Contents of this issue:

  • Detroit parents comparison shop for schools
  • Population up in Kalamazoo, but why?
  • Step freeze, furlough agreed to in Memphis
  • Plymouth-Canton sets rules on wearing Sikh daggers
  • MEA says it’s freezing executive pay

Detroit Parents Comparison Shop for Schools

DETROIT — Dozens of Detroit area residents attended a “school shopping fair” hosted by Excellent Schools Detroit and other organizations in January, where parents had a chance to comparison shop among 46 public, private and charter schools gathered together for the event, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“You don’t have to be trapped in your neighborhood school,” Greg Harris, Excellent Schools executive director, told the Free Press. The education advocacy group recently published the “2011 School Report Card, The Best and Worst Results for Detroit Students.” It cosponsored the shopping fair with the Detroit Parents Network and other groups, according to the Free Press.

One of the attendees was Cynthia Baker, who told the Free Press that she sends her two daughters to a good school, but that she attended the fair because, “I just want to make sure we’re doing all we can.”

Baker told the Free Press that she bypassed the neighborhood elementary school and chose to enroll her children in a different Detroit Public Schools elementary building after reviewing state test scores. She also has looked at other DPS elementary buildings as well as charter schools, she told the Free Press.

A second fair took place Feb. 5 and a third is planned Feb. 12, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, “Detroit schools gear up for school shopping event,” Jan. 29, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Can School Choice Work in Detroit?” Feb. 4, 2011

Population Up in Kalamazoo, But Why?

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In a good news, bad news scenario, economists say the Kalamazoo Promise may be bolstering population levels in Kalamazoo, but the economy itself is not improving, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

The Gazette reported that Kalamazoo County not only increased in population from 2005 to 2009 — bucking a statewide decline — but grew faster during those years than the previous five.

One reason may be the Kalamazoo Promise, which pays college tuition for students graduating from Kalamazoo Public Schools, The Gazette reported. From 2005 to 2009, the number of residents living in the district grew by 12.5 percent.

Also, the number of county residents between the ages of 20 and 24 has growth by 35 percent, even as Western Michigan University enrollment stayed flat, according to the Gazette.

Tim Bartik, an economist with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, told The Gazette that young adults may like the college-town environment.

However, economist George Erickcek, also of the Upjohn Institute, said that the higher numbers may simply mean that college graduates can’t find jobs and so decide to remain in the area, The Gazette reported. Erickcek said county employment fell by 5.2 percent between 2005 and 2009, adding, “I am afraid that the local economy cannot account for the estimated population increase.”

Erickcek theorized that The Promise is keeping families from moving to surrounding counties, The Gazette reported.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, “As state population growth slows, The Promise helps Kalamazoo pick up speed,” Feb. 6, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “The Kalamazoo Promise vs. School Choice,” June 17, 2010

Step Freeze, Furlough Agreed to in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Mich. — Teachers in Memphis Community Schools have agreed to a two-year freeze on step pay increases as part of a budget-cutting process, The (New Baltimore) Voice reported.

The district's teachers, support employees and bus drivers all agreed to reopen their contracts with the district to make concessionary changes, including the step freeze, a furlough day and less expensive prescription drug coverage, Superintendent Frank Johnson said, according to The Voice.

School board members said the district wants to protect its educational programs, among them participation in a middle college program in which students can earn a high school diploma and associate's degree in 13 years; an accelerated math program coordinated with Michigan State University, and an online credit recovery program, The Voice reported.

The (New Baltimore) Voice, "Step freeze, furlough days agreed to in Memphis," Feb. 2, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School Databases, "Agreement between the Board of Education and Memphis Education Association," 2009-2013

Plymouth-Canton Sets Rules on Wearing Sikh Daggers

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Sikh students may wear a small, religious dagger to school in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, the Detroit Free Press reported, as the school board reversed a ban put in place in December after a fourth-grade boy was found with such a knife.

Called kirpans, the daggers are a religious symbol that baptized Sikh males are expected to carry, according to the Free Press. In Sikh tradition, the dagger represents a commitment to fight evil, the Free Press reported. There are at least three Sikh centers in western Wayne County.

The new policy allows students to wear a kirpan to school if the blade is dull, is no longer than 2.25 inches and is sewn into a sheath in such a way that the blade cannot be removed from the sheath, according to the Free Press. At that size, the object does not constitute a dangerous weapon under the Revised School Code, the Press reported.

A note sent to parents said that the new rules recognize the need for safety but also the right to practice one's religion, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Sikh students can wear dagger in Plymouth-Canton schools, but with modifications," Jan. 31, 2011

Further Reading: Michigan Education Report, “’Zero-tolerance’ policies aim to reduce school violence: But critics doubt rules’ efficacy,” Dec. 13, 2001

MEA Says It’s Freezing Executive Pay

LANSING, Mich. — The executive director of the Michigan Education Association received a 9.3 percent pay increase in 2009-2010, and other MEA management staff received increases ranging from 2.2 percent to 5.8 percent, the Lansing State Journal reported, though a spokesman said a pay freeze is in effect for 2010-2011.

The Journal reported that MEA filings with the U.S. Department of Labor showed Luigi Battaglieri’s pay hike was the largest, taking him to $235,383. President Iris Salters received a 3 percent hike, to $246,510, according to the Journal.

MEA spokesman Doug Pratt told the Journal that the executive pay hikes are not out of line, even in the face of declining union membership, increasing pension liabilities and a struggling state economy, saying, “We firmly believe in offering top-notch compensation for our employees to retain top talent.”

About one-third of MEA-represented teachers received 1.5 to 2 percent pay raises in their last contract, with the remainder agreeing to pay freezes or reductions, Pratt told the Journal.

The union representing non-management MEA employees ? the United Staff Organization ? is now negotiating a new contract, according to the Journal. The MEA laid off 25 employees in December, Pratt told the Journal. It was not clear if the layoffs were among management or non-management staff.

The Journal reported that MEA membership declined by 5,000, which it said could cost the union approximately $3 million, at the maximum dues of $630 per member.

Lansing State Journal, “Michigan teachers union puts pay raises on hold, cuts staff,” Feb. 6, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “MEA has $174.5 Million in Liabilities, $66.3 Million in Dues,” Nov. 26, 2010

Michigan Education Report, “When the Union is Your Employer,” June 9, 2009

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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