March 12, 2013

Contents of this issue:

  • State teacher pension money used to pay for movie studio
  • McMillin calls for Warren officials to testify on new contract
  • New Education Achievement Authority bill introduced
  • Lowest-achieving students improve in Dearborn
  • Roscommon union president urges local-only unionization 

State Teacher Pension Money Used to Pay for Movie Studio

LANSING, Mich. – More than $1 million was taken from the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System and used to pay off bonds for an unsuccessful movie studio, The Oakland Press reports.

According to The Press, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm made a deal in 2010 to assure $18 million in debt taken out by the Pontiac-area movie studio that produced “Oz, the Great and Powerful.” If the studio is unable to pay its debts, The Press reports, the state will pay them using pension money.
Terry Stanton, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Treasury, told The Press that 80 percent of the money would be taken from MPSERS, with the remainder taken from three other pension funds.
Since February 2012, the state has made three payments for the movie studio, according to The Press.
SOURCE: The Oakland Press, “Report: State pension funds bankroll Pontiac studio; taxpayers lose on films,” March 8, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Michigan Taxpayers Already Paid for ‘Oz’," March 7, 2013

McMillin Calls for Warren Officials to Testify on New Contract

LANSING, Mich. – House Oversight Committee Chairman Tom McMillin is calling for officials from the Warren school district to testify about why they agreed to an eight-year contract with its teachers union, according to Michigan Information & Resource Service News. The hearing will be held on March 19, MIRS reports.

According to MIRS News, extended contracts are suspected of being attempts to circumvent the state’s right-to-work law, which takes effect the end of March.
This is the third request McMillin has made of Taylor school district officials and Wayne State University officials to testify, MIRS News reports. Taylor officials declined to testify, and Wayne State University officials have not officially responded to a request that they appear on March 12.
SOURCE: MIRS News, “Oversight Calls on Another School Group,” March 8, 2013 (Subscription required)
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Universities Dodging Right-to-Work Law Under Scrutiny," March 7, 2013

New Education Achievement Authority Bill Introduced

LANSING, Mich. – A new bill to expand the state’s Education Achievement Authority was introduced by Rep. Lisa Lyons, according to MLive.

MLive reports that the EAA currently runs 15 Detroit-area schools, and could be given the ability to take over schools that repeatedly are ranked in the lowest 5 percent of Michigan schools. According to MLive, schools from Grand Rapids, Lansing and Flint, among other cities, could end up qualifying.
Lyons told MLive that the legislation had been changed to take into account concerns raised during 2012. “We worked with many different stakeholders to address concerns and improve the legislation,” she told MLive. “As a result, we have a bill that helps kids trapped in failing schools.”
SOURCE: MLive, “Education Achievement Authority: New version of legislation introduced in Michigan House,” March 5, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “No Grand Rapids Carve-Out under EAA Bill,” March 8, 2013

Lowest-Achieving Students Improve in Dearborn ‘Focus’ School

DEARBORN, Mich. – During a school board meeting, Dearborn officials said that student test scores were improving at Bryant Middle School, a school identified by the state as a “focus school,” according to the Dearborn Patch.

A focus school designation means that the school had a large achievement gap between the top-scoring 30 percent of students and the bottom-scoring 30 percent of students, Patch reports.
According to Patch, six Dearborn schools were identified as focus schools in August 2012.
Many students within the identified bottom 30 percent at Bryant Middle have improved their test scores. Nearly 80 percent of eighth graders improved their MEAP reading scores, and 27 percent of eighth graders improved their math scores, Patch reports.
At a Dearborn School Board meeting, Board President Pamela Adams criticized the focus school measure, noting the achievement gap could remain even if student scores improve, according to Patch. “You’re always going to have a group of students at the top and at the bottom,” Adams said, Patch reports.
SOURCE: Dearborn Patch, “Efforts to Bolster Dearborn Schools With Performance Gaps Showing Results,” March 5, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Instead of Focusing on Gaps, Focus on Growth,” Aug. 8 2012

Roscommon Union President Urges Local-Only Unionization Under RTW

ROSCOMMON, Mich. – In a letter to the Detroit News, Roscommon Teachers Association President Jim Perialas writes that teachers might think that a new right-to-work law is presenting them with the choice to either stay in their union or leave. But, Perialas writes, there is another option: Form a local-only union.

According to Perialas, his union is the first Michigan union in decades to decertify from the Michigan Education Association and re-certify as a local union. This was done, he writes in The News, because the MEA was “bureaucratic” and provided “poor customer service.”
According to Perialas, the change from a union affiliated with the MEA to a local-only union allowed dues to be cut from $1,000 (where they were under the MEA) to $600.
SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Letter: Departing Michigan Education Association to form local-only union a good choice,” March 7, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Breaking News: Roscommon Teachers Vote to Decertify From MEA, Sept. 11, 2012