November 26, 2013

Contents of this issue:

  • Virtual school coming to Ann Arbor Public Schools
  • Milan budgets conservatively, pays teachers bonus
  • EAA enrollment drops 24 percent
  • Bond rating drop for schools to increase costs of borrowing
  • Flint board member says overspending crisis has hit $19M
  • SPECIAL ALERT: What do you imagine would be the easiest and most convenient way to get notified of important education votes your state legislators make?

Virtual School Coming to Ann Arbor Public Schools

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ann Arbor Public Schools will start a virtual academy in the fall of 2014, according to MLive.

MLive reports that a new state law is spurring the creation of AAPS’ virtual school. The new law, according to MLive, allows students to take two online courses each semester and requires districts to make courses accessible to students.
According to MLive, AAPS does offer some online courses now, primarily through the Michigan Virtual University.

MLive reports that AAPS board members are skeptical of the expansion of online learning. Board President Deb Mexicotte said that the statewide system of virtual courses is the “Wild Wild West,” according to MLive.

SOURCES: MLive, “Coming soon: Ann Arbor schools to launch virtual academy,” Nov. 21, 2013

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy,“Michigan Virtual University – The Online Virtual Learning Revolution Continues,” Sept. 13, 2011

Milan Budgets Conservatively, Pays Teachers Bonus

MILAN, Mich. – After a $12,000 advertising campaign this year, the Milan school district enrolled 29 more students than anticipated, according to The Milan News-Leader.

Each additional student will bring about $7,000 to the district — about $200,000 more in revenue. The News-Leader reports that the district and the teacher’s union shared the advertising costs.

The district’s teachers will be getting an increase in their paychecks, due to the additional revenue, according to The News-Leader.

Milan Superintendent Bryan Girbach told The News-Leader that he is interested in having an annual advertising campaign to bring in more students.

SOURCE: The Milan News-Reader,“Milan: Official school student count higher than budgeted,” Nov. 20, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“More Michigan Students Opt for School Choice,” Jan. 22, 2013

EAA Enrollment Drops 24 Percent

DETROIT – Enrollment at the statewide Education Achievement Authority has dropped by about 24 percent, according to The Detroit News.

According to The News, the enrollment drop will cost the EAA about $17 million in revenue. The News reports that the EAA can’t raise money by levying taxes or borrowing, unlike conventional districts.
Craig Ruff, an education adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder, told The News that the EAA faces competition for students, from both Detroit Public Schools and Detroit-area charter public schools.

“They have been in business one school year. It’s very difficult to turn around buildings where you have had really persistent failure for a long, long time,” he told The

SOURCE: Detroit News,“Michigan’s EAA sees 24% drop in students,” Nov. 22, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Teachers Union Pushes Districts To Boycott Some University Students Over Politics,” Nov. 8 2013

Freeland Struggles to Reach Contract

FREELAND, Mich. – Freeland administrators and teachers will continue to negotiate toward a contract in December, according to MLive.

MLive reports that Freeland teachers have been working without a contract since June 30. At the Freeland Board of Education’s last meeting, about 80 teachers picketed, according to MLive.
MLive reports that the district might require teachers to help pay more for health insurance and could reduce teacher pay.

SOURCE: MLive,“Freeland Community Schools administration, teachers schedule contract negotiation meeting in December,” Nov. 17, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Legal Expert: Reopening School Union Contracts Makes Them Subject To Right-to-Work,” Nov. 15, 2013

Bond Rating Drop for Schools to Increase Costs of Borrowing

MACOMB, Mich. – Moody’s Investor Service recently lowered bond ratings for more than 50 school districts, primarily in southeast Michigan, according to The Macomb Daily.

The downgrade is generally due to declining enrollment and increased retirement costs, according to The Daily.
District officials say that the lowered bond ratings won’t affect classrooms, The Daily reports, but the cost of borrowing money could increase for some districts.

“The lower rating does not impact the day-to-day operations and will not have an impact on classroom instruction,” Andrea Agrusa, Van Dyke’s director of business and operations, told The Daily. “It will have a negative impact if the district needs to borrow money.”

SOURCE: The Macomb Daily,“School bosses: Students won’t feel pinch of lowered bond ratings,” Nov. 22, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“Increased School Funding Did Not Slow Districts In Deficit,” June 8, 2013

Flint Board Member Says Overspending Crisis Has Hit $19M

FLINT, Mich. – A Flint school board member says that the district is now spending $19 million more than it takes in, according to MLive.

Flint Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins told MLive that the district was overspending by $10 million, but would not discuss details of a recent audit because the findings had not yet been presented publicly.
Flint submitted a deficit elimination plan earlier, which was approved in August, MLive reports. According to MLive, the district has closed schools, let go of teachers and sold school buildings.

School board member David Davenport, who told Mlive that the district was actually overspending by $19 million, said that it was discovered that more money had been misspent.

SOURCE: MLive,“Flint school board member disputes superintendent and says district deficit worsening,” Nov. 22, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“Slight Reduction In Education Funding Did Not Lead To Doomsday Predictions," Feb. 11, 2013

Special Alert: New Voting App Joins the Mackinac Center Family of Apps

Imagine an easy and convenient way to get notified of important education votes your state legislators make. Imagine an easy and convenient way to alert your legislator about your agreement or disagreement with those votes. Coming this December, you won't have to imagine it. A new iPhone app alerts you of important votes which take place and enables you to tell you legislator — within just a couple taps of your screen. See more here.