Contents of this issue:

  • Unions: 'Race' memo goes too far
  • New jobs for education leaders
  • Chesaning: MESSA costs up
  • Court to hear e-mail case today
  • Granholm says no more school cuts


LANSING, Mich. - Now that the state Legislature has signed off on school reform intended to bring federal dollars to Michigan, local school districts and union leaders aren't sure they want to follow suit, according to a report at

State education leaders and Gov. Jennifer Granholm have asked school boards, superintendents and union presidents in local districts to sign a "memorandum of understanding" by Thursday indicating they will support the reform measures, including one that would allow teacher and principal evaluations based partly on student test scores, Mlive reported.

The Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan say that the state's implementation plans go beyond the scope of the reform laws, the report said. They are advising local union leaders not to sign.

School districts have been told that if they do not sign the memorandum, it will weaken Michigan's chances to win Race to the Top grant money. Further, school districts that do not participate have been told they will not be eligible to receive grant funding, Mlive reported, although they will have to follow the new laws.

The Huron Daily Tribune reported that several districts in the Huron County area had second thoughts about signing the statement, questioning the amount of local dollars that would be needed to carry out the grant requirements.

SOURCES:, "Teachers unions object to Michigan school reform plan," Jan. 4, 2010

Huron Daily Tribune, "Should Our Schools Race to the Top?" Jan. 2, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Race to the Top Realities," Dec. 22, 2009


NEW YORK - Central Michigan University's online program to train charter school leaders is drawing interest from students and prospective employers alike, according to a report in The New York Times.

The article discussed new types of jobs for educators, among them running charter schools, directing school turnaround efforts and establishing nonprofit education ventures. CMU's program attracts people looking for high-level training and scheduling flexibility, according to The Times.

The Times reported that one student in CMU's program is Patrick Kissel, 44, a retired Army master sergeant who is taking classes while also continuing his job as chief of business operations at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania.

Kissel already has been contacted by a charter school group in Canada about working there after he graduates in 2011, The Times reported.

Elsewhere, the Harvard Graduate School of Education now operates a tuition-free doctoral program in education leadership designed to apply business and public policy principles to school improvement, The Times reported. One reason for the new interest in education is the amount of federal dollars flowing into the sector, the report said.

The New York Times, "Skills to fix failing schools," Jan. 3, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Education reform passes," Dec. 21, 2009


CHESANING, Mich. - Chesaning Union Schools is paying nearly 21 percent more for employee health insurance this year, even though teachers agreed to a plan with higher deductibles, the (Chesaning) Tri-County Citizen reported.

Scott Sawyer, the district's finance director, told school board members that Chesaning is in better financial condition than many school districts, with an anticipated fund balance equaling about 13 percent of the budget in 2010, according to the Citizen. But Sawyer also predicted the district could enter a deficit position by 2012 depending on spending, enrollment and state revenue levels.

The district purchases Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance for teachers through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator that has accumulated about $364 million in reserve funds, Sawyer said, according to the Citizen.

"It's all public money. It's taxpayers' money," he said of the MESSA reserve, the Citizen reported.

Retirement costs are up by 9.4 percent as well, Sawyer told the board.

SOURCE:br> (Chesaning) Tri-County Citizen, "Chesaning schools adjust budget to compensate," Jan. 3, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Tough Questions to Ask Your School District," Dec. 24, 2009


HOWELL, Mich. - The Michigan Court of Appeals was to hear oral arguments today in a case involving the public release of teacher union e-mail messages, according to radio station WHMI- FM.

Copies of the e-mails originally were sought by Oakland County resident Chetly Zarko, who alleged that members of the Howell Education Association used Howell Public Schools computers to lobby the public and the school board about teacher employment benefits, the station reported. He requested copies under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

The Livingston County Circuit Court ruled in November 2008 that the e-mails could be released, but the Howell Education Association appealed, according to WHMI-FM. Former HEA President Doug Norton said at the time that the union had a "recognized right" to use the district e-mail server for union business, the station reported.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case, stating that documents created by public officials using public computer systems are public records and should be treated as such under the state's FOIA.

The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

WHMI-FM, "State Court To Hear Arguments In Howell Teachers E- mail Suit," Dec. 28, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Howell Education Association v. Howell Board of Education," April 15, 2009


LANSING, Mich. - Schools probably won't face additional cuts in state funding this year because state revenue has "stabilized," according to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Lansing State Journal reported.

The state has about $150 million more than expected, Granholm told reporters. However, she also said she will propose changes in the school funding system with her proposed state budget in February.

Several Lansing area districts told the Journal that the news means that they will not have to reduce spending as much as expected.

"We will still be in a position of having to make cuts, and make staff cuts, but probably not as deep," Tina Templin, superintendent of DeWitt Public Schools, told the Journal.

Looking ahead, schools will know more about funding projections for 2010-2011 after a state revenue-estimating conference next week, the Journal reported.

Lansing State Journal, "Granholm: Schools cut unneeded," Jan. 5, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Are schools underfunded?" Nov. 23, 2009