April 23, 2013

Contents of this issue:

  • District violated campaign finance law, Secretary of State says 
  • Riverview teachers reject contract, buck union leadership
  • Group works on plan for inexpensive public education model
  • Intermediate school district to oversee Muskegon finances
  • Two Utica schools recognized by Washington Post

District Violated Campaign Finance Law, Secretary of State Says

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The Secretary of State says that Traverse City Area Public Schools violated campaign finance law during November 2012, according to Interlochen Public Radio.

Interlochen Public Radio reports that the district spent taxpayer money to send out a mailer to district voters advocating a “yes” vote on a bond proposal. The bond proposal was defeated, according to Interlochen Public Radio.
The Secretary of State is asking the district for additional information regarding the cost of the mailer, Interlochen Public Radio Reports. The Traverse City district is surveying voters to determine whether a bond might pass this year, according to Interlochen Public Radio.
SOURCE: Interlochen Public Radio, “TCAPS Apologizes for Violating Campaign Finance Law,” April 19, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Advocacy Alleged in School Bond Promotion," Oct. 27, 2012

Riverview Teachers Reject Contract, Buck Union Leadership

RIVERVIEW, Mich. – Teachers in the Riverview Education Association voted to reject a tentative agreement with Riverview Community Schools  just before Michigan’s new right-to-work law took effect, according to The Southgate News-Herald.

The News-Herald reports that the Riverview school board would have ratified the contract at its March 26 meeting. At the meeting, some Riverview teachers spoke about why they rejected the contract, according to the News-Herald.
The News-Herald reported that Rich Kesor, a teacher and a coach, said that he voted against ratifying the contract because it didn’t provide an additional salary bonus to teachers who earned master’s degrees, though it provided $38,000 for additional coaching salaries.
According to The News-Herald, Riverview Superintendent Russell Pickell told the teachers at the meeting that failing to approve a contract was a failure of union leadership and its members.
“You had a tentative agreement,” he said, according to the News-Herald. “It was agreed to by the group you sent to the bargaining table. You did not support that. If there is a dysfunction or a disconnect, it exists in your house.”  
SOURCE: The News-Herald, “Riverview: Frustration mounts as teachers reject contract offer,” April 15, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Right-to-Work Is Here,” March 28, 2013

Group Works on Plan for Inexpensive Public Education Model

LANSING, Mich. – The Detroit News reports that a “secret work group” is working on a plan to develop an inexpensive public education model that will allow students more flexibility to attend different schools. The News reports that the group has discussed several technology options, including opening a charter public school with Bay Mills Community College and using long-distance video school conferencing to cut costs.

According to The News, under the plan students would be able to use state funding to pay for classes, as well as for music lessons, sports team fees or online courses, among other things.
About 20 people, mostly with information technology backgrounds, are a part of the group, according to The News. The group formed in December 2012 after the Michigan Legislature failed to pursue legislation that would have expanded school choice, The News reports.
SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Education reform group forges voucher-like plan for Michigan,” April 19, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “A Quick Lesson on School Vouchers," Nov. 29, 2012

Intermediate School District to Oversee Muskegon Finances

MUSKEGON, Mich. – The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District will begin overseeing the financial operations of Muskegon Public Schools on July 1, according to MLive.

Muskegon Superintendent Jon Felske told MLive that the move will save the district between $100,000 and $200,000. Though the district’s board approved a budget amendment that has the district spending $2.5 million more than it will take in, the move is not directly related to the district’s overspending problems, MLive reports.
According to MLive, the move is spurred by the upcoming retirement of the associate superintendent who oversees the district’s finance department. The department has 8.5 full-time employees, MLive reports, and five of them will be hired by the MAISD.
SOURCE: MLive, “Muskegon Public Schools finances to be overseen by intermediate school district,” April 18, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Seniority No Longer Supreme For Teacher Recalls,” April 15, 2013

Two Utica schools recognized by Washington Post

UTICA, Mich. – The Washington Post has named the Utica Academy for International Studies and Eisenhower High School as two of the most challenging American high schools, according to the Shelby-Utica Patch.

The Post evaluated schools by looking at the number high-level tests, such as Advanced Placement exams, taken by students each year and  the number of students who passed at least one, the Shelby-Utica Patch reports.
UAIS was ranked as the 38th most challenging school in the country, according to the Shelby-Utica Patch, while Eisenhower High School was ranked at 1,639.
SOURCE: The Shelby-Utica Patch, “Two Utica Community Schools Among the Most Challenging Schools in America,” April 20, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Public High School Context and Performance Database, 2012