Contents of this issue:
Michigan Senate passes school health insurance bills
Texas Supreme Court rules education tax unconstitutional
Grand Rapids superintendent job could draw many applicants
High cost of fingerprinting school employees
Judge dismisses NCLB lawsuit
School district, parents sue former principal
MICHIGAN SENATE PASSES SCHOOL HEALTH INSURANCE BILLS
Lansing, Mich. — The Michigan Senate last week passed a package
of bills that could help public schools lower health care costs
by millions of dollars, according to Booth Newspapers.
Senate Bills 895-898 are designed to allow school districts to
either self-insure or form regional pools in order to purchase
health insurance for teachers and other employees, Booth
"This option will create more dollars for the classroom," said
Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. "The (health) benefits don't need
to change. Where you purchase those benefits will."
The legislation has the support of school administrators, the
Michigan AFL-CIO and the Michigan Federation of Teachers, an
affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, according to
Booth. The Michigan Federation of Teachers estimates savings of
more than $150 million statewide in the first year and $230
million by the third year.
The Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party insurance administrator started by the Michigan Education
Association, is against the bills. MESSA handles insurance for
more than half the public school teachers in Michigan.
"Teachers and other school employees would be the only workers in
Michigan not covered by the consumer protections afforded all
other workers in multiple-employer pools," said Gary Fralick, a
A similar pool has already been created by several school
districts in Kent County, where costs are expected to fall 8
percent, Booth reported.
The bills now move to the state House of Representatives, which
last week debated, but did not pass, House Bill 4947. That bill,
, would place new school employees
into a defined contribution, or 401(k)-type plan, rather than the
current defined benefit plan run by the Michigan State Public
School Employees Retirement System.
Booth Newspapers, "House, Senate look to reduce schools' pension,
health care costs," Dec. 1, 2005
, "2005 Senate Bill 895 (Allow school district
health insurance pools)"
, "2005 Senate Bill 896 (Create state "stop
loss" pool for school health insurance)"
, "2005 Senate Bill 897 (Allow school district
health insurance pools)"
, "2005 Senate Bill 898 (Allow community college
health insurance pools)"
, "2005 House Bill 4947 (401k type pension for
new school employees)"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special
Services Agency: The MEA's Money Machine," Nov. 1, 1993
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining:
Bringing Education to the Table," Aug. 1, 1998
TEXAS SUPREME COURT RULES EDUCATION TAX UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Austin, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court last month voted 7-1 to
overturn a statewide school property tax, according to the
Houston Chronicle. The court also gave the Texas Legislature
until June 1, 2006, to come up with a new school funding plan.
In an editorial, The Wall Street Journal welcomed the ruling,
pointing out that Texas spends an average of $10,000 per student,
which the court said meets the funding "adequacy" requirement of
the state constitution. The court also declared "more money does
not guarantee better schools or more educated students," The
The Journal added that the decision is favorable for students in
poor school districts, "because it shifts the policy emphasis
from money to achievement." The court also spoke in support of
parental choice, saying "public education could benefit from more
An earlier decision by District Judge John Dietz said a statewide
$1.50 tax per $100 of assessed value for school operations had
become "a floor and a ceiling, denying school districts
'meaningful discretion' in setting their tax rates," the
Chronicle reported. He ruled the valuation cap unconstitutional
and the Texas high court agreed.
The Journal encouraged Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature
to be open to a wide range of options as it restructures school
financing, "including charters, vouchers, scholarships and
rewards for quality, such as teacher pay for performance."
Houston Chronicle, "Court rules state school finance system
unconstitutional," Nov. 22, 2005
The Wall Street Journal, "Texas School Lesson," Nov. 29, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "Jen and the art of education,"
Aug. 16, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Study Concludes School Funding
Outpaces Inflation Under Prop A," Sept. 6, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "K-12 spending guarantee ignores
economics," Aug. 16, 2005
GRAND RAPIDS SUPERINTENDENT JOB COULD DRAW SEVERAL APPLICANTS
Grand Rapids, Mich. — As many as 20 candidates could apply to be
the next superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, The Grand
Rapids Press reported. Current Superintendent Bert Bleke will
retire at the end of the school year.
Timothy Quinn of the Michigan Leadership Institute told the Grand
Rapids school board two applications have been submitted, but
that 30 to 40 people have been contacted, according to The Press.
Quinn's MLI is conducting the candidate search. He speculates up
to 20 people may apply, with 60 percent coming from out of state.
Quinn told the board he has placed ads in national education
publications and on Web sites for state and national school
administrators, The Press reported. Quinn said he hopes
contentious matters such as school closings won't limit the
number of candidates. Questions from those he has contacted have
been about declining enrollment, achievement gaps and charter
schools, according to The Press.
"I have no reason to believe that we won't have some outstanding
applicants," Quinn said. "People who have been involved with
urban education anywhere in the country are warriors and they
won't shy away from Grand Rapids."
Quinn hopes to have eight to 10 applications for the board to
review in January, with a final decision to be made in mid-February, according to The Press. The deadline for applications is Dec. 9.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Twenty likely to be in line for Bleke's
job," Nov. 29, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "New GRPS Superintendent Could Make
$200,000," Oct. 18, 2005
HIGH COST OF FINGERPRINTING SCHOOL EMPLOYEES
Lansing, Mich. — A new law requiring all school employees to be
fingerprinted will cost millions of dollars, although officials
are unsure how to pay for it, according to recent stories in The
Grand Rapids Press.
"It's a big chore and it's a big expense," said Ron Koehler,
assistant superintendent for the Kent County Intermediate School
The law is part of the "Student Safety Initiatives," a package of
bills passed earlier this year after more than two dozen
convicted sex offenders were found working in Michigan schools,
The Press reported. Schools will be required to fingerprint and
conduct FBI background checks on all employees, even those who
have been fingerprinted before or have no contact with students,
The Press reported. State law has required background checks on
new teachers since 1993.
Fingerprinting will cost about $74 per employee and must be
completed by Jan. 1, 2008, according to The Press. The Michigan
State Police would then provide a list after comparing criminal
records against school personnel information.
Arthur Przbylowicz, general counsel for the Michigan Education
Association, said the resulting list would be made public and may
not be accurate.
"This could harm greatly the reputation of an individual," he
told The Press. "The potential for error is tremendous."
The Grand Rapids Press, "Tighter scrutiny ahead for Michigan
school employees," Nov. 27, 2005
The Grand Rapids Press, "Schools balk at fingerprint mandate,"
Nov. 29, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm Signs Student Safety Bills,"
Oct. 4, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Commentary: Students' Safety More
Important Than Privacy," Jan. 7, 2004
JUDGE DISMISSES NCLB LAWSUIT
Detroit — A federal district judge based in Detroit dismissed a
lawsuit that asked to block the No Child Left Behind Act,
according to newspaper reports. School districts in three states
argued they should not have to comply with the law because they
claimed its mandates were unfunded.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed the suit, filed
against U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings by school
districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont, according to the
Detroit Free Press. The National Education Association and NEA
locals in 10 states also joined the suit.
An Associated Press story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
reported that Friedman's ruling said, "Congress has appropriated
significant funding" for NCLB and in exchange for that money it
has the authority to require states to impose standards.
"This is a victory for children and parents all across the
country," Spellings said. "Judge Friedman's decision validates
our partnership with states to close the achievement gap, hold
schools accountable and to ensure all students are reading and
doing math at grade-level by 2014."
The NEA, a union of 2.7 million teachers and school personnel,
plans to appeal, the Free Press reported.
One of the plaintiffs in the suit, Pontiac Public Schools
Superintendent Mildred Mason, told the Free Press that the
district complied with NCLB but "burned up all of our resources
Detroit Free Press, "Schools lose lawsuit, fear money crisis,"
Nov. 24, 2005
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "No Child Left Behind lawsuit thrown
out," Nov. 23, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Improvements Seen Under No Child Left
Behind," Oct. 25, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "NCLB Underfunded?," April 11, 2005
SCHOOL DISTRICT, PARENTS SUE FORMER PRINCIPAL
Mt. Clemens, Mich. — Richard Zaranek is being sued by the
Chippewa Valley School District and the Cherokee Elementary
School Parent Teacher Organization, according to The Voice, a
weekly newspaper in Macomb County. The school district and PTO
asked a Macomb County Circuit Court judge last week to freeze
Zaranek's assets until their civil case against him is finished,
according to The Detroit News. That decision will be made Jan. 9.
Zaranek, 54, pleaded guilty in federal district court on Oct. 27
to embezzlement and money laundering and was ordered to repay
about $400,000 to the school district and PTO. He also faces more
than two years in prison and a $60,000 fine, The Voice reported.
"We will prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law when the
community's money and/or property is stolen," Chippewa Valley
Superintendent Mark Deldin told The Voice. "We will not tolerate
The Voice, "Chippewa Valley to sue Zaranek for losses,"
Nov. 8, 2005
The Detroit News, "Court case targets ex-principal's assets,"
Nov. 30, 2005
https://www.detroitnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20051130/METRO03/511300368& SearchID=73228134809140
Michigan Education Digest, "Former Union Official Accused of
Embezzlement," Nov. 8, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "East Detroit Schools' Accountants
Failed To Report Embezzlement Scheme," Sept. 16, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "Financial scandals exposed in
Michigan school districts," Nov. 17, 2002
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.