Contents of this issue:

  • Professor says consolidation study misapplied his work
  • Districts bargain raises, insurance
  • Detroit union sues over teacher assignments
  • Rate hike leads Holland to seek legal opinion
  • Charter schools begin to specialize


MIDLAND, Mich. — A Syracuse University professor said Friday that he would not endorse the findings of a school consolidation study in Michigan because his original research was "misapplied," Michigan Capitol Confidential reported.

Professor William Duncombe said that it was an "oversimplification" and "extremely naïve" for a Michigan State University scholar to extrapolate the methodology from Duncombe's 2001 study on school consolidation to all Michigan public schools, according to Michigan Capitol Confidential.

MSU senior scholar Sharif Shakrani used Duncombe's earlier study to underpin Shakrani's recent study concluding that Michigan could save up to $612 million annually by consolidating public schools at the county level, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported.

A Mackinac Center analyst raised questions of plagiarism soon after Shakrani's report was released and also questioned its methodology, according to Michigan Capitol Confidential. MSU is investigating the plagiarism allegation.

The Mackinac Center publishes both Michigan Capitol Confidential and Michigan Education Digest.

Duncombe told Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center, that the MSU report was "not an appropriate use of scientific evidence," Michigan Capitol Confidential reported.

Shakrani and MSU Education Policy Center Co-Directors William Schmidt and Robert Floden didn't return messages seeking comment, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported.

Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Main Source for MSU School Consolidation Study Says His Data Was Misapplied," Sept. 7, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School District Consolidation, Size and Spending: An Evaluation," May 22, 2007


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Three quarters of Americans believe that quality of work should determine teacher pay rather than a salary schedule, according to the latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll on education. More than two-thirds of those surveyed also said they would support paying teachers more to work in low-performing schools.

The annual poll also showed that 60 percent of respondents would support a large increase in the number of charter public schools, including a charter school in their own community, a press release announcing the findings said.

Eighty percent said that states, not the federal government, should be responsible for school accountability and a majority said that the key to school improvement is to improve teacher quality by spending more time on educator training or professional development, the press release said.

The telephone survey was conducted in June with a national sample of 1,008 American adults, the release said.

Phi Delta Kappa International, "42nd Annual PDK/Gallup Poll Shows Slippage in Americans' Support of Obama's Education Agenda"


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Merit Pay in Mt. Clemens?" Aug. 26, 2010


GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — Teachers in Grand Haven and Alpena public schools will receive pay raises while switching insurance plans under new contracts in each district, according to separate media reports.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools will continue to buy health coverage through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, but teachers will switch from the Super Care I plan to Choices II, a preferred provider plan, The Muskegon Chronicle reported. That is expected to bring down insurance costs by $600,000 in each of the next two years, the report said.

Teachers will receive a 1.75 percent salary increase this year and 1.5 percent in 2011-2012, according to The Chronicle. The estimated cost of that increase was not reported.

The Alpena News reported that Alpena Public Schools teachers will receive a 0.5 percent pay increase in 2010-2011. They will switch from Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO I to PPO II insurance, and a salary schedule giving raises for years of service and educational attainment will be restored to the contract, The News reported. The costs or savings of those changes were not reported.

Alpena Superintendent Brian Holcomb told Michigan Capitol Confidential that the district's top priority was to maintain its status as insurance policyholder rather than switch to a MESSA plan in which the district would not have control of deductibles or coverage.

The Alpena News, "APS approves contract with teachers," Sept. 1, 2010

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Grand Haven teachers get pay hike, but new contract will save $1.2 million in health insurance costs," Sept. 3, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Budget Savings Drained and Raises Continue at Alpena Schools," Sept. 3, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Alpena board implements contract," July 12, 2010


DETROIT — The Detroit teachers union claims in a new lawsuit that it should have played a bigger role in assigning teachers to the district's worst schools this year, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers claims that district officials violated the teachers' contract by not collaborating more with the union on interviewing and hiring educators for 51 low-performing schools, DFT President Keith Johnson told the Free Press.

The union has asked for a restraining order that would effectively allow about 40 teachers to return to work at the same schools where they taught last year, the Press reported.

The lawsuit also could affect the placement of new teachers DPS is hiring through the Teach for America program, Johnson told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Union sues over teacher hiring at 51 DPS schools," Sept. 1, 2010

Detroit Federation of Teachers, "2009-2012 Contract — New Language"

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Union Spending in Michigan: A Review of Union Financial Disclosure Reports," Aug. 28, 2008


HOLLAND, Mich. — Facing a 27 percent rate hike for teacher health insurance, the Holland Board of Education planned to ask state Attorney General Mike Cox whether it has to honor a previous employee contract while a new one is being negotiated, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

It also planned to ask the Michigan Insurance Commission if there is a way to challenge the increase, according to The Press.

Under the terms of the current contract, the district buys health insurance for its teachers through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association. The current contract expires in 2011.

State law requires existing employee contract provisions to remain in place until a new contract is ratified, The Press reported.

The board contends that employees will have little incentive to negotiate if the new contract is likely to include cuts, The Press reported.

"Maybe there's nothing we can do about it (the rate hike)," Superintendent Brian Davis told The Press.  "But I think what (board Treasurer) Jack (Gisinger) is saying is that at least we can ask the question."

The Grand Rapids Press, "Holland school board to seek attorney general opinion," Aug. 23, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Holland Teacher Contract Summary," Aug. 4, 2010


WASHINGTON, D.C. — An aviation school in Michigan is one example of a new generation of public charter schools designed to serve niche audiences, according to a feature report in The Washington Times.

While the first generation of public charter schools tended to replicate conventional schools in areas like curriculum and scheduling, newer schools do not, the report said.

The West Michigan Aviation Academy, opening in September in Grand Rapids, will train high school students for careers in aviation even as they take traditional academic courses, The Times reported. In New York, students who attend the Democracy Preparatory Charter School in Harlem focus on civic responsibility and leadership, the report said.

"The movement is beginning to expand and grow as parents figure out that public charters are doing a great deal in closing the achievement gap and offering options that public schools don't," Peter Groff, executive director of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, told The Times.

Advocates told The Times that the best approach to growing the charter movement is to let parents, communities and the marketplace determine what's needed in any given region, The Times reported.

The Washington Times, "Charter schools finding niches," Aug. 29, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Poll: Charter School Support Growing," April 23, 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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