Contents of this issue:

  • Study: College grad rates average 53 percent
  • Insurance hikes vary in Pinckney
  • DPS considering privatization
  • Teachers in tenure mix-up
  • School to open at hospital site
  • When the union is your employer


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Of all first-time college students who enrolled in four-year colleges in 2001, only 53 percent graduated within six years, according to a national study by the American Enterprise Institute. The Michigan average was 52 percent, according to the study.

"Rates below 50 percent, 40 percent and even 30 percent are distressingly easy to find," says the report, according to an article in USA Today. The numbers are based on data reported to the U.S. Education Department by nearly 1,400 schools across the country.

Harvard University posted a 97 percent graduation rate, while Southern University at New Orleans, affected by Hurricane Katrina, reported 8 percent, USA Today reported. In Michigan, of

38 schools included, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is listed as having the highest rate, at 88 percent. Davenport University is listed at 23 percent and Marygrove College at 29.

The data do not account for students who transfer, according to USA Today, and study authors said graduation rates should not be used as a sole measure of quality. However, the study notes that there is "dramatic variation" in rates among similar institutions, which suggests that some schools are more effective than their peers, USA Today reported.

"We are emphasizing transparency," co-author Mark Schneider said, according to USA Today. "It's one of those little secrets that everybody in the industry knows. We're just trying to highlight it."

USA Today, "4-year colleges graduate 53% of students in 6 years," June 4, 2009

American Enterprise Institute, "Diplomas and Dropouts," June 3, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "More money for higher ed doesn't ensure prosperity," Nov. 21, 2006


PINCKNEY, Mich. - Pinckney Community Schools will lay off 14 teachers as it plans for a decline in enrollment and higher health insurance and diesel fuel bills, according to a report in The Livingston Community News. Those expenses will be offset somewhat by lower expenditures for heating oil, alternative education and data collection technology, The News reported.

Overall, administrators have proposed a $35.7 million budget for 2009-2010 that maintains the current $1 million fund equity, according to The News. State per-pupil funding is expected to remain the same due to federal stimulus funding, though Superintendent Dan Danosky said that could change, depending on state tax revenues in the coming year, The News reported.

Health insurance for teachers, who are covered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, will go up 6.75 percent, more than double the rate increase for staff members, which will see a 3.2 percent rise from Priority Health, according to The News.

The Livingston Community News, "Pinckney Schools end year with small surplus, present balanced budget for next year," June 4, 2009


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


DETROIT - Eighty percent of the employees in the Detroit Public Schools curriculum department will be laid off by the end of June, while 11 cabinet-level executives will not be invited back when their contracts run out, according to The Detroit News.

Also gone are half the district's assistant superintendents, The News reported. Transportation services and school-based security may be outsourced, and a review of employee health benefits is pending, according to the report.

The announcements came from emergency financial manager Robert Bobb, who is working to eliminate a $306 million deficit, The News reported. The latest measures follow earlier action to cut dozens of principals and close 29 schools this fall.

A growing number of school districts contract with private firms to provide support services, Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told The News.

The center conducts an annual survey on privatization in Michigan schools and also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

"Millions can be saved," LaFaive said.

The Detroit News, "Bobb boots out top DPS executives," June 4, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2008: School Service Privatization Grows Again," Aug. 14, 2008


WYOMING, Mich. - Several former charter public school teachers say they will appeal a state decision denying them tenure, which effectively lowers them on their school district's seniority list, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The teachers all worked at Horizons Community High School, an alternative academy chartered by the Wyoming school district, according to The Press. Though the teachers were given letters of tenure after four years of probationary work, they later learned that charter school employment does not lead to tenure under state law, The Press reported. That provision in the law is designed to give charter schools more flexibility.

The teachers took their case to the State Tenure Commission, which said it had no authority to create an exception, according to The Press.

The district has since closed Horizons. Three former Horizons teachers now rank below the district's tenured teachers on the seniority list and are expected to lose their jobs, the report said.

Superintendent Jon Felske told The Press that though the district supported the teachers' appeal, he now has no choice but to follow the terms of the employee contract and give tenured teachers jobs first.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Former Wyoming Horizons Community High School teachers say state tenure ruling cost them their jobs," June 4, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Tenure law is impediment to school reform," May 12, 2000


DETROIT - An abandoned hospital and adjacent medical plaza will become home to a charter public school and assisted living facility over the next three years, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

Midwest Creative Investments will spend $18 million to renovate the Greater Detroit Hospital complex and Carpenter Medical Plaza, the Free Press reported. Co-owner Mohamad Issa told the Free Press that the school will open on site in 2010 followed by a senior assisted living facility in 2012.

The new school is an expansion of The Frontier Academy in Hamtramck and will offer instruction in both English and Arabic, the Free Press reported.

Issa's company also recently purchased church property near Ypsilanti as a charter expansion site.

The Detroit Free Press, "Medical complex 'monstrosity' to get a new life," June 1, 2009


Michigan Education Digest, "Charter buys church property," May 1, 2009


LANSING, Mich. - The public tends to hear a great deal about teacher contract negotiations in public school districts during summer and fall, particularly when money is tight and talks become contentious.

But reports written by people who work for the Michigan Education Association or its affiliates suggest that when the union is the boss, it also looks for ways to reduce costs, and not always in ways that workers find union-friendly, according to an article in Michigan Education Report.

The United Staff Organization is the umbrella organization representing employee groups within the MEA, its third-party insurance administrator (Michigan Education Special Services Association) and its financial services affiliate (MEA Financial Services).

Reports written by people within those organizations highlight some areas of discontent, according to Michigan Education Report.

Michigan Education Report is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Michigan Education Report, "When the Union is Your Employer," June 9, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Eternal Struggle," June 8, 2009

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

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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