Contents of this issue:


  • Health care poll: Public workers should pay more
  • Michigan not seen as 'Race' front-runner
  • Regional teacher contract on the table
  • Mixed results in bond votes
  • Retiring superintendents say pension not a factor

HEALTH CARE POLL: PUBLIC WORKERS SHOULD PAY MORE


LANSING, Mich. - About 57 percent of voters likely would support requiring public employees, including teachers, to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums, according to a recent poll, the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., reported today.

The same poll showed that voters were divided — 47 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed — on the idea of cutting public employee salaries by 5 percent, MIRS reported.

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted by the Lansing-based firm EPIC/MRA from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25, MIRS reported. It had a plus-or-minus margin of error of 4 percent.

When asked how to balance the state budget, 28 percent of respondents favored cutting existing programs and services without any increase in state taxes or fees, while 9 percent favored raising taxes and fees enough to cover the budget deficit without any program or service reductions, MIRS reported. The remainder favored some combination of cuts and tax hikes.

SOURCE:
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., "Poll: 'Make Public Employees Pay Bigger Healthcare Share,'" March 2, 2010 (Subscription required)

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Most School Health Plans Are Too Expensive for Michigan," Feb. 10, 2010


MICHIGAN NOT SEEN AS 'RACE' FRONT-RUNNER


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Will Michigan be included when first-round finalists in the Race to the Top program are named, possibly this week? Not according to most predictions by national education writers and observers, though the final decision is up to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Forty states and the District of Columbia applied for a share of the $4.35 billion that will be distributed on a competitive basis to states that have promised various educational reforms and innovations. First-round finalists may be named this week, followed by first-round winners in April and then a second round in September.

Michigan's own education leaders have suggested that the state will stand a better chance in the second round, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Education Week reporters predicted that Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois and Tennessee will win first-round grants based on such things as their support of charter schools and use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Thomas W. Carroll, president of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, also names Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee as likely winners, but says Michigan is "competitive" as well, based on the legislation it adopted on failing schools, charter school growth and teacher evaluation.

Michigan was not mentioned in a Washington Post column by Kevin Huffman, executive vice president of public affairs for Teach for America, who says the real question is whether promised reforms actually come about. He credited Louisiana for submitting a realistic plan based on expanding programs that already are in place.

SOURCES:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Pundits don't expect Michigan to appear at Race to Top finish line," March 1, 2010

Education Week, "Race to Top Madness Almost Here!" March 1, 2010 (Subscription required)

City Journal, "Who's Winning the Race to the Top?" Feb. 26, 2010

The Washington Post, "Education reform's 'Race to the Top' features some non-starters," Jan. 30, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "State to schools: Think outside the classroom," Oct. 2, 2009


REGIONAL TEACHER CONTRACT ON THE TABLE


COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. - The Comstock Park Education Employees Association voted to approve what could become a regional labor contract if their colleagues in other school districts adopt it as well, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Details of the contract have not been made public, but it includes health care changes intended to bring down school spending, The Press reported.

Sixteen of the 21 public school districts in Kent County face contract negotiations in 2010-2011, which led administrators and the regional Kent County Education Association to develop a template contract, according to the report.

At least nine districts would have to adopt the template in order for it to take effect; otherwise, each district will negotiate independently, The Press reported.

County schools project an 18.6 percent increase in health insurance premiums next year, Comstock Park Finance Director Jamie Carnes told The Press.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Comstock Park educators first group to approve template contract in Kent County," Feb. 23, 2010

The Grand Rapids Press, "Kent County schools consider template contract for teacher, support staff bargaining," Feb. 23, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan School District Health Insurance," (Database).


MIXED RESULTS IN BOND VOTES


LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. - Voters in Hartland Consolidated Schools, Pinckney Community Schools and Chippewa Valley Schools approved bond issues of $28 million, $59 million and $89 million, respectively, last week, but Berkley School District voters turned down a $168 million proposal, according to media reports.

The Hartland vote will continue an existing 7.6-mill levy for an additional five years, pushing the retirement date to approximately 2034, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. All of the district's schools will be upgraded, the report said.

Similarly, Pinckney taxpayers now will continue to pay a debt- retirement tax of 7.55 mills until 2037, rather than 2027, according to the Press & Argus. Chippewa Valley residents will pay 7.65 mills until 2031, rather than 2026, according to The Macomb Daily. The money in those districts will go to assorted technology and equipment purchases and facility upgrades.

In Berkley, voters told The Daily that they couldn't afford the 4.27- to 7.75-mill tax increase, and that the proposal to rebuild five elementary schools as well as a new middle school was too expansive.

SOURCES:
Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "Voters OK nearly $90M for schools - Pinckney, Hartland look to get rolling on bond projects," Feb. 24, 2010

The Macomb Daily, "$89M school bond passes," Feb. 24, 2010

The Macomb Daily, "Berkley bond won't be back in 2010," Feb. 24, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: Local Property Taxes by Type," May 30, 2007


RETIRING SUPERINTENDENTS SAY PENSION NOT A FACTOR


GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. - Four long-time school superintendents will retire in Genesee County in 2010, according to The Flint Journal. Two said their decision is not related to a proposal by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to boost pension benefits for retirees.

Superintendents Barbara Goebel of Flushing Community Schools, Clay Perkins of Davison Community Schools, Ralph Coaster of Fenton Area Public Schools and Thomas Svitkovich of the Genesee Intermediate School District all have announced retirement plans, according to The Journal.

A spokesman for Goebel and Svitkovich told The Journal that their decisions were unrelated to the governor's proposal to offer a retirement incentive to long-time school employees, saving the state money by replacing some of them with incoming employees at beginning wages. The other superintendents could not be reached for comment, The Journal reported.

The Journal reported that a superintendent making $150,000 a year, with 30 years seniority, would receive an extra $4,500 annually under the proposal, or a pension of about $72,000 a year. A Michigan Education Association spokeswoman told The Journal that the average teacher would receive $1,000 to $2,000 on top of an annual pension of about $28,000.

Several Flint area school administrators told The Journal that it was hard to predict how many teachers would accept such an incentive.

SOURCE:
The Flint Journal, "Four Genesee County superintendents set to retire this year; Could Gov. Granholm's retirement proposal push more experienced educators to exit?" Feb. 26, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Retirement fund losses will cost schools, but how much?" April 20, 2009


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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