Contents of this issue:

  • Senate OKs more cyber schools, dual enrollment
  • Petoskey to review outside groups’ access to students
  • Candidates scarce in Manistique district
  • Fire marshal gets involved in DPS ‘overcrowding’
  • College grads could see reduced loan payments

Senate OKs More Cyber Schools, Dual Enrollment

LANSING, Mich. —  Students would have more options to attend cyber charter schools and to dual enroll in community colleges under legislation that passed the Michigan Senate on Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The bills are part of the nine-part Parent Empowerment Reform package now making its way through the Senate, according to the Free Press.

Legislators voted to lift the cap on the number of cyber charter schools that can open in Michigan and on the number of students who can enroll, according to the Free Press.

They also approved a measure to expand shared services between public and private schools and to broaden opportunities for public and private students to attend community college and high school concurrently, the Free Press reported.

Another key part of the package — which lifts the cap on the number of university-authorized charter schools in Michigan — passed the Senate earlier this month, the Free Press reported.


Detroit Free Press, “Michigan Senate vote expands education options,” Oct. 27, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “A Virtual Learning Revolution

Petoskey to Review Outside Groups’ Access to Students

PETOSKEY, Mich. – How much access should outside organizations have to public school students during the school day? The Petoskey Public Schools Board of Education is putting a hiatus on one religious-based organization’s work until the board draws up a formal policy on the issue, according to the Petoskey News-Review.

School trustees recently voted unanimously not to grant any new requests for access to students from non-school organizations, including Young Life, until the policy is ready, according to the News-Review.

Young Life, a national Christian organization, has been meeting with students over the lunch hour at Petoskey middle and high schools, the News-Review reported.

Board President Mary Ling said there were concerns about the issue of separation of church and state, the News-Review reported. One parent expressed concern at a recent board meeting about the organization having access to her child during school hours.

Cory Gibson, a Young Life employee, said at the meeting that, “We are there for support ... We just want to be there for them and for the child to know there is an adult there that cares for them,” the News-Review reported.

Superintendent John Scholten said a number of outside groups visit the schools and that the question is how much access to grant. Other religious-based groups meet with students on school grounds, but students involved are required to have parental permission, the News-Review reported.


Petoskey News-Review, “Petoskey School board meeting draws crowd over religious based group,” Oct. 26, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “District adopts rules on wearing Sikh daggers,” Feb. 5, 2011

Candidates Scarce in Manistique District

MANISTIQUE, Mich. — School board candidates are scarce in Manistique Area Schools, according to the (Escanaba) Daily Press. With two vacant seats up for grabs in the Nov. 8 election, only one write-in candidate had filed as of Oct. 27, the Press reported.

Superintendent Kathy McDonough told the Press that the lack of candidates may be a “sign of the times.” She said that the unpaid position requires reviewing complex, changing issues and that board members’ votes on programs and staffing can affect friends and neighbors, the Press reported.

Interested individuals had until Friday to file as a write-in candidate, and one person has done so, according to the county clerk, the Press reported. McDonough said that if only one seat is filled by the election then the remaining board members will appoint someone to fill the other vacancy, the Press reported.

In comparison, five candidates are vying for three seats on the Manistique City Council, the Press reported.


(Escanaba) Daily Press, “Election nears, candidates needed,” Oct. 27, 2011


Michigan Education Report, “The proper role of a public school board,” June 21, 2010

Fire Marshal Gets Involved in DPS ‘Overcrowding’

DETROIT — The Detroit fire marshal recently issued a violation for overcrowding in a Detroit Public Schools elementary classroom of more than 50 kindergarteners, The Detroit News reported.

In what has become an ongoing issue, the district and the Detroit Federation of Teachers give differing accounts of whether there is an overcrowding problem districtwide, according to several reports by The News.

Union officials said that a union survey showed more than 200 classrooms exceed the 35-student limit generally set by the teachers contract, while the district says that a much smaller number of classrooms are oversized, The News reported.

DPS spokesman Steve Wasko told the News that the district has assigned 44 teachers and recalled 45 more to respond to principals’ requests for additional teachers.

Fire Marshal Herbert White told The News that his concern is whether enrollment exceeds national fire safety standards and that he would be open to reports from the public about specific cases of overcrowding. DFT Vice President Mark O’Keefe told The News that the union is not prepared to share data with the fire marshal, but instead will work with the district on class size, The News reported.

Based on state data, the teacher-student ratio in DPS as of 2010-2011 was about 22-to-1, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported, suggesting that the issue was one of teacher assignment, not lack of teachers. Michigan Capitol Confidential is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.


The Detroit News, “Fire marshal meets with DPS in overcrowding probe,” Oct. 28, 2011

The Detroit News, “DPS adds 89 instructors to ease classroom crowding,” Oct. 29, 2011

The Detroit News, “Survey: Class sizes over limit at 42 Detroit schools,” Oct. 24, 2011


Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Mythbusted: Overcrowding in Detroit classrooms,” Oct. 26, 2011

College Grads Could See Reduced Loan Payments

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration estimates that 70,000 Michigan college graduates are eligible for a new program that would reduce their monthly student loan payment, according to a report at MLive.com.

Called “Pay as You Earn,” the program allows college graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income monthly toward their federal student loans, rather than the 15 percent currently required, the report said. Also, the balance of the debt would be forgiven after 20 years of payments.

The program will begin in 2012, according to MLive’s report. In a separate report, CBS News said that Congress already had approved the program with a start date of 2014, but that President Obama expedited it by executive order.

The federal government also estimates that about 154,000 Michigan borrowers will be eligible for a separate program to save money by consolidating their student loans, according to MLive.com.

The president’s announcement came in the wake of a report that outstanding student loans will reach $1 trillion by the end of the year, CBS News reported.


MLive.com, “More than 70,000 Michigan students eligible for student loan payment modification, Obama says,” Oct. 26, 2011

CBS News, “Who will benefit from Obama's student loan plan?” Oct. 26, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “Student loans surpass credit card debt,” Aug. 12, 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