Contents of this issue:

  • State Supreme Court will hear MEA PAC case
  • Keeping homeless youth in school is project goal
  • Bus drivers to get pay raise, time off
  • District may have lost $3.7 million in alleged Ponzi scheme
  • Union criticism may have helped candidate win

State Supreme Court Will Hear MEA PAC case

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether public school districts can administer payroll deduction plans that funnel money to the Michigan Education Association's political action committee, Michigan Public Radio reported.

Many collective bargaining agreements between teachers unions and school districts call for the districts to administer the deductions on behalf of the MEA PAC, the report said.

Michigan Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land says in a lawsuit that the practice violates state law prohibiting the use of government resources for political purposes, according to Michigan Public Radio.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a brief in support of Land's position, Michigan Public Radio reported.

"This entire system can be run without having any kind of government imprint or resources used for it. So we think that would be the better course," Patrick Wright, the Center's senior legal analyst and director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, told Michigan Public Radio.

Lower courts have split on the case, which business and union groups both are closely following, according to Michigan Public Radio.

The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Michigan Public Radio, "Michigan Supreme Court to hear arguments over MEA PAC money," Nov. 4, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief to Michigan Supreme Court in Michigan Education Association v. Michigan Secretary of State"

Keeping Homeless Youth in School is Project Goal

WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. — School officials in Washtenaw County say there has been a 60 to 70 percent increase in activity in a program designed to help homeless youth educationally, according to AnnArbor.com.

The Washtenaw Intermediate School District Educational Project for Homeless Youth served about 600 families in 2009-2010, its director, Peri Stone-Palmquist, told Ann Arbor.com.

The program provides transportation to school and school supplies, among other services, according to AnnArbor.com. It also trains school employees on identifying homeless youth.

The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act categorizes youth as homeless if they share housing with other families; live in shelters; live in motels, hotels, trailer parks, campgrounds or vehicles; or have a primary nighttime residence that isn't considered a regular sleeping accommodation, AnnArbor.com reported.

Azibo Stevens, Ann Arbor Public Schools' liaison to the project, told AnnArbor.com that increased awareness has contributed to the rise in families being served, but that some families still do not realize they are eligible for help.

AnnArbor.com, "As family homelessness rises in Washtenaw County, educational project works to help kids stay in school," Nov. 7, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "More homeless students identified," Feb. 15, 2010

Bus Drivers to Get Pay Raise, Time Off

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — School bus drivers will receive pay raises and more time off under a new contract agreement between Dean Transportation and the Grand Rapids union that represents some of its workers, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

The 180 Grand Rapids drivers and route planners will receive annual pay raises averaging 50 cents an hour for the next four years, as well as two days of bereavement leave, an additional personal day and four paid holidays instead of one, according to The Press.

The company also will contribute more to health care benefits, a representative of the Grand Rapids Educational Support Personnel Association told The Press.

The sides had been in negotiations for about 18 months and had worked with a federal mediator, the report said.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Four-year contract gives Grand Rapids school bus drivers small raises," Nov. 4, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Little Good News for Kids and Taxpayers: Privatization Wins in Round One," Oct. 4, 2010

District May Have Lost $3.7 Million in Alleged Ponzi Scheme

MONA SHORES, Mich. — Mona Shores Public Schools may have lost $3.7 million in an alleged Ponzi scheme involving an outside financial adviser, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The superintendent and finance director will leave the district in the wake of the financial loss, The Chronicle reported. Residents have been divided over the extent to which the administrators should be held responsible, the report said.

The case centers on an alleged Ponzi scheme operated by Dante DeMiro of the MuniVest Financial Group in Southfield, the district's long-time independent financial adviser, according to The Chronicle.

The district sent DeMiro $3.7 million in August 2009 toward purchase of certificates of deposit in multiple banks, but he allegedly used the money to pay off other investors and for personal use, The Chronicle reported. DeMiro now faces wire and bank fraud charges in federal court.

The money came from voter-approved bonds for school improvements, according to The Chronicle. The district will use money from the general fund to pay off the work and said it now faces "very difficult financial decisions," The Chronicle reported.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Mona Shores school board approves separation agreements with Superintendent Terry Babbitt, Finance Director Mike Schluentz," Nov. 1, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: Separation of Funds," May 30, 2007

Union Criticism May Have Helped Candidate Win

BRIGHTON, Mich. — A union mailing that criticized a Brighton Area Schools board of education candidate may have helped him win election, the winner told the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Newcomer John Conely won a spot on the school board on Nov. 2 as the leading vote-getter in a field of three, the Press & Argus reported. He told the Press & Argus that a postcard mailed by the teachers union that linked him to a string of lawsuits may have backfired.

The Press & Argus published a report before the election saying that 13 of the 21 lawsuits involved Conely's father, not the younger Conely.

Union leadership came under fire for the mailing, the Press & Argus reported. Barry Goode, president of the Brighton Education Association and the 8-D Coordinating Council's political action committee, earlier disputed that there were inaccuracies in the postcard and could not be reached after the election for comment, according to the Press & Argus.

Conely has said he would favor linking employee compensation to state funding, so that compensation goes up or down as funding increases or decreases, the Press & Argus reported.

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "Union attack ad may have helped critic win school board seat," Nov. 3, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan School District Collective Bargaining Agreements"

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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