Contents of this issue:
  • School employee background checks turn up felons

  • UP students add voices to labor battle

  • Study: Artificial caps on charter schools hurt students

  • Board member may face recall for moving kids to new school

  • DPS still seeking solutions to school violence

  • Politicians debate school aid surplus

LANSING, Mich. — About 2,500 people with criminal records, including more than 100 convicted of sex crimes, were found to be working in Michigan schools after a recent computer search by the Michigan State Police, according to The Detroit News. The names and dates of birth for 200,000 school employees were compared against the State Police database. The search found about 4,600 total criminal offenses, The News reported, with almost half, 2,200, being felonies.

A package of laws that took effect Jan. 1, known as the "Student Safety Initiative," is intended to protect students from sexually abusive school personnel, The News reported.

"You can't educate children if you can't provide a safe environment," Speaker of the House Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, told The News.

"I'm shocked at the number of crimes they found," a 53-year-old Ann Arbor man whose fourth-grade daughter was sexually assaulted by her teacher told The News. "It goes to show that they should have been doing that (background checks) with everyone they hire." The News did not use the father's name in order to protect the girl's identity.

The new laws call for all school personnel to be fingerprinted by July 1, 2008, The News reported. The laws also stipulate that anyone found to be convicted of a sex crime must be fired immediately. Those convicted of other felonies can only keep their job if the district's school board and superintendent approve. Until all school employees are fingerprinted, the Department of Education is giving the State Police names and dates of birth of job applicants for background checks, The News reported. The results are then given to individual school districts.

The Michigan Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state, will not comment until fingerprint data is available.

"We've been hesitant to make any comment until the data is absolutely positively as clean as it can get," MEA spokeswoman Margaret Trimer-Hartley told The News.

The Detroit News, "2,500 ex-cons in school jobs," Jan. 22, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "High cost of fingerprinting school employees," Dec. 6, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm signs student safety bills," Oct. 4, 2005, "2005 House Bill 4928 ("School Safety" package)

IRONWOOD, Mich. — Students at an Upper Peninsula high school last week expressed their displeasure with the ongoing labor strife between the teachers union and school board, according to the Ironwood Daily Globe.

About 100 students at Luther L. Wright High School wore maroon T-shirts to class that read "What about US!" on the front and "87 percent" on the back, the Daily Globe reported. The "87 percent" refers to the number of American workers who do not belong to unions, senior Ian Edwards told the newspaper.

Edwards is the son of a school board member, according to the Daily Globe.

Contract negotiations between the Ironwood school board and the Ironwood Education Association have been tense, according to the Daily Globe. Union members have conducted two candlelight vigils before school board meetings, staged an informal picket at school and have worn blue T-shirts reading "excellence in education" to a board meeting.

"We want it to come to a conclusion or compromise," Edwards told the Daily Globe. "It seems a little unprofessional and inappropriate."

Alisha Stanczak, one of the students who wore a maroon shirt, told the Daily Globe one teacher questioned her and another made her leave class.

"It's pretty much a drama-fest," she told the newspaper.

The last contract between IEA members and the district expired on June 30, 2005, the Daily Globe reported.

Ironwood Daily Globe, "Students launch their own protest," Jan. 18, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "UP teachers threaten job actions," Jan. 17, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table," Aug. 1, 1998

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Voluntary Unionism Puts Interests of Students and Teachers First," February 2001

WASHINGTON — A national study released last week says limits on the number of charter schools in Michigan and elsewhere deny opportunities to children, according to New York Newsday.

The study, conducted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, says charter school limits in 25 states and the District of Columbia mean thousands of families are "stuck in failing schools," according to a press release from the NAPCS.

"The demand for charter schools is growing," Nelson Smith, president of the NAPCS, said in the press release. "If we are to continue to close the achievement gap in this country and create real opportunity for children, caps on charter schools must be lifted — now."

According to the NAPCS, more than 1 million children now attend public charter schools in the U.S.

Nelson added that about 40 percent of charter schools nationwide have average waiting lists of 135 students each. State-imposed caps are most severe in 10 states, including Michigan, the release noted.

"Everyone agrees that charter growth must be connected to quality," Smith said in the release. "But legislated caps are not the answer — and they do nothing to improve educational results. In fact, caps prevent successful schools from expanding and replicating. Legislatures must remember that the goal is to create more high performing schools, not protect those that chronically fail."

New York Newsday, "Study says enrollment cap hurting charter schools," Jan. 18, 2006 jan18,0,4208273.story?coll=ny-region-apconnecticut

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "Impact of State Caps on Charter Schools," Jan. 18, 2006

Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, "The Education Gadfly: Short Reviews of New Reports and Books: Stunting Growth: The Impact of State-Imposed Caps on Charter Schools," Jan. 19, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "State-appointed panel recommends lifting charter cap," April 16, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Study: School Choice Threatens School Employee Unions' Financial and Political Clout," June 24, 1999

Michigan Education Report, "Support creation of new Detroit charters," Dec. 15, 2005

FRUITPORT, Mich. — A Fruitport Community Schools board member could face a recall because his children attend school in another district, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

Jeff Moody, elected to the board in 2004, withdrew his children from Fruitport schools after his election and enrolled them in Spring Lake Public Schools, The Chronicle said. Moody told the newspaper in a written statement that the move was due to growing class sizes.

"We were shocked," he said in the statement. "It did not take long for our daughter who is quiet, smart and well behaved to feel unimportant and insignificant in the chaos of 30 fourth-graders." Moody also said he removed his fifth-grade daughter when the district failed to address overcrowding in her classroom.

Steve Keglovitz told school board members at a recent meeting that he had collected 120 signatures on an informal petition, The Chronicle reported. To officially start the recall process, petition language must be approved, then circulators would have 180 days to gather 1,120 signatures in order to force a vote.

"It saddens me to have to bring this out in public, but I have signatures of people who feel along the same lines as me," Keglovitz said during the school board meeting, according to The Chronicle. "As a school board member, you can affect change within the district if something is not going right, not send your kid to another district. I look to you to make things better for my kids, and I think it sends the wrong message to be a board member and take your kids out of this school system."

School board President Betty Kinney said during the meeting there is no requirement that board members have children who attend school in the district, The Chronicle reported. Candidates who seek school board seats must be 18, a registered voter and a resident of the district.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "School leader faces recall for pulling his kids out of district," Jan. 13, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "With Clear Eyes, Sincere Hearts and Open Minds," July 27, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001

Michigan Education Report, "Public schools of choice give parents more options," Jan. 18, 1999

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education," July 16, 1999

DETROIT — A student was shot near a Detroit high school and a security guard was robbed as she entered an elementary school last week, according to The Detroit News. The incidents marked four violent acts on or near Detroit Public Schools property in five days.

Perry Smith, 17, was shot in the right arm about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday as he walked near Pershing High School, The News said. The gun fire came from a silver Dodge Stratus. Earlier that day, a female security guard was robbed of $7 and forced to undress at gunpoint as she entered Grant Elementary/Middle School, where she works, The News added. The gunman ran away when a police car drove by.

Two girls, 15 and 16, were stabbed during a fight involving the mother of a third student on Jan. 12 outside Martin Luther King Jr. High School, The News reported. The following day, an Osborn High School student was arrested after a gun was fired on school property.

"Violence knows no boundaries," DPS spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo told The News. "A lot of the violence that occurs on or around the school's property originates in either the home or the neighborhoods and then spills into our schools." He added that the district takes such incidents very seriously and will continue to meet with parent groups to find solutions, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "Student shot outside high school," Jan. 18, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Two students stabbed at Detroit high school; shots fired," Jan. 17, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit school shootings," Dec. 13, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm Signs Student Safety Bills," Oct. 4, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Strict discipline academies," May 30, 2002

LANSING, Mich. — Republican legislators and Gov. Jennifer Granholm are at odds over how to spend a surplus in the School Aid Fund, according to Booth Newspapers.

Booth reported last week that Granholm wants all K-12 public schools to get an extra $25 per student this school year. That would boost the state per-pupil foundation grant to $6,900. The proposal would cost $42 million, or a little more than half of the $80 million surplus in the School Aid Fund.

Republican House members last month introduced bills to give schools $49 more for each middle school student to be used on improving math skills, and another $18 per pupil for districts that receive less than $7,200 in state aid for every student, Booth reported. Those initiatives would cost about $35 million.

Greg Bird, spokesman for the state budget office, said Granholm's plan would help all districts.

"It's fairer to do it across the board," he told Booth. "We believe all school districts, all students should benefit."

The surplus in the School Aid Fund is due to a House Fiscal Agency study that shows there are 5,100 fewer students in Michigan than was projected, Booth reported. Enrollment is expected to be about 8,400 students lower than expected next year.

Booth Newspapers, "Granholm wants to boost funding for every school in state," Jan. 15, 2006 storylist=mibusiness

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding and Student Performance," June 28, 1991

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 148,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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