Changes to Michigan's teacher retirement system a 'positive' for state, investor service says

Changes to Michigan's teacher retirement system are a "positive" development because state and local entities "no longer carry the entire burden of investment performance risk for new employee pensions," according to an analysis by Moody's Investors Service. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation this month that aims to steer new public-school employees into 401(k)-style retirement plans. The new law goes into effect in February. As part of the legislation, a revised "hybrid" pension plan was created that new employees can opt into. The plan -- a mix between a traditional pension and a 401(K) -- requires slightly higher employee contributions than the previous pension plan and places greater risk on employees if the plan becomes underfunded. (MLive)


Collapse of health care bill protects $98M in Medicaid for Michigan schools, advocates say

As efforts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act collapsed Tuesday, one public school advocate expressed optimism that a prized service - reimbursements for school-based health services - had escaped the chopping block. Bills in the House and Senate to repeal and replace the ACA would have capped Medicaid funding to states, a federal-state partnership that provides health care for low-income residents. Education groups worried the change would result in less funding to reimburse schools for health services provided to students with disabilities, as mandated by federal law. "We got a win," said Kathleen Merry, who oversees Medicaid reimbursements for the Wayne Regional Education Service Agency. "We did win in terms of being able to ... help our U.S. Senators to understand the ramifications to health care." (MLive)


Educator a year-round job

Opinion: Working in a public school doesn’t begin or end when the bell rings. School employees are doing more than ever with fewer resources and shrinking paychecks to make sure students get the best education possible — and that stretches into the summer months. During the summer break, many MEA members work second and even third jobs to support their families, while finding creative ways to prepare for the next school year through professional development and other opportunities. To debunk the myth that educators have “summer off,” we recently asked our members what they’re up to during break. Here are just a few examples: (Detroit News)


Howell schools, police partner to re-instate SRO

The Howell Police Department and Howell Public Schools has renewed their partnership to bring back a school resource officer beginning in the fall. Officer Don Banfield, a 16-year veteran of the Howell Police Department, will serve as the SRO, whose goal is to foster a positive relationship between students and the law enforcement community. “We are very excited to see the return of the SRO position to Howell Public Schools,” school Superintendent Erin MacGregor said. “The safety of our students and staff is our top priority and reinstating the SRO is another step we are taking to ensure that our schools are a safe and positive learning environment for all students. (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)


Settlement 'framework' reached in lawsuit over Michigan school closures

The state of Michigan and several school districts have "achieved a broad framework" to settle a lawsuit in which the districts say the state acted unlawfully by threatening to close low-performing schools in their districts. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens on Tuesday morning said both sides have "engaged in intense settlement conversations seeking to serve the best interest of the state of Michigan and its children." Stephens said the case - brought by school districts in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Saginaw and Eastpointe - will be subject to dismissal or entry of an opinion on or before Sept. 5. (MLive)


Missed deduction irks vacationing BCPS teachers

Vacationing Battle Creek Public Schools teachers who saw extra cash in their first July paycheck won’t be as lucky the second time around. The district will deduct two health insurance premium payments this Friday after failing to deduct a payment on July 7 due to a technical error. Barb Giallombardo, president of the 275-member Battle Creek Education Association, gave Board of Education members an earful for three minutes for the mistake during the public comment portion of the board's regular monthly meeting. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Harper Creek committee: Focus on vision, not logos

A Harper Creek schools committee has recommended the district focus on its vision statement — Educate, Empower, Equip Students for Life — and not any particular logo when it comes to image. "The mission/vision statement can also set the culture for the district — the cornerstone of how we do business at Harper Creek," said Derek Malone, chairman of the board's branding and culture ad-hoc committee. "Every interaction or communication is guided by educating, empowering and equipping the listener." (Battle Creek Enquirer)


She's in charge of transforming Battle Creek schools

Not every educator gets a chance to transform an entire school district. Anita Harvey will. And she has a five-year plan to get the job done. She is directing teams of administrators, teachers, parents and students, and making the most of a $51 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to rebuild Battle Creek Public Schools. Under Harvey's leadership, the teams will revamp early childhood education, student services, district operations, after-school programs, curriculum development, family and community engagement, and assist teachers and other employees who care about the district. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Lansing School District ends single-gender classrooms

LANSING - Two years after implementing separate core subject classrooms for boys and girls at Lansing’s Willow Elementary, the district’s Board of Education voted Thursday night to suspend the practice. The decision comes one year after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into whether the use of single-gender classrooms by the district complied with Title IX, the federal law barring discrimination based on sex. The district fell afoul of federal officials because it didn’t seek their approval prior to implementing the plan, according to Lansing Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul. Doing so would have required the district to explain its goal of closing an achievement gap between male and female students and backing it up with data. (Lansing State Journal)


Snyder signs Michigan teacher retirement reforms

Lansing – Republican Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday signed into law controversial legislation to overhaul Michigan’s teacher retirement system and steer new hires into 401(k)-style savings accounts rather than hybrid pensions. The plan faced opposition from public education groups but was a top priority for GOP legislators who say it could help the state avoid adding to the $29.1 billion in unfunded liabilities accrued in an older pension plan closed to new hires in 2010. Snyder opposed an earlier plan to close the hybrid pension system completely. But he negotiated the final product and signed it one day after the Legislature approved a separate business tax incentive plan he had prioritized, his last chance to do so under a 14-day rule. (Detroit News)

Related story:

> MLive: Changes to Michigan's teacher retirement system signed into law by Gov. Snyder


Michigan preparing for discussion with feds on school accountability plan

State Superintendent Brian Whiston says he's ready to begin discussions with the U.S. Department of Education on the state's plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the nation's new federal education law. Whiston, in a news release, said he's spoken by phone with a "top official" at the federal education department and that he expects to receive a letter asking for clarification on elements of Michigan's ESSA compliance plan, which covers areas such as how to hold accountable the state's lowest performing schools. As of Thursday afternoon, the Michigan Department of Education has not received that letter, spokesman Martin Ackley said. (MLive)


Transgender bathroom restrictions won't land school district in court

JENISON, MI - An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan says the organization won't challenge Jenison Public Schools transgender bathroom guidelines in court, despite the "very negative message'' being sent. Jay Kaplan, attorney with the ACLU of Michigan's LBGT Project, said he is hopeful two cases currently in federal court can be the catalyst for change. "To bring a legal challenge would take much longer than what could be happening in the 6th Circuit of Appeals,'' he said. Kaplan has been lobbying Jenison to allow transgender students to use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity since a high school student complained to the group over spring break. (MLive)


How court decision hailed by Betsy DeVos could impact Michigan's private school funding fight

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Missouri's denial of a maintenance grant to a religious preschool has relatively little impact on a Michigan lawsuit over $2.5 million in state funding for nonpublic schools, two legal experts say. Last month, the high court ruled 7-2 that the state of Missouri violated the U.S. Constitution's free exercise of religion clause when it denied Trinity Lutheran Church, of Columbia, Mo., a grant to resurface its playground. The ruling was hailed by school choice advocates, including U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, as a victory for religious freedom and efforts to provide public funding for private schools. (MLive)


Rockford teachers ratify first multi-year contract in years

ROCKFORD, MI - Rockford Public Schools new three-year contract with its teachers union is a departure from what has been a series of one-year deals. The new agreement calls for teachers to see a .6 percent salary increase the first year and a .3 percent hike the second year. There is a freeze the third year, unless student enrollment increases by over 100 kids. "In year one, the average teacher would get about a $350 increase,'' said assistant superintendent of Human Resources Doug VanderJagt. "They would also get a step incremental (based on years on the job), which ranges from $2,500 down to $100 but most would get anywhere from $100 to $1,000.'' (MLive)


Kalamazoo schools spend $44,450 on lawsuits against state

KALAMAZOO, MI -- Kalamazoo Public Schools has spent $44,450 on two lawsuits against the state, neither of which are likely to be resolved anytime soon. The district is the plaintiff in cases filed with the Michigan Court of Claims on Feb. 22 and March 21. The first is against the School Reform Office for its effort to close 38 low-performing schools, and another is over reimbursements to private schools. Director of Communications Alex Lee said the legal fees are covered by the general fund, which is supported by local, state and federal dollars. (MLive)


Grand Rapids new union deal bumps up teacher pay, changes salary format

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Grand Rapids school leaders and its teachers union are praising a new contract with a revamped salary schedule that boosts the starting salary of teachers more than $3,400 and provides salary hikes for mid-career educators. "This product is the result of a very collaborative, cooperative process between the parties from the beginning," said Joe Washington, Michigan Education Association (MEA) Uniserv Director. "This does a great job of helping keep teachers and ancillary staff in Grand Rapids because we saw we were losing quality people. Although we are not where we want to be, we are moving in that direction.'' (MLive)

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