Contents of this issue:

  • MESSA rates up 24 percent in Jackson
  • Michigan joins 'Innovation' competition
  • Poll: Charter school support growing
  • Districts take sides on Wayne RESA millage
  • Groups train residents to push for education funds


JACKSON, Mich. - Jackson Public Schools will see a 24 percent hike in health insurance rates next year, an amount that Superintendent Dan Evans called "obscene," according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

The rate hike by the Michigan Education Special Services Association will cost the district close to $2 million, and is one reason the school board cut 31 teaching positions and 20 other jobs, The Citizen Patriot reported.

The statewide average MESSA rate hike next year will be 13 percent, spokesman Gary Fralick told The Citizen Patriot. MESSA, which is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, is a third-party administrator that sells and administers Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance packages to a majority of Michigan public school districts.

Jackson board Treasurer Kathryn Keersmaekers called the increase "outrageous" and said MESSA insurance is an expensive luxury, The Citizen Patriot reported.

Fralick told The Citizen Patriot that the hike is due to a new system under which larger districts like Jackson are no longer placed in insurance pools that spread the cost across multiple districts. Instead, Jackson's costs are based on its own health claims experience, he said, according to The Citizen Patriot. He also said that overall MESSA rates are up due to increasing claims from unemployed spouses of school employees.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Area school districts facing significant jumps in health insurance rates next year but nothing like Jackson Public Schools' 24 percent hike," April 20, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Most School Health Care Plans are Too Expensive for Michigan," Feb. 9, 2010


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Nearly 2,500 schools or organizations, including 83 in Michigan, have indicated they will compete for "Investing in Innovation" grant money from the U.S. Department of Education, according to Education Week.

About $650 million in so-called "i3" money will be awarded to about 100 applicants, Education Week reported. Information released by the education department indicates that Michigan conventional school districts, intermediate school districts, public charter schools and several nonprofit or educational organizations all plan to apply.

Like "Race to the Top," the program is intended to spur school improvement, Education Week reported. Applicants have said they would use the money to improve academic standards and assessment tests, and to address low-performing schools, Education Week reported. Rural schools have indicated they will propose reforms specific to rural issues.

Final applications are due May 11, and awards will be made by September. The list of current applicants is not final, Education Week reported, since some on the list could drop out and others could join.

Education Week, "Scramble Begins for $650 Million in 'i3' Funding," April 20, 2010

U.S. Department of Education, "Investing in Innovation Fund"

Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan 21st in 'Race to the Top'," March 30, 2010


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Public support of charter schools is growing among Michigan voters, according to a new poll, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Conducted by the Marketing Resource Group, the poll showed that 77 percent of voters support charter public schools, up from 54 percent in a similar poll in 2002, while 16 percent oppose them, down from 32 percent in the previous poll, the Press reported.

The poll was commissioned by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies and the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers. It consisted of 600 telephone surveys and has a 4 percent margin of error, the Press reported.

The poll also showed that Detroit and Lansing area respondents showed the greatest support for more options in public education, while Saginaw, Flint and Bay City area residents were most in favor of state takeovers of chronically failing schools, according to The Press.


The Grand Rapids Press, "Survey shows Michigan charter schools gaining support," April 21, 2010


Michigan Education Report, "Parents pin hopes on charter school lottery," March 30, 2010


TRENTON, Mich. - School boards are lining up for and against a proposal for a new, countywide school millage in Wayne County, according to media reports. School boards in Livonia, Trenton and Southgate will not support the proposal, while those in Allen Park, Crestwood, Flat Rock, Gibraltar and Lincoln Park have voted in favor, the reports said.

The Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency wants to ask voters to approve a 1.9-mill levy that would bring in an estimated $92 million for distribution to 34 school districts within the county, based on each district's enrollment, The (Southgate) News-Herald reported.

Under state law, an intermediate district can levy up to three mills for supplemental education funding if a majority of voters living in the intermediate district approve it, according to The News Herald. To place it on the ballot, Wayne RESA must obtain support from school districts representing at least half the student population in the county, according to The Detroit News.

The largest local district, Detroit Public Schools, has not yet taken up the matter, The News reported.

Taxpayers in Trenton would pay about $1.5 million in new taxes, based on property values, and receive about $1 million for the school district, based on enrollment, Trenton Superintendent John Savel said, according to The News-Herald.

"Given the financial times, the board felt now is not the right time to ask for additional taxes," Savel told The News Herald.

Livonia school board President Lynda Scheel said that passing a regional millage would only allow the state to avoid making necessary changes to school funding, The News reported.

The (Southgate) News-Herald, "Trenton: School board opposes countywide education millage," April 22, 2010

The Detroit News, "Wayne County districts resist proposed regional school tax," April 22, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Voters turn down new school tax," Nov. 7, 2009


KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Two organizations opposed to cuts in public education taught Kalamazoo area residents Saturday how to lobby legislators about protecting school funding, The Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

The Great Start Collaborative of Kalamazoo County and the Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community encouraged a crowd of about 100 people to contact their state legislators to protest school cuts, The Gazette reported.

Those attending the forum practiced by doing role plays, and were encouraged to contact legislators personally, because e- mails are "often ignored," The Gazette said of the presentation.

Superintendent Ron Fuller of the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency said that school districts may see up to a $268 per-pupil reduction in 2010-2011, according to The Gazette.

Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice told The Gazette that the district advocates stable school funding, which could involve reforming the current tax structure, among other things.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Kalamazoo's Action for Education Summit trains people to push for school funding," April 24, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Evaluations of Early Education," March 8, 2010

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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