Contents of this issue:

  • Budget crunch hits metro schools
  • Online classes get a boost in some districts
  • Parents try to save Catholic school
  • Director ousted, alternate ed program closed
  • Enrollment averaging boosts revenue


MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. - Increased energy, health care and retirement costs, coupled with declining enrollment and uncertain state funding, have pushed a number of public school districts into the red, according to The Detroit News. School officials are responding by laying off teachers, consolidating schools and reducing transportation services as a way to balance budgets, the article said.

"It's like a volcano has erupted, and we're just trying to keep ahead of the lava flow," Madison District Public Schools Superintendent Paul Rogers told The News. "But this is a man- made disaster, and it's ruining lives."

Several Metro Detroit districts are currently in a deficit position, according to The News. Pontiac faces a $10 million deficit in its $96 million budget; Howell projects a $3 million deficit in its $68 million budget; and Dearborn expects a $10.5 million deficit in its $180 million budget, the News reported.

The Detroit News, "Deep cutbacks test Metro Detroit schools," Jan. 5, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit not the only school district seeing red," June 30, 2008


DETROIT - More students will earn high school credit online and off campus in Michigan in 2009 due to a pilot program allowing some school districts to bypass "seat time" requirements, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Two dozen conventional and charter public school districts applied for waivers that would allow more online education, the Free Press reported, and 12 were approved. The waivers relax the requirement that students be in a school building for nearly 1,100 hours each school year and also increases the limit on online courses taken outside a school building during a semester.

"That would be so much easier," Kayla Jacques, 18, of Waterford, told the Free Press. The state hopes that the waivers will help alternative education students like Jacques, according to the Free Press, as well as students struggling to meet new high school graduation requirements. Teacher monitors are assigned to track student progress, though students generally can access the online class where and when they like, the Free Press reported.

"What we're going to learn is not only which kids do well, but what kinds of support a district can give them to help them succeed in a virtual learning environment," said MaryAlice Galloway, senior adviser to the chief academic officer at the Michigan Department of Education.

The Detroit Free Press, "Waivers free students to study online, off-campus," Jan. 4, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "New high school graduation requirements in action," May 6, 2008


COOPERSVILLE, Mich. - Parishioners have stepped forward with private donations to keep St. Michael School open for now, but they also want the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids to develop a strategic plan to help struggling schools, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Enrollment at the K-6 school stands at 35, down more than 50 percent since 2000, according to The Press. Diocesan officials said that enrollment will be the deciding factor in the school's fate, but parents told The Press that it is difficult to attract more students given the perception that the school likely will close.

"We're still trying to work on this, but I hate giving people the false impression that there is some magic thing out there that will turn things around," the Rev. Tony Pelak, parish priest, told The Press.

St. Michael Church is spending about 60 percent of its Sunday collections on the school, well above the 35 percent benchmark set by the diocese, according to The Press. Parishioners and others have stepped forward to sponsor students who can't afford the private school, according to The Press, and have asked for a "town hall-like meeting" with diocesan officials to discuss the future of Catholic schools in West Michigan.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Parents continue to fight to save St. Michael Catholic School in Coopersville," Dec. 29, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Catholic schools and the common good," Aug. 16, 2005


ALPENA, Mich. - Atlanta Public Schools will close its alternate education program at the end of the current semester, according to The Alpena News. The program's director, Elven Duvall, already has been removed from his position and the school board is seeking to terminate his employment, The News reported.

An internal investigation allegedly revealed that Duvall provided students with answers to GED tests and, in some cases, completed the tests for them, according to The News.

"The first complaint was from a girl who had left some of her answers blank," school board President Janette Sarkozi told The News. "She was told to go to lunch and when she came back to resume the test, the answers were filled in. She informed us, because she wanted to pass the test herself."

The school board took action following an internal investigation. The program already had been under scrutiny due to questions about attendance figures, according to The News.

Remaining students will be allowed to transfer to Atlanta High School and take a combination of regular and online courses, the article said. Five students are on track to graduate this year.

The Alpena News, "School ends alternate ed program," Dec. 23, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "District hires company to provide alternative education," Nov. 14, 2007


FREE SOIL, Mich. - Enrollment averaging has helped Free Soil Community Schools financially in recent years, according to a report in the Ludington Daily News. State law allows small schools to use three-year averages when determining enrollment figures, Superintendent Ron Nurnberger told the Daily News, so even after Free Soil's high school program closed, the district was temporarily allowed to "count" those students for state aid purposes.

Free Soil received state aid for about 90 students during 2007-2008, when actual enrollment was about 50, the Daily News reported, and estimates it will receive aid for 70 students in the current school year.

The district anticipates a $285,000 fund balance at the end of the current school year, the Daily News reported. Teachers received raises of 2.25 percent for the current year in a recently signed contract and will receive an additional 2 percent in 2009-2010, according to the Daily News.

The Ludington Daily News, "Free Soil teachers' contract approved," Jan. 2, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

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

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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