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Defining ‘best practices’

November 22, 2011
By KURT HAUGLIE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - A plan by Gov. Rick Snyder to allow school districts to get back $100 of $470-per-pupil cut by the Michigan Legislature in May is being followed by school administrators, but some of them are not happy about having to do so.

The $470-per-pupil cut was done to balance the state budget.

In June, Snyder signed legislation, which provides $154 million to school districts, which achieve at least four of five financial "best practices."

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Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Hancock Public Schools Board of Education is among the school boards that have discussed the governor’s “best practices” initiative at length over the past few months.

The five best practices are: charge employees at least 10 percent of the health care premium; hold policy on medical benefit plans (if directly employed by district); develop and implement a Service Consolidation Plan; obtain competitive bids on non-instructional services; and provide a dashboard or report card with specific indicators.

Hancock Public Schools Superintendent Monica Healy said many school districts, including Hancock, have been doing what Snyder is calling best practices for years.

"We actually have four of the five in place," she said.

Healy said over the past summer, employees agreed to pay the 10 percent for health care premiums, the district has also consolidated services by using the Copper Country Intermediate School District business manager services, and taken competitive bids on transportation.

The dashboard should be ready soon, Healy said.

"We're working on that right now," she said. "It's like a one-stop shopping center."

Although the dashboard is not yet online, Healy said much of the information about the district and student performances it will contain has been available in other forms for years.

Steps required to fulfill the governor's best practices have been done in the district for years, Healy said, including taking competitive bids for non-instructional services and consolidating services.

"We're always looking at consolidation of non-instructional services," she said.

The one item in the list of five best practices Hancock schools isn't following now is being the policy holder for medical benefit plans, and Healy said that has to do in large part to not knowing exactly how that should be done.

"There's a lot of interpretation of what that means," she said.

Healy said since most of what Snyder is requiring for best practices has been done in the district for years, she doesn't appreciate having to put it all into one form, but she knows it's necessary to get the $100 per-pupil funding from the state.

"I have mixed feelings," she said. "It's not extra money we're getting to do these things. It's money (the Legislature) took away."

Healy said the board of education will soon consider applying for the best practices funding.

Darryl Pierce, superintendent of the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw, said the board of education at its November meeting approved applying for the funding.

"We complied with all five of (the best practices)," he said.

Pierce said he is frustrated by the best practices requirement, and he views it as a way for the Legislature to make up for cutting the per-pupil state foundation grant by $470.

"I think it's just a way to put money on the foundation grant," he said.

Pierce said he's also frustrated by the best practices because it's a one-time program.

"You do these things for one year, then you don't have to do it again," he said.

Pierce said the district has consolidated services and taken competitive bidding on custodial and transportation services as well as coaching staff. The district's dashboard is online.

Although the C-L-K district is the policy holder for medical insurance benefits, Pierce said he agrees with Healy it's unclear exactly what that means.

"Nobody's defining what 'policy holder' is," he said.

Last year, Pierce said C-L-K schools received $7,316 per pupil in state funding, and with the $470 per-pupil cut, that amount is reduced to $6,846 per pupil for this school year. The district will get $151,615 from the state for the 2011-12 school year.

There is currently an excess of money in the state school aid fund, but Pierce said Snyder may use it for other state funding needs. Snyder has also stated he would like the state to have a single fund, from which the governor would decide how to distribute money.

Pierce said many superintendents are frustrated by the requirements of the best practices to get back only $100 of the $470 per pupil state school funding taken away from them.

"This thing should never have been done by the state," he said.



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