Contents of this issue:
  • MEA lawsuit against public schools dismissed

  • New Ann Arbor high school $3 million over budget

  • Critics weigh in on student weight legislation

  • Detroit school shootings

  • Livonia to close seven schools

  • California district could go all-charter

LANSING, Mich. — An Ingham County Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state's largest teachers union that could have shuttered 32 public charter schools.

Judge Joyce Draganchuk Wednesday dismissed a suit filed by the Michigan Education Association against Bay Mills Community College, according to Booth Newspapers. Draganchuk dismissed one count of the lawsuit and ruled that the MEA lacked standing to bring three other counts, Booth reported.

A press release from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich., called the decision "a victory for parents and children."

"This lawsuit was, as the judge recognized, dubious both on the merits and on the question of the MEA's standing," said Patrick J. Wright, senior legal analyst at the Mackinac Center. "The judge's decision means that even if the MEA appeals the case, the schools chartered by Bay Mills will remain safe from interference in coming months."

In filing its suit, the MEA argued that Bay Mills Community College, located on the Bay Mills Indian Reservation in the Upper Peninsula, is run by the tribe and therefore not subject to state authorities, Booth reported.

"The problem we have here is that you have a purported public school receiving public funds that's run by a private school board and overseen by a private authorizing body," MEA general counsel Art Przybylowicz told Booth. "In our view, that's not public control."

Bay Mills Community College President Michael Parish said the judge agreed with the school's authority to authorize charter schools, Booth reported. Charter schools, which receive tax money and are public schools, according to state law, can be managed by private firms.

"The MEA has long opposed charter schools, and made no bones about the fact that they wanted to close down all BMCC-authorized schools," Parish said in a news release. "Perhaps this time the MEA will finally comprehend what thousands of Michigan families have known all along — that charter schools provide valuable educational alternatives, and that educational choice is here to stay."

Ryan S. Olson, the Mackinac Center's director of education policy, said that while the union's attorneys were in court arguing to defund some 30 Bay Mills charter schools, more than 8,000 Michigan children were in those schools, at their parents' choosing, learning.

"We can only hope that the MEA will forgo an appeal and return to its stated mission of supporting 'the development of successful, empowered students,'" Olson said.

Booth Newspapers, "Judge dismisses MEA suit brought against charter schools," Dec. 7, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/newsflash/business/index.ssf?/base/news-30/1133995754289360.xml& storylist=mibusiness

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Mackinac Center Praises Ingham Circuit Judge's Dismissal of MEA Lawsuit to End State Funding of Bay Mills Charter Schools," Dec. 7, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "MEA sues state over Bay Mills charters," Aug. 16, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MEA goes nuclear in Charter School Suit," Aug. 15, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Bay Mills Opens Nine Charter Schools," Sept. 16, 2003

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Construction of a new high school here will require 900 more tons of steel than was originally estimated, forcing the school board to approve an additional $2.2 million to the overall cost, according to The Ann Arbor News. The overrun followed a recent report to school board members that the project already is $1 million over budget for concrete work.

Planners originally ordered 2,400 tons of steel, The News said, but discovered that more than 3,300 tons would be needed.

"When you look at where we're at before we put a brick in the ground, I'm very concerned," Trustee Helen Gates-Bryant said.

District officials told the board the $84 million project includes a 5 percent contingency fund, according to The News. Superintendent George Fornero said he does not recommend covering all the cost overruns out of the contingency fund.

"We are committed to come back at the end of January with revisions to the budget," he said. "At this point we're not saying we're going to use the contingency to make it up."

Ann Arbor resident Mike Haller, an engineer with 30 years of construction experience, expressed his displeasure during the board meeting, The News reported.

"With the award of the steel you will have awarded approximately $15 million in trade contracts and are $3 million over budget," he said. "To continue to award in this manner, you are only digging a deeper and deeper hole that you will not be able to get out of."

Fornero said the building, scheduled to open in the fall of 2007, would open "on time and on budget," The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "School miscalculation costly; Amount of steel for new high school underestimated by $2 million," Dec. 1, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law Forces Schools to Waste Money," Nov. 9, 2001

Michigan Education Report, "Innovative construction saves charter school time, money," Aug. 18, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Is there a better way to finance and build new schools?" April 16, 1999

LANSING, Mich. — A bill requiring Michigan public schools to measure the body mass index of students and report findings to parents has a slim chance of passing, according to Booth Newspapers.

House Bill 5265, introduced by Rep. LaMar Lemmons III, D-Detroit, would require schools to begin measuring the BMI of students starting with the 2006-2007 school year and send the results home in a confidential health report card, according to MichiganVotes.org.

Opponents say the bill would turn educators into "fat police," Booth reported.

"I think we have an obligation in terms of our health classes, in terms of gym and athletics, that we're teaching good habits, but in terms of weighing kids and notifying their parents, we think that's a private matter," Brian Whiston, a lobbyist for the Oakland County Intermediate School District, told Booth.

Lemmons thinks the matter is urgent.

"We have a problem with obesity in our state," he told Booth. "A lot of times the parents don't realize to what degree the child is unhealthy ... I think in many cases they think it's OK."

The bill has been assigned to the House Education Committee, according to MichiganVotes.org. Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, chairs the committee.

"I don't think that's going to go too many places," he told Booth. "I think that's a private matter."

Booth said four other states passed similar laws this year, with legislation pending in 11 more.

MichiganVotes.org, "2005 House Bill 5265 (Require schools to measure children's fat)"

Booth Newspapers, "Student weigh-in bill heavy on critics," Dec. 3, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "State Worried About Student Health," Nov. 1, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teen Challenge: Kicking Two Bad Habits," Aug. 5, 1996

DETROIT — Three people, including two students, were shot inside or near Detroit high schools during two separate incidents last week, according to The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.

Two Southeastern High School students, both 14, were victims of a drive-by shooting Monday as they walked home from school, the newspapers reported.

Tuesday at Central High, an 18-year-old male was shot inside an entryway between two sets of doors, the Detroit Free Press reported. That incident, which police believe is gang-related, occurred after a girl heard a knock and opened a locked door, allowing eight to 10 young men to enter the vestibule, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick asked Detroit Public Schools to come up with a security plan within 10 days, the Free Press reported. Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans offered to have his office take over security for the district, according to The News. That issue will not be decided until the newly-elected school board takes office in January.

"There is no sense in issuing a contract and having an elected board come in and not like it," DPS spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo told The News.

The Detroit News reported Friday that almost 25 percent of the security guard force in Detroit Public Schools has been cut since the 2003-2004 school year. About 100 guards have been cut, mainly due to a $200 million budget deficit caused in part by a drop in enrollment, according to The News. The district now has 344 guards covering 230 schools, compared to 450 guards two years ago.

In an unrelated incident, a 15-year-old student at the Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences Thursday was found to have a loaded handgun in his backpack, according to Detroit television station WXYZ Channel 7. Parents alerted officials at the charter school after being told by children Wednesday night that the boy was seen with a gun, WXYZ reported. Security guards removed the boy from class without incident. The school has a zero-tolerance policy, meaning the boy will not be allowed to return to the school, WXYZ reported.

The Detroit News, "School shootings push call for new safety plan," Dec. 7, 2005

Detroit Free Press, "Kids fear as gunfire again hits a school," Dec. 7, 2005

WXYZ Channel 7, "Detroit charter school student brings gun to class," Dec. 8, 2005

The Detroit News, "Schools cut 24% of guards," Dec. 9, 2005
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051209/SCHOOLS/512090406& SearchID=73229335017508

Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm Signs Student Safety Bills," Oct. 4, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Strict discipline academies," May 30, 2002

LIVONIA, Mich. — A plan to close seven schools and place fifth and sixth graders in their own buildings is expected to reduce costs by $1.5 million in Livonia, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The proposal, called the "Legacy Initiative," was developed by a demographics committee of 40 people, including administrators, teachers, parents and community members, the Free Press reported. It passed 6-1 at last week's Livonia school board meeting.

"Though the proposal is extremely innovative and keeps communities together, this proposal just does not work for our community," Trustee Tom Bailey said in casting the dissenting vote, according to the Free Press. "It creates a disadvantage for a large percentage of Livonia homeowners. The quality of a community is often defined by the quality of its educational system."

The plan will break down Livonia's grades by K-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-12, the Free Press said. Over the last 35 years, the district's enrollment fell from 38,000 to 18,000 students, resulting in the closure of one high school, six middle schools and 14 elementary schools.

Detroit Free Press, "Controversial school plan passes in Livonia," Dec. 6, 2005
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051206/NEWS02/ 512060400/1004/NEWS

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When Will Conventional Public Schools Be as Accountable as Charters?" Aug. 16, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Inkster: Victim of Competition?" July 24, 2000

GROSSMONT, Calif. — A Grossmont Union High School District trustee has suggested that all 10 schools in the district be converted to charter schools, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Ron Nehring asked that the issue be put on the school board's January agenda, saying the idea "is an education reform plan to improve the quality of education at every school, not just one school," The Union-Tribune reported.

Bruce Seaman, president of the Grossmont teachers union, said it was "the first step toward the privatization of public schools," the newspaper said.

Nehring disagreed.

"These schools belong to the taxpayers and that is never going to change," he told The Union-Tribune.

Nehring said his plan calls for oversight of each school by a parent-elected board, which would then answer to the district's board of education. California has about 570 charter schools, with 200,000 students, according to The Union-Tribune.

The San Diego Union-Tribune, "Trustee proposes Grossmont switch to charter district," Dec. 6, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 24, 2000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Charter Schools as Catalysts for Change," Nov. 8, 1993

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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