Contents of this issue:

  • Make-or-break millage in Saugatuck
  • Stimulus pays for lunch equipment
  • Report: Schools should rethink master's pay
  • Two DPS teachers get $300,000 settlement
  • Teacher massage scam alleged
  • Mackinac Center names education policy director


SAUGATUCK, Mich. - Saugatuck Public Schools residents will vote Aug. 4 on what school officials say is a make-or-break millage renewal, according to The Holland Sentinel, but this time an organized group is campaigning on behalf of the school tax.

Voters turned down the 18-mill renewal request in May, which effectively eliminated 60 percent of district revenue, The Sentinel reported. Without that funding - a tax assessed against commercial property and second homes - the district could be closed and divided up among neighboring districts, according to campaign literature, The Sentinel reported.

Kathleen Piggins told The Sentinel that, like a lot of parents, she didn't vote in May because she assumed the millage renewal would pass. When it lost by 38 votes, she became involved as head of the Save Our Schools campaign to pass the millage in August, The Sentinel reported.

Jim Wiley, of Douglas, told the school board at a recent meeting that voters were unhappy with the board's lack of transparency and the building of a new baseball field, The Sentinel reported.

Other residents question the wisdom of accepting schools-of- choice students whose parents do not pay local property taxes, the report said.

Liz Broderick, the district's business and human resources services director, told The Sentinel that the district does not lose money by accepting students from other districts because it receives between $7,300 and $8,200 in state funding for each.

The Holland Sentinel, "Community rallies to overturn historic millage veto," July 23, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Show Michigan the Money," June 22, 2009


LANSING, Mich. - About 160 Michigan public schools will share $2.5 million in federal stimulus money to purchase school lunch equipment, according to The Associated Press and a news release from the state.

The money is intended to help schools replace worn equipment or to expand or upgrade food services, the release said. The new equipment must improve meal programs through quality, safety, energy efficiency or student participation, according to the release. Priority was given to schools in which at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

The stimulus program provided $100 million nationwide for school lunch programs.

In Michigan, Benton Harbor High School received the largest grant, at $52,000, AP reported in an article published in Crain's Detroit Business. Other schools, including charter public schools, received funding between $5,000 and $25,000. A list of all grants awarded in Michigan is posted at the Michigan Recovery & Reinvestment Plan Web site.

Crain's Detroit Business, "Michigan schools get $2.5 million for school lunch equipment," July 23, 2009

Michigan Recovery & Reinvestment Plan, "167 Michigan Schools Awarded $2.5 Million for School Lunch Equipment," July 23, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Stimulus spending decisions begin," July 10, 2009


WASHINGTON, D.C. - In tough economic times, one way school districts could save money is by halting the practice of automatically paying teachers more for advanced degrees, a new study from the Center for Reinventing Public Education advises.

As reported in Education Week, the study says that pay hikes for most teachers with master's degrees do not correlate to better student achievement.

" ... (W)e know the relationship between the degree and student achievement is nonexistent," Raegen T. Miller, a senior policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, told Education Week. Miller co-authored the report, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Education Association, the authors calculated the average cumulative pay hike given in each state for advanced coursework up to and including master's degrees. Michigan's "bump" is about $5,900, the report said; national figures ranged from $2,000 in Oklahoma to $10,000 in Alaska.

Overall, states devote between 1 and 2 percent of total education expenditures to master's-related costs, Education Week reported.

Certain specific content degrees, such as those in math and science, do show a positive correlation to student achievement, according to Education Week, but many teachers instead earn master's degrees in education.

Some of the money spent on master's pay could be used to test other compensation policies, including still-controversial performance pay plans, Education Week reported.

Education Week, "Report Urges Halt to Extra Pay for Master's Degrees," July 21, 2009 (subscription required)

Center on Reinventing Public Education, "Separation of Degrees: State-by-State Analysis of Teacher Compensation for Master's Degrees," July 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Teacher Quality Primer," June 30, 2008


DETROIT - Two Detroit Public Schools math teachers say they will give away much of the $300,000 settlement they negotiated in a court case over their respective firings, according to The Associated Press.

As reported at Mlive.com, teachers Steve Conn and Heather Miller were fired in 2007 after the district charged them with leading a student protest over school closures. Students at the protest were pepper-sprayed for banging on windows at Northern High School, AP reported.

Conn and Miller, who are married, were later placed on leave and eventually sued the school board and then-superintendent, according to AP. A judge later ordered the district to restore them to their jobs, saying DPS had punished them for exercising their right to free speech. Their settlement with DPS covers their back pay, attorney fees and other costs, AP reported.

District spokesman Steve Wasko told The Detroit News on Saturday that the money "will now be used for adults instead of our school children," AP reported, while the couple said they will donate a large share to civil rights causes.

In other DPS news, Moody's Investor Service has downgraded the rating on $5.4 million of the district's outstanding building and site improvement bonds and revised the outlook from stable to negative, according to a report at Moody's. The downgrade reflects the district's weak balance sheet, declining enrollment and risk of bankruptcy, the report said.

Mlive.com, "Updated: 2 Detroit teachers get $300,000 in firing settlement; will donate a large chunk," July 26, 2009

Moody's Investor Services, "Moody's downgrades to B1 from Ba2 the underlying rating on Detroit Public Schools'(MI) outstanding rated GOULT debt," July 24, 2009 (Registration required)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit's Schools are Going Bankrupt, Too," July 28, 2009


MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. - A Flushing-area chiropractor has been charged in an alleged $48,000 insurance scam involving teacher massages, according to The Flint Journal.

The chiropractor allegedly misled teachers about the extent of massage treatment covered by their health insurance, then overbilled Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, The Journal reported.

Miguel M. Ruelan, 39, allegedly sent Flushing Community Schools teachers a letter telling them their massages would continue to be covered despite a change in the teacher health plan that cut the number of allowed visits from 38 to 24 a year, according to The Journal.

Based on Ruelan's billings, Blue Cross sent in undercover investigators who received massages that weren't covered on their insurance cards, according to The Journal. The massages then were billed to Blue Cross as "mechanical traction" treatments, Genesee County Sheriff Robert J. Pickell told The Journal, though the investigators did not receive any mechanical traction therapy.

Allegedly fraudulent bills totaling $48,000 were submitted between December 2007 and November 2008, The Journal reported.

There is no indication that teachers were aware of the alleged scam, Pickell told The Journal.

The Flint Journal, "Flushing-area chiropractor accused of $48,000 insurance scam involving teacher massages," July 26, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Flint area schools battle over health insurance," May 22, 2007


MIDLAND, Mich. - A classroom teacher has joined the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as director of its Education Policy Initiative.

Announcing the appointment in its online education journal, Michigan Education Report, the center said that Michael D. Van Beek comes to the Center from a position as history teacher and assistant administrator at North Hills Classical Academy in Grand Rapids.

"I am pleased to join the Mackinac Center in its work towards advocating innovative educational reforms that are good for Michigan students, parents and taxpayers," Van Beek said.

Van Beek earned a bachelor's degree in history from Hope College in 2003 and a master's degree in American history from Purdue University in 2005.

Michigan Education Report, "Van Beek named Mackinac education policy director," July 15, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Education Policy Initiative

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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