Contents of this issue:

  • Universities, lawmakers spar over tuition increases
  • Suttons Bay busing draws complaint
  • State commission will develop teacher evaluation tool
  • Brighton: Sharing teachers with private schools a win-win
  • Report: Number of Michigan high school graduates will shrink

Universities, Lawmakers Spar Over Tuition Increases

LANSING, Mich. — Some state lawmakers are at odds with three state universities over tuition hikes, and about $33 million in state funding lies in the balance, according to the Lansing State Journal.

The state pledged to cut funding this year to universities that raise tuition more than 7.1 percent, the Journal reported, but now there is disagreement over whether some schools are following the spirit of the law.

At Michigan State University, for example, tuition this fall will increase by 9.4 percent compared to a year ago, but only 6.9 percent above the summer rate, the Journal reported. MSU said that means it stayed within state requirements.

State Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, called that “getting cute with the definition of ‘academic year,’” the Journal reported. While the law does not specify that the rates be compared year over year, lawmakers said that was implied, according to the Journal.

MSU officials disagreed at a recent hearing, saying that it approved tuition hikes last fall but did not fully implement them, choosing instead to use federal stimulus funds to hold down the rates, according to the Journal. When that funding ran out, MSU let the tuition hikes take full effect in the summer term, officials told legislators.

MSU could lose $18.3 million in funding if state Budget Director John Nixon decides against it, the Journal reported.

Wayne State and Northern Michigan universities are in similar situations, with the potential to lose $12.8 million and $2.1 million in state funding, respectively, according to the Journal.

SOURCE: Lansing State Journal, “Tuition hike could cost MSU $18.3M in funding,” July 22, 2011

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “MSU Tuition Restraint Debate Reaches Committee,” July 22, 2011

Suttons Bay Busing Draws Complaint

SUTTONS BAY, Mich. — A national transportation group has filed a federal complaint against a partnership between Suttons Bay Public Schools and the Bay Area Transportation Authority under which BATA provides busing for students, according to the Leelanau Enterprise.

Suttons Bay leases former school buses to BATA, which paints them white and uses them to provide student transportation, according to Enterprise reports. The arrangement saved Suttons Bay about $300,000 last year, partly due to federal transportation grants, according to the reports.

The National School Transportation System, an organization of bus manufacturers and private transportation providers, has filed a federal complaint saying that the arrangement breaks federal rules that require public transit to be open to the public at large, the Enterprise reported. The NSTA hired a private investigator to act as a “plant” on a BATA bus to verify public access, the report said.

A BATA official said that the routes are open to both students and the general public and that the fact that the investigator successfully got on and off the bus negates NSTA’s case, the Enterprise reported.

NSTA members believe they should have had the opportunity to provide student bus service privately, according to one Enterprise report.
SOURCES: Leelanau Enterprise, “Lawsuit over busing won’t open doors,” July 14, 2011

Leelanau Enterprise, “National group files complaint over BATA’s school deal,” July 8, 2011
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan School Privatization Survey 2010”

State Commission Will Develop Teacher Evaluation Tool

LANSING, Mich. ? A state-level commission of education experts, teachers and policymakers will draft a new tool for evaluating teachers under Michigan’s new teacher tenure law, according to Michigan Public Radio.

The new law makes it easier for school districts to dismiss educators who are considered “ineffective” in the classroom, and also makes job performance the key element in determining layoffs, rather than seniority, according to MPR.

The commission will devise a tool for school districts to use in determining teacher effectiveness, MPR reported. The model is due to Gov. Rick Snyder by April 1, 2012, for implementation that year, according to MPR. In 2012, a teacher’s rating on the new evaluation tool will account for 20 percent of that educator’s rating; by 2014 it will account for half of the teacher’s rating, MPR reported.

State Rep. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, told MPR that the Legislature will vote on the final evaluation tool, but John Austin, president of the Michigan State Board of Education, told MPR he does not believe that’s the case.

Snyder will appoint the commission members, Austin told MPR.

SOURCE: Michigan Public Radio, “Teacher tenure law requires new ‘evaluation tool’ for educators,” July 21, 2011

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Will Schools Keep Ignoring Teacher Effectiveness When Setting Pay?” July 22, 2011

Brighton: Sharing Teachers With Private Schools a Win-Win

BRIGHTON, Mich. — Brighton Area Schools educators will teach music, foreign language and other elective courses in area private schools beginning this fall, a shared services arrangement that school officials called a win-win, the BrightonPatch reported.

Two Catholic schools, one Christian school and a Montessori school will participate, according to the Patch. Brighton Area Schools benefits because the private school children can be counted as part-time public school students, which increases the district’s per-pupil funding from the state, the Patch reported.

Private school officials said the arrangement allows them to offer more specialty courses without hiring added staff, according to the Patch. They also told the Patch that the arrangement gives the private school parents a return on the tax dollars they pay to support public schools.

Jack Pelon, owner of School Financial Solutions, is coordinating the partnership, according to the Patch.

SOURCE: BrightonPatch, “Brighton area schools to share teachers with local private schools,” July 7, 2011

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “Private schools cope with weak economy,” May 26, 2010

Report: Number of Michigan High School Graduates Will Shrink

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The number of high school graduates will remain fairly flat nationwide through 2020, a new report predicts, but Michigan can expect a 12 percent decline due to outmigration and declining birth rates.

The report, “Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College,” was released recently by the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, McClatchy News reported.

Michigan will be joined by Ohio, North Dakota and New England states such as Massachusetts and New York in seeing the most pronounced drops, according to a McClatchy News report in The Detroit News. Conversely, Utah, Nevada and Arizona will see 25 to 35 percent more high school graduates in the next decade, the “Not Just Kid Stuff” report said.

Anticipating the decline, some colleges are already trying to boost enrollment by encouraging college dropouts to return and by offering more flexible scheduling and online courses, McClatchy reported.

The “Not Just Kid Stuff” authors said that even as the number of high school graduates is expected to decline in Michigan, the number of jobs requiring post-secondary training will increase.
SOURCES: The Detroit News, “Michigan among states facing decline in high school grads,” July 21, 2011

Center for Law and Social Policy, “Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College,” June 2011

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Is College Accessibility Really a Problem?” Oct. 28, 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

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