Contents of this issue:
  • Utah governor signs universal school voucher bill
  • Carrollton schools ask taxpayers to evaluate performance
  • U.P. charter school teachers consider breaking ties with union
  • Grand Haven area charters see enrollment increase
  • Howell seeks health benefits options

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. signed a bill to create the nation's first universal voucher program, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The new law will provide Utah parents with a voucher worth $500 to $3,000 based on their annual household income. Any student enrolled in public schools qualifies for a voucher, which can be used at eligible private schools. Low-income students currently enrolled in private schools may also receive vouchers, according to The Tribune.

The law stipulates that private schools must comply with certain requirements to receive students using vouchers. To be eligible, schools must hire college-educated teachers, operate outside of a residence, enroll at least 40 students and not discriminate on basis of race, color or national origin. The schools must also present the results of a standardized test to parents and undergo a financial audit every four years, The Tribune reported.

The Salt Lake Tribune, "Guv quietly signs school voucher bill," Feb. 13, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Getting the Teachers Union on Board for Reform," Jan. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "The school choice movement's greatest failure," Nov. 21, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Watkins Debacle Shows Need for Basic Education Reforms," Mar. 7, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which is the Better Choice for School Choice?" July 27, 2004

SAGINAW, Mich. — The Carrollton public school district is asking residents, parents and staff members to participate in an electronic survey to grade its performance, according to The Saginaw News.

Participants will be asked about, among other things, overall quality of education, strengths and weaknesses, and participation in the schools of choice program. Parents were able to participate during conferences, and the board of education is looking to establish other dates for surveying so members can discuss the results at their goal-setting meeting in March, according to The News.

The Saginaw News, "Carrollton parents evaluating school leaders with survey," Feb. 15, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Thousands of parents exercise limited school choice rights," July 5, 2006

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

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Teachers at the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishinabe School in Sault Ste. Marie will vote on eliminating their one-year affiliation with the Michigan Education Association school employee union, according to Education Week.

Local Chippewa Indian tribal leaders are concerned the affiliation will promote the unionization of its casinos and will affect tribal sovereignty. The leaders have also stated they would rather see the school operate without charter school status than have the union present, Education Week reported.

"Teachers have an understanding of what's at stake and what would be jeopardized if they did allow the union to remain in the school," Superintendent Nick Oshelski told Education Week.

However, some teachers believe union representation is necessary at the school.

"We are entitled to a union under our own tribal constitution," teacher Chris Gordon told Education Week, "and (our union) doesn't affect casinos."

Oshelski commented that teachers may be worried about staffing and pay cuts because of declining enrollment, but they already have protections worked into their contracts.

"I strongly felt enough people would vote the union out in order to save the school," kindergarten teacher Troy McBride told Education Week. "Honestly, I don't see any other choice."

Education Week, "Mich. Charter Awaits Vote on Union," Feb. 14, 2007

(Subscription required) FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Upper Peninsula charter school unionizes," Oct. 25, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "A Looming Charter School Re-Union?" May 25, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Charter School Ousts MEA Union In Historic Vote," Oct. 29, 2001

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — Public schools in the Grand Haven area have seen an enrollment decrease while their charter school counterparts have seen an increase, according to the Grand Haven Tribune.

Spring Lake Schools have seen a decrease of 20 students since this fall and have five fewer students than last year. Fruitport Community Schools has seen a similar trend. Their count is down 12 students from the fall and seven from one year ago. Spring Lake Superintendent Larry Mason is not surprised, according to the Tribune.

"A lot of families are moving out of state," he told the Tribune. "(A lower student count) is not as surprising with how the economy is here."

However, West Michigan Academy of Arts & Academics, in Ferrysburg, saw an increase of four students from the fall and 15 from last year. Walden Green Montessori School in Spring Lake also saw enrollment increases. Their count has remained the same since this fall, but the school has seen an increase of 50 students since last year, according to the Tribune.

Grand Haven Tribune, "Students counted; Numbers down in local public schools, up in charter schools," Feb. 15, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Wait lists for charter schools grow as enrollment soars," Jan. 9, 2007

Michigan Education Digest," Children flee Detroit Public Schools," Jan. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "State charter schools see enrollment increases," Mar. 7, 2006

HOWELL, Mich. — The Howell Public Schools board is seeking to lessen the influence of the Michigan Education Special Services Association on the district's health insurance costs, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

A recent resolution passed 7-0 by the board made the district its own health insurance policyholder and said it would work with MESSA, a third-party health administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employee union, as long as MESSA acknowledges the district as the policyholder. If it doesn't, the district will remove MESSA from its benefits plan, the Daily Press & Argus reported.

"It's absurd. It's illegal," Doug Norton, president of the Howell Education Association told the Daily Press & Argus. "They do not have any legal foundation to take that action."

The district cited the Public Employment Relations Act, which allows a district to designate a policyholder. The law states a district may do this because it is considered a managerial right and may make this decision without bargaining with the union, the Daily Press & Argus reported.

Deputy Superintendent for Labor Relations and Personnel Lynn Parrish is responsible for contacting MESSA regarding the school board's resolution.

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Schools move to control benefits," Feb. 13, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Howell custodians abandon MESSA," Sep. 5, 2006

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of approximately 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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