February 12, 2013

Contents of this issue:

  • Gov. Snyder proposes 2 percent increase in K-12 funding
  • Michigan seeks to ban American Indian school mascots 
  • Cesar Chavez Charter Academy teachers vote to unionize 
  • State board study finds charter students learn more
  • Pontiac summer taxes could double due to unpaid bills
  • School board delays insurance decision due to union negotiation

Gov. Snyder Proposes 2 Percent Increase in K-12 Funding

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing to increase spending on K-12 public schools by about 2 percent, MLive reports.

According to MLive, the minimum state foundation allowance a district would receive for educating a student would increase from $6,966 to $7,000. The money is intended to help equalize per-pupil funding among districts, MLive reports, so districts already receiving a larger foundation allowance would not see an increase.
Public universities and community colleges will also get a 2 percent increase in funding, according to MLive.
SOURCE: MLive, Michigan budget: Gov. Rick Snyder to propose 2 percent funding increase for public education,” Feb. 7, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Michigan Teachers Rank No. 2 For Salary," Feb. 7, 2013

Michigan Seeks to Ban American Indian School Mascots

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is seeking to ban the use of American Indian mascots in schools, according to the Lansing State Journal.

The State Journal reports that 35 Michigan school districts are cited in the complaint as being “responsible for the alleged discrimination.”
The State Journal reported that the complaint cites new research purporting to show that the mascots can negatively impact student self-esteem, learning and achievement.
SOURCE: Lansing State Journal, “Sexton mascot named in civil rights complaint,” Feb. 8, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, Tecumseh voting on use of ‘Redskins,’" Oct. 10, 2008

Cesar Chavez Charter Academy Teachers Vote to Unionize

DETROIT – Teachers at Cesar Chavez Academy, a charter public school run by the Leona Group, voted to seek union representation, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Free Press reports that the vote was 88-39, and that staff members will seek representation by an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan.
A spokesman for the Leona Group told the Free Press that none of the company’s 60 schools in Michigan, Arizona, Florida, Indiana or Ohio have union representation.
SOURCE: The Detroit Free Press, “Staff at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy hopes union representation will give them a greater voice,” Feb. 7, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Teachers Denied Freedom to Vote on Unionization,” Sept. 4, 2012

State Board Study Finds Charter Students Learn More

LANSING, Mich. – A report requested by the Michigan Board of Education found that charter public school students are posting educational gains equal to or better than conventional public school students, according to Gongwer (subscription required).

Students at schools chartered by the three largest charter school authorizers in the state posted greater educational gains than the statewide average, Gongwer reports.
The report’s findings tend to support a recent Stanford University study, according to Gongwer, which found that Michigan charter public students gained two additional months of learning each year when compared to their public school peers.
SOURCE: Gongwer, “Report For State Board Backs Charter Growth Finding,” Feb. 6, 2013 (Subscription required)
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “State Report: More Growth for Charter Students, Feb. 7, 2013

Pontiac Summer Taxes Could Double Due to Unpaid Bills

PONTIAC, Mich. – Summer property taxes could double for Pontiac School District residents due to unpaid health insurance bills, according to The Oakland Press.

The Pontiac School District has agreed to settle with the Michigan Education Special Services Association for $7.8 million in unpaid insurance premiums, The Press reports. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association that purchases insurance policies and then re-sells them to school districts.
According to The Press, the entire amount could go on the summer tax rolls for residents of Bloomfield, Orion, Waterford and West Bloomfield townships, and residents of Auburn Hills, Lake Angeles, Pontiac and Sylvan Lake.
Tim Gardner, general counsel and human resource director for the school district, said that the money has to be paid back all at once. “The district made the proposal to (do it over a few years) but the opposing party wanted it at once,” he told The Press. 
SOURCE: Oakland Press, “Area taxpayers could be on the hook for Pontiac’s unpaid bills,” Feb. 7, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Pontiac Turnaround Stories: City Vs. Schools,” July 2, 2012

School Board Delays Insurance Decision due to Union Negotiation

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids school board delayed determining its health insurance policyholder of record in order to avoid alienating the teachers union, according to MLive.

MLive reports that the union-affiliated Michigan Education Special Services Association is the district’s policyholder of record, but that districts can be eligible for state best practices incentive money if they designate themselves as the policyholder of record.
According to MLive, Grand Rapids administrators support the change because it may save the district money and bring in $1 million in best practices funds.
MLive reports that state law prohibits policyholder designation as a negotiable item in school district union contracts.
SOURCE: MLive, “Grand Rapids schools delays decision to shift health insurance policyholder,” Feb. 4, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Why School Districts Can’t Save on Health Care,” Jan. 6, 2004