Sept. 2, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • Charter authorizers offer oversight system
  • School works to get out of bottom 5 percent 
  • School officials react to enrollment decline
  • Schools face battle against tourism industry for early start
  • Saginaw teachers take pay cut to keep district afloat

Charter Authorizers Offer Oversight System

LANSING, Mich. – Facing threats from the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers has proposed a voluntary accreditation system, MLive reports.

Standards would include: Closing schools that are repeatedly ranked among the bottom 5 percent of Michigan schools and prohibiting authorizers from opening a school recently shut down for subpar performance, according to MLive.
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan views the proposal as a “great start,” according to MLive.
MCCSA officials told MLive that they have been working on these standards for at least a year, and are seeking to emulate some of the strictest standards in the U.S.

SOURCE: MLive, “Michigan charter school authorizers propose own system for oversight, academic-based closures,” Aug. 29, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Flanagan Goes Too Far on Charter Schools,” Aug. 11, 2014 

School Works to Get Out of Bottom 5 Percent

LANSING, Mich. – More than $1.7 million in federal money has been awarded to Lansing’s Eastern High School as a “school improvement” grant, the Lansing State Journal reports.

The school is a “priority school,” meaning that it was ranked by the Michigan Department of Education among the bottom 5 percent of schools, according to the LSJ. Just 10 percent of Eastern students, the State Journal reports, scored proficient or better on the Michigan Merit Mathematics Exam.
This year, Eastern has a new principal, Coby Fletcher, according to the LSJ. Fletcher previously helped drive improvement at Battle Creek’s Central High School, the LSJ reports.
Fletcher focused on improving instruction at Battle Creek, according to the State Journal. “It’s very tempting when you look at school improvement to go with the new and fancy,” Fletcher told the LSJ. “I am a big believer in fundamentals.”
The LSJ reports that approximately 34 percent of priority schools identified by MDE last year are no longer on the list this year. 

SOURCE: Lansing State Journal, “How do you turn a school around?” Sept. 1, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “State Education Department Gives a Pass To Failing Districts; Punishes Charters,” Aug. 15, 2014 

School Officials React to Enrollment Decline

GAYLORD, Mich. – School districts in rural northern Michigan are facing enrollment declines, according to the Petoskey News.

According to the Petoskey News, student enrollment has dropped by 5 percent in the past year at Gaylord Community Schools. At Johannesburg-Lewiston, enrollment is down by 16 percent from a high in 2005-06, the Petoskey News reports.
Statewide, enrollment is down by 11 percent compared to 10 years ago, according to the Petoskey News.
Nonpublic schools are facing the same struggle, the Petoskey News reports.
“For us, it is because we are tuition based and a lot of families are struggling financially,” Karla Hawkins, former Otsego Christian School administrator, told the Petoskey News.
School officials told the Petoskey News that they suspect the decline in enrollment is due to a lagging economy.

SOURCE: The Petoskey News, “Empty seats: School officials deal with declining enrollment,” Aug. 28, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Northern Districts Grapple With Enrollment Decline," Aug. 12, 2014 

Schools Face Battle Against Tourism Industry For Early Start

LANSING, Mich. – Most Michigan schools do not offer classes until after Labor Day due to lobbying from the tourism industry, according to WLNS TV-6. In 2005, schools were prohibited from offering class before the holiday, WLNS 6 reports.

In comparison, schools in 38 states are allowed to offer classes before the September holiday, according to WLNS 6.
WLNS  reports that Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing is sponsoring a bill to allow schools to offer classes year round.

SOURCE: WLNS TV-6, “Skubick: Moving Up The First Day Of School,” Aug. 27, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “Post-Labor Day school start, Nov. 21, 2006 

Saginaw Teachers Take Pay Cut to Keep District Afloat

SAGINAW, Mich. – Teachers are taking a 6 percent pay cut to help balance the books at the Saginaw School District, MLive reports. Saginaw is overspending by $7 million, according to MLive, and has promised to be back in the black by July 2016.

The Saginaw teachers union voted to support the pay cut, MLive reports, because the district is at risk.
“If [the pay cut] hadn’t passed, we would have faced exactly what [the now-dissolved Buena Vista School District] faced,” Saginaw Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said, according to MLive.

SOURCE: MLive, “Saginaw school teachers’ union approves new 6 percent wage cut,” Aug. 25, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Saginaw fund balance disappears,” Feb. 7, 2009