Contents of this issue:
  • State budget deal reforms teacher health insurance
  • Students show slight improvement in NAEP scores
  • Schools offer certificate to show workplace readiness
  • Districts Offer Incentives to Increase Attendance for Count Day
  • Plymouth-Canton teachers to receive new insurance, raises
  • Comment and win an iPod

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation to lower the burden of health insurance costs for public school districts was among the many measures passed last weekend as lawmakers addressed the overspending in Michigan's budget, according to Booth Newspapers.

The legislation allows districts to now pool employees' health costs and also mandates that employers competitively bid for insurance coverage. This aspect of the bill faced the most opposition because it requires the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party health administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union, to release claims data. Supporters say this could save millions of dollars each year, Booth Newspapers reported. Claims data will be aggregate so as to protect the identity of individual employees.

The Legislature also reformed the state's school employee retirement system. The new program will model that used for other state employees. Retired school employees will now have a percentage of their health care costs paid by the state each month. The percentage will be on a scale system and tied to how many years the employee worked, according to Booth Newspapers.

Booth Newspapers, "Deal includes changes aimed at saving school health costs," Oct. 1, 2007 business-13/119123341150540.xml&storylist=newsmichigan

Michigan Education Report, "School Districts Report Saving Money in Insurance Pool," Feb. 23, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Results of the last National Assessment of Educational Progress test show slight improvements in math and elementary reading, while progress in correcting racial achievement gaps has worsened or stalled, according to the Detroit Free Press.

More than 702,000 students participated in the assessment of 4th and 8th graders' competence in reading and mathematics. Math scores for both elementary and middle school students increased, but not as significantly as in previous years. The percentage of fourth-grade students who scored proficient or better in math has tripled; while the proportion of eighth-grade students meeting or surpassing proficiency has doubled since 1990. Eighth grade scores in reading have only improved one point since 2005 and three points from 1992, the Free Press reported.

In Michigan, fourth-grade students met the national average reading score, and scored one point lower than the national average in math. The state's eighth graders scored one point lower than the national average in reading and three points lower than the average in math, according to the Free Press.

"This report shows while Michigan student assessment scores are fairly consistent with national trends, overall achievement is far too low, especially among economically disadvantaged students," Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of public instruction, told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Michigan students on par with nation in math and reading," Sept. 25, 2007 70925031/1019/BUSINESS06

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Rankings on National Education Test Fall in 8th Grade, Stagnate in 4th; Proficiency Scores Flat," Sept. 26, 2007

LANSING, Mich. — Schools in Eaton, Clinton and Ingham counties are beginning to grant graduating seniors a National Career Readiness Certificate if they demonstrate competence in applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information, according to The Lansing State Journal.

The certificate is supposed to serve as another source of information to potential employers regarding a student's skill set. Depending on the level of performance, a student may receive a gold, silver or bronze certificate. Certification is based on scores from the applied mathematics and reading sections of the Michigan Merit Exam, and through an additional test on locating information, The State Journal reported.

Although the MME measures the first two components of certification, a consortium of schools and businesses have pushed for federal funding of the locating information portion. Advocates of the certification program say this test will ensure a well-trained workforce in Michigan, according to The State Journal.

The Lansing State Journal, "Kogut: Schools offer proof of work-force readiness," Sept. 28, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Undereducated Today, Outsourced Tomorrow," Nov. 16, 2004

DETROIT — Many public school districts made efforts to provide incentives for students to attended school on count day in hopes of receiving as much funding from the state as possible, according to The Detroit News.

State funding for schools is determined, in part, on a per-pupil basis. This per-pupil funding is determined through a blended enrollment count on the second Wednesday in February and the fourth Wednesday after Labor Day of the following school year. Schools take 25 percent of their enrollment in February and combine it with 75 percent of the enrollment the next fall, The News reported.

School districts are anticipating a freeze in the foundation allowance from the state this year and used creative incentives to make sure students were present for the count. In Hazel Park, for example, elementary schools aligned student picture day with count day and middle school students were given a pizza party. The district lost about 200 students last year and is anticipating a loss of about another 100 students this year, according to The News.

Students at Detroit Public Schools' Pasteur Elementary were treated to a picnic at a church across the street from the school and had a chance to play football and other games, The News reported. DPS enrollment has dropped about 10,000 students a year for the past several years and the district recently closed 33 schools.

Although count day is important, schools do have a chance to adjust their enrollment numbers to account for legitimate absences, like illness.

"I'm not going to lie to you — it's a very important day," Michelle Irwin, director of community relations and programs for the L'Anse Creuse schools, told The News. "But keep in mind, count day isn't just (today). It's also the day before and the 30 days after."

The Detroit News, "Schools entice kids for funds," Sept. 26, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Pupil Counts," in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 31, 2007

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — The Plymouth-Canton Education Association union has agreed to a two-year contract with the board of education that includes pay raises and a switch in health insurance, according to The Canton Eagle.

This year, teachers at the top of the pay scale will receive a bonus of 1.5 percent, while all others will see a 0.25 percent raise. Those at the top of the pay scale will receive an additional 2 percent raise next year, The Eagle reported.

The PCEA also voted unanimously to change health coverage to a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Community Blue PPO starting in January 2008. The district expects to save more than $400,000 through the switch, according to The Eagle.

"It's a win for both sides," union representative Chuck Portelli told The Eagle. "It's savings for them and good for our members," he said.

The Canton Eagle, "District, teachers agree to pact," Sept. 27, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Growing number of districts seek solutions to costly health insurance," Dec. 15, 2005

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

To subscribe or unsubscribe, go to