NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED ON JAN. 2, 2007. THE FIRST ISSUE OF 2007 WILL BE DISTRIBUTED JAN. 9.



Contents of this issue:
  • Ten alternative schools may close in Detroit
  • Sudden changes in DPS superintendent search
  • Hart teachers upset about insurance savings plan
  • Harper Creek chooses less expensive MESSA plan
  • Gates-funded commission proposes major education reforms
  • Win an iPod

TEN ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS MAY CLOSE IN DETROIT
DETROIT — Ten alternative schools in Detroit may close unless the Detroit Federation of Teachers grants contract waivers to the schools' teachers, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The schools, which focus primarily on educating high school dropouts, are run by community groups and cannot afford to meet the requirements of the union teacher contract. Negotiations have failed because the DFT wants a share of the state funding the schools receive in return for signing the waivers, according to the Free Press.

"While we have signed a contract saying we will abide by the contract, if they decide to enforce the DFT contract, we will not stay open," Ida Byrd-Hill, founder of Hustle & TechKnow, an alternative school in Detroit, told the Free Press. "We cannot afford the benefits ... and this is an alternative program, which means we have to do things a little differently," Byrd-Hill said.

SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, "10 schools fear closing," Dec. 10, 2006
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061210/NEWS01/612100676/1003

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "DPS fights union to keep at-risk program," Nov. 7, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8059

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit teachers union wants more money," June 27, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7798

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit dropout programs encourage kids to go back to school," Sept. 27, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7364


SUDDEN CHANGES IN DPS SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH
DETROIT — The Detroit Public Schools board of education has decided to offer its current superintendent an interview after initially rejecting him as a finalist in the search, according to The Detroit News.

William Coleman III has drawn criticism during his one-year tenure. His contract will expire in July, the Detroit Free Press reported.

At a recent board meeting, however, it was decided that he be allowed the fifth spot for interviews. This occurred after board member Jonathan Kinloch suggested that the board scrap its search and hire a national search firm. The board voted against hiring a search firm, but made alterations to their own process, according to The News.

"We should see the process through," board Vice President Joyce Hayes-Giles said, according to The News. "We will start again if we need to."

Excluding Coleman, the search has been narrowed down to four candidates: David Snead, Connie Calloway, Gerald Dawkins and Doris Hope-Jackson. Snead was hired as Detroit's superintendent in 1993, but resigned four years later under pressure from the school board. Dawkins is currently the superintendent of Saginaw Public Schools, while Calloway is the superintendent of the Normandy School District in St. Louis. Hope-Jackson is currently the CEO of an education consultant service company in Illinois, according to the Free Press.

SOURCES:
The Detroit News, "Bid to block DPS interviews fails," Dec. 15, 2006
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006612150417

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Public Schools: Coleman is out of race, Snead is in," Dec. 13, 2006
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061213/NEWS01/612130340/1001/NEWS

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "DPS to re-bid IT contract," Oct. 17, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8008

Michigan Education Report, "DPS' credit rating falls after $259 million tax error," Dec. 15, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7467

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS must repay almost $1 million to feds," July 5, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7807


HART TEACHERS UPSET ABOUT INSURANCE SAVINGS PLAN
LUDINGTON, Mich. — Teachers in the Hart school district are protesting an insurance change that is expected to save their district $250,000 a year, according to the Ludington Daily News.

The board recently switched health insurance from the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a union-affiliated, third-party administrator, to SET SEG. Many teachers are uncomfortable with the change, according to the Daily News.

"You have created sleepless nights," teacher Jennifer Stoneman told the board, according to the Daily News. "You've altered the way I have to provide for my kids."

Board Treasurer Mark Forner pointed to decreasing enrollment as the driving force behind the change.

"Make no mistake. Student enrollment drives revenues to schools in the State of Michigan," Forner commented to the board, according to the Daily News.

SOURCE:
Ludington Daily News, "Hart teachers protest imposed insurance changes," Dec. 12, 2006
http://www.ludingtondailynews.com/news.php?story_id=34157

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Hart schools leave MESSA," Dec. 5, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8104

Michigan Education Digest, "Madison contracts stall over health insurance," Nov. 21, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8087

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA Reference Page," March 10, 2006
http://www.mackinac.org/7643


HARPER CREEK CHOOSES LESS EXPENSIVE MESSA PLAN
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Teachers and board members in Harper Creek schools have agreed to a new contract that will increase teacher pay and decrease health insurance costs, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

The district is switching its health insurance plan to the less costly Choices II plan provided by the Michigan Education Special Services Association. MESSA is third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union. The switch will decrease costs for both the district and teachers, who will now have to contribute only $30 a month for their own health insurance. Currently, teachers must pay $43.88 a month, according to the Enquirer.

Teachers will receive 0.75 percent step-scale pay increases for the next two years, while teachers with more than 13 years of employment in the district will receive a 1.25 percent pay increase. The average teacher salary in the district is more than $51,000, according to the Enquirer.

"Overall, I'm pleased we were able to ratify the contract," Harper Creek Education Association President Penny Osborne told the Enquirer.

SOURCE:
Battle Creek Enquirer, "Harper Creek teaching contract approved," Dec. 13, 2006
http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061213/NEWS01/612130308/1002

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Teachers in thumb agree to cheaper union health plan," Dec. 5, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8104

Michigan Education Digest, "Pellston teachers choose less expensive health plan," Nov. 21, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/8087

Michigan Education Digest, "Fruitport teachers flock to less expensive MESSA," Sept. 12, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7926


GATES-FUNDED COMMISSION PROPOSES MAJOR EDUCATION REFORMS
DETROIT — A group funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced its support for education reforms -including running schools with private contractors, paying teachers based on performance and replacing local property taxes with state funding for schools — according to the Detroit Free Press.

The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce includes business executives, as well as school officials from New York, Massachusetts and California. According to commission member and former U.S. Labor Secretary William Brock, the group is working to end an "insane" education system that does not prepare students for college or the workplace, the Free Press reported.

"Our children must be given the ability to compete in a global economy, rather than a school system that leads the world in dropout rates," Brock said, according to the Free Press.

The Gates Foundation is willing to help states implement some of the ideas proposed by the commission, Tom Vander Ark, the foundation's education director said, according to the Free Press.

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Group seeks to privatize schools," Dec. 15, 2006
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS07/612150420/1009

The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, "Tough Choices or Tough Times? The Report of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce"
http://www.skillscommission.org/report.htm

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dare We Compare: How American Students Stack Up Against the Competition," Jan. 26, 2006
http://www.mackinac.org/6954

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Why haven't Michigan's High Teacher Salaries Improved Student Performance," Jul. 22, 2003
http://www.mackinac.org/5566


WIN AN IPOD
MIDLAND, Mich. — Michigan Education Report is offering readers a chance to win an iPod when they comment on articles in its Winter 2006 issue. Comments can be made via e-mail about stories on alternative teacher certification (http://www.educationreport.org/8017), successful public school reform (http://www.educationreport.org/8026) and Michigan's cap on charter public schools (http://www.educationreport.org/8043) and (http://www.educationreport.org/8044). Please visit
www.educationreport.org"> www.educationreport.org for more information.


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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