Contents of this issue:
Another school employee group abandons MESSA
Judge blocks release of names; new list complete by March 1
More taxpayer dollars proposed for schools
Graduation standards put future of vocational ed in doubt
Students expelled for selling guns at school
MEAP results late
ANOTHER SCHOOL EMPLOYEE GROUP ABANDONS MESSA
WHITEHALL, Mich. — Administrators in the Whitehall District Schools will receive pay raises and special accounts to cover deductibles after switching to a less expensive health insurance plan, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.
The superintendent and 14 other administrators will switch from the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, to a Blue Cross plan offered through SET/SEG, The Chronicle reported.
The district's health insurance costs for the administrators will fall 22 percent, mainly because the new insurance plan has higher deductibles, The Chronicle reported. The drop in cost will allow the district to set up $4,000 accounts for each employee to use for paying deductibles, as well as give each administrator a 3 percent annual raise for three years.
The Muskegon Chronicle, "Administrators trade insurance change for raise," Feb. 2, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Pinckney teachers voluntarily abandon MESSA," Feb. 7, 2006
Michigan Education Report, "Growing number of districts seek solutions to costly health insurance," Dec. 15, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine," Nov. 1, 1993
JUDGE BLOCKS RELEASE OF NAMES; NEW LIST COMPLETE BY MARCH 1
LANSING, Mich. — An Ingham County circuit court judge Friday blocked the public release of a list of Michigan school employees with criminal backgrounds, saying it contains errors, according to The Detroit News.
"The data is not information at all, in the stage it's in it is misinformation," Judge Joyce Draganchuk was quoted as saying by The News. "The public is not served by having misinformation conveyed to them. It's worse than having no information at all."
The State Police last year compared school employee names against its database and found more than 2,200 felonies and 4,600 offenses. That list was recently sent to school districts, causing confusion about teachers and others who say they did not commit the crimes in question, The News reported. A new search, to be done by March 1, will be screened against birth, gender and social security information and should reduce the number of "false-positives," State Police officials told The News.
The largest teachers union in the state, the Michigan Education Association, went to court to prevent the release of the list of names after The News attempted to obtain it.
James Stewart, an attorney for The News, said the information on the new list should be released to the public after schools have had a chance to verify its accuracy.
"We're losing sight of the purpose of the law, which is to let the public know there are criminals around their children every day," Stewart told The News.
The Detroit News, "Judge bars release of list naming school employees with convictions," Feb. 11, 2006
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Still Have an Option to Check Kids' Safety," Feb. 2, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Schools get names of employees with criminal backgrounds," Feb. 7, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Court seals data on school employees with criminal backgrounds," Jan. 31, 2006
MORE TAXPAYER DOLLARS PROPOSED FOR SCHOOLS
LANSING, Mich. — The state of Michigan would spend $200 more per student next year under Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed 2006-2007 budget, according to The Detroit News.
The minimum state foundation grant would climb to $7,075, and overall spending on public education would increase by almost 3 percent, from $12.75 billion to $13.12 billion, The News reported.
Mount Clemens Superintendent T.C. Wallace told The News that the extra funding would go toward paying the increasing costs of health insurance and pension benefits for teachers.
Gov. Granholm earlier requested that the Legislature increase per-pupil spending by $25 this year, The News reported. The $42.5 million cost for that would come from a school aid fund surplus that resulted from lower enrollment than expected in Michigan public schools.
Gov. Granholm's budget also proposes spending $15 million on technology programs for middle school students, $25 million on adult education and $125 million on preschool programs, The News reported.
The Detroit News, "Granholm to propose higher per-pupil spending," Feb. 8, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Politicians debate school aid surplus," Jan. 24, 2006
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
GRADUATION STANDARDS PUT FUTURE OF VOCATIONAL ED IN DOUBT
LANSING, Mich. — Calls for more rigorous high school graduation requirements have proponents of vocational education worried, according to The Ann Arbor News.
The State Board of Education has recommended a curriculum that includes 18 credits in classes such as English, science, history, math and foreign language, The News reported. The Legislature is discussing variations of that plan.
"We think it's just going to kill tech," David Even, president of the Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society, told The News. "The kids have to have the option to go where their interests are, but if you are going to eliminate it so they can't go, it's academic suicide."
In response to these and other concerns, State Rep. Brian Palmer, chairman of the House Education Committee, has introduced a bill that would require fewer credits and allow districts to waive some of the proposed requirements, The News reported.
Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth says 40 percent of high school juniors and seniors take some type of career-oriented classes, The News reported. Those classes include auto mechanics, nursing, child care, carpentry and accounting.
The Ann Arbor News, "What's next for voc ed?" Feb. 6, 2006
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hope in State Graduation Standards Misplaced," Jan. 3, 2006
MichiganVotes.org, "2006 House Bill 5606 (Mandate High School Graduation Requirements)"
Michigan Education Digest, "State board approves graduation requirements," Dec. 20, 2005
STUDENTS EXPELLED FOR SELLING GUNS AT SCHOOL
PINCKNEY, Mich. — Two Pinckney High School students were expelled last week after trying to sell stolen guns in the school parking lot, according to The Detroit news.
The boys, 16 and 17, were arrested by Livingston County sheriff's deputies Feb. 6. More than a dozen weapons were recovered, including four that were in the trunk of a vehicle, The News reported.
"These guns were never intended to be used against any students at the school," Sheriff Bob Bezotte told The News. "They were doing it for the money."
None of the weapons were loaded, and none were sold to students, The News reported.
Deputies told The News that the boys admitted to stealing the weapons, including 17 handguns, rifles and shotguns, along with ammunition and other items, from a home in late January.
State law dictates a zero-tolerance policy for students caught on school grounds with weapons, The News reported. Violation brings automatic expulsion. Legally, the boys could be tried as adults and face several felonies, including breaking and entering, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, The News reported.
The Detroit News, "School expels 2 in gun sale," Feb. 8, 2006
Michigan Education Report, "Zero-tolerance policies aim to reduce school violence," Dec. 13, 2001
Michigan Education Report, "School shootings prompt response in legislatures," April 25, 2001
MEAP RESULTS LATE
LANSING, Mich. — Schools will be getting MEAP test results a month late, marking another in a series of problems the state has had with the test, according to Booth Newspapers.
The Michigan Department of Education expected to receive MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) results in December, with final reports arriving in schools by Jan. 31, Booth reported. Pearson Educational Measurement, the contractor hired by the Department of Education to process the tests, underestimated the time needed to score them, according to Booth. The state now hopes to have the scores to schools by late February.
"We doubled the number of students getting tested, we had multiple tests per grade — this is a pretty complex testing program," Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley told Booth.
The MEAP, previously administered in the winter, was moved this school year to the fall and expanded, both in the subjects tested and the number of students taking the test, Booth reported. The state moved the test to the fall so teachers could have the second half of the year to work with students in problem areas.
Test booklets were late getting to Michigan last fall, forcing the three-week testing window to be expanded, Booth reported.
"It's disappointing that here we go again," Jim Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, told Booth. "We've totally redone the school year. We've redone all our programs and classes to appease the MEAP and here it is in February."
Under the direction of the Michigan Department of Treasury, MEAP scores were late in 2001 and 2002, Booth reported. In 2003 the scores were six months late and more than 3,000 were missing. Oversight of the MEAP was then transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Education.
Booth Newspapers, "MEAP scores late again," Feb. 8, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "State threatens action against MEAP contractor," Oct. 11, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "More students to take MEAP: Testing earlier in school year," Sept. 6, 2005
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 148,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.
Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at
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