Oct. 28, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • Center for Education Reform: Charter school reporting failure
  • GVSU: Don’t penalize schools for enrolling needy students
  • Brighton removes ‘release time’ deduction from contract
  • Ann Arbor voters to weigh annexation of Whitmore Lake district
  • School board elections statewide on Nov. 4

Center for Education Reform: Charter School Reporting Failure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A report from the Center for Education Reform, a school reform nonprofit, alleges that recent statements from Michigan critics of charter public schools contain numerous errors.

According to CER, charter schools are held to a higher standard than conventional schools, with 22 percent of Michigan charter schools having been closed, a rate higher than the national average.
CER reports that the Michigan Department of Education itself has published data showing that charter schools perform, on average, 4 percentage points higher than conventional schools.
Further, according to CER, charter schools are not allowed to hire employees who might have a conflict of interest. In comparison, CER reports, conventional schools are not held to the same standard.

SOURCE: Center for Education Reform, “Michigan Spends $13 Billion on K-12 Public Education Per Year in State Taxpayer Money, With No Accountability for Results,” October 2014 
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “TTB a Poor Measure of Charter Performance,” June 27, 2014 

GVSU: Don’t Penalize Schools for Enrolling Needy Students

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Valley State University says the Michigan Department of Education is threatening to penalize charter public schools for opening in underserved communities, MLive reports.

According to MLive, GVSU officials have formally requested that State Superintendent Michael Flanagan recognize that GVSU authorizes charter schools that serve homeless, dropout and expelled students. Flanagan is threatening to block authorizers from opening new charter schools, MLive reports.
“We view it as our mission, and the mission of the schools GVSU authorizes, to provide choice to underserved students in failing school districts, which we will be prohibited from doing under the MDE-created model of portfolio evaluation,” the GVSU letter said, according to MLive.
“We will not abandon the poor, homeless students of color served by schools we charter,” GVSU officials said.

SOURCE: MLive, “GVSU pushes back against state’s measurement of charter school performance,” Oct. 22, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Parents Speak Out on Effort to Halt School Choice,” Sept. 20, 2014 

Brighton Removes ‘Release Time’ Deduction from Contract

BRIGHTON, Mich. – The Brighton school district and the Brighton Education Association have removed language from the district’s union contract that would have fined teachers who chose not to be in the union money for paid time off for the union president to work on union business, the Lansing State Journal reports.

The contract was challenged by Brighton High School history teacher Adam Neuman, who was represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, the State Journal reports. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.
“We are pleased that the district and the union acted so quickly to fix the illegality in the contract and honor our client’s wishes to be free from the union and its internal machinations,” Mackinac Center Vice President for Legal Affairs Patrick Wright told the State Journal.

SOURCE: Lansing State Journal, “Mackinac Center drops suit against Brighton schools,” Oct. 25, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Brighton Teachers Union, School Board Acquiesce to Center Lawsuit, Strike Illegal Language from Contract," Oct. 24, 2014

Ann Arbor Voters to Weigh Annexation of Whitmore Lake District

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On Nov. 4, voters in Ann Arbor and Whitmore Lake will vote whether to merge districts, MLive reports. Whitmore Lake enrolls fewer than 1,000 students, according to MLive, and has experienced an enrollment decline of close to 27 percent during the past 10 years.

Officials told MLive that the merging of the two districts will help Whitmore Lake avoid an overspending crisis. “We’ve looked under every rock for every penny,” Whitmore Superintendent Kim Hart told MLive. “We have stretched our money to last three to four years longer by being very frugal.
If Ann Arbor and Whitmore Lake voters reject the merger, it is possible that the Whitmore Lake school district could be dissolved if it develops severe financial problems in the future, MLive reports. In the short term, Michigan Department of Education officials told MLive, the district would not be dissolved. Whitmore Lake is a far from being in the same financial situation as districts the state has dissolved, MDE officials told MLive.

SOURCES: MLive, “If annexation fails, what happens to Whitmore Lake and Ann Arbor schools,” Oct. 24, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “AAPS board can’t agree on Whitmore Lake annexation, Sept. 23, 2014 

School Board Elections Statewide on Nov. 4

LANSING, Mich. – Throughout the state, local school board members will be up for election on Nov. 4, the Lansing State Journal reports.

Don Wotruba, director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, told the State Journal that unrest can drive many candidates to run for open seats.
“Building closures or a repurposing often drive turnout,” Wotruba told the State Journal. “You get people from a neighborhood who aren’t happy and they run for the board.” Wotruba also told the State Journal that candidates may run to impact a district union contract.
Peter Spadafore, president of the Lansing school board, told the State Journal that interest in school board elections is a good thing.
“In a lot of cities and a lot of places around this state, you have multiple board members who run unopposed,” Spadafore told the State Journal.
“It’s nice to see that people are interested and they’re competitive.”

SOURCE: Lansing State Journal, “School board races: Some crowded, some not,” Oct. 26, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “School board elections moved to November in even-numbered years,” Dec. 10, 2011