Contents of this issue:

  • State halts takeover of Benton Harbor schools
  • Gov. Snyder: school cuts ending
  • Schools of choice has led to improved opportunities
  • Charter public school cap lifted
  • GVSU to open five new charter public schools

State Halts Takeover of Benton Harbor Schools

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — State Superintendent Mike Flanagan will not recommend appointing a review team for Benton Harbor Area Schools despite an initial finding that the district is in financial stress, according to The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium. The review team would have been the next step in a state takeover of the district under emergency financial management legislation.

The Herald-Palladium reported that the state will not continue with the takeover process because of a series of budget cuts the district was able to make. Teachers agreed to a temporary contract that includes a 10 percent pay cut along with other concessions that add up to $1 million  in savings for the district. The union had previously rejected any concessions, a stance that contributed to Flanagan ordering the initial review, according to the Herald-Palladium.

The initial review found the district was running a deficit of $16.4 million for the 2011 fiscal year. The Herald-Palladium reports that this figure is equal to about 45 percent of the district’s general fund revenues, one of the highest rates in the state.


The Herald-Palladium, "State Backs Off on BH Schools," Dec. 21, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “Benton Harbor Recall Over Privatization,” Jan. 25, 2010

Gov. Snyder: School Cuts Ending

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s next budget proposal is unlikely to contain any reductions in funding for public schools and universities, according to The (Adrian) Daily Telegram. In the previous budget, public universities saw a 15 percent decrease in state aid while public schools had their funding reduced by 2 percent.

School administrators, however, worry that rising expenditures would leave many districts feeling financially pinched. According to the Telegram, contributions to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System will increase to 27 percent of payroll next year. The Telegram reports that increase could mean an extra $400,000 for a district like Adrian Public Schools.

Gov. Snyder told the Associated Press he would like to see some funding for K-12 education tied to student achievement.

“One of the things we’ll look hard at is, are there ways we can make sure those dollars are really showing results, as opposed to simply passing on dollars,” he said.


The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, “Snyder: School Cuts May Be Over,” Dec. 21, 2011


Michigan Education Daily, “Bringing Balance to Public Benefits,” Jan. 3, 2011

Schools of Choice Has Led to Improved Opportunities

JACKSON, Mich. — A study of state data by The Jackson Citizen Patriot has found the 15-year-old Schools of Choice law has led to a large migration of students across school district boundaries in Jackson County. According to The Citizen Patriot, about 3,000 students assigned to Jackson Public Schools this year are attending another district in the county or a charter public school. About 30 percent of the students enrolled in the Western School District are from other districts.

“I like Schools of Choice within the county,” Jackson Superintendent Dan Evans told The Citizen Patriot. “I think it’s been a healthy competition.”

According to the Citizen Patriot, Evans credits the increased competition with making Jackson Public Schools more responsive to parents’ desires, including themed magnet schools like the focus on fine arts at Cascade Elementary and the International Baccalaureate school at Sharp Park Academy.

“I believe that choice has helped us drive that forward,” Evans told The Citizen Patriot. “I think I’d still be pushing for that (without out-of-district Schools of Choice), but it would be slower.”


The Jackson Citizen Patriot, “Schools of Choice law has led to massive movement across school district lines,” Dec. 19, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Time To Take School Choice in Michigan to the Next Level,” Aug. 8, 2011

Charter Public School Cap Lifted

LANSING, Mich. — Five days before Christmas, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that gradually lifts the cap on the number of charter public schools, according to the Detroit Free Press. Under the legislation, the cap will be lifted to 300 in 2012 from its current level of 150, and then to 500 in 2014 before being completely eliminated thereafter. New reporting and accountability standards for charter schools are included, the Free Press reported.

Opponents claim the move will divert resources from existing public schools, the Free Press said. Supporters, including Gov. Snyder, argue that charter schools provide a “valuable alternative” to conventional schools.


The Detroit Free Press, “Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Signs Law Lifting Charter School Limits,” Dec. 20, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Choice Advocates Cheer Lift of Charter Public School Cap

GVSU to Open Five New Charter Public Schools

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Valley State University will authorize five new charter public schools by next fall, according to WOOD-TV. Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation removing cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state.

Opponents of the new legislation had raised concerns about accountability and oversight, according to WOOD-TV. But GVSU charter schools director Tim Wood told the station that the role of the university as authorizer is to “provide that check and balance to make sure that they are operating appropriately, that they're fiscally sound, that they have good governance and academically, they're outperforming their host districts.”

GVSU has shut down 13 charter public schools since 1995, WOOD-TV reported.


WOOD-TV, “GVSU plans to OK 5 new charter schools,” Dec. 21, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Measuring Charter Public School Performance,” July 8, 2011

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Kyle Jackson at mailto:med@educationreport.org

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