Contents of this issue:

  • Muskegon Heights emergency manager says no consolidation
  • Senate passes school employee pension reform
  • State to rate school performance using colors
  • Utica schools to save millions with private custodians
  • DFT: Ignore district interview procedures
  • Mackinac Center hosting online learning discussion

Muskegon Heights Emergency Manager Says No Consolidation

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. – The new emergency manager for Muskegon Heights Public Schools said the district cannot merge with another due to its long-term overspending crisis, according to MLive. The district spent about $8.5 million more than it took in last year.

“There is so much red ink, you can’t cut your way out of it,” Emergency Manager Donald Weatherspoon told a group of about 50 residents and district staffers, MLive reported. The meeting was organized by the Muskegon Heights teachers union.

Weatherspoon said it is not “politically or financially feasible” to think Muskegon Heights’ debt would be assumed by another district.

The Muskegon Heights school board requested an emergency manager be appointed, which Gov. Rick Snyder did in April, MLive reported.

“You have got to portray hope for the community, hope for these kids, and have a vision basically for the rebirth of this school district,” Weatherspoon told attendees, according to MLive. “That’s where we are.”

SOURCE: MLive, “Emergency manager: ‘Dramatic changes’ ahead for Muskegon Heights schools,” May 14, 2012

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “Financial Emergency Declared in Muskegon Heights," April 17, 2012

Senate Passes School Employee Pension Reform

LANSING, Mich. – Teachers and other school employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013, would begin to pay a fair share of their own retirement benefits under legislation that recently passed the Michigan Senate, according to The Detroit News.

Senate Bill 1040 closes the defined-benefit pension system to new hires and places them in a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan, The News reported. The Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System has about $45 billion in unfunded liability.

SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Michigan Senate OKs measure that ends pensions for new school employees," May 17, 2012

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Sen. Richardville: Tell the Mackinac Center, OK?" May 17, 2012

State to Rate School Performance Using Colors

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Education is proposing using a color-coded system to indicate school achievement levels as part of the waiver it is requesting from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to MLive.

The state’s original proposal was to use a three-color system based on a traffic light — red, yellow and green — to indicate schools that are, respectively, in need of improvement, mediocre or performing well, MLive reported. That could now change to a five-color system.

“We’re glad to hear about the five categories — a big improvement for the new public reporting system,” Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust-Midwest, told MLive. “We still think parents intuitively understand an A to F system better than a color system.”

SOURCE: MLive, “Parents understand an ‘A,’ but what about a ‘yellow’ on a school report card?” May 10, 2012

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Mapping Education Achievement: Locale and CAP Studies” Nov. 8, 2011

Utica Schools to Save Millions With Private Custodians

UTICA, Mich. – Utica Community Schools expects to save $2.2 million a year after the board of education voted to contract with a private firm to provide custodial services, according to The Macomb Daily.

The three-year contract with GCA Services begins July 1, The Daily reported. Even with the savings, the district predicts it will create an overspending crisis of $10.6 million for the 2012-2013 school year.

SOURCE: The Macomb Daily, “Utica schools outsources custodial, grounds work,” May 15, 2012

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Spending Mysteries at Utica Schools,” April 1, 2011

DFT: Ignore District Interview Procedures

DETROIT – Teachers in the Detroit Public Schools who want to maintain employment there are going through interviews to keep their jobs, according to The Detroit News.

The district laid off all 4,100 teachers in April and they must reapply for the 2012-2013 school year.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson told The News that the union instructed members to “ignore” the district’s request to bring typical job application materials, such as resumes, transcripts and letters of recommendation, to interviews.

District spokesman Steve Wasko told The News that hiring decisions will be based on evaluation now that state law prohibits schools from making employment decisions based on seniority.

SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Teachers begin interviews in hopes of keeping DPS jobs,” May 17, 2012

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “4,100 DPS teachers get layoff slips," April 21, 2012

Mackinac Center Hosting Online Learning Discussion

MIDLAND, Mich. – The Mackinac Center for Public Policy on May 23 at the Lansing Center 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. The event begins at 6 p.m. and there is no charge to attend.

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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