Contents of this issue:
  • Public schools to receive more money

  • Three brothers, three valedictorians

  • Driver fired for abandoning students

  • School election date questioned

  • Jackson schools pay union president's salary

  • Growing charter school expects more students at new location

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's public schools could receive up to $230 more per student under competing plans now before the Legislature, according to The Ann Arbor News.

Districts' high expenditures on health insurance and retirement plans, however, are expected to consume much of the additional funding, The News reported.

The Michigan Legislature is considering three plans that would increase the foundation allowance when the state's fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Up to another $60 per student could be available for districts with declining enrollment, The News reported.

"The increase in new money will not even cover the contractual obligations (of the district)," Lincoln Superintendent Fred Williams told The News.

Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said some districts will benefit more from the increased funding because they've been able to keep benefits costs in check.

"The districts that are effective in controlling costs will be able to put money in the classroom," he told The News.

Districts received an increase of $175 per pupil this year, according to The News. Other legislation being discussed could give middle schools $80 per student for math and science classes. The House, Senate and Gov. Jennifer Granholm have put forth plans that increase the minimum foundation allowance to between $7,075 and $7,160 per student next year. The School Aid Fund will grow by about $333 million, to $11.5 billion, even though a statewide loss of about 8,400 students is expected, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "Rising costs could eat up much of new school aid," June 1, 2006, "2006 House Bill 6033 (Mandate Additional School Appropriations)" "2006 House Bill 5796 (Appropriations: "Omnibus" Budget)", "2005 House Bill 5436 (Spend Leftover School Funds on Math Programs)"

Michigan Education Report, "Mandatory funding increase faces uphill battle," May 25, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Averaging our way to average," May 25, 2006

GLADWIN, Mich. — Eric Ball recently became the third of three brothers to graduate as valedictorian from Gladwin High School, according to The Bay City Times.

Eric's oldest brother, Ben, was co-valedictorian in 1994, while his middle brother, Adam, achieved the honor alone in 1995, The Times reported. Eric shared the honor with three other co-valedictorians.

"It's a lot of weight off your shoulders, after you finish," Eric, 18, told The Times. "It's pretty exciting, too, because it's good to be here with my brothers and to share something like this in common with them."

All three brothers participated in sports, had perfect attendance throughout high school and maintained 4.0 grade-point averages, The Times reported.

"These are disciplined young men," Principal Bill Shellenbarger told The Times. "This is a beautiful story about two outstanding parents who are very humble and unpretentious, but have a high regard for scholastic excellence."

The boys' father, Benton Ball, is an industrial arts teacher at Gladwin High School. Their mother, Lana, was a registered nurse who returned to school to become a teacher, and now teaches kindergarten in the district.

Ben, now 30, is a mechanical engineer at a paper company in Minnesota. Adam, 29, is director of engineering for the Saginaw County Road Commission.

The Bay City Times, "Gladwin family knows how to make the grade," June 4, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Homework Requires Teamwork — Between Parents and Teachers," May 2, 2001

GAYLORD, Mich. — A public school employee was fired from her job as a bus driver with Gaylord Community Schools after making three students get off a bus on a dirt road nearly two miles from their homes, according to Booth Newspapers.

The driver, a seven-year district employee, allegedly made a fourth-grader and two sixth-graders get off the bus May 22 after they missed their stop, Booth reported.

Booth Newspapers, "Bus driver fired for leaving students on dirt road," June 12, 2006 storylist=mibusiness

Traverse City Record-Eagle, "Driver forced students off bus, officials say," June 11, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm signs student safety bills," Oct. 4, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Ypsilanti could save $700,000 with competitive busing contract," May 30, 2006

DETROIT — School districts across Michigan spent far more than necessary to hold elections last month, according to The Detroit News.

The May 2 elections cost Michigan taxpayers about $5 million statewide, even in school districts with uncontested board seats. Under a 2005 election consolidation law, schools have the choice of holding elections on their own in May, or piggybacking with local, state or federal elections in August or November, The News reported.

House Bill 4755, introduced by Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, would further consolidate elections, forcing schools to pick a November date for all regular school elections, according to The bill passed in the House, 60-46, on May 3, according to, and was assigned to the Senate Government Operations Committee.

A May 2005 election cost Oakland County more than $700,000, according to County Clerk Ruth Johnson.

"It really is irresponsible," Johnson told The News. "This is an unusual and wonderful opportunity where a lot of money can be saved and it doesn't have an impact on the classrooms or teachers."

Johnson said the additional money spent by districts to hold May elections is enough to buy 10,000 computers, 150,000 textbooks or hire 100 new teachers, according to The News.

The Detroit News, "School vote dates criticized," June 5, 2006, "2005 House Bill 4755 (Require school board elections be in November)"

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Secret Ballot?" May 22, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Reforms Election Calendar," June 22, 2005

JACKSON, Mich. — The Jackson Public Schools pays nearly $85,000 in salary and benefits to the president of the local teachers union, even though the position has no teaching responsibilities, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Mary Lou Konkle, president of the Jackson Education Association the last 11 years, is considered "on leave" by the district, The Citizen Patriot reported. She earns $55,721 in salary and another $29,261 in benefits, spending her days representing the 450-member union in negotiations and other labor talks with the district that pays her.

"It's a relic of the good financial times," Justin King, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, told The Citizen Patriot. "I'm betting the district had a lot less financial woes (then) than they do now."

Jackson Public Schools, with about 6,600 students, has lost enrollment and been forced to lay off teachers for several years in a row, according to The Citizen Patriot. The district attempted to switch the cost for the position to the union in past contract negotiations, but instead accepted a compromise whereby Konkle works two hours a day for the district to oversee a mentoring program for new teachers.

Jackson Superintendent Dan Evans told The Citizen Patriot the district did not want to force the issue during contract talks. His fear was that it could create a "stalemate," Evans told the newspaper.

"That was one thing we gave in on," Evans told The Citizen Patriot. "It has not been one of our highest priorities in bargaining."

Districts of similar size do not pay the entire bill for the local union president, The Citizen Patriot reported. Larger districts such as Bay City and Battle Creek, as well as slightly smaller Ypsilanti, split the cost of the position with the union. Monroe, with a few hundred more students than Jackson, pays for a few hours of leave time a year for the union president.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "District pays for union leader," June 4, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "A total disconnect," May 25, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Censured teachers union president wants to keep office," April 4, 2006

REDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — An 11-year-old charter school that prepares students for automotive, mechanical and technical careers has moved to a new location and expects an increase of up to 100 students by fall, according to The Detroit News.

Michigan Technical Academy High School, located on 8.5 acres in Redford Township, has 250 students currently. Students wear lab coats and protective eyeglasses while working in a 55,000-square-foot facility fixing vehicles, The News reported. About 30 percent of graduates go on to four-year colleges, while 60 percent go to community colleges or trade schools, Principal Roger Sisler told The News.

Ramelle Quinn, 17 of Detroit, came to the school to learn marketable skills before he heads off to Morehouse College in Atlanta to study biomedical engineering.

"I wanted to get a trade before graduating from high school so I could get a decent-paying job while in college," he told The News.

The Detroit News, "Charter high school gains needed space," June 2, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Charter schools continue to see enrollment growth," March 7, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Metro Detroit charter school growing," June 6, 2006

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

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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