it will publish the entire database
later this month, after first inviting teachers to view it and post comments.
could have done the same analysis but has not, the Times reported.
value-added models say that standardized tests are flawed, and that they do not
capture intangible benefits of a given classroom, the Times reported.
Supporters say it is the best method to date of objectively evaluating teacher
Times, "Who's teaching L.A.'s kids?" Aug. 14, 2010
Times, "Union leader calls on L.A. teachers to boycott Times," Aug. 15, 2010
Center for Public Policy, "Using Value-Added Assessment to Define Teacher
Quality," June 30, 2008
LOANS SURPASS CREDIT CARD DEBT
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the first time,
Americans owe more in student loans than they do in credit card debt, according
to a report in The Wall Street Journal. While citizens cumulatively owe about
$826.5 billion in revolving credit, mostly credit card debt, they owe a total
of $829.8 billion in government and private student loans, The Journal said.
The figures were reported by Mark
Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, The Journal reported.
Kantrowitz estimated that there is
$605.6 billion in federal student loans outstanding and $167.8 billion in
private loans, The Journal reported. Of that, about $300 billion in federal
student loan debt was generated in the last four years.
Consumers with both credit card debt
and student loan debt tend to pay the credit card balance first, since it
typically carries a higher interest rate, according to The Journal. The report
also noted that college tuition is increasing during an economic downturn,
resulting in more parents and students seeking loans to cover education costs.
Student loans typically cannot be
forgiven through bankruptcy, The Journal reported.
The Wall Street Journal, "Student-loan
debt surpasses credit cards," Aug. 9, 2010
Mackinac Center for Public Policy,
"Analysis: Dangers of Status Quo Budgeting in Higher Education," Aug. 2, 2010
COMES EARLY FOR SOME HOME-SCHOOLERS
PORTAGE, Mich. — Brooke Rowland of
Portage is 17 years old and entering her senior year at Western Michigan
University, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette. She is one of a number of
home-schooled students nationally who enter college well before the typical
age, The Gazette reported.
Rowland was a full-time student at
Kalamazoo Valley Community College at age 14, and then transferred to WMU at
16, according to The Gazette. Two teen-age siblings also are in college.
University officials told The Gazette
that home-schoolers tend to be independent, inquisitive learners. They also
said that parents and home-schoolers should consider the nonacademic side of
campus life before enrolling, The Gazette said. For example, some colleges
require freshmen to live on campus regardless of age.
Dual enrollment — attending high school
and college at the same time — is one a way of transitioning to college used by
home-schoolers as well as other students, officials told The Gazette.
The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Homeschooling
can pave fast track to college," Aug. 12, 2010
Michigan Education Report, "At Home At
Delta College," Feb. 23, 2007
CUTS SUPPLY BUDGET, RESTORES BUSING
Mich. — Reducing the supply budget and correcting a budget error will allow
Riverview Community Schools to restore elementary and middle school
transportation, according to The (Southgate) News-Herald, though a counseling
position will be eliminated.
school board voted in May to eliminate busing in order to address a projected
$3.4 million in overspending, The News-Herald reported.
district will reduce the supply budget by about $70,000 and also correct a
mistaken charge of $30,000 for kindergarten furnishings which was covered in last
year's budget, The News-Herald said. The district also has eliminated a
counseling position for a $92,000 spending reduction.
this year, some board members said that such cuts would not have been needed if
the Riverview Education Association had accepted a pay freeze similar to other
employee groups, according to the report. The association president said at the
time that the Michigan Education Association refused to allow Riverview
teachers to re-open their contract with the district, The News-Herald reported.
Dennis Desmarais called that practice "illegal," The News-Herald reported,
while union president William Beson said the history of spending in the
district shows it is "well off" and can afford to meet current contract
(Southgate) News-Herald, "Riverview: Busing restored for elementary, middle
school students," Aug. 10, 2010
Center for Public Policy, "'Edujobs' fact check," Aug. 11, 2010
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.