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
MEA LAWSUIT AGAINST PUBLIC SCHOOLS DISMISSED
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
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
"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
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'
"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
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
NEW ANN ARBOR HIGH SCHOOL $3 MILLION OVER BUDGET
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
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
CRITICS WEIGH IN ON STUDENT WEIGHT LEGISLATION
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
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
Opponents say the bill would turn educators into "fat police,"
"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,
. 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.
, "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 SCHOOL SHOOTINGS
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
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
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
Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm Signs Student Safety Bills,"
Oct. 4, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "Strict discipline academies,"
May 30, 2002
LIVONIA TO CLOSE SEVEN SCHOOLS
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
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
Detroit Free Press, "Controversial school plan passes in
Livonia," Dec. 6, 2005
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
CALIFORNIA DISTRICT COULD GO ALL-CHARTER
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.
"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
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.