Contents of this issue:
State panel recommends tougher, uniform high school curriculum
State Senate committee endorses legislation to phase out MEAP test
Nearly half of Michigan high schools fail to meet federal standards
Union files unfair labor practice complaint against Holland district
Kenowa union members may vote to authorize strike
Detroit voters choose traditional school board in November election
STATE PANEL RECOMMENDS TOUGHER, UNIFORM HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM
LANSING, Mich. — A panel at the state Department of Education will
present a recommendation in a report this week to toughen Michigan's
high school curriculum, according to the Gongwer News Service.
Many students are not prepared to enter the workforce or higher
education with the current curriculum, according to the Michigan
Department of Education's High School Reform Team, which has drafted
the report. "Most striking is that the current high school experience
is not reaching out and meeting the needs of our students, inspiring in
them the desire to work hard, succeed and refine their skills to ready
themselves for future challenges," the report states, according to
The report will recommend that the state require exams for core classes
to ensure students are prepared for succeeding course work. In
addition, the panel will suggest stronger connections between liberal
arts courses and career and technical education, so that students see a
connection between their schoolwork and job opportunities.
State Superintendent Tom Watkins indicated in a memo that he would wait
to finalize the report until the state Board of Education had a chance
to provide input on the findings.
Gongwer News Service, "Panel Recommends Tougher Courses for High
School," Nov. 5, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education,"
Michigan Privatization Report
, "The 'Privatized' Cost of Remedial
Education in Michigan," August 2000
STATE SENATE COMMITTEE ENDORSES LEGISLATION TO PHASE OUT MEAP TEST
LANSING, Mich. — Booth Newspapers reports that the state Senate
Education Committee last week unanimously approved Senate review of
legislation that would phase out the Michigan Educational Assessment
Program and replace it with a combination of a college entrance exam
and a state standardized test.
The MEAP is difficult to administer and takes too much time out of the
school year, according to some high school administrators. The new test
would combine the college ACT or SAT exams with a new state test
measuring science and social studies skills. State Sen. Wayne Kuipers,
R-Holland, the bill's main sponsor, said the new test would save time
because most students take the ACT or SAT anyway. "This is the right
time and the right way to move," Kuipers told Booth.
But officials at the Michigan Department of Education observed that the
new test could cost more than the MEAP test. "I can say with absolute
certainty that the kind of assessment you're envisioning is going to
cost more money," Deputy State Superintendent Jeremy Hughes said,
according to Booth. The department indicated the new testing regime
could cost an extra $5 million to $7 million per year to administer.
The state currently spends $8.5 million per year to administer the MEAP
test to high school students.
Kuipers said he is optimistic about the legislation's chances in the
state Senate this week. Keith Ledbetter, spokesman for state House
Speaker Rick Johnson, R-LeRoy, could not say for sure whether the bill
would be considered in the House before the end of this year's session
if it received Senate approval.
Booth Newspapers, "Ding, dong the MEAP is dead," Nov. 5, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Does the MEAP Measure Up?"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "POLICY BRIEF: Which Educational
Achievement Test is Best for Michigan?" May 2002
NEARLY HALF OF MICHIGAN HIGH SCHOOLS FAIL TO MEET FEDERAL STANDARDS
DETROIT — About 47 percent of Michigan high schools this year failed to
meet federal achievement standards and graduation requirements, The
Detroit News reported. The number is an increase from the 33 percent
that failed last year.
The federal standards for achievement and graduation rates are
specified under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Schools are
required to test at least 95 percent of students, meet gradually rising
minimum passage rates on standardized state tests, and graduate at
least 80 percent of their seniors. Schools that fail to meet one or
more of those requirements can be identified as failing by the federal
This year's results are "unacceptable," according to Gov. Jennifer
Granholm, the News reported. State Superintendent Tom Watkins told the
News there are no excuses for the results. "We need to get more kids up
and over the bar," he said. "It's a wake-up call for our state and
School administrators, policymakers and other education experts cited a
number of reasons for this year's results, including tougher federal
standards, fewer students taking state tests and a lack of funding.
The Detroit News, "More Mich. high schools fail," Nov. 5, 2004
Michigan Education Report
, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate
yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents,"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Graduation Rates an Imperfect
Measure of School Excellence," January 2002
UNION FILES UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE COMPLAINT AGAINST HOLLAND DISTRICT
HOLLAND, Mich. — The support staff union for the Holland Public Schools
has filed an unfair labor complaint against the Holland district in an
ongoing battle over privatization of school custodial services,
according to the Holland Sentinel.
In the complaint, the Holland Educational Support Personnel Association
made several allegations related to the district's talks with the union
prior to the school board's recent decision to contract with a private
firm for custodial services. "We charged them (the board) with refusal
to bargain in good faith, and we claim that they took action to split
our bargaining unit apart by telling members of the bargaining unit
that this didn't really affect them and they didn't have to be
concerned about it," Paul Kirschner, a Michigan Education Association
representative, told the Holland Sentinel.
Jim Sullivan, Holland's assistant superintendent of finance and
personnel, told the Sentinel that the district found "most of the
accusations to be groundless or without merit." He also denied a union
allegation that a food services employee was verbally reproached by a
supervisor for making comments during a school board meeting that
The union's labor complaint will be adjudicated by an administrative
law judge. If the parties are dissatisfied with the outcome, they could
pursue the case in circuit court, Sullivan told the Sentinel. Kirschner
observed that the district could be "ordered to come back to the
bargaining table and bargain in good faith."
Holland Sentinel, "School union files unfair labor complaint,"
Nov. 4, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally
Responsible Public School Districts," December 2002
Michigan Privatization Report
, "Survey Says: Privatization Works in
Michigan Schools," September 2001
Michigan Privatization Report
, "Substituting the Private for the
Public," February 2000
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Michigan Education Association:
Is Michigan's Largest School Employee Union Helping or Hurting
KENOWA UNION MEMBERS MAY VOTE TO AUTHORIZE STRIKE
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Advance Newspapers reports that members of the
Kenowa Hills local teacher and support staff union may vote today to
authorize union leadership to pursue a strike if continuing contract
talks fail to achieve an agreement with the Kenowa district.
The union's contract, which covers 320 employees, expired in August
2003, and contract talks have stalled over the cost of employee
benefits, particularly health insurance. Currently, the Michigan
Educational Special Services Administration, an organization founded by
the Michigan Education Association, provides health insurance to the
district's employees. The decision over how much of the cost of health
insurance the employees might bear is a main point of contention. "We
haven't been able to solve any of the main sticking points,
particularly MESSA cost-sharing or, if not cost-sharing, budget relief
in other areas," Rob Zeitter, the Kenowa district's assistant
superintendent for business, told Advance Newspapers.
Zeitter said that the possibility of a vote to authorize a strike has
complicated the bargaining process. "We're committed to working it out,
at the same time the union is talking about a strike," he told Advance.
"Our view is that it is a clearly illegal action."
MEA negotiator Michael Stevens said that the district's failure to
settle has led to higher insurance costs than necessary, and that the
district is misguided in its budget priorities. "We can't balance the
district's funding priorities on the backs of the teachers," he said,
according to Advance. "What are the priorities here? The priorities in
this district are clearly not its employees." Zeitter denied that the
district is relying solely on employees to shore up deficits, saying,
"We're asking for a small amount to help pay for insurance."
Details of the talks are not available. A state mediator has requested
that both parties not discuss proposal specifics.
Advance Newspapers, "Walkout looms over Kenowa as unions call strike
vote," Nov. 2, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MEA Abuses Public School Health
Care Funds," Aug. 7, 2001
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services
Association: The MEA's Money Machine," November 1993
Michigan Privatization Report
, "Ensuring Insurance Competition,"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A New Day for Michigan Schools,"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing
Education to the Table," August 1998
DETROIT VOTERS CHOOSE TRADITIONAL SCHOOL BOARD IN NOVEMBER ELECTION
DETROIT — Detroit voters rejected the city's 'Proposal E' in last
week's election, a decision that will eventually reinstate a
traditional elected school board to govern the Detroit Public Schools.
The current Detroit school board was created by state law in 1999 and
is comprised of the state superintendent of schools and six appointees
of the mayor of Detroit. The district's day-to-day operations are
overseen by a "CEO" selected by the board and empowered to make most
decisions without board approval.
This year, state Proposal E gave Detroiters the option to vote for a
modified version of the current board, thereby maintaining a mayoral
role in the district, or for a traditional 11-member school board.
Rejection of the proposal meant reinstatement of the traditional board.
Detroit NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony said the proposal was
rejected because it raised a voting rights issue. "We fought too long
and too hard for the right to vote," he told the Detroit Free Press.
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who supported Proposal E, said he was
disappointed the proposal did not pass. "The Legislature in Lansing
gave us only 45 days to run a campaign after five years of misery with
this system," he said, according to the Free Press.
Election of a new school board will take place in November 2005. The
new board will assume control of the school district in January 2006.
Detroit Free Press, "PROPOSAL E: Detroit voters are negative about plan
for schools," Nov. 3, 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
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
a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.