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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