Contents of this issue:

  • GVSU approves first virtual charter school
  • MESSA up 20 percent in Port Huron
  • Dollar Bay takes over alternative school
  • Bill would force charter teachers into MPSERS
  • Berrien Springs partners with home-schoolers


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, the state's first online charter public school, will open this fall with up to 400 kindergarten through eighth-grade students, The Grand Rapids Press and the academy reported.

Grand Valley State University trustees unanimously approved granting a charter to open the school, which will be managed by K12 Inc., a Virginia-based company that operates online schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia, The Press reported.

According to a news release from the MVCA, students complete their online coursework with help from a "learning coach," typically a parent, but also communicate with teachers and classmates in virtual "e-classrooms."

Retired teacher Dr. Linda Marlow is president of the MCVA board of directors, according to the news release, which also said the school could serve up to 1,000 K-12 students in the future, with a focus on high school dropouts.

"Parents in many parts of the state don't have access to good charter schools or other schools that the parents can choose. And this program is aimed at an underserved population," said Tim Wood, head of the GVSU charter school office, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "GVSU trustees approve Michigan Virtual Charter Academy," April 30, 2010

PR Newswire, "Michigan Virtual Charter Academy Approved by Grand Valley State University to Serve Students in Grades K-12 Statewide," April 30, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Online Learning Can Improve Michigan Public Education," April 13, 2010


PORT HURON, Mich. - Another public school district is facing a large jump in the cost of health insurance sold by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.

The Port Huron Area School District will pay 20.5 percent more in premiums as of July 1, The (Port Huron) Times Herald reported, following a nearly 19 percent increase last year. The higher rate will cost an additional $2.4 million, according to Tina Kostiuk, executive director for business and finance, The Times Herald reported.

Kostiuk said the district will use $300,000 from fund equity to cover part of the cost, but has not yet decided how to pay for the remainder, according to The Times Herald.

MESSA spokesman Gary Fralick said that the association changed its insurance pooling system after the Public Employers Health Benefit Act was adopted in 2007, The Times Herald reported.

Larger districts are now rated individually according to their actual medical claims, rather than being placed into regional pools, Fralick told The Times Herald.

He said that Port Huron's claims in such areas as hospitalization, specialist visits and office visits were higher than the statewide average, according to The Times Herald.

The (Port Huron) Times Herald, "Districts see big jump in insurance premiums," April 28, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School District Health Insurance (database), Port Huron Area School District, 2008-2009


DOLLAR BAY, Mich. - Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools will take over operation of an area alternative high school and open the enrollment process so that students do not need permission from their assigned district to attend, according to The (Houghton) Daily Mining Gazette.

B.R.I.D.G.E. Alternative High School in Hancock previously was operated by the Copper Country Intermediate School District on behalf of seven area districts. It is intended to serve students who struggle in a standard school setting, The Mining Gazette reported. B.R.I.D.G.E. stands for Becoming Responsible Individuals Dedicated to the Goals of Education, according to information at the intermediate district website.

Although the intermediate district reported a $112,000 deficit at the school due to declining enrollment, Dollar Bay Principal William Rivest told school board trustees at a recent meeting that a switch to open enrollment could boost the numbers, according to The Mining Gazette.

Rivest said he understands there is a perception that B.R.I.D.G.E. students are "troubled," but said that's not the case for all students, according to The Mining Gazette.

"There are some very bright kids," Rivest said, The Mining Gazette reported. "There are some very nice kids."

The (Houghton) Daily Mining Gazette, "DB-TC Schools takes on B.R.I.D.G.E.," April 27, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Alternative education under pressure," March 13, 2010


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - As the Michigan Legislature tries to come to agreement on public school teacher retirement incentives, some in the charter school community are sounding an alarm about a provision that would force all charter teachers into the retirement system, according to media reports.

Legislation adopted by the House of Representatives would require charter public schools to enroll their teachers in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, according to The Grand Rapids Press. The schools then would have to contribute to the retirement fund each year, The Press reported.

The mandated contribution would equal about $600,000 in the coming year for Black River Public School in Holland, business manager Dwight Avery told The Press.

Even if all 4,000 charter teachers who are not currently in MPSERS were to join, the contributions would not be enough to address funding problems in the system, Gary Naeyaert, vice president of legislative affairs for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, told The Press.

MPSERS' net assets declined by nearly 12 percent and 19 percent, respectively, in the last two years, according to Michigan Education Report.

The Senate version of the bill does not include the charter school requirement, according to Michigan Education Report. The larger goal of the bill, currently in conference committee, is to settle on an incentive to encourage higher-paid teachers to retire, which would lower costs for K-12 public schools, The Press reported.

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

The Grand Rapids Press, "Charter schools could be forced to join state retirement system," May 3, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Bill would put all charter teachers into state retirement system," April 1, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "House Vote Would Force Charter Schools into Underfunded Pension System," April 27, 2010


BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. - Following a successful year in forensics, Berrien Springs Public Schools wants to expand its partnership program with home-school families, Superintendent Jim Bermingham told the school board recently, according to The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium.

Six high school students, including two home-schoolers who attend some classes at Berrien Springs, have qualified for state forensics competition, The Herald-Palladium reported.

"A school district should be all about offering a menu of opportunities parents and students can choose from. In this case, we wouldn't have a forensics program without home-schoolers," Bermingham said, according to The Herald-Palladium.

The partnership also has allowed the district to offer an after- school entrepreneurship class.

Principal Dave Eichberg said the high school is looking at expanding the partnership to such areas as robotics or a community youth orchestra, The Herald-Palladium reported.

"We're experiencing growth, and the home-school partnership is the added element," Bermingham said, according to The Herald- Palladium.

The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium, "District applauds home- school partnership," April 24, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "At home at Delta College," Feb. 23, 2007

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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