Contents of this issue:

  • Michigan ACT scores stable, DPS lags
  • Supreme Court won’t review teacher email case
  • New voucher question: Are there enough seats?
  • Florida couple sues, says private school too easy
  • Group sues over emergency financial manager law
  • Insurance switch saves teacher jobs

Michigan ACT scores stable, DPS lags

DETROIT — High school tests scores showed mild gains statewide in 2011, but Detroit Public Schools continues to lag significantly, The Detroit News reported.

Statewide, the average ACT composite score among Michigan juniors who took the test this spring was 19.33, compared to 19.28 in 2010, according to data at the Michigan Department of Education website. Average scores rose slightly in science and math, remained steady in English and declined in reading, according to The News. A “perfect” ACT score is 36. Only 17 percent of students were determined to be “college ready” in all four subjects, The News reported.

The gap between Detroit students and the rest of the state has grown in every subject area over the past five years, according to The News. The average ACT score there was 15, The News reported. Other metro Detroit districts with below-average scores included Ecorse, River Rouge, Inkster and Pontiac, the report said.

Some of the biggest gains in the state were among Hispanic students, particularly in science and writing, according to The News.

Roy Roberts, DPS emergency manager, said the low scores show the need for the reform plan announced last week that will remove the worst performing schools from DPS control and put them into a separate, state-monitored school district, The News said.

The Detroit News, “Michigan juniors’ ACT scores stable, Merit Exams show improvements,” June 29, 2011

Michigan Department of Education, “2008-2011 MME ACT Scores Sortable by ISD, District & School

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “New Online Database Provides Unique ‘Context and Performance’ Information for Every Standard Michigan Public High School,” June 27, 2011

Supreme Court Won’t Review Teacher Email Case

HOWELL, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court has let stand a lower court ruling that email messages sent on public school computers are not public records and therefore not subject to open records requests, the Lansing State Journal reported.

In a 5-2 vote, justices declined to review the earlier ruling, according to the Journal. Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. wanted to hear the case, the Journal reported, calling it an important case involving interpretation of Michigan public records laws.

The case was brought in 2007 by now-deceased Chetly Zarko, who filed a Freedom of Information Act seeking copies of email exchanged by Howell Public Schools teachers’ union leaders, according to an earlier media report. Zarko, who died in 2010, said he wanted to determine if the union was using public school resources to lobby parents and school officials during a controversial round of collective bargaining.

In 2010, the Court of Appeals ruled against the public disclosure but urged lawmakers to reopen the 1977 law and consider the impact of technology, the Journal reported.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Press Association jointly filed an amicus brief in the case seeking to have the Supreme Court overturn the ruling. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Lansing State Journal, “Michigan Supreme Court sits out dispute over school email,” June 29, 2011

New Voucher Question: Are There Enough Seats?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a twist on the typical school voucher debate, academics now wonder if there is enough room in private schools for all the students whose parents want to take advantage of expanding voucher and tax credit programs, according to Education Week.

There are enough seats in the short term, experts told Education Week, but long-term capacity is a more complex issue. Three states have significantly expanded their voucher or tuition tax credit programs, and others are considering it, the article said.

Meeting that demand will depend on such things as how many families are eligible for vouchers, the dollar value of the vouchers, how many religious and secular private schools choose to participate and how much space they have, Education Week reported.

An official with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said that Catholic schools there have room for about 4,000 voucher students, Education Week reported;  Indiana’s new law caps voucher participation at 7,500 in the first year and 15,000 in the second year.

The Alliance for School Choice, a Washington-based advocacy group, estimates that about 67,000 students were enrolled in voucher programs in 2010-2011, and about 124,000 were enrolled in tax-credit scholarship programs, the report said.

Education Week, “Capacity issues loom as voucher support surges,” June 14, 2011 (Subscription required)

Michigan Education Digest, “School choice programs gain ground,” April 9, 2011

Group Sues over Emergency Financial Manager Law

LANSING, Mich. — A lawsuit seeking to undo Michigan’s emergency financial manager law has been filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, the fourth challenge to the measure since it was passed in March, according to media reports.

The 28 plaintiffs in the latest suit allege that the revised law is an unconstitutional “power grab,” the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc. reported.

The law gives appointed managers greater authority to reform financially troubled cities and school districts, including the power to amend existing union contracts, MIRS reported. The law does not allow managers to remove elected officials from office, according to MIRS.

Regarding its constitutionality, Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, the bill’s sponsor, pointed out that the state has had an emergency manager law on the books since 1990, MIRS reported.

An attorney with Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, which filed the suit, said that the plaintiffs would be satisfied to revert to the previous version, MIRS reported.

This is the second lawsuit challenging the law, and two petition drives are under way to repeal it, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., “Lawsuit Filed to Overturn Emergency Manager Law,” June 22, 2011 (Subscription required)

Lansing State Journal, “New suit challenges Michigan’s emergency manager law,” June 23, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Acts of God,” April 20, 2011

Florida Couple Sues, Says Private School Too Easy

NAPLES, Fla. — A Florida family is suing a private school there for fraud, alleging that officials falsely promised to offer a curriculum as rigorous as the one at Michigan’s Cranbrook School, where their daughter previously was enrolled, according to the Naples (Florida) Daily News.

The family wants a refund of more than $37,000 in tuition from Seacrest Country Day School in Florida, the Daily News reported.

The parents said they were told the school was as rigorous as Cranbrook, but pulled their five children when they found it was not, according to the Daily News.  As an example, the couple told the court that their children did not receive any homework in the first week of classes, the Daily News reported. It was unclear whether all five children previously attended Cranbrook.

A circuit court judge in June denied a motion by the school to dismiss the claim of fraud, the Daily News reported. The school’s attorney argued that the couple’s claims were matters of opinion, not fact, according to the report.

Naples Daily News, “Family’s legal battle with Seacrest Country Day School enters next stage,” June 13, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan parents choose choice,” Sept. 25, 2009

Insurance Switch Saves Teacher Jobs

CARSONVILLE, Mich. — Teachers in Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools have agreed to switch to lower-cost insurance carrier Health Plus, allowing the district to reinstate two elementary teachers, according to the Sanilac Broadcasting Co.

The district formerly purchased insurance through the Michigan Educational Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association.

About $145,000 in savings will be used to recall a first- and a sixth-grade teacher and to restore two high school teaching positions to full-time status, the report said. Additionally, the shift is expected to help the district receive a one-time incentive payment of $60,000 in additional state funding for following state-recommended “best practices.”

Sanilac Broadcasting Co., “CPS Schools reinstate 2 Elementary teachers and 2 full-time High School teaching positions,” June 13, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Extra K-12 Cash to be Tied to Mandatory Health Care Cost Sharing and Other Reforms,” May 22, 2011

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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