Sept. 9, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • MEA ‘opt out’ window should be scrapped, judge says
  • Robert Davis admits to taking $200K from Highland Park schools
  • Many school union contracts violating RTW law
  • CMU charter schools post high MEAP scores
  • Ann Arbor school board member criticizes school color-coded rankings

MEA ‘Opt Out’ Window Should Be Scrapped, Judge Says

LANSING, Mich. – Administrative Law Judge Julia Stern says the Michigan Education Association should allow teachers to leave the union at any time, The Detroit News reports. Stern’s ruling is in a case brought by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes Michigan Education Digest.

The MEA has limited teachers and other public school employees from leaving the union by only allowing them to “opt out” during the month of August, according to The News.
Stern is suggesting that the Michigan Employment Relations Commission require the MEA to stop that practice, The News reports. 
MEA officials told The News they are planning to appeal the ruling.

SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Judge: Michigan teachers should be able to exit union anytime,” Sept. 4, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Labor Law Judge Rules MEA’s So-Called ‘August Window’ Is Illegal,” Sept. 4, 2014 

Robert Davis Admits to Taking $200K From Highland Park Schools

DETROIT, Mich. – Former Highland Park school board member Robert Davis has pleaded guilty to embezzling close to $200,000 from Highland Park schools, the Detroit Free Press reports.

According to the Free Press, Davis could be sentenced to 18-24 months in prison, and may be required to pay back some of the money.
Davis’ attorney, Douglas Mullkoff, is attempting to negotiate  probation for Davis, the Free Press reports. Davis would like to keep his job with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, according to the Free Press.
Mullkoff argues that Davis’ AFSCME job is unrelated to the embezzlement, the Free Press reports. “Critically, there is no indication that Mr. Davis did anything harmful to the union or its members,” Mullkoff wrote to the judge, according to the Free Press. 

SOURCE: Detroit Free Press, “Activist Robert Davis pleads guilty to stealing money from Highland Park” Sept. 2, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Highland Park under financial review,” Sept. 2, 2011 

Many School Union Contracts Violating RTW Law

MIDLAND, Mich. – Twenty-three Michigan school districts agreed to collective bargaining agreements after the state’s right-to-work law took effect, and yet preserved contract language stating that teachers must pay union dues as a condition of employment, according to Michigan Capitol Confidential.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy publishes both Capitol Confidential and Michigan Education Digest.
“There are thousands of teachers in these districts who may be misled into believing they don’t have a choice when it comes to financially supporting a union in order to keep their job,” Mackinac Center Director of Education Policy Audrey Spalding told Capitol Confidential.
The Center identified several ways school district and union officials worked to circumvent the law, Capitol Confidential reports.
“It’s a good example [showing] that the traditional districts will do whatever they can to flaunt the law until they are caught,” Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, told Michigan Capitol Confidential.

SOURCE: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “School Districts Across the State Violating Michigan Right-to-Work Law,” Sept. 4, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Superintendent Doing Something About Illegal Contract Provision," Sept. 6, 2014 

CMU Charter Schools Post High MEAP Scores

MT. PLEASANT, Mich. – Students attending public charter schools authorized by Central Michigan University are posting high academic scores, according to the (Mt. Pleasant) Morning Sun.

The Morning Sun reports that Canton Charter Academy, authorized by CMU, has posted some of the highest MEAP scores in the state for the past four years. Several other CMU charter schools rank in the top 25 Michigan schools, ranked by MEAP scores, according to the Morning Sun.
“[CMU was] the first university in the country to authorize a charter school,” Brad Wever, director of public policy at CMU’s charter school office, told the Morning Sun. “We feel like over the past 20 years, we have developed systems and processes that are leading to good results for kids.”

SOURCE: The Morning Sun, “Central Michigan University chartered schools rank high in MEAP scores,” Sept. 4, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Charters Outperform Conventional Schools on Top-to-Bottom List When Student Socioeconomic Status Is Taken Into Account, Aug. 25, 2014 

AAPS Board Member Criticizes School Color-Coded Rankings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ann Arbor school board member Andy Thomas believes the Michigan Department of Education should get rid of its ranking system for schools, MLive reports.

According to MLive, the state assigns “Top-to-Bottom” rankings to public schools, as well as color-coded designations.
In a letter to State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, Thomas wrote that “I imagine that many parents will simply look at the color rating and make a judgment regarding the quality of a particular school,” according to MLive.
Thomas wrote that just three high schools received the state’s highest rating of “green” – all of which were closed or had no available student achievement data, MLive reports.
Further, Thomas noted, the state’s focus on an “achievement gap” penalizes schools that enroll a diverse population, according to MLive. Schools receiving a “lime green” rating, wrote Thomas, have “no minorities present – no minorities, no achievement gap.”

(Editor's note: The headline of this item has been changed to more accurately reflect Mr. Thomas's criticism of the Michigan Department of Education's ranking of school performance.)

SOURCE: MLive, “Toss color-coded school ratings in the trash can, Ann Arbor school board member tells state,” Sept. 5, 2014
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “TTB a Poor Measure of Charter School Performance,” June 27, 2014