Contents of this issue:

  • Dropout law will challenge districts
  • Port Huron: Emergency or not?
  • Legislature moves reform package
  • Trustee: 'Threats' led him to resign
  • Students build Habitat home
  • MED will not publish Dec. 29


LANSING, Mich. - Raising the dropout age to 18 will cost an estimated $230 million annually and challenge public school districts to serve thousands of students who don't want to be there, according to a Lansing State Journal report describing the potential effects of the newly passed legislation.

"Just because you change the dropout age doesn't mean you address the dropout problem," Brad Biladeau, a government relations expert with the Michigan Association of School Administrators, told the Journal.

Students now in the sixth grade would be the first required to attend school until age 18, though they could still leave school at age 16 with parental permission, the Journal reported.

Requiring 30,000 16- and 17-year-old students to remain in school — at approximately $7,668 per student per year — would add up to about $230 million annually, according to the House Fiscal Agency, the Journal reported.

Some educators suggested mentoring, career and technical programs and smaller class sizes as ways to deal with disinterested students, the Journal reported. Lansing Police Department spokesman Lt. Mike Yankowski told the Journal that the law would reduce daytime crime.

Lansing State Journal, "Raising dropout age could cost $230M a year, may lower crime," Dec. 22, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Should Michigan raise the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18? No," May 24, 2007


PORT HURON, Mich. - They agree that enrollment is declining and state revenue has dropped, but the Port Huron Area School District and the Michigan Education Association do not agree on whether that constitutes a "financial emergency," according to The (Port Huron) Times Herald.

The school board declared such an emergency and laid off 17 paraprofessionals last week, but said nine will be recalled with expanded responsibilities, The Times Herald reported. District officials said they need to reduce spending in order to avoid a budget deficit in 2010-2011.

The district is overspending by more than $8 million this year, officials said, and will use $5 million in fund balance and about $3.7 million in spending cuts to cover the gap, according to The Times Herald.

The MEA contends that Port Huron should use more of its $16 million fund balance to cover spending, according to The Times Herald. Port Huron Education Association President Chad Mannlein told The Times Herald that the district also should consider new millages or bond requests to generate more revenue.

The Port Huron Times Herald, "Officials, MEA spar about district's health," Dec. 22, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Source of The School Budget Quagmire," Dec. 7, 2009


LANSING, Mich. - New charter and cyber schools, state takeover of failing schools, an end to some union protections for teachers and a new dropout age of 18 are considered the key elements of education reform that passed the state Legislature Saturday, according to The Detroit News.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she will sign the bills, which are expected to boost Michigan's chances to gain a share of $4.35 billion in Race to the Top federal stimulus funding for schools, The News reported.

The Michigan Education Association and American Federation of Teachers-Michigan support most of the package, including alternative teacher certification and use of student test data in teacher evaluations, according to The News.

The bills will create a "turnaround czar" in the Michigan Department of Education to oversee takeovers of failing schools.

The package also allows high-quality charter public schools to become "Schools of Excellence" which could then open a second school themselves, The News reported. The legislation is expected to make it easier to discharge "ineffective" teachers and also to establish merit pay programs for the most effective educators.

The Detroit News, "Michigan lawmakers pass education reform," Dec. 19, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Great Charter School Debate," Dec. 21, 2009


PINCONNING, Mich. - A Pinconning Area Schools board of education member said that "personal threats" led him to resign, The Bay City Times reported.

Tom Hornacek, whose term would have expired in December 2010, would not specify the nature of the threats, but indicated they are connected to his actions as a board member, The Times reported. Hornacek is co-owner of the Pinny Food Center and Northwoods Wholesale Outlet in Pinconning, and told The Times that he has lost business among school employees.

"I've received threats against my family and business," said Hornacek. "Someone made it personal."

School districts must make cuts in order to balance budgets, but then are blamed for such things as staff reductions, larger class sizes and cutting extracurricular activities, Hornacek told The Times. The article did not detail cuts made in Pinconning.

"Anyone on a school board who has a retail job in the community, you can't do both because any decision you make is going to hurt somebody," Hornacek said, according to The Times. "Being a school board member in Michigan is the dirtiest job in America right now."

The Bay City Times, "Pinconning school board member: Threats forced him out," Dec. 16, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Are Schools Underfunded?" Nov. 23, 2009


HOWELL, Mich. - Construction trades students in Howell Public Schools are nearly finished building a home for the Livingston County Habitat for Humanity, according to radio station WHMI-FM.

The home was built on piers at the district's Parker campus, and was to be wheeled this week to a final location in Conway Township, the station reported.

Mark Leahy, the class teacher, told the station that students will finish up work on the home at the new site and that it will be ready for occupancy within six to eight weeks.

Leahy said the project has taught students about home construction, community relationships and affordable housing issues, according to WHMI. The home is the 16th Habitat for Humanity home in Livingston County.

WHMI-FM, "Officials Preparing to Transport Habitat for Humanity Home," Dec. 21, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Program combines engineering, service," Nov. 25, 2009


Michigan Education Digest will not publish on Dec. 29, 2009; publication will resume on Jan. 5, 2010.

MICHIGAN EDUATION 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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