Contents of this issue:

  • State board raises bar on MEAP, MME
  • More right-to-teach controversy
  • Howell says MDOT bid on school land is too low
  • Some question Obama plan to spend more on Detroit schools
  • Jalen Rose: ‘We have to up the ante’
  • New contract in Spring Lake

State Board Raises Bar on MEAP, MME

LANSING, Mich. — Students will have to answer far more questions correctly in order to pass standardized tests in Michigan from now on, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Saying that the bar was set far too low, the Michigan State Board of Education voted 6-1 to raise the scores a student must achieve in order to be considered “proficient” in math, reading or other subjects on Michigan Education Assessment Program tests and the Michigan Merit Exam, the Free Press reported.

It’s likely that more students now will fail the exam and more schools will be identified as needing improvement, according to the Free Press.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan called the former standards, or cut scores, “outrageous,” the Free Press reported.

“To pretend that 90 percent of our (third-graders) are reading at grade level is a travesty. It's not true,” Flanagan said, according to the Free Press.

There was some dissension among the board, according to the Free Press, as some members questioned how high the new bar was being set and whether some students would be discouraged from enrolling in college. Board member Marianne McGuire was the lone “no” vote.


Detroit Free Press, “Michigan makes it tougher for kids to pass state exams,” Sept. 14, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “What MEAP Scores Mean,” March 22, 2010

More Right-to-Teach Controversy

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The new head of the Michigan Education Association says  the union became involved in a recall effort against a sitting legislator because voters are frustrated with public school funding and taxes, while a teacher and former local union president says teachers are frustrated with union spending on recalls, according to separate media reports.

Speaking on the public television show “Off the Record,” MEA President Steven Cook said the MEA paid $25,000 toward a recall effort against House Education Committee Chairman Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, because polling showed voters in Scott’s district are upset over the elimination of a pension tax deduction and public school funding levels, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Cook also expressed frustration with a new “right-to-teach” proposal, under which educators would not be required to join a union or support it financially, as is the case today, the Journal reported.

In a separate report, a Grand Ledge teacher and former local union president told Michigan Capitol Confidential that he finds the education reform legislation “despicable,” but that many teachers likely would leave the MEA given the chance.

John Ellsworth told Capitol Confidential that he estimated between 10 and 40 percent of teachers would opt out of the MEA because they do not feel their union dues are well spent.

The Journal reported that Gov. Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, said that the governor is unlikely to back the right-to-teach proposal.

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


Lansing State Journal, “Michigan Education Association chief says GOP angering many voters,” Sept. 17, 2011

Lansing State Journal, “Right to work for teachers on agenda,” Sept. 10, 2011


Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Former MEA Local Prez: Union May Lose 40% of Members — Including Him — if Teacher Right to Work Passes,” Sept. 14, 2011

Howell Says MDOT Bid on School Land is Too Low

HOWELL, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Transportation wants to buy six acres of land from Howell Public Schools for a new freeway exchange off Interstate 96, but the district says the $237,000 the state is offering is far less than market value, according to reports by the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

The site has been appraised at $1.55 million, the Daily Press & Argus reported.

While the district agrees that the project is needed, school code requires Howell Public Schools to receive fair-market value, Associate Superintendent Rick Terres said in a memo to the board, the Press & Argus reported. The board tabled the issue at a recent meeting.

Other options may be to grant a right-of-way access or other temporary agreement, allowing work on the project to continue while the price is negotiated, Superintendent Ron Wilson said, according to the Press & Argus.


Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “Howell school district balks at offer for Latson property,” Sept. 12, 2011

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “Official on interchange: We’re close,” Sept. 14, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “More school buildings up for sale,” Feb. 15, 2011

Some Question Obama Plan to Spend More on Detroit Schools

DETROIT — Detroit could get up to $348 million for public school makeovers if President Barack Obama’s jobs plan — already controversial — is adopted, according to media reports.

As part of a $450 billion package, Obama called for some $25 billion for K-12 school upgrades, the Detroit Free Press reported. Detroit is fourth on the list of high-need schools under the president’s plan, according to the Mlive.com.

The money could go to repair, renovation, “greening,” energy efficiency, asbestos abatement, and science, technology and computer upgrades, Mlive.com reported.

Obama also proposed $35 billion to protect and restore teacher and first responder jobs; Mlive.com reported that Michigan could receive up to $945.5 million in that category.

The plan is likely to face significant opposition in Congress, where some say more government spending is not the solution to unemployment, the Free Press reported.


Detroit Free Press, “Obama jobsplan would pump $348M into Detroit school upgrades,” Sept. 9, 2011

Mlive.com, “White House: Detroit would get $348M to upgrade schools under Obama jobs plan,” Sept. 12, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Edujobs Fact Check,” Aug. 8, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Spend $25 Billion to Fix It,” Sept. 13, 2011

Jalen Rose: ‘We Have to Up the Ante’

LANSING, Mich. — Former NBA player Jalen Rose described to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday how his new charter public school will help kids catch up academically, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Eighty-five percent of the ninth-graders at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy are not reading at grade level and 90 percent are behind in math, staff learned on the first day of school, Rose told lawmakers, the Free Press reported.

“We have to up the ante,” Rose said, according to the Free Press. The school’s founder, Rose was one of the featured speakers at a hearing on wide-ranging education reforms now under consideration.

The school year at Jalen Rose Academy will run for 211 days, including six Saturdays, the Free Press reported, and the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Rose said parents’ financial status prevents some children from receiving a quality education because they cannot pay for private schools or move to a better district, the Free Press reported.


Detroit Free Press, “Jalen Rose paints picture for Senate panel of how hard school must work,” Sept. 15, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Jalen Rose: An Education Entrepreneur,” Sept. 14, 2011

New Contract in Spring Lake

SPRING LAKE, Mich. — The new, two-year contract between Spring Lake Public Schools and its support staff calls for no increase in base pay and also delays longevity pay hikes, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The agreement was signed prior to a new state law on health insurance taking effect, which means that the district is not subject to the law until the new contract expires, The Chronicle reported.  The new law requires public employees who receive health insurance to pay at least 20 percent of the premium or, alternatively, caps the amount school districts can spend on insurance per worker.

Superintendent Dennis Furton said the support staff contract is similar to one already signed with teachers, under which teachers will pay 10 percent toward health insurance in the second year of the agreement, The Chronicle reported. The support staff also will begin paying a health insurance deductible, the report said.

Pay increases for longevity will resume in the second year of the contract, but be limited to half of the typical automatic step increase, The Chronicle reported.

The new contract covers 40 bus drivers, food service workers and maintenance employees, according to The Chronicle, mostly part-time employees. Only full-time employees are eligible for health care benefits, The Chronicle reported.


The Muskegon Chronicle, “Spring Lake support staff reach new agreement with district,” Sept. 14, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan School Health Insurance” (Database)

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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