October 23, 2012

Contents of this issue:

  • Bus confrontation, privatization spark district controversy
  • State doubles down on criticism of Oakland Schools
  • Survey suggests 80 percent of districts violating merit pay law
  • Grosse Pointe board votes down additional residency requirement
  • State proposes giving schools a break if students improve
  • Center hosting live webinar on ballot proposals Oct. 30
  • Center publishes study on collective bargaining proposal

Bus Controversy, Privatization Spark District Controversy

GALESBURG, Mich. – A video recording of a physical confrontation between a transportation employee and a 7-year-old student has exacerbated strained relations between the Galesburg-Augusta district and some residents, according to MLive.

This summer, MLive reports, the district privatized its custodial and bus services to save money. The transition to privatized transportation was a difficult one, according to MLive, with long commutes for some students.

According to MLive, Heidi Mullin, the worker who had a physical confrontation with a student, was hired by the contracting company based on a positive recommendation from Portage Public Schools. However, MLive reports, Mullin’s background check was not thorough, and the Portage district incorrectly identified Mullin as having no record of professional misconduct. In fact, according to MLive, Mullin left Portage after a series of reprimands.

Ed Dollin, CEO of Auxilio Services of Cincinnati, the company that oversees Galesburg-Augusta’s transportation services, told MLive that he thinks the continued controversy over Mullin’s behavior is in part due to resentment over privatization of bus services.

“I think right now we’re a whipping boy,” Dollin told MLive. “I think we’re being vilified because we’re coming in to save money and we’re making changes.”

SOURCE: MLive, “Galesburg-Augusta bus controversy reflective of bigger tensions,” Oct. 21, 2012

FURTHER READINGMackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Support Services Contracting Increases to 61 Percent of Districts,” Aug. 13, 2012

State Doubles Down on Criticism of Oakland Schools 

PONTIAC, Mich. – The ongoing controversy over a new state measure of achievement has heated up in Oakland County, The Oakland Press reports.

According to The Press, the state labels schools with the largest achievement gap between the highest-scoring 30 percent of students and the lowest-scoring 30 percent of students as “focus schools.” The Press reports that Oakland Schools Superintendent Vickie Markavitch has publicly criticized the measure as identifying high-achieving schools while overlooking low-achieving schools.

In part in response to Markavitch’s criticism, the Michigan Department of Education sent out a press release targeted at Oakland County, The Press reports. The release states that the vast majority of the lowest 30 percent of Oakland County students were not proficient in math, reading, science, writing or social studies, according to The Press.

The Press also reports that the state release sharply criticized those critical of the focus school designation, stating that “Many local educators in Michigan with Focus Schools are standing up and moving forward in a positive way to help lift their lowest-achieving students, while others continue to be in denial and their lowest-achieving students are paying the price.”

SOURCE: The Oakland Press, "State slams Oakland Schools for wide achievement gap," Oct. 11, 2012

FURTHER READINGMackinac Center for Public Policy, “Instead of Focusing on Gaps, Focus on Growth,” Aug. 8, 2012

Survey Suggests 80 Percent of Districts Violating Merit Pay Law

LANSING, Mich. – A survey of collective bargaining contracts suggests that 80 percent of school districts are violating a state requirement to pay teachers based on performance, according to The Daily Caller.

The Daily Caller reports that in 2010, the Michigan Legislature passed a law that requires districts to determine teacher pay by using performance as a significant factor. However, a survey of recently approved contracts by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy suggests that many districts are violating the law, according to The Daily Caller.

Two school districts, The Daily Caller reports, provide a maximum of $1 to high-performing teachers.

SOURCE: The Daily Caller, “Michigan school districts violating teacher merit pay law," Oct. 17, 2012 

FURTHER READINGMichigan Capitol Confidential, “Money Motivates, But A Dollar Is Simply Insulting," Oct. 16, 2012

Grosse Pointe Board Votes Down Additional Residency Requirement

GROSSE POINTE, Mich. – The Grosse Pointe school board voted down a proposal to require all students to provide a notarized affidavit that they live in the district, according to MLive.

MLive reports that board members voted down the proposal 5-2, with Board President Judy Gaffa saying the proposal would just impose an additional requirement on top of the district’s already stringent residency policies.

One resident, Marvin Rice, told MLive that it’s already difficult to prove residency to the district. “They’re making it so that it’s harder for people to move here,” he told MLive. “They’re attacking people who know they can’t afford to deal with that.”

SOURCE: MLive, “Grosse Pointe school board votes down controversial affidavit of residency requirement," Oct. 15, 2012

FURTHER READINGMackinac Center for Public Policy, “Who’s Cheating Who?” The Grosse Pointe residency saga continues," Oct. 18, 2012

State Proposes Giving Schools a Break if Students Improve

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Education has proposed counting students as “proficient” if they have improved substantially on state standardized tests, according to the Lansing State Journal.

The Journal reports that such a change would boost the rankings of some schools with low-performing students, and that the U.S. Department of Education would have to approve the change.

Joseph Martineau, director of MDE’s Bureau of Assessment and Accountability, told the Journal that “because we set the bar so high, it is even more important now to be able to give credit for students making progress.”

SOURCE: Lansing State Journal, “Proposal could give Michigan schools break on standardized tests,” Oct. 15, 2012

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Performance Analyses Useful," July 30, 12

Center Hosting Live Webinar on Ballot Proposals Oct. 30

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is hosting a live webinar on Michigan’s ballot proposals at noon on Oct. 30. Each of the ballot proposals will be explained, and viewers will be able to submit questions that will be answered by the Center’s policy experts.

MED subscribers can click here (http://eepurl.com/qT0_9) to register.

More information can be found on the Center's website at hhttp://www.mackinac.org/17764.

Center Publishes Study of Collective Bargaining Proposal

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has published a new study on Proposal 2, a ballot initiative that would enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution.

The authors find that the proposal could lead to at least $1.6 billion in projected savings being lost due to changes to employee health insurance, pensions and school contracting.

The full study can be found on the Center’s website at http://www.mackinac.org/17728.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Michael Van Beek at mailto:med@educationreport.org

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