Contents of this issue:

  • Washtenaw school choice quadruples
  • Poll: Merge schools, maintain tax rate
  • Flint to implement contract
  • Administrators retire, then return
  • Adding private schools to the 'choice' debate


WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. - The number of students who are assigned to one conventional public school district in Washtenaw County but choose to enroll in a different conventional district has quadrupled in the past eight years, according to a report by AnnArbor.com.

Michigan Department of Education data show that about 2,900 students are now enrolled in schools of choice programs, up from 655 in 2002-2003, AnnArbor.com reported. That does not include students who are enrolled in public charter schools; growth in that sector was 238 percent over the same time period, the report said.

Statewide, growth in schools of choice enrollment was 111 percent during those eight years, AnnArbor.com reported.

Washtenaw County education officials told AnnArbor.com that the numbers showcase the increasing competition among conventional public school districts for a smaller pool of students.

"(Education) is becoming a market-driven enterprise," Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Bill Miller told AnnArbor.com. "And with more competition, combined with a decline in enrollments overall, school districts are having to create a brand for themselves. You have to market your identity."

The bulk of the public school movement was in the Willow Run, Ypsilanti and Lincoln school districts, AnnArbor.com reported.

AnnArbor.com, "Washtenaw County schools see explosion in number of students attending other districts," June 6, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Advertising for Students: Schools use radio, TV, billboards to lure 'customers,'" May 24, 2007


BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - More than three-quarters of Bloomfield Hills Public Schools residents who participated in a recent poll would support downsizing to one high school and keeping taxes at current levels, according to an article posted at Hometownlife.com.

The school board is expected to vote this month on merging Andover and Lahser high schools as part of the district's master facility plan, Hometownlife.com reported. A poll of 300 residents, conducted by Mitchell Research of Lansing, showed 78 percent of respondents supported the idea of one new or fully- renovated high school, according to Hometownlife.com

The project could be accomplished without raising taxes, though voters would have to approve extending two current debt millage levies, the report said.

The district estimates that a merger would save about $2.5 million per year and help the district avoid future budget deficits, the report said.

Hometownlife.com, "Board will move on plan for one high school," June 6, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Public School Funding Works," June 3, 2010


FLINT, Mich. - The Flint Community Schools Board of Education has voted to implement a contract for teachers as of July 1, saying that negotiations with United Teachers of Flint have reached impasse, The Flint Journal reported.

At least one teacher criticized the timing of the vote, according to The Journal, which reported that the board added the resolution to its agenda near the end of a lengthy evening meeting.

"I'm just furious," James Cole, Southwestern High School teacher, told The Journal, "doing it in the middle of the night when no one's here."

The board will implement the terms of its "last, best offer" to the teachers union following two years of negotiations, The Journal reported. The details of that offer were not specified in the article.

"You have to have a way to move forward," Superintendent Linda Thompson said, according to The Journal.

The Flint Journal, "Flint Community Schools to impose 'last, best offer' on teachers after contract negotiations stall," June 2, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Collective Bargaining Primer: Impasse," Feb. 28, 2007


CLAWSON, Mich. - School administrators in metro Detroit are considering whether to retire and then return to their jobs as independent contractors, according to the (Royal Oak) Daily Tribune.

Retiring allows them to begin drawing a state pension, while being rehired privately for the same job allows them to continue to collect a salary, the Tribune reported.

Drawing both a pension and a paycheck was once considered "double dipping," but is allowed under Michigan's new public school employee pension law, according to the Tribune. School districts save money when they re-hire the retiree privately, because the district no longer picks up the cost of retirement contributions or other benefits, the Tribune reported.

In Clawson Public Schools, Superintendent Cheryl Rogers has retired, but is expected to return July 1 under a contract between the district and a third-party employer, according to the Tribune. The district will continue to pay her $140,000 annual salary, but will no longer pay $65,000 in benefits, the Tribune reported.

Nine administrators in Hazel Park Schools are considering similar arrangements, which could reduce the district's labor costs by $2 million over five years, according to the Tribune.

In Oakland Schools, Superintendent Vicki Markavitch retired, but will return in a month under a private contract that pays her nearly $187,000 annually for up to three years, the Tribune reported.

(Royal Oak) Daily Tribune, "Superintendent retires — for now," June 1, 2010

(Royal Oak) Tribune, "Oakland Schools chief retires, then gets rehired," May 21, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Why is the State Bribing Teachers to Retire?" March 5, 2010


LANSING, Mich. - When Michigan debates "school choice," the discussion is typically limited to public education. But in other states, "school choice" is a much broader topic, according to Michigan Education Report.

Fifteen states offer one or more tax credits, tax deductions or publicly funded scholarships or vouchers that can be applied to private schools and private school costs, including religious schools, the report said. Oklahoma joined the list last month with a scholarship program directed at children with disabilities.

Michigan does not have either a tuition tax incentive program or a publicly funded scholarship program, according to Michigan Education Report. The state Senate in January passed a modest proposal to establish tax credits for donations to either private or public K-12 school foundations, but that bill has not been taken up by the House.

Introduced by Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, Senate Bill 38 would grant up to a $50 or $100 credit to individuals or joint filers, respectively, as well as up to $2,500 for an estate or trust, according to Michigan Education Report.

"We've moved toward more freedom in home-schooling and added limited public charter school choices, but we've done nothing to expand and support private school options for parents," said Michael Van Beek, director of education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes Michigan Education Report.

Michigan Education Report, "Adding private schools to the school choice debate," June 7, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Private schools cope with weak economy," May 26, 2010

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 med@educationreport.org

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