November 6, 2012

Contents of this issue:

  • Roberts says Proposal 1 rejection may trigger his resignation
  • Grand Rapids considers closing 10 school buildings
  • Plainwell district sues state for blocking debt refinancing 
  • Federal meal restrictions cause drop in hot lunch purchases
  • Macomb judge rules against suit alleging school discrimination

Roberts Says Proposal 1 Rejection May Trigger His Resignation

DETROIT – Roy Roberts, emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, says he may step down if a Proposal 1 fails today, according to The Detroit News.

The News reports that Roberts has used the emergency manager role to impose teacher pay cuts and other cost saving measures in order to dramatically reduce the district’s deficit.
If Proposal 1 fails, The News reports, Roberts would have to operate under an older, weaker law that allows emergency managers less latitude when negotiating with public unions.
Roberts told The News that operating under the old law — something he has had to do since the new emergency manager was placed on the ballot for voter consideration — has resulted in “utter confusion and chaos.”
SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Roberts may leave DPS if Prop 1 fails,” Nov. 1, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “What the Emergency Manager Referendum is About," Oct. 8, 2012

Grand Rapids Considers Closing 10 School Buildings

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Public Schools is considering closing 10 buildings, according to MLive.

Grand Rapids Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal told MLive that “It’s time we close or change the schools and programs that are not working and invest those funds for greater outcomes.”
MLive reports that the criteria used to identify buildings for possible closure included academic performance, building capacity, enrollment and infrastructure conditions.
The proposal will also consolidate nearly all of the district’s Centers of Innovation onto one campus.
According to MLive, the plan could save the district $5 million, and will be considered by the Grand Rapids school board in December.
SOURCE: MLive, “Grand Rapids superintendent unveils pitch to close Creston, other schools as part of consolidation, reinvention plan,” Oct. 29, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “District Refuses to Sell Unused Building to Public Charter School – Despite Receiving $250K Asking Price,” Jan. 12, 2012

Plainwell District Sues State For Blocking Debt Refinancing

PLAINWELL, Mich. – Plainwell Community Schools has sued the state of Michigan for not allowing the district to refinance nearly $10 million in debt, MLive reports.

The district had borrowed the money from the state’s bond loan fund, according to MLive, and would like to refinance the loan in order to lower the interest rate it is paying.
Since 2009, the taxable value of property within the district has declined by 8 percent, MLive reports. Though the state did not provide comment, Plainwell Superintendent Sue Wakefield told MLive that the state’s denial may be related to the decline in taxable property value.
George Brookover, the attorney representing Plainwell, told MLive that refinancing could save the district “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
SOURCE: MLive, “Plainwell Community Schools files lawsuit against state of Michigan for blocking bond financing,” Nov. 2, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Should Reform School Lending System, March 20, 2012

Federal Meal Restrictions Cause Drop in Hot Lunch Purchases

BANGOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Since the imposition of new federal meal guidelines, about 100 students at Bangor Township Schools have stopped purchasing school lunches, MLive reports.

The change in student lunches amounts to a drop of more than 16 percent compared to last year, according to information posted by MLive.
Students appear to be most upset about the small portion sizes offered, according to MLive.
Gatlin Hoffman, an athlete, told MLive that he often opts to skip in-school lunch offerings for food from nearby fast food restaurants. The fast food, he told MLive, is half as expensive.

SOURCE: MLive, “Hunger games: Bay County’s John Glenn High School sees 100 kids drop hot lunch after menu change,” Oct. 31, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Federal meal guidelines cause student (and stomach) grumbling," Oct. 2, 2012

Macomb Judge Rules Against Suit Alleging School Discrimination

WARREN, Mich. – A Macomb County judge has ruled that a teacher reading excerpts from a book about slavery does not constitute discrimination, The Detroit News reported.

According to The News, a fifth grade teacher read excerpts from the award-winning book “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road,” that contained the N-word.
The Macomb judge ruled that the reading was allowable because the text supplemented the fifth grade social studies curriculum. 
SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Suit dismissed against Warren schools’ use of book on slavery,” Nov. 2, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “What Can’t Brown Do for You?” May 17, 2004

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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