Contents of this issue:
  • Southfield creates its own version of the 'Kalamazoo Promise'
  • Technical and vocational schools fill niche for economy
  • Flint area schools battle over health insurance
  • NAEP results find students performing poorly in civics
  • Brighton schools consider cutting transportation
  • Hillsdale offering free seminar for teachers

DETROIT — Southfield is the first school district in metro Detroit to create a program modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise and offer college tuition assistance to those with financial need, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The program started when an anonymous corporation donated $5,000 to the fund, which will be managed by the Southfield Community Foundation. A committee is being formed to organize the program and to raise money from other corporations and alumni, the Free Press reported. A sliding scale of financial aid from the foundation could be available for use by the class of 2009, according to the Free Press.

Thom Bainbridge, a community activist, started the Southfield program in hopes of bringing companies to the area and helping to provide a larger pool of educated students, the Free Press reported.

"If you're thinking of relocating your business and you can look at a community that offers something like this, you might say, 'Gee, what a wonderful idea to start a business here or open a branch of my business here,'" Bainbridge told the Free Press.

Enrollment in Southfield Public Schools has been declining over the past five years, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, "Southfield schools seek to guarantee tuition aid for grads," May 17, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Flint Promise?" Aug. 15, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "K-Promise: A whole new environment for Kalamazoo," March 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Charters, independent schools not worried about K-Promise," Nov. 29, 2005

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Technical and vocational schools, which focus on preparing people for careers that need specialized training but not a generalized college study, are supplying the health and IT fields with trained employees in as little as six months, according to Michigan Business Review.

The Everest Institute, formally known as the Olympia Career Training Institute, is a branch of Corinthian Colleges, a publicly-traded corporation with more than 120 campuses in the United States and Canada. The Kalamazoo campus offers programs in medical assisting, dental assisting, medical administrative assistance, pharmacy technician work and massage therapy. The Grand Rapids campus also offers a program in practical nursing and in medical insurance billing and coding, but does not have the pharmacy technician program, the Michigan Business Review reported.

"What your employers are looking for is someone who is trained, ready to hit the ground and be effective," Stender told Michigan Business Review.

The New Horizons Computer Learning Centers of Michigan is part of a national chain of information technology learning institutions whose individual schools are privately owned, according to the Michigan Business Review.

Both schools offer opportunities to any type of student, whether they are recent high school graduates, or older people looking to start their second career.

"Some have bachelor's degrees or even master's degrees," Stender told the Michigan Business Review. "They're saying 'I want to do something different but I don't want to take that long to get my second career going.'"

Stender also commented on the Institute's ability to fill a special gap in the economy, Michigan Business Review reported.

Michigan Business Review, "For-profit schools: Fast training for current jobs," May 17, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Graduation standards put future of vocational ed. in doubt," Feb. 14, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hope in State Graduation Standards Misplaced," Jan. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "State board approves graduation requirements," Dec. 20, 2005

FLINT, Mich. — Many school districts in Genesee County are examining their union health coverage in lieu of a possible reduction in the per-pupil funding increase from the state, according to The Flint Journal.

Goodrich School District Superintendent Kimberley Hart learned firsthand about health insurance sold by the Michigan Education Special Services Association's as a teacher when her son had surgeries to correct certain health problems and had to pay nothing for them, The Journal reported. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union.

Now, as superintendent, Hart said she thinks it is time to examine the amount the district pays for health insurance.

"I benefited from MESSA from the time I started as a teacher, and I don't want to knock it, but the time has come where we have to look at keeping the district afloat," Hart told The Journal.

Currently, five districts in Genesee County still fully fund MESSA's most expensive health plan, Supercare I. In some districts, like Clio, teachers have taken smaller pay increases to keep their MESSA coverage, The Journal reported.

Most districts in the county have switched to MESSA's less expensive health plan, Choices II, or have asked that employees contribute a share of their own health insurance by paying the difference in cost between the two plans, according to The Journal.

In Flushing and Kearsley, districts have switched from MESSA entirely and now use Flex Blue. Under this plan, the districts pay a $1,250 deductible for single employees and $2,500 for families, and hope to see savings from unexpended deductibles.

"We felt it would be more beneficial for teachers to have money in their salary, which goes toward their pension, than to continue with MESSA," Flushing Education Association union President Gae Ann Dudley told The Journal. "We were offered comparable coverage."

Switching from MESSA has been difficult in many districts because teachers want to fight to keep an insurance that pays 80 percent of the cost for wigs needed for health reasons, as well as unlimited massages for those who physically need them. The massages are limited to 38 per year under Choices II, the Journal reported.

Hart said she thinks switching to less expensive health insurance is reasonable and necessary.

"We have so many people in the community who are having to pay for health care, who have no health care or lost their jobs," she told The Journal.

The Flint Journal, "A whole MESSA trouble," May 20, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Collective Bargaining Primer For Michigan School Board Members," Feb. 28, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Royal Oak teachers protest at board meeting, want to keep MESSA," May 1, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Growing number of districts seek solutions to costly health insurance," Dec. 15, 2005

DETROIT — Students who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress test in 2006 improved slightly on the history test, but are still struggling in civics education, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The test was administered to students in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades and each grade level outperformed their counterparts in 1994 and 2001. Students in grade 4 improved their performance on the civics test compared to students in 1998, but students in grades eight and 12 showed no improvement.

"What is most discouraging is that as students grow older and progress through the grades towards adulthood and eligibility to vote, their civic knowledge and dispositions seem to grow weaker," said David Gordon, a member of the NAEP Governing Board, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "National test finds most students aren't excelling in civics," May 16, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Michigan is above average — but that's not saying much," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan students average; black students lagging," Oct. 25, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Ideology Perpetuates the Achievement Gap," Feb. 2, 2005

BRIGHTON, Mich. — The Brighton Area Schools need to eliminate a projected $2.1 million deficit and are strongly considering saving $2.3 million by eliminating all school transportation, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

The district has not decided on a plan of action, but has worked on several different scenarios, including laying off 35 teachers. Other plans include eliminating all athletic programs while also saving nearly $1 million by contracting for all support staff. To completely eliminate the deficit, the district would also have to contract for all administrators and guidance staff, the Daily Press & Argus reported.

Brighton is currently in negotiations with the union and may also consider reducing salary and benefits. The biggest dilemma for the district is cutting programs that will not impact enrollment.

"We don't want to create a situation where we balance the budget and not have the programs that meets the needs of our customers," Superintendent Jim Craig told the Daily Press & Argus.

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Schools may look to slash busing," May 17, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

HILLSDALE, Mich. — Economics, social studies, civics and history teachers are invited to participate in a free summer seminar July 15-21 as part of the Foundation for Teaching Economics program, "Economics for Leaders." The seminar takes place on the campus of Hillsdale College and will be led by Dr. Gary Wolfram, Munson Professor of Political Economy at the school. The program is based on the National Voluntary Standards in Economic Education. Room and board is free, and each participant will receive a $150 stipend. Credit hours are available, and three SBCEUs are free of charge for Michigan public school teachers.

Visit for more information, or call 800-383-4335.

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

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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