Contents of this issue:
- Grand Rapids split over granting charter
- Recall group denies MEA backing
- Plan would reduce funding for half-day kindergarten
- Like many, Michigan excused from some NCLB provisions
- Pension boards sue over emergency manager law
Grand Rapids Split over Granting Charter
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The school board in Grand Rapids
Public Schools is split over whether or how to make Grand Rapids University
Preparatory Academy a charter public school, according to The Grand Rapids
Supporters say the move is necessary to protect the
school’s autonomy and flexibility, while opponents say it would set the wrong
precedent and that the school can be successful by working within the
conventional school system, The Press reported.
Right now the school is a public-private enterprise between
the district and area business leaders, according to The Press. It has 260
students in sixth- through ninth-grade and will expand to 10th grade next year,
the report said. Students are chosen to attend through a lottery.
As a charter, the school would have more freedom to follow
its individualized, college-preparatory curriculum, and also would have more
control of staffing because it would not be subject to “bumping” rights from
tenured teachers in other Grand Rapids public schools, the school’s officials
said, according to The Press.
“It sets a bad
precedent that charters are the answer and I don’t think they are,” said GRPS
board member Jon O’Connor, according to The Press. “They still haven’t
convinced me they can’t work within the system.”
Others said the school offers parents an important choice,
The Press said.
The Grand Rapids Press, “Grand Rapids school board divided over granting UPrep charter request,”
April 22, 2011
Michigan Education Digest, “DPS: Here’s what we want in a
charter operator,” April 8, 2011
Recall Group Denies MEA Backing
LANSING, Mich. — Charges that a group working to recall
Gov. Rick Snyder is a front for the Michigan Education Association were levied
by the Michigan Republican Party last week after the recall organizers provided
a union fax number in documents filed with the state, according to media
The group, Michigan Citizens United, is made up of a
variety of individuals, including some MEA members, a spokesman told
AnnArbor.com. The group’s treasurer, Gail Schmidt of Omer, is an MEA field
Doug Pratt, a spokesman for the MEA, told The Detroit News
that the union is not involved in the recall effort and that it is looking into
use of the fax number.
The Michigan Republican Party denounced the recall effort
in a press release, The Detroit News reported.
"Why are teachers' union dues being spent on an effort
to recall a governor who took office less than five months ago?" state GOP
Chairman Robert Schostak was quoted in the release.
Michigan Citizens United filed the recall petition in Washtenaw County on April
18, but cannot begin collecting signatures until the county elections
commission conducts a hearing on whether the wording on the petition is clear,
The Detroit News, “Snyder recall effort blasted,” April 19,
AnnArbor.com, “Group files petition in Ann Arbor seeking
recall of Gov. Rick Snyder,” April 18, 2011
Michigan Education Digest, “Union recommends Democrats to
its conservative members,” Oct. 26, 2010
Plan Would Reduce Funding for Half-Day Kindergarten
MUSKEGON, Mich. — School districts that offer half-day
kindergarten are weighing their options in view of a proposal to reimburse them
at half the current amount per pupil, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.
Traditionally those districts have received full per-pupil
funding for half-day kindergarteners, but the Michigan Senate Republicans’
budget proposal suggests a move to half-funding, according to The Chronicle.
Some school districts are planning to expand to full-day
kindergarten, though it will mean adding teachers, while others say they can't
afford to increase their staff or don't have enough room, The Chronicle
Similar proposals have failed several times before, The
Whitehall District Schools Superintendent Darlene Dongvillo
told The Chronicle it would cost $250,000 to double the district’s kindergarten
staff, which would keep class size at about 20 students.
The alternative is to lose about $600,000 in per-pupil
funding, she said, according to The Chronicle.
The Muskegon Chronicle, "Muskegon-area schools
analyzing plan to cut half-day kindergarten funding," April 23, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “MichiganVotes.org
Weekly Roll Call Report,” April 22, 2011
Like Many, Michigan Excused from Some NCLB Provisions
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Education Secretary Arne Duncan granted
315 waivers in 2009 that excused school districts from parts of the No Child
Left Behind Act, including some in Michigan, according to Education Week and
Duncan has approved hundreds more waivers than his
predecessor, Margaret Spellings, who allowed 91 waivers over four years,
Education Week reported. Some take the increase to reflect districts’ growing
worry over the NCLB requirement that all students be “proficient” in reading
and math by 2014, Education Week reported.
The Michigan waivers related mostly to the supplemental
services that Title I schools “in need of improvement” must provide to
students, such as after-school tutoring, according to a federal report.
The waivers allowed some districts to provide the tutoring
themselves, rather than using an outside agency; to provide tutoring rather
than offer the student the option of attending another school; and excused
districts from counting federal stimulus funds as revenue when calculating the
amount they were obliged to spend on supplemental services, the report said.
Other states have received waivers related to standardized
testing, according to Education Week. In Kansas, one district was allowed to
substitute customized tests developed by ACT Inc. for the state’s version, the
A U.S. Department of Education spokesman said the Kansas
waiver was granted only because the district’s new tests are expected to be
more rigorous than the state’s, according to Education Week.
Some legislators have called for more transparency in how
and why waivers are granted, the article said.
Education Week, “Duncan Issues Far More Waivers Than
Predecessors,” April 22, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Another Year of Hollow
School Progress Reports,” Aug. 23, 2010
Pension boards sue over emergency manager law
DETROIT — Pension officials for Detroit city workers are
suing Gov. Rick Snyder over the new emergency financial manager law, saying it
violates contract rights protected by the state Constitution, according to
The new law broadens the authority of state-appointed
financial managers, giving them the power to terminate employee contracts and
suspend collective bargaining, Bloomberg reported.
Snyder said the law will help keep Michigan communities out
of bankruptcy, according to Bloomberg. Michigan has emergency managers running
the Detroit Public Schools and the cities of Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor.
The complaint was filed by the General Retirement System of
the City of Detroit, the Policy and Fire Retirement System and four
individuals, according to Bloomberg. It asks for a court order preventing the
law from taking effect. The complaint also alleges that the broader powers
allow for seizure and control of retirement systems, Bloomberg reported.
A spokesman for the governor didn’t immediately return a
call for comment, Bloomberg reported.
Pension Boards Sue Michigan Governor Snyder Over Emergency Powers,” April 19,
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Acts of God: Don’t like
the EFM Law? There’s an alternative: Rein in government employee unions,” April
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.