Contents of this issue:
  • NEA study: Michigan teachers paid above national average

  • State board approves graduation requirements

  • Thompson to focus on one Detroit school

  • Holland community forums discuss schools

  • Detroit could get new coed Catholic school

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michigan public school teachers earn an average salary of nearly $57,000 a year, about $10,000 higher than most of their counterparts across the country, according to a study conducted by the largest teachers union in the nation. That represents a 2.6 percent increase over the previous year, putting Michigan fourth nationally, behind only Connecticut, the District of Columbia and California.

Public school teachers overall saw salaries increase an average of 2.3 percent between 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, to about $47,800. The National Education Association released the study, titled "Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2004 and Estimates of School Statistics 2005," earlier this month.

Student enrollment and the number of teachers also increased in Michigan, the report said. The state ranks 11th in the number of teachers, at 96,749, an increase of 0.8 percent, and eighth in students, at 1.73 million, a 0.7 percent increase.

Michigan ranked among the top 10 states in the country in total expenditures on public education, moving from ninth to eighth this year. A 3 percent increase took that amount from $18.7 billion to $19.2 billion, according to the report. Michigan remained fourth nationally in total public education revenues from state government, with a 4.3 percent increase from $12.4 billion to $12.9 billion.

National Education Association, "Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2004 and Estimates of School Statistics 2005,"

Michigan Education Report, "Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality: How Do They Relate?" April 16, 1999

Michigan Education Report, "Increase teachers' pay the right way," Sept. 13, 2000

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit teachers not receiving paychecks; privatization of payroll service could fix problem, say observers," Feb. 10, 2000

LANSING, Mich. — The State Board of Education unanimously adopted tougher high school graduation requirements last week, adding two credits to the previously presented plan, according to Booth Newspapers.

If the plan becomes law, high school students will need four credits each of math and English, three credits each in science and social science, two credits of a foreign language and one credit each in physical education and the arts, Booth reported. During the meeting, board members added the two-credit foreign language requirement, also called "world languages," to State Superintendent Mike Flanagan's 16-credit plan.

Flanagan said the changes will help prepare the next generation for an ever-changing economy, including students from all income levels, Booth reported.

"It's an economic development issue," Flanagan said. "But I also think it is a social justice issue."

The issue now goes before the Michigan Legislature. If signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm before March 1, the requirements would begin with the class of 2010, according to Booth. Those students will be freshmen next fall.

"We'll move as quickly as we can, but March 1 is unrealistic," Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, told The Detroit News. "We don't want to ram this down local districts' throats without taking steps to make sure their concerns are aired."

Kuipers, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said his committee would hold hearings around the state to gather input.

There is no guarantee, however, that the plan will win full support among lawmakers, Booth reported. Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, has said the plan could be too broad.

"We have to make sure we cover the basics," Palmer, chair of the House Education Committee, told The News. "You get past that, you divide people."

The Detroit News, "State may require foreign language," Dec. 14, 2005

Booth Newspapers, "Board of Education endorses tougher graduation requirements," Dec. 13, 2005 storylist=newsmichigan

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hope in State Graduation Standards Misplaced," Nov. 22, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Credit Conundrum," Dec. 12, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "State-mandated graduation requirements presented," Nov. 22, 2005

DETROIT — Philanthropist Bob Thompson, who has twice offered $200 million to build 15 new high schools in Detroit, will now focus on opening one school in 2007, according to The Detroit News.

Thompson's foundation, in conjunction with the Skillman Foundation and former Detroit Piston Dave Bing, plans to open a high school in Detroit's Northend neighborhood, close to Bing's auto supply company, The News reported. The group, which had applied to Grand Valley State University's charter school office in August, will withdraw that application and focus on the single school so as not to delay its opening.

"We didn't want to let Northend parents down by taking too long to get a school up and running," Skillman President Carol Goss said in a statement quoted by The News. "Both foundations decided that we should focus our energies on working with Dave Bing to make the Northend school a reality."

Although legislation that passed in 2003 would have allowed Thompson to open up to 15 charter schools in Detroit, the new school will not be a charter school, The News reported. Goss said it could either be private or a contract school. A contract school is part of the existing public school system, but is given more latitude in how it is run.

Goss's statement said the option of opening more schools will be evaluated after this one opens. Detroit Federation of Teachers President Janna Garrison said her union is happy with the decision and would like to see the new school become part of Detroit Public Schools, according to The News. The DFT opposed Thompson's efforts to build the schools, threatening a lawsuit to prevent Grand Valley from authorizing them.

The Detroit News, "Plan cuts Detroit charters to 1 school," Dec. 11, 2005

Further Reading:
Michigan Education Digest, "Philanthropist withdraws $200 million charter offer," Oct. 7, 2003

Michigan Education Digest, "Plans for more charter schools may draw union lawsuit in Detroit," July 21, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Bob Thompson renews $200 million offer," Dec. 15, 2005

HOLLAND, Mich. — Holland Public Schools held six community forums in recent weeks to give residents a chance to discuss the district's future, according to The Holland Sentinel. The meetings came a month after the Holland school board declared an impasse in contract negotiations with teachers and chose a less expensive health care plan the union did not favor.

A community advisory committee reviewed the ideas gathered at the forums, but won't make any recommendations until January, The Sentinel reported.

"We need to break the stigma at Holland Public Schools," committee member Marty Ruiter said. "Change the perception — we've been stigmatized."

The committee includes parents, teachers, staff and business people, The Sentinel reported. Its task is to help the school board develop short- and long-term recommendations. The district is trying to develop its first strategic plan in more than a decade.

"There's a lot of passion and commitment," Superintendent Frank Garcia said. "I've seen a lot of people who want Holland Public Schools to be successful."

The Holland Sentinel, "School committee pleased with input from forums," Dec. 8, 2005

The Holland Sentinel, "Panel has many ideas on improving district," Dec. 9, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland board picks cost-saving insurance," Nov. 15, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland Talks Fail to Progress," Nov. 8, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland Union, District Still Split," Nov. 1, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Growing number of districts seek solutions to costly health insurance," Dec. 15, 2005

DETROIT — A coed Catholic high school where students help pay for their own education could open in Detroit, according to The Detroit News.

The Skillman Foundation has given $50,000 to a study group, with the Archdiocese of Detroit contributing another $5,000, to examine the possibility of opening a new school based on the Cristo Rey model, The News reported. Sister Canice Johnson, coordinator of the feasibility study, said she expects the school to open in 2007.

"We do expect it to happen," Johnson told The News. "Most people are very excited. We've talked with a lot of middle school children. One of the first things they say is they want it to be safe."

Detroit was left without a coed Catholic school after the archdiocese closed 18 schools, The News reported. Two all-boys high schools remain.

The Cristo Rey Network helps students find jobs, which in turn helps them pay up to 70 percent of their tuition. The model is used in 11 urban areas nationwide.

"It makes private, Catholic, college prep schools accessible to young people who wouldn't have a chance at it," Jeff Thielman, vice president of Cristo Rey, told The News.

The Detroit News, "Coed Catholic school sought," Dec. 14, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit Catholic high school 'sees God in the challenges,'" Aug. 16, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Catholic schools and the common good," Aug. 16, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan Catholic School Remains Union-Free," Aug. 22, 2005

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

To subscribe or unsubscribe, go to