The high cost of school
employee health insurance is being scrutinized by independent policy
analysts and the Michigan Senate. A cost-benefit analysis of a proposal to
switch school and community college employees to state-administered insurance
plans will be evaluated by the Senate in July. Two bills have been introduced to transition school employees to plans akin to those covering state workers. A new Mackinac Center for Public Policy study offers quantitative data illustrating that school employee health insurance costs are becoming a potential budget breaker for school districts. (see "Legislative Action")
The United States ranked
10th in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have completed high
school, according to an annual study published by the Paris-based Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development. The study compared the education
levels of 30 countries worldwide. Moreover, the United States ranked first in
the percentage of adults ages 35 to 44 who have a high school diploma, but the
trend among its younger population suggests an impending decline in the number
of educated citizens. The study also found that the United States spends $10,871
per student, the highest in the world.
Schools in Allen Park,
Livonia and Roseville are replacing traditional letter grades with
competency ratings in academic and behavioral skills in order to meet
requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Marks for academic
achievement are given using a number system in which "1" is the lowest ranking
and "4" is the highest. Letters are used to rank a student’s consistency in
achieving his number marking, with the letters denoting "consistently,"
"usually," "sometimes," or "area of weakness." The NCLB Act requires schools to
assess students in both academic and nonacademic areas.
Under Michigan Public Act
227, passed last summer, teachers can have their children admitted to
schools within the district that employs them, even if
they live in a different school district. Teachers have this right even if the
district they work for does not participate in Michigan’s public school choice
program, or if the district has already filled its school-of-choice admission
slots. Some have criticized the law, saying it benefits school employees
unfairly and could increase taxpayer costs, but others defend this form of
school choice as a justifiable benefit for teachers who have children.
Ann Arbor Public Schools has been ordered by a federal judge to pay legal fees to a student who sued the district for
violating her free speech rights. The suit began in July 2002 after Pioneer High
School senior Betsy Hansen was denied the opportunity to place an adult
representative who believes homosexual activity is sinful on a "Homosexuality
and Religion" panel. Hansen also claimed that the school censored portions of a
speech she made during the school’s "Diversity Week." The ruling ordered the
district to pay damages, legal fees and other expenses to the law firm
Bloomfield Hills School District plans to rent out its facilities to the private
sector, including its conference center,
sports facilities, computer lab and nature center. In an effort to maximize the
use of its resources and its accountability to taxpayers, the district began
renting its athletic facilities in the offseason. The district has already taken
in $50,000 through this action, and is now looking for opportunities with its
Ballot initiatives to increase education spending were defeated in three of four
states in the Nov. 2nd election. An
Arkansas ballot initiative asked voters to set aside property taxes for schools.
Washington’s Initiative 884 asked voters for a 1 percentage point increase in
the state sales tax to be set aside for education. Nevada’s Ballot Question 2
asked voters to increase per-pupil spending to the national average. All three
were defeated. A ballot initiative was approved in South Dakota, however, giving
the state authority to fund busing of students to private schools.
Students that used vouchers to attend private schools graduated at a higher rate than students enrolled in the Milwaukee
Public Schools, according to a recent study published by Jay Greene of the
nonprofit New York-based Manhattan Institute. About 64 percent of Milwaukee-area
students who used vouchers to attend private schools graduated from high school
after four years, versus just 36 percent of students in Milwaukee public
Howell Public Schools district voters last September approved an override of the
state constitution’s "Headlee Amendment,"
allowing officials to levy an 18-mill tax on homestead and commercial property
to fund education. The Headlee Amendment, named for the recently deceased
Richard H. Headlee, limits local property taxes for schools to an
inflation-related rate while allowing voters the option to override it in local
districts. Early last year, Howell voters had voted against the override, but
officials placed it on the ballot again.
Michigan ranked 45th in "teachability," according to a study published by the Manhattan Institute (see above). The
Adjusted School Efficiency Index takes social problems like poverty and teen
pregnancy into account in calculating each state’s efficiency in handling these
problems while educating students. The study also found that students are more
"teachable" today than they were 30 years ago, contrary to popular assumptions.
Michigan’s state average on the SAT test declined this year, but remains above the aggregate national average.
Average math scores declined three points to 573, and verbal scores declined one
point to 563, compared to the national averages of 508 and 518 respectively.
Michigan scores had been improving since 1999. Michigan students’ ACT scores
were also above the national average, with a mean score of 21.4, up from 21.3
The University of Michigan and Michigan State University ranked among the best in U.S. News & World Report’s 2005 annual
ranking of the nation’s colleges and universities, while Central Michigan
University and Wayne State University received lower rankings. Schools were
ranked based on selectivity, average SAT scores and several other categories.
The University of Michigan was ranked number 22 overall among 248 universities
nationwide, and Michigan State University was ranked number 71.
More Michigan schools this year met "Adequate Yearly Progress," the benchmark mandated by the No Child Left Behind
Act. But nearly 400 Michigan schools are still not meeting the requirement,
according to report cards issued by the Michigan Department of Education. Of the
failing schools, 101 have been on the list for 5 years; the maximum allowed
before a school faces major sanctions under the act. Nearly 40 of the
failing schools received a waiver that will allow them to avoid sanctions for
one year, although they must improve during that time.
Michigan’s common high
school curriculum should be tougher, according to a report by the Michigan
Department of Education’s High School Reform Team. The report recommended that
the state require exams for core classes to measure student preparedness, that
there be stronger connections between technical and liberal arts classes, and
that the school calendar be more flexible.
Traverse City Area Public
Schools district will receive close to $1 million in U.S. Department of
Education grants over three years to fight student obesity. Studies cited in the
grant stated that one-third of Traverse City students are either overweight or
at serious risk of being overweight. The federal Department of Education will
reportedly give $69 million to 237 schools and community organizations
nationwide to promote healthy diet and exercise habits as part of the No Child
Left Behind Act.