Contents of this issue:
  • State budget debate leaves schools with funding questions
  • Saginaw public charter school working to open on time
  • Portage-area students win MichiganScience essay contest
  • Union concessions halt contracting plans
  • Teacher salaries raise questions
  • Comment and win an iPod

HANCOCK, Mich. — Political rancor over Michigan's 2008 fiscal year budget is causing problems for public school districts, according to The Daily Mining Gazette.

"Inter-party fighting is playing a real part here," Hancock Superintendent John Vaara recently told his board of education, The Gazette reported. "It's a political football with neither side willing to take a stand before they really have to."

Legislators have until the end of September to agree on a budget that will run from Oct. 1, 2007 through Sept. 30, 2008, including how much state aid public schools will receive for each pupil assigned to them. Hancock begins classes Sept. 4, The Gazette reported.

"Not knowing how much we're going to get is a tough thing to handle," Vaara said, according to The Gazette.

The Daily Mining Gazette, "Local schools in holding pattern on state funding," Aug. 22, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Show me the money: Mackinac Center book explains how Michigan pays for K-12 public schools," Aug. 15, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer for Policymakers, School Officials, Media and Residents: State Budget Process," May 30, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan ranks 16th in nation for school funding," June 5, 2007

SAGINAW, Mich. — Work crews are busy refurbishing an old building as administrators finalize staff size and enrollment at a new charter public school in Saginaw County, according to The Saginaw News.

International Academy of Saginaw, the county's fourth charter public school, is scheduled to open Sept. 4 with about 250 students' parents choosing to send their children there, The News reported. The school originally anticipated having 300 students.

Dan Quisenberry, director of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, told The News it usually does not take long for charter public schools to reach enrollment projections, especially considering that two-thirds of them statewide have student waiting lists.

"They may not even know what they're really looking at yet," Quisenberry told The News. "All of that kind of shakes out over September."

The Saginaw News, "First day looms for charter school," Aug. 20, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Saginaw County schools face competition from new charter," July 24, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A School Money Primer for Policymakers, School Officials, Media and Residents: The Foundation Allowance — General Education: Charter Schools," May 30, 2007

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Three Portage-area students took first, second and third places in an essay contest called "Scientific or Not?" sponsored by MichiganScience, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

MichiganScience is a quarterly publication of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The contest for students in grades 6 through 12 required them to analyze in 500 words or less a scientific fact or fallacy from pop culture.

Genna Greenberger, from Portage Central, won first place and a $500 scholarship for her essay about Disney's "The Little Mermaid." Greenberger wrote that because water pressure is heavier than air pressure, the characters in the movie could not survive at the bottom of the ocean.

Second place went to Alisha Kamboj, from Portage Northern, who pointed out scientific errors in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow," The Gazette reported. Phoebe Huberty of Portage Central won third place for analyzing the Fizzy Lifting Drink from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

"You have to drink more and more because of the added weight of the drink," Huberty told The Gazette.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Scientific or not? Ask a Portage student," Aug. 22, 2007

MichiganScience, "Contest winner takes on Disney," Aug. 8, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "U.S. won't participate in international math and science test," Aug. 21, 2007

JACKSON, Mich. — The custodians union in the Hanover-Horton school district agreed to $160,000 in concessions to avoid the district contracting for the service with a private firm, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

The district received bids from four contractors to provide janitorial services for the coming school year, the lowest being $295,525, The Citizen Patriot reported. The union concessions bring the cost of keeping the work in-house down to just more than $300,000.

Custodians agreed to contribute money toward the cost of their own health insurance, and two vacant positions will not be filled, according to The Citizen Patriot. The district also is considering new cleaning equipment and techniques that could save more money.

"We know they're capable of rising to the challenge," Superintendent Linda Brian told The Citizen Patriot.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Board opts to pass on privatizing custodians," Aug. 21, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A School Privatization Primer for Michigan School Officials, Media and Residents," June 26, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Annual pay for more than 1,100 teachers in Washtenaw and Livingston counties is over $75,000, according to The Ann Arbor News.

Overall, more than 1,450 school employees topped $75,000 in earnings for 2006, an income matched by fewer than half the households in those counties, The News reported. "Teachers should be well compensated," Nancy Brenton, deputy superintendent for Saline Area Schools, told The News. "Good teachers should be particularly well compensated."

Not all feel that way.

"I think teachers here in Ann Arbor are a bit overpaid," parent Rick Calivito told The News. "If they are going to get paid as much as they do, then they should give up some more in terms of benefits. I know lots of people who make as much as the top teachers, but don't have all the vacation time teachers do."

National Education Association statistics show Michigan teachers average $58,482 a year, which is fourth highest in the country, according to The News.

Vernon Polite, dean of the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University, told The News he doesn't believe that paying teachers more will increase student performance.

"That's the biggest question in education," he said. "I don't think pay is the mitigating factor. I think there's a collection of factors, and pay's not really in the picture. Some of the highest paid teachers are in school districts that are not showing high achievement."

The Ann Arbor News, "How much pay for teachers?" Aug. 26, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "NEA: Michigan teachers paid above national average," Dec. 20, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality: How Do They Relate?" April 16, 1999

Michigan Education Report, "Increase teachers' pay the right way," Sept. 13, 2000

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper 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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