Contents of this issue:

  • Henry Ford Institute to open Texas campus
  • Superintendent: MESSA is too expensive for us
  • Compromise on D.C. vouchers
  • Voters say no in Saugatuck
  • Union-backed candidates win in Wayne-Westland


SAN ANTONIO — The Henry Ford Learning Institute in Michigan will open a high school in San Antonio this fall, according to the San Antonio Business Journal. The Alameda School for Art + Design will offer a college-preparatory curriculum for high school students who are interested in studying creative arts.

The Institute already operates Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, a charter public school, as well as a school in Chicago.

Students who enroll in the Alameda program will take four years of math, science, social studies and language arts, but also art and design, the Journal reported. Courses will be project-based and will incorporate work in area studios as well as off-site experiences and internships, according to the Journal.

The Dearborn-based Institute plans to open a national network of small high schools in major cultural institutions, working with community organizations, according to information at its Web site. Each school will be based on the Henry Ford Academy model; students there take courses and complete projects at The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn.

San Antonio Business Journal, "Alameda School for Art + Design plans fall opening,"
May 11, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Should Michigan lift the cap on charter public schools? Yes,"
Nov. 21, 2006


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — If the Benton Harbor school board votes to hire a private company to take over busing, the main reason will be the cost of union-affiliated health insurance, the school superintendent told the Benton Harbor Herald Palladium.

Superintendent Carole Schmidt said that the district's bus drivers, monitors and mechanics have refused to give up the Michigan Education Special Services Association insurance plan, but that the district cannot afford the premiums, the Herald Palladium reported. The groups have been in contract talks for several years.

MESSA, a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, sells Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans to a majority of Michigan schools.

Transportation workers and other support staff members are expected to picket outside Benton Harbor High School on Tuesday, before the school board takes up the question of whether to hire First Student Inc. to provide busing, the Herald Palladium reported. Michigan Education Association President Iris Salters is expected to attend.

There are approximately 140 workers in the support staff union, which also includes custodial, security and other employees, according to the Herald Palladium. Rulesha Payne, an MEA Uniserv director who represents the union at the bargaining table, told the Herald Palladium that members have offered to take a pay freeze and reduced MESSA benefits.

Schmidt said the MESSA premiums are too costly at any level, according to the Herald Palladium. The district's current budget is $7 million over revenue.

Benton Harbor Herald Palladium, "Privatization vote may come Tuesday,"
May 10, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed, but not resolved,"
Sept. 16, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Collective Bargaining Agreements, "Labor agreement between Benton Harbor Public Schools and Benton Harbor Service employees Association, 2003-2007"


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Students in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program would continue to receive vouchers for private school tuition for at least one year and possibly until they graduate from high school under a compromise suggested by the Obama administration, according to The Washington Post.

The president will propose setting aside money for all 1,716 current recipients, but would not allow new students to join the program, administration officials said, according to The Post.

The voucher program has been in the news since Congress voted in March to cut its funding after the 2009-2010 academic year, according to The Post. The issue is contentious, the article noted; school choice advocates say the program gives poor children a chance to attend better schools, but teachers unions and other education groups active in the Democratic Party call it a drain on public education.

The White House proposal would be a gradual phaseout, The Post reported. Before Congress revoked the money, about 200 students had been awarded scholarships that were then rescinded, according to The Post.

School choice advocates rallied in Washington, D.C., this week and called on lawmakers to fully restore the program, The Post reported. Some cited a recent survey that found that 38 percent of members of Congress have sent their children to private schools and 20 percent of lawmakers themselves attended private schools, almost twice the rate of the general public, according to the article.

The Washington Post, "Obama offers D.C. voucher compromise,"
May 7, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A New Direction for Education Reform,"
July 2, 2001


SAUGATUCK, Mich. — Voters rejected an 18-mill school tax renewal in Saugatuck last week, leaving Saugatuck Public Schools without 60 percent of its operating funds, according to The Holland Sentinel. Board members promised to return to voters in August with a better explanation of the district's need for the money, The Sentinel reported.

For now, taxpayers won't see the 18 mills on their summer tax bills, The Sentinel reported, and the district will have to borrow money to make payroll. If voters approve the millage in August, they would pay a full year of school taxes in December, the article said. If they reject it a second time, "We close down," Trustee Mike Van Loon said, according to The Sentinel.

The 18 mills pay for general school operations. The tax is not levied on primary residences, but on second homes, industrial, commercial and other types of property, The Sentinel reported. School officials, stunned at the results, admitted they did not communicate well with the public on how the money is spent, according to the report. They also said they do not plan to ask a second time for a 1-mill increase for building and site work.

Millage opponents said the district has been spending too much on athletic fields, The Sentinel reported, which were funded by an earlier bond issue.

"We dropped the ball on communication. We were cavalier with this group that is anti-school," said board Secretary Anne Wiley, according to The Sentinel. "Maybe we're too insular."

The Holland Sentinel, "Saugatuck school officials regroup after 'catastrophic' vote,"
May 6, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "School property taxes could increase $5.5 billion over 10 years,"
Sept. 8, 2002


WESTLAND, Mich. — Three union-backed candidates won seats on the Wayne-Westland Board of Education last week, following heavy campaigning on their behalf by the Michigan Education Association, The Observer & Eccentric reported.

Teachers in Wayne-Westland walked off the job for four days in October before settling a contract calling for raises as well as health care concessions. Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan.

Westland businessman John Goci was elected to a partial term, while incumbent Shawna Walker of Westland and newcomer Carol Middel of Canton were elected to four-year terms, according to The Observer & Eccentric.

All three were endorsed by the MEA, which placed signs in their support throughout the district, the report said. Middel is a retired Wayne-Westland teacher, The Observer & Eccentric reported.

The Observer & Eccentric, "Walker, Middel, Goci win seats of Wayne-Westland school board,"
May 5, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Tracking union money in school board elections,"
Nov. 14, 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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