January 28, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • Charter school for at-risk students might open in Muskegon
  • Lansing rejects $5 million in savings, won’t privatize busing
  • Privatization up in Michigan schools
  • Pontiac has 10 years to get rid of $51.6M overspending crisis
  • Student data won’t be shared with feds, Flanagan says
  • Promising First Year for Highland Park Charter District

Charter School for At-Risk Students Might Open in Muskegon

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Covenant House Michigan may open a charter public school for at-risk students in Muskegon, according to MLive.

Covenant House offers year-round schooling for students between the ages of 16 and 22, MLive reports.
Executive Director Sam Joseph told MLive that he has discussed opening the charter public school with the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District and the Grand Valley State University charter school office.

“These are kids nobody wants because they bring down the overall test scores in the school,” Joseph told MLive. “Nobody’s taking care of this population.”

SOURCES: MLive,“Covenant House Academy considering Muskegon for charter school serving at-risk students,” Jan. 26, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest,“More GVSU-authorized charter public schools to open this fall," May 28, 2013

Lansing Rejects $5 Million in Savings, Won’t Privatize Busing

LANSING, Mich. — The Lansing School District turned down the opportunity to save $5 million over five years and will not privatize transportation services, according to WLNS.

The board was considering privatizing transportation services by contracting with Dean Transportation, WLNS reports.

WLNS reports that, the school board listened to more than an hour of public comment, and people protested outside of the meeting.

Lansing Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul told WILNS that she “…totally [trusts] Dean Transportation to be a viable provider of transportation,” and that the proposal to privatize would likely be brought up again.

SOURCE: WLNS,“Lansing School Board Decides Against Outsourcing Busing Services, For Now,” Jan. 23, 2014

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest,“Lansing may save $5M by privatizing busing," Jan. 21, 2014

Privatization Up in Michigan Schools

MIDLAND, Mich. — Approximately two-thirds of Michigan school districts now outsource at least one of the three main noninstructional services, according to Michigan Radio.

That estimate, according to Michigan Radio, comes from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy 2013 School Privatization Survey (the Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest).
Districts can save approximately $100 per pupil by contracting out custodial services, $75 for transportation privatization and about $30 per pupil by privatizing food services, James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center, told Michigan Radio.

SOURCE: Michigan Radio,“Survey shows more Michigan public schools privatizing support services,” Jan. 21, 2014

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy,“Two-Thirds of School Districts Contract for at Least One Major Support Service, According to Center’s 2013 School Privatization Survey,” Jan. 21, 2014

Pontiac Has 10 Years to Get Rid of $51.6M Overspending Crisis

PONTIAC, Mich. — The Detroit News reports that Michigan is allowing the Pontiac School District up to 10 years to address its $51.6 million overspending crisis. According to The News, the time period allowed Pontiac is twice as long as previously granted to other school districts.
“It was a stretch,” State Superintendent Mike Flanagan told The News. “…it’s not ideal, but we are hopeful together with the Treasury we can get them on the right track.”

The News reports that officials are projecting that the district will see enrollment increases of 1 to 2 percent, beginning in 2017. However, according to The News, Pontiac saw enrollment drop in half during the past 10 years.

Donald Weatherspoon, who has served as emergency manager for other financially troubled school districts, said that dissolving the Pontiac school district is not likely.

“Pontiac has fiscal problems — that’s historical,” Weatherspoon told The News. “In terms of the size of the district, if we continue to operate on this plan, it can be saved after some significant right-sizing.”

SOURCE: The Detroit News,“Pontiac School District gets 10 years to eliminate $51.6M deficit,” Jan. 22, 2014

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy,“In Pontiac, MEA Local Raises $12K For School Supplies While Union Health Insurance Arm Sues District for $7.8 Million,” March 11, 2014

Student Data Won’t Be Shared With Feds, Flanagan Says

LANSING, Mich. — State Superintendent Mike Flanagan co-signed a formal letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stating that personally identifiable information about students taking tests aligned with Common Core standards would not be shared with the federal government, according to MLive.

MLive reports that Michigan is considering adopting the Smarter Balanced test, which is aligned with Common Core standards.
Some Michigan legislators, including Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, and Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, were concerned about privacy, according to MLive.

The letter Flanagan co-signed states that “…the consortia will not share any personally identifiable information about K-12 students with USED or any federal agency,” MLive reports.

SOURCE: MLive,“Mike Flanagan, other state superintendents tell federal officials Common Core test data won’t be shared,” Jan. 24, 2014

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy,“Common Core Clarification,” June 12, 2014

Promising First Year for Highland Park Charter District

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. — The first year of the Highland Park Renaissance Academy is showing promising results. HPRA was created when an emergency manager converted the failing conventional school district — which was spending approximately $20,00 per student — into one of Michigan’s first two public charter districts. HPRA is featured in this Mackinac Center video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQhyIO-8KSI).

Since the conversion, parents and students say that things have improved. The charter company running the schools has invested more than $1 million to clean and repair the facilities, and students are posting significant academic growth.
To learn more about the Highland Park transformation, take a look at this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQhyIO-8KSI), which features interviews with parents, students, staff and former district teachers.