Contents of this issue:
- Teacher privatization among reform ideas
- Reaction mixed on mandatory schools of choice
- Melton leaving Legislature for education reform job
- Highland Park under financial review
- Feds ease special education spending rule
Teacher Privatization among Reform Ideas
LANSING, Mich. — Teacher privatization is one part of an
education reform package expected to be taken up by state lawmakers this fall,
and while the Michigan Education Association has already criticized the idea,
the Michigan Association of School Boards said it could be a good option for
districts, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
School districts already are allowed to hire private firms
to provide bus drivers and other support staff, but could expand that to
include teachers under legislation being prepared for review, MIRS reported.
Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, told MIRS that the reform
package also includes lifting the cap on state university-chartered public
charter schools and a mandatory, statewide schools-of-choice program.
"I look at it as offering options," Pavlov told
MIRS. He said that teachers hired privately would have to have the same
qualifications as current instructors, MIRS reported.
Doug Pratt, spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, called the idea
“terrible” and said it would turn over schools to “Wall Street,” MIRS reported.
Peter Spadafore, assistant director of government relations for the Michigan
Association of School Boards, said it could be a good option for districts as
long as it isn’t mandatory, MIRS reported.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., “Privatizing
teaching jobs in Senate package,” Aug. 29, 2011 (Subscription required)
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., “School boards open
to optional teacher privatization,” Sept. 2, 2011 (Subscription required)
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan school districts embrace
privatization,” Aug. 16, 2011
Reaction Mixed on Mandatory Schools of Choice
HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich. — Harbor Springs Public Schools wants
to have the “right size” enrollment for its budget and programs, the district
superintendent told the Harbor Light newspaper, a goal that may or may not be
affected by a proposal for mandatory “schools of choice” across Michigan.
Gov. Rick Snyder has suggested that all public school
districts be required to accept students from other districts if they have
space available, the Harbor Light reported. Right now districts have the option
to offer seats to nonresident students.
Supporters say a mandatory program would mean more children
could attend higher quality schools, The Detroit News reported separately, but
critics said it would take away local control from districts.
Harbor Springs used to have an open-door policy, but ended
it several years ago for financial reasons, Superintendent Mark Tompkins told
the Harbor Light.
The district is one of relatively few in Michigan that are
funded primarily through local property tax revenue instead of per-pupil aid
from the state, Tompkins told the Harbor Light. In recent years, as taxable
values and tax revenue declined, additional students would have increased costs
without increasing revenue, he said, the Harbor Light reported.
Elsewhere, some Grosse Pointe Public Schools residents are
objecting to the plan, calling it an issue of local control, The Detroit News
reported. Others said that districts that object to open-door policies simply
don’t want to deal with students enrolling from poorer-performing districts,
according to The News.
Harbor Light, “Schools
of choice may be forced on Harbor Springs by state legislation,” Aug. 31,
2011 (Subscription required)
The Detroit News, “Choice,
local control at odds in Michigan schools,” Aug. 28, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Grosse Pointe State Rep: Public Schools
Must Control ‘Who is Allowed to Attend,’” Aug. 30, 2011
Melton Leaving Legislature for Education Reform Job
LANSING, Mich. — State Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, is
leaving the Legislature to take a position with the education reform group
StudentsFirst, The Oakland Press reported.
Melton, former chairman of the House Education Committee,
said he wants to advocate for education reform at the national level and also
that he wants more time for his young family, The Press reported.
StudentsFirst was established in 2010 by Michelle Rhee,
former chancellor of public schools in Washington, D.C. The organization
advocates for greater school choice, rewarding and retaining teachers based on their
impact on students, and school spending that focuses on student results,
according to the policy agenda at its website.
Melton was elected to his third two-year term in November
and cannot seek a fourth term because of term limits, according to The Press.
His last day in the Legislature will be Friday.
The Oakland Press, “Melton
to quit Legislature to advocate for education reform,” Aug. 30, 2011
Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Michigan Democrat: Teacher Union Leaders Are 'Disconnected', Sept. 2, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “A First Step,” June 16, 2009
Highland Park under Financial Review
HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. — Michigan’s top
education official has asked Gov. Rick Snyder to assign a financial review team
to the Highland Park School District, saying the district is in financial
distress, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Mike Flanagan, State Superintendent
for Public Instruction, cited a nearly $20 million deficit, a sharp drop in
enrollment and an audit that disclosed poor cash management as reasons for his
request, the Free Press reported.
The move could bring the district
closer to having an emergency financial manager appointed to oversee
operations, but a Highland Park school board trustee said such a step wouldn’t
be necessary, according to the Free Press.
Robert Davis, board secretary, said
the district is working to eliminate the deficit, citing last year’s
privatization of custodial, food service and security services and a new effort
to share services with the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency, the Free
The Detroit Free Press, “State
schools chief seeks financial review for Highland Park school district,”
Aug. 30, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Common School Funding Myths,” Sept. 7,
Feds Ease Special Education Spending Rules
WASHINGTON, D.C. — School districts may have more leeway to
cut special education budgets now than in the past, Education Week reported.
In the past, school districts that permanently reduced
their special education budgets faced possible loss of federal funding, with
limited exceptions, Education Week reported. This was intended to protect
special needs students from sudden changes in services due to shifting public
spending or politics, advocates told Education Week.
But in a recent letter offering new guidance, the federal
Department of Education said that districts won’t necessarily face sanctions
for reducing spending on special education or be required to restore those
cuts, according to Education Week.
Special education advocates said the guidance is worrisome,
but federal officials said students remain protected by the legal requirement
that districts provide them with a “free, appropriate education,” Education
A representative of the American Association of School
Administrators told Education Week that it is unfair to ask school districts to
reduce general education programs while leaving all special education services
Education Week, “Feds
Loosen Rules on Cutting Special Ed. Spending,” Aug. 31, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Specializing
in special education,” Feb.1, 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.