Contents of this issue:

  • Most tax increases pass, increases for schools least popular
  • Appeals court rules against deduction for teacher health costs
  • Blended learning school to open in Detroit this fall
  • DPS shakeups continue, split power between board and manager
  • Madison Heights district settles with teachers union
  • Legislature passes school pension reform

Most Tax Increases Pass, Increases for Schools Least Popular

LANSING, Mich. – About 90 percent of millages proposed statewide this summer passed, according to an analysis by Bridge Magazine.

Millages for transportation, seniors and public safety were the most popular, with pass rates of more than 95 percent, according to numbers posted by Bridge.

However, millages for schools were the least popular, with an average 71 percent passage rate.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Association of School Boards told Bridge that many school districts try several times to raise taxes. For example, Lakeville Community Schools was recently successful on its fourth try.

SOURCE: Bridge Magazine, “Voters Sign Off on 90 Percent of Millage Requests,” Aug. 16, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Reject a Tax Hike? It’ll Be Back, June 3, 2011

Appeals Court Rules Against Deduction for Teacher Health Costs

LANSING, Mich. – A Michigan appeals court has ruled that a 3 percent deduction from school employees put in place to help pay for health care costs is illegal, according to MLive.

The state has collected more than $500 million since the case against the deduction began in 2010, but the money has not been spent, MLive reports.

Teacher union leaders have asked that the money be returned.

SOURCE: MLive, “Gov. Snyder ponders whether teachers will get a $508 million refund after appeals court ruling,” Aug. 17, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Public School Health Insurance Costs Soar Above National Trends," Sept. 7, 2010
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Judge Giddings Upholds Mackinac Center on Government Retiree Health Bennies,” April 6, 2011

Blended Learning School to Open in Detroit This Fall

DETROIT – Cornerstone Charter Schools will open a new blended learning high school in Detroit this fall, according to Getting Smart.

Cornerstone CEO Tom Willis told Getting Smart that the blended learning high school will have a very different staffing structure than conventional high schools.

Getting Smart reports that some staff members will work with students to set short- and long-term goals, while others will serve as subject matter experts by teaching and helping build curriculum, with others helping students with online coursework.

SOURCE: Getting Smart, “Cornerstone Anchors Detroit’s Blended Future” Aug. 10, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Virtual Learning in Michigan’s Schools," Jan. 27, 2012

DPS Shakeups Continue, Power Split Between Board and Manager

DETROIT – Power struggles in Detroit Public Schools continue after a judge ruled that the DPS board has power over academic issues, while the state-appointed emergency financial manager has power over the budget, the Detroit Free Press reported.

According to the Free Press, the DPS board has quickly moved to sue the state over deficits accumulated under state control of the district, and terminated a contract with the district’s spokesperson.

The power struggle is likely to continue, according to the Free Press, until Nov. 6, when Michigan voters decide whether to keep the state’s emergency manager law.

SOURCE: Detroit Free Press, “DPS school board plans to sue the state, reinstate teachers,” Aug. 17, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Emergency Manager Ballot Proposal Causes Power Struggle in DPS,” Aug. 14, 2012

Madison Heights District Settles With Teachers Union

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. – The (Royal Oak) Daily Tribune reports that the Madison Heights Education Association and school district have reached a contract settlement that will result in more money for teachers.

The district is returning some money it had kept after imposing a 10 percent wage cut last year, according to the Daily Tribune, and the union has promised to withdraw an unfair labor practice charge it had filed against the district.

Madison Heights Education Association President Bobby Robinson told the Daily Tribune that “This summer was no vacation. A lot of teachers picked up extra jobs to make ends meet and some didn’t coach because they couldn’t afford it.”

SOURCE: Daily Tribune, “Madison Heights district, teachers settle” Aug. 16, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Report, “Madison Teachers Threaten Lawsuit Over Retroactive Pay Cuts,” May 1, 2012

Legislature Passes School Pension Reform

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan legislators have passed school pension reform that is estimated to save taxpayers about $970 million during the next two years, the Detroit Free Press reports.

According to the Free Press, the bill attempts to address health care costs by requiring most employees and retirees younger than 65 to pay 20 percent of their own health care costs, while providing new employees with a health savings account instead of the benefits provided to current employees.

Some say the changes will eliminate $15 billion of nearly $50 billion in unfunded liabilities associated with the state school pension system, according to the Free Press

SOURCE: Detroit Free Press, “Retired teachers will get less as Legislature overhauls pensions, health care,” Aug. 16, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “The State Is Already Addressing ‘Transition Costs’ in School Pension Fund,” Aug. 8, 2012

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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