PLEASE NOTE: During July and August, Michigan Education Digest is being published every other week. We will resume our weekly publication schedule on Tuesday, August 23. -Ed.

Contents of this issue:
  • Fundraising project stirs controversy

  • And now, a word from our sponsor

  • District taps savings for retiree insurance, deficit

  • Judicial board censures Kalamazoo union president for misusing funds

  • Detroit Catholic school may become charter

  • More federal funding for some Michigan schools

  • Health insurance study draws heated responses

  • Test results improve for 9-year-olds; others mixed

Lake Leelanau, Mich. — The Leland Public Schools' gardens will soon get a boost from the "booming sales" of a 2006 calendar that features several prominent Leelanau County men posing seminude, according to the Leelanau Enterprise. The $20 calendars went on sale in July at local stores in Lake Leelanau and Suttons Bay. All proceeds will go to the Leland Public School gardens.

Though many residents don't like the calendar or the Enterprise's front-page coverage of the story, the paper's editor noted that, "Those who participated in this project were indeed trying to help their community."

The calendar features school board member Cris Larsen and district Superintendent Mike Hartigan. Hartigan told the Enterprise that the calendar was "a real tongue-in-cheek thing, but for a great cause."

Leelanau Enterprise, "Good intentions, now let's all learn from it," July 14, 2005

Leelanau Enterprise, "'The Naked Gardener,' 2006 calendar features officials posed in the buff," June 30, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Doing More With Less: Competitive Contracting for School Support Services," November 1994

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Contract Out School Services Before Laying Off Teachers," November 2003

McLean, Va. — The Plymouth-Canton Community Schools Board of Education has decided to allow their schools to be named after donors, USA Today reported. Though there are no concrete plans yet to name a new or existing school, the board wanted to be able to consider a specific naming proposal if the opportunity presented itself.

Tom Sklut, chief development officer for the school district, told USA Today that an existing school could be renamed or a planned elementary school could be named for a donor who offsets 51 percent of the $15 million construction costs. Alternatively, elementary schools, which are traditionally named for local educators, may have hyphenated names or may receive a "sponsored by" tag. Sklut told the newspaper that the board is "working really hard not to throw away history."

While playgrounds and schools-within-schools have been named after private sponsors, opponents to naming schools in such a way assert that schools and kids are "too important to be for sale." Susan Linn, author of the book "Consuming Kids," said, "There's no commercial-free space in (kids') lives." Still, Sklut points to the district's need to balance the budget because, "The state does not have the money to fund public education."

USA Today, "Your kid's education, brought to you by...," July 10, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," February 2005

Muskegon, Mich. — To cover insurance costs for retirees, the Mona Shores Board of Education dipped into its savings fund balance, The Muskegon Chronicle reported. The board, which recently approved its 2005-2006 budget, will tap its savings for $2.2 million to pay for nine years of insurance and an additional $612,000 to cover an anticipated deficit.

For the last 20 years, the district has given retirees the option of staying for 10 years with the district's health care provided by MESSA, which was founded by the Michigan Education Association. Retirees could choose this arrangement instead of being covered by the state's retirement program, reported The Chronicle.

Michael Schluentz, the district's director of finance, told The Chronicle that retirees' insurance is currently under discussion in contract talks with the teachers union. Citing "budget challenges," district Superintendent Terry Babbitt said that retiree health insurance "has been removed from most contracts in other districts over the decades because of the costs." The district has already decided to provide its own insurance plan for nonunion staff, which is expected to save $175,000 each year.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "School budget woes may spill over to teacher talks," July 7, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine," November 1993

Kalamazoo, Mich. — According to a union memo reported on by the Kalamazoo Gazette, the Kalamazoo Education Association's judicial board has censured the KEA's president and its former treasurer for misusing funds and for "conduct unbecoming of a member or officer of the Association."

Millie Lambert, the union's president, was asked to repay the KEA $5,000 in mileage reimbursement for school years 2001-2002, 2002-2003, and 2003-2004. She submitted the expenses in December 2004, even though her term had expired on Aug. 31. According to the Gazette, former KEA Treasurer Mark Voege wrote a check in December to reimburse Lambert, but backdated it to Aug. 23, a week before Lambert's term expired. Lambert has repaid the amount in question.

Steven Cook, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Education Association, has also asked Lambert to return $1,243.97, an amount she was apparently overpaid in other reimbursements, the Gazette said. The Gazette reported that Lambert had not yet repaid this amount.

The investigation may be expanded in scope. The judicial board for the KEA issued a statement, according to the Gazette, that referred to "many serious questions that needed to be addressed concerning the inflow and outflow of association funds. ... Because of the MEA's findings, it is the recommendation of this board that there be a total review of KEA finances during the time that Ms. Lambert served as president."

Kalamazoo Gazette, "Teachers union censures chief on finances," July 13, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Corruption and Collaboration," December 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Michigan Education Association: Is Michigan's Largest School Employee Union Helping or Hurting Education?", 1998

Detroit — Detroit Public Schools officials and the administrators of St. Martin de Porres may soon announce the formerly Catholic school's conversion into a charter high school. St. Martin de Porres is one of 18 Catholic schools shut down by the Archdiocese of Detroit in June, and one of a few whose leaders explored becoming a charter school, The Detroit News reported.

The district, which has already established seven charter schools in Detroit, would open the school to about 250 students, if a contract is signed next week by district officials and school administrators. The archdiocese has not been involved in negotiations, The News said.

Although district officials are wary of losing students from conventional public schools, Dan Bully, head of the district's charter school office, told The News that he believes the school will draw primarily from Catholic elementary and middle schools, although religious instruction would no longer be available. Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies called the charter's opening a "healthy step," and told The News that, "We shouldn't be abandoning schools in the city."

The Detroit News, "Catholic school may stay open as charter," July 13, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Charter Schools: 13 Years and Still Growing," May 2005

Detroit — A report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy states that Michigan will receive a 4.17 percent increase in Title I funding over last year's amount, according to The Detroit News. Michigan, one of 41 states that will receive increases this year, will receive a total of $434 million in Title I funding.

Kim Zuccaro, school board president for East Detroit Public Schools, a district that will receive a 20 percent increase this year, told The News that, "Any additional funding is helpful." Tom Fagan, the author of the report, said that increases would allow districts to "serve more children or increase the level of services."

Not all districts will get a boost. Among those districts receiving increases, Detroit Public Schools will receive 9.7 percent more than last year's amount, and Title I funds for Plymouth-Canton Community Schools will go up by 2.8 percent. However, districts such as Ferndale and Clintondale Community Schools will see decreases, The News said. The decreases can be seen as good news for districts, since they indicate that the number of students in poverty has declined.

The Detroit News, "$434 million earmarked for schools," July 12, 2005

Cato Institute, "A Lesson in Waste: Where Does All the Federal Education Money Go?", July 2004

Lansing, Mich. — A study released Thursday indicated that the state could save between $146 million and $281 million by creating a statewide insurance pool for Michigan's 190,000 public school employees, according to The Detroit News. The research was commissioned by the state Legislature and written by the Hay Group, a health care consulting firm based in Arlington, Va. A statewide health insurance system for public school employees has been proposed in Senate Bills 55 and 56.

The report drew sharp responses. House Minority Leader Dianne Byrum told Gongwer News that SB 55 and SB 56 would "drive people from teaching" and in effect would not allow insurance companies like the Michigan Education Special Services Administration, which is controlled by the Michigan Education Association, to offer coverage. MESSA currently covers about 55 percent of public education workers, according to The News. The MEA, Michigan's largest teachers union, objects to putting school employees into one pool, rather than allowing benefits to be negotiated with local districts, The News reported.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema called the study "powerful," said The News, and noted that the legislation is an answer to "cost pressure that's overwhelming many schools." Ari Adler, Sikkema's spokesman, told The News that Republicans want to do "what we can to preserve benefits. But ... health insurance has a stranglehold on education financing."

The Detroit News, "Teacher benefit pool pushed," July 15, 2005

The Detroit News, "Michigan teachers blast benefits report," July 14, 2005

Gongwer News Service, "Byrum says study could undermine teacher benefits," July 12, 2005

The Hay Group, "Report on the Feasibility and Cost-Effectiveness of a Consolidated Statewide Health Benefits System for Michigan Public School Employees," July 13, 2005

New York — Several papers reported this week on results of the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Long-Term Trends. The assessment was first administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 1971 and is given periodically to students 9, 13 and 17 years of age. The tests were last given in 1999.

Average reading and arithmetic scores for 9-year-olds showed increases over 1999 NAEP results and were the highest since the assessment began in 1971, according to The Detroit News. Thirteen-year-olds posted a five-point gain over 1999 scores in math, while reading scores remained about the same. Seventeen-year-olds, however, did not show much change from 1971 or 1999. Although they showed a three-point gain over 1999, average reading scores were 285 points out of 500 possible points in both 1971 and 2004. The average math score for 17-year-olds in 1973 was 304, which rose to 308 in 1999, but fell to 307 in 2004, The News reported.

The "achievement gap," the difference between average scores of white and black students, narrowed on reading test results for 9-year-olds from 35 points in 1999 to 26 points in 2004, according to The New York Times. In 1971, that gap was 44 points. In math, the gap for 9-year-olds closed from 28 points in 1999 to 23 points in 2004. Hispanic students made gains as well, The Times said.

State-level results will be covered by Michigan Education Digest when they become available in the fall.

The New York Times, "Young Students Post Solid Gains in Federal Tests," July 15, 2005

The Detroit News, "Reading and Arithmetic: 9-year-olds' scores improving," July 15, 2005

U.S. Department of Education, "The Nation's Report Card: 2004 Long-Term Trend Results," July 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Ideology Perpetuates the Achievement Gap," February 2005

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ryan Olson at

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