January 21, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • Democrats write off teacher pension funding
  • Union challenge to pension reforms rejected
  • Lansing may save $5M by privatizing busing
  • Bills introduced to change teacher evaluations
  • Michigan charter school law turns 20
  • High school robotics team’s 3D-printed ‘robohand’ changes lives
  • Special Alert: VoteSpotter App Joins the Mackinac Center Family of Apps

Democrats Write Off with Teacher Pension Funding

LANSING, Mich. – Some Democrats disagree with Gov. Rick Snyder’s statement in his State of the State address that state taxpayers are spending $660 more per pupil on K-12 education, according to Michigan Information & Research Service.

Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, told MIRS that the increase in state spending for education is due to the state directing more money to the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System, MIRS reports.
“The money that goes to pensions is all fine and dandy,” Greimel told MIRS. “But it doesn’t solve the underlying problem, which is about getting more investment in the classroom which can actually be used to improve education for students.”

House Appropriations Chair Joe Haveman, R-Holland, told MIRS that Gov. Snyder’s math added up. “How are you going to argue with math,” he told MIRS. “We spent almost $1 billion in MPSERS…$660 per student, how do you argue with that?”

SOURCES: MIRS (Subscription required),“Gov Tries to ‘Set The Record Straight’ On School Funding,” Jan. 16, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“Reality Check: Michigan Public Schools Getting More Money For Fewer Students," Jan. 16, 2014

Union Challenge to Pension Reforms Rejected

LANSING – The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected a claim by teacher unions challenging new state laws that require them to contribute to the cost of their own pensions, according to MLive.

MLive reports that pamphlets and brochures advertising the retirement system are not considered a contract and do not supersede the new state laws.

The ruling also states that the Legislature can make changes to future pension benefits, according to MLive.

American Federation of Teachers-Michigan President David Hecker told MLive that the ruling was a “let down” and that “This just makes it more clear how badly we need leaders who will promote a secure retirement for Michigan’s working families, not take it away from them.

SOURCE: MLive,“Teachers’ unions lose challenge to Michigan pension plan changes,” Jan. 15, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“Michigan Pension System Hole Getting Deeper," March 14, 2013

Lansing May Save $5M by Privatizing Busing

LANSING, Mich. – The Lansing School District may choose to privatize its busing, the Lansing State Journal reports.

According to the Journal, privatizing busing could save the district $5.2 million over a five-year period. If Lansing chooses to make the move, it will be joining nine other Ingham County districts that are a part of the Ingham Intermediate School District transportation consortium, according to the Journal.
The Journal reports that districts that are a part of the consortium work with the ISD and contract with a private company, Dean Transportation.

Ingham ISD Superintendent Stan Kogut told the Journal that privatization would save Lansing money because the district would no longer have to pay public employee retirement costs, and would save on administrative costs.

“I think this is good news for Lansing because Lansing can reduce costs,” he told the Journal. “I would hope that within five years that all of the districts within our county would be involved.”

SOURCE: Lansing State Journal, “Lansing schools may vote to privatize busing for 5,500 students,” Jan. 16, 2014

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy,“Michigan School Privatization Survey 2012,” March 11, 2013

Bills Introduced to Change Teacher Evaluations

LANSING, Mich. – New bills have been introduced to change how teachers are evaluated, according to MLive. The first, House Bill 5223, would extend the number of years school districts have before implementing an evaluation system that would base at least half of a teacher’s evaluation on student growth data, MLive reports.
The second, H.B. 5224, would require that principals and other administrators associated with teaching would be evaluated on their school’s overall academic performance, according to MLive.

MLive reports that the bills will be heard in the Michigan House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday.

SOURCE: MLive,“Michigan teacher evaluation requirements set for changes under bipartisan legislation,” Jan. 19, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential,“State ‘Teacher of the Year’ Finalist Given Middle-of-the-Pack Pay,” June 21, 2014

Michigan Charter School Law Turns 20

MARQUETTE, Mich. – Michigan’s first charter school law was passed 20 years ago, the Marquette Mining Journal reports. Michigan now has 298 charter public schools, the Journal reports, and approximately 9 percent of Michigan public school students attend a charter school.

“We had, over time, created a monopoly in which kids were held captive to their own school district in which they lived,” former Sen. Dick Posthumus — and sponsor of Michigan’s charter school law — told the Journal.
Michigan’s charter school law came only three years after Minnesota’s — the first such law in the United States, according to the Journal.

“Chartering came from outside the political system, and sometimes the best thing we can do as policy makers is to step back, remove the barriers and let citizens take the lead,” Minnesota State Sen. Ember Eichgott Junge said, the Journal reports.

SOURCE: The Mining Journal,“Charter schools turn 20,” Jan. 15, 2014

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy,“Michigan Charter Schools a Smashing Success,” Jan. 15, 2013

High School Robotics Team’s 3D-printed ‘Robohand’ Changes Lives

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The West Catholic High School robotics team recently gave a 4-year-old girl a 3D-printed prosthetic hand, and is now dreaming bigger, according to MLive.

The hand moves in response to the girl’s motions, MLive reports, and has increased her range of activities. The team has since received a donation to purchase its own 3D printer, and is already discussing creating another hand for a Canadian family, according to MLive.
The hand, MLive reports, can be resized as Harmony, the recipient of the ‘Robohand’ grows up. One of her favorite things to do now, according to MLive, is to paint her fingernails.

SOURCE: MLive,“’Robohand’ given to West Michigan preschooler proving to be life-changing,” Jan. 17, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest,“Utica teachers learn how to build 3D printers,” Aug. 27, 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.