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Article of Interest - Michigan News

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Bridges4Kids LogoStabenow, Engler Slated to Appear at Proposal 'A' Forum
Gongwer News Service, January 5, 2004
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Former Governor John Engler and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) have both agreed to speak at a day-long forum on the history and effects of the Proposal A school financing system to be held on the 10th anniversary of the proposal's electoral victory.

The forum on Monday, March 15, in the Lansing Center is still being finalized by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, which is sponsoring the event.

Former Treasurer Douglas Roberts, interim director of the institute, said Ms. Stabenow, who as state senator in 1993 offered the legislative amendment that eliminated all property taxes for school funding, will open the session that morning.

Mr. Engler, who essentially oversaw the process to win approval of the school funding plan in the Legislature and then support by the voters in 1994, is scheduled to speak at a luncheon. Mr. Engler called development of Proposal A the crowning achievement of his administration.

Mr. Roberts said he hoped an official from the administration of Governor Jennifer Granholm would close the session.

Also planned, though not yet finalized, is a session featuring academics who have studied the effects of Proposal A on school finance and education, and a session with legislators serving in 1993-94 who will talk about the efforts to develop and pass the proposal as well as current legislators who will discuss whether they think changes are needed to the proposal.

"We're not trying to enshrine or demolish" Proposal A, Mr. Roberts (who also played a major role in its development) said. "We're trying to present its history and what it's done."

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MASA To Back Sales Tax On Services
MIRS, January 5, 2004

Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM's former education advisor said his group will embrace an expansion of the state sales tax to services with hopes of raising new dollars for Michigan schools.

Dr. Michael FLANAGAN reports the Michigan Associaton of School Administrators has not taken a formal stance on it but he expects that sometime this year.

"Absolutely," he said. "There's a fairness issue here."

Flanagan, who was on loan last year to the new governor and still advises her on a weekly basis, pointed out that a person playing a round golf pays no sales tax but a disadvantaged mother buying winter clothes for her children has to pay the 6 percent sales tax.

Last year the Michigan Education Association floated the concept through a group calling itself the Red Cedar Coalition. That movement went nowhere. Now even the governor has hinted she might look at the expanded sales tax as part of a general overhaul of the state's business tax system.

Flanagan argues Michigan's economic future is at risk without more dollars for education.

Education is the foundation of where our economy is going to go. This work force has to really grow. It has to be the best in the country or we can't keep the auto industry," he warns.

Some have suggested any tax shift be revenue neutral. Flanagan disagrees.

"I think we should come up with new bucks. I know politically we're supposed to probably take a position that this should be revenue neutral and that's the way to take the first step." But he rejects the politically popular notion saying that new money is needed now, not later.

What influence, if any, his thinking will have on the new governor as she moves toward a new business tax policy is unclear.

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Michigan Department of Education Pushes Teacher Tenure
Gongwer News Service, January 7, 2004

Teachers would not have sufficient job protection without tenure, the Department of Education said in a report to the legislative Appropriations committees.

Though most of the 9-page report is a history of tenure highlighting 1993 changes to the act, the report from the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins argues that the Public Employees Relations Act and collective bargaining under that act would not be sufficient to protect teachers from politically-motivated firing or disciplinary action.

"The due process protections of the Teachers' Tenure Act are not mandated by the Michigan Public Employees Relations Act," the report said. "Without such statutory protections, tenured public school teachers may risk being considered employees-at-will, with no substantive or procedural due process rights."

The report also notes that teacher collective bargaining rights are not as strong as they were in 1993 when the tenure act was last addressed. In 1994 and 1995, the PERA was amended to provide penalties to teachers who went on strike.

"It is widely recognized that, by effective evaluation and monitoring of teachers, and adequate documentation of findings, school administrators can best ensure the quality of their teaching staff," the report said. "The Teachers' Tenure Act has been amended to strengthen such oversight of both probationary and tenured teachers. The act thus empowers school administrators while guaranteeing basic fairness to Michigan's public school teachers."

In response to questions from the Appropriations Committee members about the cost to the state of the tenure act, the report said the state paid $22,096 for State Tenure Commission operations, including $17,660 for court reporting and transcript fees. The remainder was travel expenses for the administrative law judge and the Tenure Commission.

The Legislature had looked at making "significant" cuts in the operations of the Teacher Tenure Commission, the report said.

Efforts to reach several members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees about the report were unsuccessful.

The report also said that during the 2002-03 fiscal year the commission had hearings on 22 cases, 10 involving motions (which included motions to clarify legal issues involved or to delay further hearings) and 12 on cases on the merits of charges against teachers. During the same year, there were 53 decisions although 22 of those involved withdrawal or dismissal of the case.


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Michigan Bill Would Ban Candy, Soda In Schools
MIRS, January 6, 2004

On the heels of Detroit’s dubious ranking as America’s fattest city, Rep. Frank ACCAVITTI Jr. (D-Eastpointe) today renewed his call for fellow lawmakers and the public to support his bill banning the sale of candy and other sweets in all public schools.

Accavitti’s bill, HB 4441, would also prohibit the sale of soft drinks in elementary and middle schools. It pans chewing gum, candy bars and any food or drink consisting of 35 percent or more sugar. It would also ban juice drinks that are less than 100 percent real fruit or vegetable juice and food or drink with more than 8 grams of fat per serving.

“Poor eating habits develop at an early age,” Accavitti said. “We need to do everything possible to encourage our children to eat more nutritiously and to trim the fat from their diets when they are young, so they form the foundation to lead active and healthy lifestyles as adults.”

The bill has eight Democratic co-sponsors and one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. John PAPPAGEORGE (R-Troy).

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