Contents of this issue:
District employees may choose child's school district
Institute uncovers teachers union's questionable promises to members
Judge orders Ann Arbor schools to pay legal fees in free speech case
Kentwood pact pits newer teachers against experienced teachers
Former assistant principal runs from law in sexual misconduct case
Detroit's 'Proposal E' a matter of contention among voters
Traverse City district to receive federal obesity grant
DISTRICT EMPLOYEES MAY CHOOSE CHILD'S SCHOOL DISTRICT
DETROIT — State legislation passed this summer allows a district to admit an
employee's children even if the employee lives in another district and the
employing district does not accept students under the state's schools-of-choice
program or has already filled its schools-of- choice openings.
The new law, Public Act 227, was sponsored by state Sen. Ray Basham,
D-Taylor, and some districts, such as Livonia and Romulus, are now offering
their staff the opportunity to enroll their out-of-district
children, according to The Detroit News.
"The biggest dilemma a teacher always has is the balance between the school
family and the personal family, and this allows them to blend those two things,"
Romulus district spokesman Richard Kruse told the News.
Southfield district spokesman Ken Siver said the new law is helpful in
providing better benefits to teachers and other district employees. "I think the
(Southfield) school board is receptive to this. It's an employee benefit, like
in the sense that health insurance is a benefit," he said.
But some have voiced opposition to the law, saying it unfairly benefits
school employees and could lead to new costs for taxpayers. Rose Bogaert of the
Wayne County Taxpayers Association told the News: "Now we've got preferential
treatment and nepotism. The volume would be significant if a lot of teachers
chose to take advantage of that. Are (the school employees) going to add
additional classrooms if the number of students exceeds (available space)?"
Detroit News, "School workers can choose kids' district,"
Sept. 26, 2004
, 2004 Public Act 227
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Freeing to Choose," October 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Fewer Students = More Money?"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on
Public School Districts," July 2000
INSTITUTE UNCOVERS TEACHERS UNION'S QUESTIONABLE PROMISES TO MEMBERS
GOLDEN, Colo. — A Colorado research institute has reported its
discovery last week that a local teachers union had told its members
they would receive graduate school credit for participating in an
Oct. 9 union rally and literature drop. The institute also reported
that the college that was allegedly going to provide the credit never
agreed to do so.
The Golden, Colo.-based Independence Institute said Pamela Benigno,
director of its Education Policy Center, found that the Jefferson
County Education Association told members that they would receive
graduate school class credit at Adams State College in Alamosa for
attending a three- to four-hour union political rally conducted in
support of two Democratic state senators and a school funding
initiative. To receive credit, members were also expected to hand out
political literature. But Adams State College Trustee Chair Peggy Lamm
reportedly told the institute, "Adams State College never approved
credit for this event, nor did we intend to."
"It's inappropriate, to say the least, that a teachers union would
offer academic credit as a way to entice teachers to promote the
union's political agenda — and in the process cheapen the value of
academic credit," said Benigno.
Independence Institute, "Education Policy Director Exposes Teachers'
Union's False Promises," Oct. 1, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Unions: Helping or
Michigan Education Report
, "School Unions Shortchange Students,"
JUDGE ORDERS ANN ARBOR SCHOOLS TO PAY LEGAL FEES IN FREE SPEECH CASE
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Ann Arbor News has reported that a federal judge
earlier this month ordered the Ann Arbor Public Schools to pay legal
fees for a student who sued the district for violating her right to
The suit originated in July 2002 after the district denied Betsy
Hansen, a senior at Pioneer High School during the 2001-2002 school
year, the opportunity during the school's "Diversity Week" to place on
a "Homosexuality and Religion" panel an adult representative who
believed that homosexual activity is a sin according to the Bible. In
addition, Hansen claimed that the school censored portions of a speech
she made during the week.
U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen found in Hansen's favor in 2003,
writing that the case "presents the ironic and unfortunate paradox of a
public high school celebrating 'diversity' by refusing to permit the
presentation to students of an 'unwelcomed' viewpoint on the topic of
homosexuality and religion, while actively promoting the competing
The judge's 2003 ruling also ordered the district to pay damages, legal
fees and other expenses to the law firm representing Hansen. The Ann
Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center submitted a petition for costs of
$124,632, but the district contested that amount. Judge Rosen's ruling
finalized the total reimbursement amount at $102,738, which the
district must now pay. The district has already spent nearly $300,000
on its own defense attorneys, according to the News.
Ann Arbor News, "Schools ordered to pay legal fees," Oct. 3, 2004
KENTWOOD PACT PITS NEWER TEACHERS AGAINST EXPERIENCED TEACHERS
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A tentative pact reached last week between the
Kentwood district and local union officials may avert a possible
employee strike, but could divide less-experienced teachers and senior
teachers over future pay raise opportunities, according to the Grand
Under the agreement, the district would retain full financial
responsibility for paying employee health insurance to an insurance
provider preferred by the local union. The provider, known as MESSA,
was originally founded by the Michigan Education Association.
Teachers, in turn, would make concessions over future "step-pay"
increases, which are given annually to reward experience. Based on data
from the last contract in 2000, lost step pay for teachers with less
than 12 years of experience would reportedly be $1,000 to $2,400 per
year. But teachers with more than 12 years of experience would lose as
little as $350 per year.
"Every contract is unique," MEA spokeswoman Margaret Trimer-Hartley
told the Press. "But frequently our members have sacrificed wages in
order to protect their health benefits."
The dual pay-increase schedule apparently has created tension among
teachers. Educators speaking anonymously to the Press said they want to
see an analysis comparing reduced pay over future years to the cost of
health insurance, as well as the impact of the reduced pay on
retirement programs, which are based on overall earnings.
Parent Peggy Leven said she believes the pact protects an expensive
union health insurance relationship at the expense of teachers, and she
argued that the tentative solution will not last long. "When it comes
up again in 18 months, we'll be in the same boat," said Leven.
Grand Rapids Press, "Contract divides teachers by experience,"
Oct. 10, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A New Day for Michigan Schools,"
Michigan Education Report
, "Detroit Teachers Illegally Strike,"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Analyst Says: Close Teacher Strike
Loophole That Allowed Anti-Charter School Protest," October 2003
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Failure of Anti-Strike Law to Deter
Teachers Calls for New Measures, Analyst Says," September 1999
FORMER ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL RUNS FROM LAW IN SEXUAL MISCONDUCT CASE
DETROIT — A former assistant principal at Pontiac Central High School
in Pontiac is on the run after police filed two charges against him,
including second-degree sexual conduct, according to The Detroit News.
Kevin Fowlkes resigned his position last Wednesday as police filed the
charges. Detectives reportedly say now that they cannot find Fowlkes.
"I think he knew the writing was on the wall," said Oakland County
Prosecutor David Gorcyca. "We're asking that he turn himself in."
Police filed charges after learning of allegations that Fowlkes last
week exploited a teenage boy who was spending the night at his house
while the boy's mother was out of town. Later, police discovered that
similar allegations had been made against Fowlkes in Dayton, Ohio,
where he had previously worked, although no charges had been filed
there. "One of the issues looming is whether or not the Pontiac School
District was aware of those allegations," Gorcyca told the News. "We're
subpoenaing the records (in Dayton). Depending on what we find, someone
will have a tremendous amount of explaining to do."
Detroit News, "Police hunt former principal in sex case," Oct. 7, 2004
DETROIT'S 'PROPOSAL E' A MATTER OF CONTENTION AMONG VOTERS
DETROIT — The battle over voters in Detroit's 'Proposal E' debate has
heated up as the election draws closer, with the two opposing groups in
the controversy spending a combined total of millions of dollars to
entice voters to support their point of view, according to the Detroit
Under a 1999 state-mandated restructuring of the Detroit school
district, voters must decide this year how the district will be run in
the future. During the past five years, the mayor of Detroit was given
authority to appoint school board members. A "Yes" vote on Proposal E
would provide the mayor with a continuing role in the district,
allowing him to nominate or fire a "chief executive officer" who would
have control over district expenditures. A nine-member elected board
would approve the mayor's selection for CEO or be able to fire the
executive by majority vote with the mayor's approval.
A "No" vote against the proposal would restore the district to the
governance format in place before the 1999 reforms, with a traditional,
elected school board maintaining sole power over hiring a
superintendent and the district's expenditures.
Helen Moore, legal chair for the Keep the Vote-No Takeover Coalition,
told the Free Press that a "yes" vote would hinder citizen control of
the district. "We want our right to vote back, period," she said.
But supporters like Paul Hillegonds, head of the nonprofit, business-supported Detroit Renaissance, said schools have improved in the last
five years, and this will help retain the tax base that is necessary to
support the district. "The improvement of Detroit schools is critically
important to retaining residents and tax base in the city, and to
attracting employers who need educated employees to make their business
work," Hillegonds told the Free Press.
Detroit Free Press, "Proposal E | Control at stake," Oct. 8, 2004
Michigan Education Report
, "Compromise Gives Archer Control of Detroit
Schools," Spring 1999
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit's Reform School Board Would
Be Wise to Privatize," June 1999
TRAVERSE CITY DISTRICT TO RECEIVE FEDERAL OBESITY GRANT
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The U.S. Department of Education will give the
Traverse City Area School District a nearly $1 million grant over three
years in order to fight student obesity, according to the Traverse City
Program organizers hope the grant will work to reduce the obesity rate
in the area's students. Studies show that one in three students in the
Traverse City district is either overweight or at serious risk of being
overweight. "Michigan is the third fattest state in the U.S.," Pat
Lewallen, the district's director of special programs, told the Record-Eagle. "We're a mirror image of the state."
Only Mississippi and West Virginia have higher rates of obesity,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though the program is still being designed, it will be aimed at healthy
eating and exercise habits, especially considering that 40 percent of
Traverse City students do not meet basic standards for cardio-respiratory endurance. "We want to make the very best possible use of
the little time we have the children in physical education," said
Lewallen. "It's really aimed at health and well-being, and physical
fitness is of course a key element to that."
The federal Department of Education provides the grant to schools and
community organizations through the No Child Left Behind Act. The
department will reportedly distribute $69 million to 237 institutions.
Traverse City Record-Eagle, "Grant targets students' battle of bulge,"
Oct. 7, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Would You Like Taxes with That?"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Federal 'Anti-Fat' Bill Nothing But
Meddlesome Pork," August 2002
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Candy Police," November 2003
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
a quarterly newspaper
with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center
for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org
nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.