June 11, 2013

Contents of this issue:

  • Muskegon Heights mismanagement required district charterization 
  • Bill introduced to allow closing of insolvent districts
  • Moody’s downgrades Pontiac school district bonds
  • ‘Teacher of the Year’ one of lowest paid in Grosse Pointe 
  • Jackson bus drivers picket to protest cost-saving proposal 
  • Michigan should look to Florida to improve public education

Muskegon Heights Mismanagement Required District Charterization

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. – Donald Weatherspoon, emergency manager for Muskegon Heights Public Schools, told MLive that  converting to a charter district was a required response to past mismanagement.

Weatherspoon told MLive that equipment had been stolen, boxes of outdated and unopened textbooks were kept in closed buildings and that too many people, including volunteers, former employees and church groups, had keys to school buildings.

By converting to a charter district, Weatherspoon said Muskegon Heights could keep its school system and avoid bankruptcy.
SOURCE: MLive, “Emergency in the Heights: Charter school district seen as a risky, and only, option,” June 6, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “District Spent $20K Per Student, Had Rodents in Schools, Holes in Ceiling and Walls," May 21, 2013

Bill Introduced to Allow Closing of Insolvent Districts

LANSING, Mich. – Two legislators from communities with financially struggling school districts have introduced a bill to allow for the dissolution of districts that run out of money, according to The Detroit News.

The News reports that under the legislation proposed by Rep. David Rutledge, D-Ypsilanti, and Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, students in a failed district could attend other districts, though the failed district’s debt would stay with local taxpayers. The failed district would continue collecting taxes until the debt was paid off, according to The News.
The News reports that 49 Michigan school districts are in an overspending crisis, and have been placed on a state watch list.
SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Financially troubled Michigan school districts may be forced to close,” June 5, 2013 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Increased School Funding Did Not Slow Districts In Deficit,” June 8, 2012

Moody’s Downgrades Pontiac School District Bonds

CHICAGO – Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded bonds issued by the Pontiac School District, according to a press release issued by the rating company.

According to Moody’s, the downgrade of the district’s tax debt was triggered when Pontiac failed to make a payment on May 1, 2013. The district did not make a $1.4 million debt service payment, and the bond insurer had to pick up the tab, Moody’s reports.
Enrollment declines and the fact that the Pontiac district now spends 50 percent more than it takes in both factor negatively against the district, according to Moody’s.
SOURCE: Moody’s, “Moody’s downgrades Pontiac City School District (MI) GOULT issuer rating to B3 from B1 and the district’s GOLT debt to Caa1 from B2,” June 5, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Close Dysfunctional Schools,” May 16, 2013

‘Teacher of the Year’ One of Lowest Paid in Grosse Pointe

GROSSE POINTE, Mich. – The Grosse Pointe high school science teacher named the 2012-13 Michigan Teacher of the Year is one of the lowest-paid teachers in his district, Michigan Capitol Confidential reports. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy publishes Michigan Capitol Confidential

According to Capitol Confidential, Gary Abud made $56,876 in 2012-13, about $21,000 less than the average teacher’s salary in the Grosse Pointe district.
Capitol Confidential reports that the reason Abud’s pay is relatively low is because the district determines teacher pay solely on seniority and education level — not performance.
Abud told Capitol Confidential that he would like to see teachers rated on “objective criteria as the yard stick for student growth.”
SOURCE: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Union Salary Schedule Ensures State ‘Teacher of the Year’ Earns Near Bottom In Pay,” June 10, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Of Course Merit Pay Is a Good Idea,” May 28, 2013

Jackson Bus Drivers Picket to Protest Cost-Saving Proposal

JACKSON, Mich. – Ten Jackson Public Schools bus drivers picketed during a recent lunch hour to protest the district considering privatizing transportation in order to save money, according to MLive.

MLive reports that Jackson needs to cut $2.3 million, and that privatizing transportation could save $325,000.
Lori Granthan, vice president of the Jackson Education Support Personnel union, told MLive that she had sent the superintendent a list of alternative ways to save money.
MLive reports that one of her suggestions was to eliminate an administrative position created for a principal who had to be replaced because his school had repeatedly been ranked as failing by the state.
SOURCE: MLive, “Jackson Public Schools bus drivers picket in protest of possible privatization of their jobs,” June 5, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan School Privatization Survey 2012, March 11, 2013

Michigan Should Look to Florida to Improve Public Education

MIDLAND, Mich. – The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released a new study comparing student outcomes in Florida to those in Michigan. During the past 15 years, Florida made the second-highest standardized test score gains in the country, while posting the lowest per-pupil spending increases, according to the study.

Had Michigan improved at a similar rate, it would be one of the top-performing states in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The study shows that Florida’s success is likely due to a variety of new education reform policies, including expanding parental choice, eliminating all geographical limitations to public school choice and limiting social promotion of third-graders who are not proficient in reading.
There’s no ‘silver bullet’ here, said Michael Van Beek, the Center’s director of education policy, “but Florida’s example should be considered when setting the agenda to improve Michigan’s public education system in the years to come.”
SOURCE: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan vs. Florida: Student Achievement, Education Policies and Proposals for Reform,” June 2013