Contents of this issue:

  • No more 'well-paid' dropouts, expert says
  • Judge: Union e-mails are public record
  • School closing group names members
  • New estimate puts DPS enrollment near 96,000
  • Schools show interest in pilot merit pay program


LANSING, Mich. - Michigan's dropout problem is exacerbated by the loss of industrial jobs that once allowed students to quit school and still make a good living, according to an economics professor cited in the Detroit Free Press.

Andrew Sum, also the director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, told attendees at the Michigan Dropout Prevention Summit that, "Michigan used to have among the most well-paid dropouts," the Free Press reported. Sum also described the gap in lifetime earnings between those with and without a college degree, and said dropouts are more likely to live in poverty or be incarcerated.

The summit was conducted to present the findings of statewide hearings on dropout causes and potential solutions, according to the Free Press. Gov. Jennifer Granholm said that participants should become "educational revolutionaries," but also that she does not support softening the state's new high school graduation requirements.

The Detroit Free Press, "Summit deals with 20,000 dropouts a year in Michigan," Oct. 20, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "United Way starts program to curb dropout rates," Aug. 13, 2008


HOWELL, Mich. - E-mails written by union leaders on Howell Public Schools computers are public record, a Livingston County judge has ruled, but the messages will not be released immediately, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Chetly Zarko, of Zarko Research & Consulting, had requested about 5,500 e-mails under the Freedom of Information Act, the Press & Argus reported, but the Howell Education Association sued to block their release. Zarko told the Press & Argus he is investigating whether, during the most recent contract negotiations, some teachers would have been willing to accept a higher pay raise in exchange for moving away from union- affiliated health benefits, and also whether teachers were "lobbying" using school resources.

Circuit Court Judge Stanley J. Latreille ruled that the e-mails are part of the public record, but that actual release of the items is up to school administrators, the Press & Argus reported. Lynn Parrish, deputy superintendent of personnel and labor for the district, said that the items will not be released until the time for any legal appeal ends, the article said.

The Press & Argus could not reach the current HEA president for comment. The union had argued during the suit that the e-mails were not subject to FOIA because they are internal communications that deal with collective bargaining, contract rights and grievances.

The Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Judge finds school union e- mails public record," Oct. 20, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Michigan's Freedom of Information Act," Sept. 13, 2000


BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - A committee charged with recommending which two schools to close in Bloomfield Hills has opted to release the names of its own members, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The district originally declined to identify the parent members of the Facilities Master Planning Team, but the members chose to release their own names at a public meeting Oct. 13. More than 200 people attended the informational meeting, the Free Press reported.

The Free Press had submitted a legal request under the state Freedom of Information Act seeking the names of the planning team members and other information.

"We are now in a process of information-sharing with the community and we are happy to let our identities be known," said Jeffrey Wagner, a parent serving on the committee, according to the Free Press. Wagner said that the members decided to withhold their identities for a period of time while they got to know each other.

The Detroit Free Press, "Bloomfield Hills school closing panel opts to go public," Oct. 14, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "School-closing committee not open to public," Oct. 8, 2008


DETROIT - Detroit Public Schools' estimated enrollment now stands at nearly 96,000 students and could go higher, according to The Detroit News. That figure is roughly 8,000 less than last year but 8,000 more than preliminary reports.

The News reported that DPS officials now expect the final tally to match the projection they used when setting the district budget. A loss of 8,000 students would be the smallest decline in five years, but still would represent the loss of tens of millions of dollars in per-pupil state funding.

"We are feeling very good and hopeful that as the remaining enrollment count continues to take place, that the number will look even more favorable," district spokesman Steve Wasko told The News.

Any final tally below 100,000 would mean the district loses first-class status under the state school code, which would allow certain community colleges to authorize charter public schools in Detroit and potentially impact other district operations, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "DPS student count grows," Oct. 14, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit student count down by 16,000," Sept. 26, 2008


LIVONIA, Mich. - At least one Michigan school district has adopted a merit pay proposal for teachers and others who attended a merit pay forum this month expressed interest in joining a pilot project.

"I challenge the rest of you to take up the torch. We are excited," Superintendent Christine Beardsley of Oscoda Area Schools told attendees at the Livonia event.

Beardsley was one of more than 40 representatives from private and public schools at the education forum, titled "A Merit-Pay Pilot Program for Michigan Public Schools," sponsored by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Forum speakers outlined a team approach to merit pay that would reward educators and their colleagues for students' academic improvement.

The plan calls for Michigan schools to partner with private foundations for funding. The districts, their employees and the foundations would collaborate on details.

The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Michigan Education Report, "Schools show interest in pilot merit pay program," Oct. 21, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Merit Pay Plan for Michigan Public School Educators," Sept. 23, 2008

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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