Contents of this issue:

  • Data shows intermediate district staffing up
  • Lawmakers OK sale of School for the Deaf site
  • ‘Edujobs’ distribution approved
  • Some local districts forego ‘Race’ money
  • Cass Tech still a hangout, but not for students

Data shows intermediate district staffing up

MIDLAND, Mich. — Intermediate school districts in Michigan have increased staff and payroll significantly in the last decade, numbers that can’t be explained by larger student enrollment or transfer of duties from local public school districts, according to two analyses reported in Michigan Capitol Confidential.

The analyses were done by Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest and Michigan Capitol Confidential.

Van Beek said that personnel data collected by the Center for Educational Performance and Information shows that the number of intermediate staffers increased by 35 percent from 1996 to 2002, while student enrollment rose by 3 percent. From 2003 to 2006 and again from 2007 to 2010, intermediate staffing rose by 9 percent, while enrollment fell by 1 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Those numbers take into consideration state-level changes in the ways employees are counted, a concern raised by a reader, according to the second analysis.

Staffing levels at local school districts decreased by 8.5 percent from 2000 to 2009 as student numbers dropped by 9.8 percent, Van Beek reported, but those numbers do not suggest a significant transfer of services to intermediate districts.

The Financial Information Database at CEPI shows that total compensation for intermediate employees increased by 15 percent in inflation-adjusted figures from 2004 to 2009, according to Van Beek’s analysis.

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “ISD Bloat Redux,” Dec. 2, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “ISD Bloat?” Oct. 28, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Intermediate School Districts: Innovations That Are Past Their Prime,” July 9, 2007

Lawmakers OK Sale of School for the Deaf Site

FLINT, Mich. — The Michigan School for the Deaf campus in Flint would become home to Flint Powers Catholic High School and a new building to serve deaf students would be constructed on the site in a $36 million deal now under consideration, according to The Flint Journal.

Lurvey White Ventures would renovate Fay Hall as a new home for the Catholic high school and also construct the new center for deaf students in time for the 2012-2013 school year, developer Ridgway White told The Journal.

White is co-owner of Lurvey White, which received approval from state lawmakers Friday to purchase the land from the state for $1.3 million.  He said that part of the land will be leased back to the Michigan School for the Deaf facility at $2 million annually under a 20-year lease stipulating the site must be used for education, The Journal reported.

White said he and Lurvey will profit from the deal but would not say how much, The Journal reported.

Area officials said the $36 million construction and renovation projects are the largest investment in the community in recent years, according to The Journal.

“I'm grateful to God that this hurdle has been crossed,” Powers Principal Tom Furnas told The Journal. The school has been looking for a new site for years, and a deal to move into a former GM facility in Grand Blanc Township fell through in February, The Journal reported.

The Flint Journal, “Michigan School for the Deaf sale would bring one of biggest Flint developments in recent history,” Dec. 4, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, “State may sell, then lease back, School for the Deaf site,” Sept. 28, 2010

‘Edujobs’ distribution approved

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan public schools will receive one-time funding of $111 to $222 per pupil in federal “Edujobs” funding this year, as well as smaller amounts of additional funding from the state, according to various media reports.

In all, the varied funding is intended to offset an earlier $154 per-pupil reduction, and will give districts a net increase ranging from $6 to $74 per student, media reported.

In the same legislation, lawmakers agreed to set aside $25 million, partly by reducing per-pupil funding, to pay districts for data collection in the wake of a Michigan Supreme Court decision that called such collections a mandate that must be paid for by the state, according to The Macomb Daily.

Some school officials criticized legislators’ decision, saying the state should eliminate the reporting requirements and instead give that money to schools, The Daily reported.

State Sen. Mickey Switalski, D-Roseville, an outgoing member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the data is needed to comply with federal requirements, The Daily reported.

Lansing State Journal, “Michigan schools in line for additional federal cash,” Dec. 2, 2010

The Macomb Daily, “Educators: Funds spent on reporting could be poured into classrooms,” Dec. 2, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Common school funding myths,” Sept. 7, 2010

Some Local Districts Forego ‘Race’ Money

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fifty school districts in Ohio are among “Race to the Top” winners who have pulled out of the process, some saying they can’t manage such a major overhaul, according to Education Week.

The state of Ohio won $400 million in the grant competition, but some local districts that signed on to the program now say that implementing it requires too much time and work, Michael Sawyers told Education Week.

Sawyers, the state’s assistant superintendent of education, said some districts couldn’t agree on how to count student academic growth in teacher evaluations, which is part of the state plan. Collective bargaining agreements “complicated the work” in some districts, Education Week reported.

In Georgia, Superintendent William C. Mathews of the Jones County School System said his district will forego $1.3 million in “Race” dollars because of concerns over the fairness of the required merit pay plan, Education Week reported.

Despite the dropouts, Sawyers told Education Week that state officials are “ecstatic” about the degree of local buy-in.

Education Week, “Race to Top Winners Push Ahead, Despite Pushback,” Dec. 2, 2010 (Subscription required)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Race to the Top Realities,” Dec. 12, 2009

Cass Tech Still a Hangout, But Not For Students

DETROIT — Closed in 2005, the shell of the former Cass Technical High School now beckons graffiti artists, thieves, alumni and “urban adventurers” who wander the hallways, play abandoned pianos and steal copper, according to a Detroit Free Press article.

The eight-story, 831,000-square-foot school once housed 4,000 Detroit Public Schools students, but might be demolished next spring if no one comes forward with an offer to redevelop the site, the Free Press reported. DPS has since built the new, $115-million Cass Tech next door, according to the Free Press.

District spokesman Steve Wasko told the Free Press that the district has tried in vain to secure the building against determined intruders, some of whom told the Free Press that they were attracted to visit the alma mater of entertainers like Diana Ross and Lily Tomlin.

"It's a constant battle with them," Wasko told the Free Press. "The destruction has been so extensive because people are stealing copper, stripping the building and knocking holes in walls. It's dangerous to be in there."

Canadian Peter McCullough, an urban decay photographer, told the Free Press, “It’s a beautiful building. There’s nothing like it. It’s a shame it’s going down.”

Detroit Free Press, “The hidden world of old Cass Tech High School,” Dec. 3, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, “Trustee: Sell schools to prevent vandalism,” Oct. 29, 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 mailto:med@educationreport.org

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