January 7, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • State wary of $15.8M loan to Flint School District
  • Federal government eases up on student lunch restrictions
  • Ann Arbor considers blocking sale to preserve tax revenue
  • Northern Michigan University to authorize three more charters
  • Superintendent/principal removed as a result of state ranking
  • Special Alert: VoteSpotter App Joins the Mackinac Center Family of Apps

State Wary of $15.8M Loan to Flint School District

FLINT, Mich. – The state has still not approved the Flint School District’s request for a $15.8 million loan, according to MLive.

MLive reports that the district has spent $19 million more than it receives in revenues – including $8.6 million that had been misspent.
The district’s overspending crisis has dramatically increased since 2011, when the district spent just $3.7 million more than it took in, according to MLive.

“[The Michigan Department of Treasury] has concerns about the loan amount being discussed as well as potential uses of loan proceeds,” Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton told MLive.

SOURCES: Detroit News,“State approval for Flint School District’s $15.8 million loan still needed,” Jan. 2, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“Contrary to Report, Charter Schools Get Less Money Per Pupil Than Conventional Schools," Dec. 6, 2013

Federal Government Eases Up on Student Lunch Restrictions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to widespread outcry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has lifted limitations on student lunches at public schools, according to the Sheboygan Press.

The Press reports that schools will be able to serve larger portions of meat and grains. The limitations that students and parents complained about were put in place during the 2012-13 school year, and were an attempt to reduce childhood obesity, according to the Press.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, told the Press that the easing of limitations was a good move, but says that there is a need for a permanent fix. Noem introduced a bill in December 2013 that would make the easing of restrictions permanent.

The School Nutrition Association also told the Press that the ease on restrictions was a beneficial change.

"With school nutrition professionals already planning menus and inventory for the 2014-15 school year, eliminating the grain and protein limits is a key step to providing healthy menus that appeal to students,” Leah Schmidt, president of the association, told the Press.

SOURCE: Sturgis Journal,“Schools compete for student numbers,” Dec. 14, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“School Choice Benefits Students,” Feb. 4, 2013

Number of Districts in Deficit Declines

LANSING, Mich. – At the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, 50 school districts or public charter schools were in deficit, according to MLive.

MLive reports that 12 districts that began the year with an overspending crisis reined in their spending by the end of the year.
According to MLive, the Pontiac school district has one of the most egregious deficits. MLive reports that the district is spending 88 percent more money than it takes in and might not be able to comply with its consent agreement with the state to reduce its deficit.

SOURCE: Sheboygan Press,“USDA to allow more meat, grains in school meals,” Jan. 4, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest,“Some Michigan districts waste federal meal subsidies,” May 14, 2013

Ann Arbor Considers Blocking Sale to Preserve Tax Revenue

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan is planning to purchase a large, centrally located property in the city of Ann Arbor, according to MLive. Since the University is exempt from paying property taxes, its purchase could reduce the city’s property tax revenue, MLive reports.
The city of Ann Arbor could block the sale, MLive reports. But in order to do so, according to MLive, the city would have to purchase the property – a move that also would result in reduced tax revenue, not to mention purchase costs.

“The city is looking at its options,” councilwoman Sally Peterson told MLive. “The full scope of them are not [known] right now in terms of the feasibility of this.”

SOURCE: MLive,“With Edwards Bros. Property, Ann Arbor considers how far it will go to protect tax base,” Dec. 23, 2013

FURTHER READING: The Detroit News,“EAA expansion bill stalls in Michigan House,” Dec. 12, 2013; Michigan Education Digest,“Covert heavily relies on one taxpayer,” July 30, 2013

Northern Michigan University to Authorize Three More Charters

MARQUETTE, Mich. – Northern Michigan University’s Board of Trustees has approved the authorization of three more public charter schools, according to ABC 10. All three schools will be in the Lower Peninsula, ABC 10 reports.

According to ABC 10, two of the schools were previously chartered by Ferris State University, and are in Saginaw and Detroit. The third school will be in Port Huron, and will begin as a K-5 school.
These three schools will bring the total number of charter schools authorized by NMU up to 10 schools, ABC 10 reports.

“We have looked at this from a mission-specific perspective as we determine the growth of charter schools at NMU,” Bill Pistulka, NMU’s charter schools officer, told ABC 10. “If you look at those we have chartered, they are in high-need areas with low-performing traditional schools.”

SOURCE: ABC 10,“NMU Board Approves Three Charter Schools,” Jan. 1, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“Almost 220,000 Michigan Public School Students Rely On School Choice,” Dec. 4, 2013

Superintendent/Principal Removed as a Result of State Ranking

HOMER, Mich. – Anne Riddle, the superintendent and principal of Litchfield Community Schools, has been replaced, according to The Homer Index.

The Index reports that Litchfield was identified as a priority school by the Michigan Department of Education, and that designation is what caused Riddle’s replacement.
According to The Index, MDE required the district to separate the superintendent/principal position into two positions. The Index reports that Dr. Corey Helgesen was hired on as K-12 principal, and that the district has delayed the search for a superintendent.

SOURCE: The Homer Index,“Opening of new school highlights 2013 news,” December 2013

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy,“Michigan’s Top-to-Bottom Ranking: A Measure of School Quality or Student Poverty?” Oct. 10, 2013

Special Alert: VoteSpotter 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. The VoteSpotter 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.