Contents of this issue:

  • Superintendent: Make my school a prison
  • Tecumseh adopts insurance ‘best practice’
  • Religious school enrollment down
  • Professor dismissed for plagiarism
  • New ‘Race’ focuses on preschool education

Superintendent: Make My School a Prison

ITHACA, Mich. — Superintendent Nathan Bootz of Ithaca Public Schools told Michigan Public Radio that he’s hearing from people all over the country about his public request of the state to “make my school a prison.”

Bootz’s request, published as a letter in the Gratiot County Herald, alleges that the state treats prisoners better than school children, noting that inmates receive “roof over their heads, clothing on their backsides, three square meals a day, health care ...” and other items as evidence, Michigan Public Radio reported.

Bootz told Michigan Public Radio that his letter has been reported by other news outlets and posted on Facebook, but that he hasn’t heard anything from the Michigan Legislature.

In a separate report, state Sen. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, described the letter to Michigan Capitol Confidential as “inflammatory rhetoric.” 

Michigan Capitol Confidential is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Michigan Public Radio, “School superintendent challenges lawmakers to ‘make my school a prison,’” May 26, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Superintendent to Governor: Make my School a Prison,” May 26, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “The Benefits of Prison Spending Reform,” May 11, 2011

Tecumseh Adopts Insurance ‘Best Practice’

TECUMSEH, Mich. — Tecumseh Public Schools trustees have named the district as its own insurance policyholder, a move intended to help it gain $100 per pupil in state funding in 2011-2012, The (Adrian) Daily Telegram reported.

Trustees said they believe the action will help the district contain health insurance costs, according to The Daily Telegram. Tecumseh currently purchases health insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association, the report said.

Traditionally, MESSA will not provide insurance to a school district unless MESSA is named the policyholder. However, the school aid budget for the coming year requires districts to adopt four of five “best practices” in order to receive higher per-pupil funding, The Telegram reported.

Naming the district as the insurance policyholder is one of those; others include requiring employees to pay at least 10 percent of their health insurance premiums; sharing or consolidating services among districts; seeking competitive bids for noninstructional services and creating a public “dashboard” showing financial and performance data, The Telegram reported.

“They’ve dangled the $100-per-pupil carrot in front of us,” said board president Ed Tritt, according to The Telegram. “This is like you or me shopping for insurance. If we can find it at a better price, we’ve got to take it.”

The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, “Tecumseh school board adopts state ‘best practice’ on insurance,” May 24, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Savings: Is Your School District Missing Out on Savings?” Jan. 18, 2010

Religious School Enrollment Down

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Enrollment in most private, religious schools declined along with the economy in 2009-2010, while public schools saw enrollment growth and independent and nonreligious private schools held steady, a new federal report shows, according to Education Week.

The U.S. Department of Education reported in its “Condition of Education 2011” that K-12 private, religious school enrollment declined from 6.3 million to 5.5 million students from 2001-2002 to 2009-2010, with the biggest decline coming in the final year, according to Education Week.

Enrollment decline was seen in both Catholic schools and schools designated by the National Center for Education Statistics as conservative Christian, Education Week reported.

Experts told Education Week that downturns in the economy, competition from public charter schools and demographic changes across the nation all may have contributed to the decline. Not all areas of the country were affected equally; the South and West saw Catholic school growth, the report said.

Education Week, “Report Charts Enrollment Drop in Private Schools,” May 26, 2011

National Center for Education Statistics, “Condition of Education 2011

Michigan Education Report, “Adding private schools to the school choice debate,” June 7, 2010

Professor Dismissed for Plagiarism

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University professor has been dismissed for plagiarizing in a 2010 report on K-12 school consolidation in Michigan, according to media reports.

Sharif Shakrani, a faculty member in MSU’s Education Policy Center, used unattributed material in a study that concluded Michigan could save as much as $612 million through consolidations, the reports said. His study was commissioned by Booth Michigan Newspapers and The Grand Rapids Press, and was widely reported in Michigan media, according to a report at Mlive.com, the chain’s website.

The plagiarism was first noted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the State News reported. The center also said Shakrani’s methodology was “seriously flawed.” (The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.)

The State News, the university’s campus newspaper, said Shakrani could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

A university spokesman told the News that the findings validate the university’s system for dealing with accusations of plagiarism.

Mlive.com, “Michigan State University dismisses professor who plagiarized school consolidation study for Booth papers,” May 26, 2011

State News, “Professor dismissed after plagiarizing,” May 26, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “MSU Consolidation Study Seriously Flawed,” Aug. 19, 2010

New ‘Race’ Focuses on Preschool Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The latest version of Race to the Top is the federal government’s $500 million Early Learning Challenge, according to Education Week. The competition will reward states that create comprehensive plans to improve early education by setting learning standards and improving the workforce, the report said.

The contest will take up the majority of the $700 million that Congress allocated for Race to the Top-style initiatives this year, Education Week reported.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the remaining $200 million will be distributed competitively among states that were named runners-up in the original Race to the Top, if those states choose to compete again, according to Education Week. Michigan was not among those finalists.

The rules, eligibility, and size of the Early Learning Challenge Grants have not been announced, according to Education Week, which noted that the $500 million contest is significantly smaller than the original $4 billion Race to the Top initiative.

Still, Duncan said in announcing it that he wants the early education competition to be a “game changer,” Education Week reported.

Education Week, “New Race to Top: $500M for Early Ed., $200M for Round 2 Runners-Up,” May 25, 2011 (Subscription required)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Preschool reports at odds,” Jan. 26, 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

To subscribe or unsubscribe, go to http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/mer/listserver.aspx?Source=MED