Contents of this issue:


  • Jail-based academy offers GED
  • Assessment plan gets mixed reviews
  • Teachers get raise, pay more for insurance
  • Farmers want school customers
  • KCC calls meeting on charter
  • Bond-for-sinking fund swap proposed

JAIL-BASED ACADEMY OFFERS GED


PORT HURON, Mich. - About 270 inmates in the St. Clair County jail have earned General Education Diplomas through Intervention Academy, a charter public school that operates within the facility, according to the Port Huron Times Herald.

The number of participants has grown rapidly since the school opened in 2004, the Times Herald reported, serving people like Dennis McPherson, a ninth-grade dropout who is serving time for drug possession and pursuing a diploma at age 31.

"Now that I've been given the opportunity, I'm taking full advantage of it," McPherson told the Times Herald.

Denice Lapish, director of the academy, told the Times Herald that the school has a waiting list. Students must pass tests in science, math, reading, writing and social studies in order to receive a diploma, and enrollees range in age from 15 to 48.

The school's annual budget is about $900,000, with revenue coming from enrollment-based state funding as well as grants, the Times Herald reported.

SOURCE:
The Port Huron Times Herald, "Seeking a new direction: Program helps inmates earn GED," March 1, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: State Categorical Grants," May 30, 2007


ASSESSMENT PLAN GETS MIXED REVIEWS


DETROIT - Opinion is mixed on proposed changes in the way Michigan evaluates its public schools, according to the Detroit Free Press, with some saying that the new system would rely too heavily on test scores but others saying it would make it easier to close failing schools.

The new system would rest mainly on how well students do on Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests in elementary and middle school, the Michigan Merit Examination in high school and separate tests for special education students, the Free Press reported.

Schools also would have to meet eight standard non-test requirements, such as having certified teachers, the Free Press reported. Currently, schools are allowed to rate themselves on a list of 40 school performance "indicators." Schools would no longer receive a letter grade from the state, but a determination that they are accredited, unaccredited or in "interim" status, according to the report.

MaryAlice Galloway, of the Michigan Department of Education, told the Free Press that the system will provide parents with more information and also make it easier for the state to intervene in failing schools, but that more schools are likely to be unaccredited under the new system.

Gayle Green, chief academic officer for the Macomb Intermediate School District, told the Free Press that test scores do not give a broad enough picture of a school. Other school officials said that is particularly true in high school, when students are only tested during their junior year. Some want the education department to introduce a freshman test as well, according to the Free Press.

SOURCE:
The Detroit Free Press, "Michigan ponders changes to school- review system," March 1, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Markets, not MEAP, best way to measure school quality," May 12, 2000


TEACHERS GET RAISE, PAY MORE FOR INSURANCE


THREE RIVERS, Mich. - Three Rivers teachers will pay more out of pocket for health insurance under the terms of a new contract that the superintendent said will minimize impact on the classroom, according to radio station WLKM-95.9.

The report did not name the insurance vendor, but earlier reports said the district purchases health coverage through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.

The contract calls for Three Rivers Education Association members to pay $75 per month for insurance coverage as of April 1, up from $24 per month. In 2009-2010, they will pay $89 per month, WLKM reported. Teachers also will have higher co-pays for prescription medication, according to the report, and will receive a 1 percent pay increase as of April 1 and another 1 percent in 2009-2010.

Superintendent Roger Rathburn told WLKM, "It's a contract that will allow us to continue balancing our budget. It will allow us to be fiscally responsible and it will minimize the impact to the classroom and avoid raising class sizes and/or cutting programs."

SOURCE:
WLKM-95.9, "TR school board ratifies contract," Feb. 25, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Board implements health plan; union may sue," Jan. 19, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "It's up to school boards to save insurance dollars," Nov. 14, 2007


FARMERS WANT SCHOOL CUSTOMERS


ADRIAN, Mich. - Farmers in southeast Michigan are looking for ways to sell their food to local schools, prisons and hospitals, according to The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, with some turning for help to a five-county government program called the Food System Economic Partnership.

Jennifer Fike, the program's executive director, told The Daily Telegram that it launched a farm-to-school program in 2007-2008 in the Ann Arbor and Chelsea conventional public school districts as well as a charter public school in Dearborn. The following year it expanded into Jackson County and may be introduced in Wayne County schools this spring, The Daily Telegram reported.

Schools are more likely to participate if they purchase their own food supplies rather than work through a large distributor, Fike told The Daily Telegram.

Other possible customers for local crops include hospitals and prisons, she said.

Karleen and Jonathan Goetz, farmers in Monroe County, sell their produce to the East Quad cafeteria at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, they told The Daily Telegram. They said the Food System Economic Partnership has helped them find new customers.

SOURCE:
The Daily Telegram, "Five-county partnership works to get local crops into local markets," Feb. 24, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007


KCC CALLS MEETING ON CHARTER


BATTLE CREEK, Mich. - Kellogg Community College will invite area school districts to a March meeting to discuss a proposed charter public school that would offer technical training to high school students, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

In a meeting that included several spats over both the charter school concept and the fact that two members attended remotely by teleconference and speaker phone, the board agreed to allow President Ed Haring to set up the meeting, which will be open to the public, the Enquirer reported.

The board had discussed in January whether the college should partner with the proposed charter school, which would operate as a middle college, in offering technical training, according to the Enquirer. Many board members were concerned that the school would draw away state per-pupil funding from existing conventional public schools, the Enquirer reported.

Background noise on the speaker phone marred the board discussion, the Enquirer reported, and while Haring said that the school attorney had confirmed that teleconference participation was "technically legal," trustees directed him to consult with the Michigan Community College Association on how other boards handle the issue of trustees who cannot always attend in person.

Trustee Eugene Hamaker called the teleconferencing a "fiasco," the Enquirer reported.

SOURCE:
Battle Creek Enquirer, "KCC board discussion gets heated," Feb. 18, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Program links education, industry to answer workforce needs," Aug. 15, 2007


BOND-FOR-SINKING FUND SWAP PROPOSED


MACKINAW CITY, Mich. - Mackinaw City Schools would temporarily suspend a sinking fund tax levy if voters pass a three-year-bond proposal this spring, according to the Cheboygan Daily Tribune.

The district school board will ask voters to approve a three- year, 0.72-mill levy, which would generate approximately $300,000, according to the Tribune. That money would be spent on computer equipment and two school buses, the Tribune reported.

During the three years in which the bond tax was levied, the district would not levy its existing 0.75-mill sinking fund tax, according to the Tribune. That tax generates money for building maintenance and repair, but under state law the funds can't be used for buses or technology. The sinking fund levy would resume after three years, Superintendent Jeff Curth told the Tribune.

Legislation that would allow a broader range of uses of sinking fund money has been introduced in the state Legislature, but Curth told the Tribune he does not expect it to pass. If it did, the district would withdraw the bond millage, Curth told the Tribune.

SOURCE:
The Cheboygan Daily Tribune, "Mackinaw school bond will mean interim tax cut," Feb. 24, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "School property taxes could increase $5.5 billion over 10 years," Sept. 8, 2002


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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