Contents of this issue:

  • 'Edujobs' rules leave out many charter teachers
  • Special education numbers down
  • School shifting to solar power
  • School Aid Fund surplus sent to community colleges
  • Districts choose improvement plans


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan charter public schools are being punished by "edujobs" rules that disallow spending on teachers hired through private management companies, a charter school association spokesman told The Grand Rapids Press.

The $10 billion in federal funding was intended by Congress to avert teacher layoffs, but the details say that doesn't include teachers who are contracted through a private firm, which is how many Michigan public school academies arrange their payroll, according to The Press. Those schools will have to return the cash, The Press reported.

Critics say the arrangement shows that the "edujobs" funding is a teachers union bailout, since most charter schools are not unionized, The Press reported.

"Do I think the unions were in the room when the language was being written, and that this is a shot across the bow? Absolutely," said Gary Naeyaert, vice president for public relations and legislative affairs for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. "Why are 90,000 students being punished?"

National Heritage Academies, based in Grand Rapids, manages 61 charter schools nationwide and 10 in West Michigan, The Press reported. All of the employees in its schools work for the company rather than the individual schools.

"It's disappointing that students and teachers at many schools may be intentionally left out of this initiative," National Heritage spokeswoman Tara Powers said.

One reason charter schools do not hire teachers directly in Michigan is that they then would be required to pay into the state pension system for those employees, at a cost equal to almost 20 percent of each worker's salary, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Charter schools cry foul over rules that force most to refund thousands in new federal aid," Sept. 10, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "'Edujobs' Will Hurt Michigan Public Schools," Aug. 17, 2010


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The number of students classified as learning-disabled is on a downward trend nationally, as is the number of special education students overall, but experts disagree about the reasons why, according to a report in Education Week.

Reasons suggested by various officials to Education Week included better reading instruction overall, earlier intervention with struggling students, and switching students from learning-disabled to a different special education classification.

Others suggested a deliberate effort by schools to keep numbers of special education students low in order to avoid federal accountability rules and higher costs, Education Week reported.

The percentage of students nationwide identified as having a "specific learning disability" dropped from 6.1 percent in 2000-2001 to 5.2 percent in 2007-2008, or 2.9 million to 2.6 million students, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Education Week reported.

In Michigan, information at the Michigan Department of Education website states that the total number of special education students in the state rose from about 172,000 in 1990 to a peak of about 250,000 in 2005-2006, and then declined to about 244,000 by 2007-2008.

The number of Michigan students in the learning-disabled category stood at about 73,000 in 1990, peaked at about 98,000 in 2003-04 and declined to 93,000 by 2006-2007. Those numbers include students who spend part of their day in a general education classroom.

Education Week, "Learning-Disabled Enrollment Dips After Long Climb," Sept. 8, 2010

Michigan Department of Education, "Special Education Pupil Count Data in Michigan, 1968-2007," March 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Specializing in special education," Feb. 1, 2010


OXFORD, Mich. — Solar panels are expected to produce two-thirds of the electricity needed to operate the Upland Hills School complex this year, the school director told The Oakland Press.

The private school complex includes a school, theater, dome workshop and the director's house, according to The Press. The monthly bill is expected to run around $175, Phillip Moore, school director, told The Press.

If the school adds a wind generator within the next five years, as planned, it will become a net energy school and have spare electricity to share with neighbors, Moore said, according to The Press.

Moore said the annual electricity cost was about $7,000 before the solar panel system was installed and now will be approximately $2,000 to $3,000.

The cost of installing the system was not reported.

The Oakland Press, "Solar school: Upland Hills to produce two-thirds of power this school year with new solar panels," Sept. 8, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Michigan's Costly Tab for Cap-and-Trade," July 9, 2010


LANSING, Mich. — Patching part of a hole in the state budget, lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm officially moved $208 million out of the School Aid Fund to use for community colleges, freeing up general fund money for other uses, according to media reports.

The shift addresses part of a $302 million overspending issue in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, according to Crain's Detroit Business. The Michigan Information & Research Service Inc. reported Thursday that Gov. Granholm, who earlier proposed the shift, made the transfer official.

The Michigan Education Association opposed the move, according to Crain's. Doug Pratt, director of public affairs at the Michigan Education Association, said the surplus money in the School Aid Fund would not have been there if lawmakers had not cut $154 per pupil from K-12 schools earlier, Crain's reported.

A separate bill that in part would make up that cut through the use of recently approved federal education funds is expected to be taken up soon, Crain's reported.

Crain's Detroit Business, "Michigan Senate shifts $208 million from School Aid Fund to community colleges," Sept. 8, 2010

Michigan Votes, "2010 House Bill 5872 (Spend federal 'edujobs' stimulus money)," Feb. 24, 2010


ADRIAN, Mich. — Michigan's lowest-performing public schools are implementing programs ranging from tutoring to greater teacher communication as they begin spending federal funds intended to improve student achievement, according to media reports.

Improvement money was handed out to 28 low-performing schools, including $2.75 million for Adrian Public Schools to use over three years, according to The (Adrian) Daily Telegram. The district has added tutoring and skill-building opportunities to its high school program, The Telegram reported.

In Mount Morris, the E.A. Johnson Memorial High School received $1.56 million and will use it to hire new teachers, upgrade technology and implement new credit recovery and behavioral programs to help struggling students, The Flint Journal reported.

Participating schools are required to reform their instructional practices, overhaul staff or close and reopen as a charter public school.

The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, "Adrian school board discusses federal improvement grant," Sept. 8, 2010

The Flint Journal, "Mt. Morris Johnson Memorial awarded federal school improvement grant," Sept. 2, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Low-performers eligible for grants," June 15, 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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