Contents of this issue:

  • Gov. Snyder clarifies, vows to enforce higher cyber charter cap
  • International Academy named 5th best high school in country
  • Ypsilanti school board approves deficit-elimination plan
  • Grand Rapids expects enrollment to decline by 400 to 600
  • Van Buren public schools raises athletic GPA requirement to 2.0
  • Mackinac Center hosting online learning discussion

Gov. Snyder Clarifies, Vows to Enforce Higher Charter School Cap

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan issued a joint press release making it clear that they will enforce a higher cap on cyber charter public schools, according to The Detroit Free Press.

According to the Free Press, the confusion stemmed from two different cap levels contained in the bill’s language. An amendment capped the number of Michigan students who could enroll in a cyber charter public school at 2 percent of the total Michigan student population. But other wording raises the number of schools allowed to operate in the state from two to 15, while the number of students each school could enroll will rise from 1,000 to 10,000. Those conditions would have allowed up to 10 percent of the state student population to enroll in an online charter public school, the Free Press reported.

In their press release, Gov. Snyder and Flanagan stated it was their understanding that the 2 percent limit was the intended effective cap. House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, told The Detroit News that was indeed the Legislature’s intended meaning.

“Our amendments to Senate Bill 619 placed several caps on charter cyber schools, including the number of schools and total enrollment. Among these is that enrollment is limited to 2 percent of the total student population in Michigan. The 2-percent student population cap was clearly our intent and will clearly be the law,” he said in a press release.

According to The Free Press, the bill is currently headed to the governor’s desk and he is expected to sign it in the near future.

SOURCES: The Detroit Free Press, “Snyder, Flanagan vow to enforce bill to expand number of charter schools," May 3, 2012

The Detroit News, “Bolger: Executive branch must enforce cyber school enrollment cap," May 3, 2012

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Virtual Learning Can Improve Outcomes and Save Money," Jan. 31, 2012

International Academy Named 5th Best High School In Country

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – U.S. News and World Report has released its “Best High Schools” list for 2012 and International Academy placed fifth in the nation, according to The Detroit News.

The list ranks schools based on a number of factors including ethnicity, state proficiency test performance and Advanced Placement participation rates. U.S. News and World Report Editor Brian Kelly told The News the main focus of the study is college readiness.

"(The rankings) will help identify which public schools, both nationally and statewide, will best prepare a student to excel at the collegiate level," he said.

The magazine studied almost 22,000 public high schools for the report and ranked the top 4,813. The News reports six Michigan high schools were ranked in the top 500.

SOURCE: The Detroit News, “International Academy is fifth best in U.S.,” May 8, 2012

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan’s ‘very best’ schools only ‘above average’,” Sept. 29, 2011

Ypsilanti School Board Approves Deficit-Elimination Plan

YPSILANTI, Mich. – The Ypsilanti School Board approved a deficit-elimination plan the night before it was due to the Michigan Department of Education, according to The Ypsilanti Courier. The plan calls for a wide range of expenditure reductions totaling $10 million, but is based on an 18-21 percent reduction in staff wages. That concession is still in negotiation.

Superintendent Dedrick Martin told The Courier the district’s deficit has forced the board to take a harder look at areas with excess capacity in the face of declining enrollment. For example, the district currently has staffing to serve 153 special education students but only 101 actual students who need special education instruction.

“This process clearly identified many areas of overstaffing that will be corrected,” Martin told The Courier. “These budgeting procedures have pressed us to further examine building utilization and possibly closing schools in the future if we are unable to reduce expenditures.”

The DEP will now go to the State for approval, after which the district will have three years to close its deficit. The Courier reports that consolidation between Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools would throw the plan out and start the process from scratch. The two districts have begun discussing possibly consolidating, but such a merger would still be several years away.

SOURCE: The Ypsilanti Courier, “Ypsilanti Public Schools Board of Education approves Deficit Elimination Plan,” May 8, 2012

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “Ypsilanti, Willow Run discuss district consolidation," April 14, 2012

Grand Rapids Expects Enrollment To Decline By 400 to 600

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – An increase in parental choice could mean 400 to 600 students assigned to Grand Rapids Public Schools will instead be attending a school chosen by their parents next year, according to MLive.

The projected change is largely due to two new charter public schools opening in Grand Rapids, The Press reported. The Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology will integrate the fine and performing arts throughout the curriculum, while 650 students now assigned to GRPS live within one mile of the district’s former Oakdale Elementary building where River City Scholars Charter Academy will operate.

MLive reports Grand Rapids Public Schools currently has about 18,000 students, down from 25,663 in 2001. The district plans on introducing more theme schools and other public-private partnerships to stymie the student exodus. Officials hope by offering a greater variety of educational experiences the district will be able to better retain and attract students.

SOURCE: MLive, “Grand Rapids schools projecting a 400 to 600 decline in enrollment next year,” May 7, 2012

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “Grand Rapids charter school to focus on fine, performing arts,” May 7, 2012

Van Buren Public Schools Raises Athletic GPA Requirement to 2.0

BELLEVILLE, Mich. – The Van Buren Board of Education has voted to raise the minimum GPA required to participate in interscholastic sports to 2.0, according to The (Belleville) View. The previous minimum was 1.67 on a 4.0 scale.

The board raised the minimum on the recommendation of Superintendent Michael Van Tassel. According to The View, Van Tassel has wanted to raise the requirement ever since he was the principal at Belleville High School.

Van Tassel told The View he felt the school provided enough academic help for athletes that raising the minimum shouldn’t cause problems.

“The coaches and the athletic director have been great building a support network,” he said.

SOURCE: The (Belleville) View, “Athletic GPA raised to 2.0, latchkey programs extended,” May 5, 2012

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “Muskegon debates athlete GPA," Feb. 13, 2009

Mackinac Center Hosting Online Learning Discussion

MIDLAND, Mich. – On May 23 and the Lansing Center, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy will host former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, who is co-chair of the Digital Learning Council along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to discuss how digital technology and online learning can improve educational outcomes and expand student opportunities. Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and author of the book “Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth and Our Nation.” The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Wise, a Democrat, was governor of West Virginia from 2001 to 2005 and served in Congress from 1983 to 2001.

SOURCE: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “The Online Learning Revolution event featuring Bob Wise.”

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.

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