Contents of this issue:

  • Students protest principal's departure
  • Tax incentives in question
  • Teacher PAC case at Supreme Court
  • Claims data leads to lower insurance costs
  • Busing goes private in Benton Harbor
  • Eating veggies in Taylor


DETROIT - Western International High School students and staff staged a walkout Monday after learning that their principal would not return next year, according to a report by WDIV Local 4.

Rebecca Luna reportedly was one of 33 principals named for layoff by emergency financial manager Robert Bobb as part of a large-scale shakeup, the report said, though Luna's daughter told WDIV that Luna would be transferred to another building.

According to WDIV, a student pulled the fire alarm early Monday, then the student body chanted and marched along a nearby street until the affair broke up about two hours later.

The Detroit Free Press reported that the district did not renew contracts with 33 principals due to poor performance, school closures and academic restructuring. Another 37 principals will be reassigned, 11 will retire and the district will conduct a national search to fill 10 slots, mostly at troubled schools, the Free Press reported.

WDIV, Local 4, "Students Protest DPS Principal Decision,"
May 18, 2009

Detroit Free Press, "33 Detroit principals fired in school shakeup,"
May 15, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS principals under review,"
April 29, 2009


LANSING, Mich. - Michigan has no way to know if the millions of dollars it hands out in tax incentives and tax abatements are effective because it doesn't systematically measure the results, according to a new study by the Anderson Economic Group, the Lansing State Journal reported. However, the company's own review found mixed results.

In a study commissioned by the Michigan Education Association, the firm said that it analyzed eight incentive programs totaling $900 million in tax breaks in 2008 and found that the high-profile movie industry program was the least effective, the Journal reported.

The film industry incentive effectively pays at least $50,000 for every job created, according to Patrick Anderson, company CEO. 

Michael Shore, a spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., told the Journal that it's too early to evaluate the program, just entering its second year. He said other incentive programs have taken time to show results.

The Anderson study found that PA 198 abatements, generally given to manufacturers for rehabilitating industrial properties or building new ones, were effective because they target an industry in which Michigan has a competitive advantage, Anderson told the Journal.

MEA President Iris Salters told the Journal that the teachers union is interested in how the state spends its money because those dollars could go to public schools.

The Lansing State Journal, "Study: Mich. business tax breaks may fall short,"
May 14, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Michigan Film Incentive: EMS and Child Day Care vs. Movies,"
April 14, 2009


LANSING, Mich. - The question of whether public school districts can deduct money from teacher paychecks for the political arm of the Michigan Education Association has reached the Michigan Supreme Court, according to a report at Legal Newsline.

The court has not yet agreed to hear the case, but will hear limited oral arguments from the MEA and the Michigan Secretary of State. The original case was brought by the MEA, which has collective bargaining agreements with school districts that require the districts to administer a payroll deduction plan for contributions to the MEA political action committee, Newsline reported.

An Ingham County judge said such contract provisions did not violate state law, according to Newsline, as long as the political action committee or union pays for school districts' added expenses in advance.

But the state Court of Appeals later ruled that government resources cannot be used to make political contributions even if the school district is paid in advance, the report said.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes Michigan Education Digest, filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, arguing that such paycheck withdrawals are illegal under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and that government has no appropriate role in advancing partisan political ends.

Legal Newsline, "Mich. Supreme Court agrees to hear teacher PAC case,"
May 12, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in Michigan Education Association v. Michigan Secretary of State,"
Sept. 2, 2008


MONROE, Mich. - Monroe Public Schools will pay less for health insurance in the coming year because employees didn't request much actual health care last year, according to the Monroe News.

The Michigan Education Special Services Association told Monroe

it would reduce their rates by 2.3 percent instead of raising them an anticipated 14 percent, a move that will save the district $1.1 million, the News reported. A MESSA spokesperson told the News that Monroe's employees didn't file enough health insurance claims to merit an increase.

"I thought that was very surprising," said Ken Laub, assistant superintendent of business, according to the News. "It's unheard of, but we'll take it."

The savings will offset part of the $4 million in cuts that the district wants to make over two years to bring spending in line with revenue, the News reported. However, the board is still considering staffing cuts, administrative restructuring and privatization of custodial and maintenance services, according to the News.

MESSA announced in a press release earlier this year that it has moved to a new business model in which the amount it charges school districts is based to a larger extent on the district's actual health history, depending on the size of the district. Previously schools were grouped into regional pools for rating purposes. MESSA also is using $59 million from a reserve fund it has accumulated from school payments over the years as a way to subsidize rates this year.

The Monroe News, "Insurance rate cut will save big money,"
May 11, 2009

Michigan Education Special Services Association, "MESSA Board keeps 2009-2010 Rate Increase Under 5 Percent by using $59 Million from Reserve Fund,"
April 29, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Mount Pleasant, others looking at insurance pool,"
Dec. 18, 2008


BENTON HARBOR - A visit from the president of the Michigan Education Association teachers union was not enough to prevent the Benton Harbor school board from hiring a private firm to provide transportation services, according to the Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium.

The board voted 4-1 to sign a five-year contract with First Student Inc., of Cincinnati, which already provides busing in the nearby Niles district and for the Berrien Regional Educational Services Agency, the Herald-Palladium reported.

Iris Salters, MEA president, had joined other school employees in a protest rally outside the high school before the meeting, according to the report. She told the board that, "There will be a day when you rue the day you made this decision."

Administrators estimate that the district, currently running a deficit, will save about $2.75 million over five years by hiring First Student, the Herald-Palladium reported. Employees will be allowed to apply for jobs with First Student; those hired will retain their seniority as long as they apply by June 1, said Mike Medin, director of business services for First Student, the report said.

The Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium, "Busing goes private,"
May 13, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A School Privatization Primer,"
June 26, 2007


TAYLOR, Mich. - Students at Blair Moody Elementary School in Taylor are growing, eating and selling vegetables and herbs as they make use of the school's newly built greenhouse, according to reports in The News Herald and at the city Web site.

Youngsters planted such fare as chives, Bennett lettuce and Buttercrunch lettuce in February, The News Herald reported, and planned to eat some of their yield as well as sell some to a local restaurant.

Students also decorated patio blocks to be used as the floor of the "hoop house," a standalone greenhouse, according to both reports, and various local businesses donated materials.

The city reported that funding for the greenhouse came in the form of a "Building Healthy Communities Grant" from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The grants are intended to support programs that address childhood health, particularly physical fitness and nutrition.

The News Herald, "Taylor: Elementary students grow herbs, sell to local restaurant,"
Feb. 13, 2009

City of Taylor, "Blues grant helps 'green' Taylor elementary school,"
May 13, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "It's hard, but it's fun,"
July 15, 2008

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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