Contents of this issue:
Granholm warns against charter school ban
Detroit News unveils school improvement ideas
Holland contract talks stall
New GRPS superintendent could make $200,000
Grand Haven contract talks hinge on co-pays
Students take MEAP online
Grand Rapids union to sue over bus drivers
GRANHOLM WARNS AGAINST CHARTER SCHOOL BAN
Detroit — Gov. Jennifer Granholm has told the 140-member Detroit
Public Schools transition team not to adopt recommendations
calling for a ban on charter schools, The Detroit News reported.
The transition team, chaired by Rev. Wendell Anthony, was created
to help DPS as it moves from an appointed board to an elected
one, The News said. Anthony, president of the NAACP's Detroit
branch, told the paper the team has not finalized its report yet
and plans to issue it by the end of November.
In an Oct. 6 letter to Anthony, Gov. Granholm wrote: "This
recommendation suggests that the only way to bring students back
to the DPS is to eliminate educational options that parents and
children have today," The News reported. "The Transition Team
instead should remain focused on finding ways to improve the
Detroit Public Schools to give parents more, not fewer,
opportunities to choose good schools for their children."
The News said there is "constant friction" between Detroit Public
Schools and area charter schools as DPS estimates 10,000 fewer
students, many having chosen charters, are enrolled compared to
last year. The loss of students could lead to $69 million less in
state funding. According to the newspaper, the charter ban and a
recommendation that the district sue the state, claiming funding
is not adequate, came from the transition team's legal committee.
Gov. Granholm's letter said she has worked to increase school
funding and a lawsuit would be counterproductive, The News said.
The Detroit News, "Granholm warns school panel," Oct. 11, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in
Schooling," January 2001
Michigan Education Digest, "Former Detroit superintendent praises
charter schools," May 2000
DETROIT NEWS UNVEILS SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT IDEAS
Detroit — In a series of editorials last week, The Detroit News
unveiled what it believes are the keys to improving public
education in Michigan, including suggestions such as raising
expectations, providing more counseling, creating smaller schools
and making college more affordable.
In the introduction to the series, The News cited an EPIC-MRA
survey of Michigan residents, ages 18 to 30, that was
commissioned by a group called "Your Child," which is focused on
improving college graduation rates. The poll found just 12
percent of young adults felt "very challenged" in high school;
while only 17 percent found classes "relevant," The News
Pollster Ed Sarpolous told The News that parents, educators and
students are to blame.
"None of these groups insist on success," he said.
The newspaper said the preferred ratio of counselors to students
is one per 250, but Michigan averages one per 450. The poll
showed 31 percent of respondents received help from a counselor
in making decisions about high school curriculum, while 16
percent were helped by a counselor when deciding to pursue post-secondary education. The News said Michigan needs a greater
commitment to high school counseling so students can make a
connection between what they learn in school and how it relates
to their future.
The News also advocated smaller class sizes in conjunction with a
mandatory statewide curriculum. The state Board of Education is
studying state-mandated curriculum, and Apple Computer was
recently invited to create a high-tech school within a Detroit
high school. The average high school in Michigan has 675
students, The News said, but can be much bigger in large cities.
Benefits of smaller schools include a better learning
environment, fewer administrators and lower transportation costs,
The News said. As for a mandatory curriculum, The News said it
must meet the needs of the students, rather than cater to
teachers or parents. A rigorous curriculum, with math and science
requirements, would better prepare students for college, the
The EPIC-MRA survey found that the escalating cost of higher
education is making college unaffordable to many Michigan
residents. In pointing out the benefits of pre-paid college costs
and tax-deferred savings, The News called for changes in tax
policy to make college more affordable, including altering the
federal tax code so pre-tax dollars can be set aside for tuition.
The News also said spending must be controlled on campus, saying
universities "continue to be aloof from the austere budgeting
demanded of other institutions."
Finally, The News suggested getting rid of or seriously revamping
the senior year of high school. The EPIC-MRA poll found fewer
than half of seniors apply themselves fully during that final
year of school.
The News said senior year should be the most rigorous of a four-year program, rather than allowing seniors to schedule "fluff"
classes, often with the cooperation of parents and teachers.
The Detroit News, "State high schools fail their customers,"
Oct. 9, 2005
The Detroit News, "Michigan must improve high school counseling,"
Oct. 10, 2005
The Detroit News, "Michigan needs smaller schools, tougher
classes," Oct. 11, 2005
The Detroit News, "Secure Michigan's future by keeping college
costs low," Oct. 12, 2005
The Detroit News, "Make the senior year more work, less party,"
Oct. 13, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "The answer is smaller schools,"
Feb. 15, 2002
Michigan Education Digest, "Schools prepare for the 'Digital
Age,'" Jan. 10, 2001
HOLLAND CONTRACT TALKS STALL
Holland, Mich. — Talks between Holland Public Schools and its
teachers union are on hold until the end of October, according to
The Grand Rapids Press. The two sides talked for more than seven
hours last Monday, meeting with a state mediator at city hall for
a second time.
At issue is how much, if anything, members of the Holland
Education Association will contribute toward health insurance,
The Press said. The union has forgone cost of living increases in
recent contracts to preserve its health care package, the
newspaper reported. A school board spokesman told The Press that
the impasse is costing the district $15,000 a week.
The district has sent employees three separate letters warning
that an illegal strike would be grounds for dismissal, The Press
said. Base salaries for Holland teachers range from $38,628 to
$67,792, with an average of $55,175, according to The Press.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Holland's teacher contracts will
continue," Oct. 11, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Holland teachers prepare for strike,"
Sept. 27, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Holland district concerned about
possible illegal teacher strike," Sept. 20, 2005
NEW GRPS SUPERINTENDENT COULD MAKE $200,000
Grand Rapids, Mich. — The next superintendent of the Grand Rapids
Public Schools could make $200,000 or more, The Grand Rapids
Press reported last week.
The current superintendent, Bert Bleke, earns $175,000, The Press
said. Bleke is leaving at the end of the year. Timothy Quinn, of
the Michigan Leadership Institute, is helping guide the district
through the search process. He told the school board there are
more large districts than usual looking for a new superintendent,
The Press said. Currently, 15 districts of 20,000 or more
students are searching for new leaders, including Cleveland,
Charlotte, N.C., and Toledo, Ohio.
"The higher you get in terms of salary, the easier it will be to
recruit candidates," Quinn said.
WZZM, the ABC affiliate in Grand Rapids, said the search for a
new superintendent will include staff and community input
sessions in October, a Dec. 9 deadline for MLI to receive
applications from candidates, a special board meeting in January
for interviews and a mid-February goal for hiring the person.
The Grand Rapids Press, "New superintendent may earn $200,000,"
Oct. 11, 2005
WZZM13, "GRPS releases time line for superintendent search,"
Oct. 14, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Minneapolis Schools Teach A Lesson In
Privatization," Nov. 16, 1998
GRAND HAVEN CONTRACT TALKS HINGE ON CO-PAYS
Holland, Mich. — Contract negotiations between Grand Haven Area
Public Schools and the Grand Haven Education Association have
been halted by disagreements over teacher co-pays for
prescription drugs, according to The Holland Sentinel.
The Sentinel reported last week that the GHEA said contract talks
had been heading toward the signing of a one-year agreement, but
GHAPS interim Superintendent Keith Konarska told The Sentinel
that the school board needed a two-year agreement that would
include higher prescription drug co-pays for teachers in order to
make up for rising health care costs.
The district is facing a 16 percent increase in its health
insurance costs this year, according to The Sentinel. The school
board is asking that teachers pay $10 for generic drugs and $20
for name-brand prescriptions beginning next school year with the
proposed two-year plan.
According to The Sentinel, union President David Maloley said in
a statement last Tuesday that, "The deal fell through, however,
when the board of education made it clear that there would be no
settlement without concessions." Konarska maintains that
negotiations have been conducted in good faith, but that a two-year agreement is needed. Maloley said his group was ready to
accept a one-year pact, but that the second year would not be
acceptable without further discussion, The Sentinel said.
The Holland Sentinel, "Talks stalled over new teacher contracts,"
Oct. 13, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "West Michigan schools aim to save
money by changing health insurance," Sept. 20, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School boards should fix
problems in collective bargaining," Sept. 8, 1998
STUDENTS TAKE MEAP ONLINE
Grand Rapids, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Press reported last week
that about 50 sixth-grade students at Millbrook Christian and
Sylvan Christian schools in the Grand Rapids area participated in
a program that allowed them to take the language arts part of
their Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests on laptop
computers instead of the conventional paper-and-pencil format.
The pilot program was conducted with 2,800 students in 24
districts statewide, according to The Press. It was designed to
test the advantages and disadvantages of administering the MEAP
Sylvan sixth-grader Trevor Vanderzee told The Press, "It was way
easier than just writing it down, just 'cause typing is faster. I
did better (than in the paper format) because there's not so much
pressure. It just seems easier. It's more of a game."
According to The Press, Sylvan teacher Hilda Quist liked the
electronic version too, mainly because results were available
within 48 hours. "That's the best (part) of this," she said. "You
can get this feedback and go from there."
The Press reported that two Grand Rapids public schools,
Riverside and Northeast middle schools, were supposed to
participate in the program, but problems with the testing
company, Pearson Educational Measurement, caused them to forgo it
in favor of the regular format. The Press reported that
Assessment Specialist Erika Bolig of Grand Rapid Public Schools
said teacher training and tech support promised by Pearson had
not been delivered.
At Millbrook and Sylvan, however, tech support personnel were on
hand and teachers were ready to use paper and pencil tests if the
online format did not work, according to The Press. Quist said
there were no problems other than the test was slow to download.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Students prefer online MEAP to push
pencils," Oct. 13, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "State threatens action against MEAP
contractor," Oct. 11, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "More students to take MEAP; Testing
earlier in school year," Sept. 6, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "New MEAP procedure will begin this
fall," Aug. 30, 2005
GRAND RAPIDS UNION TO SUE OVER BUS DRIVERS
Grand Rapids — The Grand Rapids Education Support Personnel
Association announced last week it will file an unfair labor
practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board
against the company now providing bus service for Grand Rapids
Public Schools, The Grand Rapids Press reported.
The union will claim Dean Transportation, which GRPS began
contracting with this year, is violating the federal succession
doctrine, which allows employees to remain members of their
unions after a change in ownership, The Press said. Dean hired
about 120 of the 220 former union members after signing a five-year contract with the district.
"The union wants these drivers to get the message that the
Michigan Education Association will never abandon its members,"
union representative Buz Graeber told The Press.
The Press said the drivers do belong to a union, the Dean
Transportation Employees Union, which has 600 members. Similar
lawsuits have not been filed in other districts where Dean works,
owner Kellie Dean said.
"This is a matter that we will discuss with our legal people,"
Dean told The Press. "But our job is to safely transport students
to and from school each day, and we will remain focused on that
The union already has filed a complaint with the Michigan
Employee Relations Commission against the district, The Press
said, and filed suit against Dean in May, saying the company and
school board aligned to undermine its contract, which did not
expire until the end of this school year.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Bus drivers union claims unfair labor
practice," Oct. 14, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "GRPS private busing gets positive
reviews," Sept. 6, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Union seeks to represent privatized
Grand Rapids bus drivers," Sept. 13, 2005
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
a quarterly newspaper
with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center
for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org
nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.