Michigan city outsources all its schools

One of Michigan’s lowest performing — and highest spending — school districting is turning over its three schools with nearly 1,000 students to a for-profit charter company, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In Highland Park School District, adjacent to Detroit, “only 22 percent of third graders passed state reading exams last school year and just 10 percent passed math,”  reports the Journal. Only 10 percent of high school students were proficient in reading and none in math. Phoenix-based Leona Group will run all three schools.

Highland Park decided to privatize its schools after years of enrollment decline, poor fiscal stewardship and allegations that a board member stole more than $125,000 by submitting false invoices; the charges against the member are pending.

During the 2010-2011 school year, the district spent $16,508 per student. By comparison, Michigan districts on average spent $9,202 per pupil that year. In the process, Highland Park ran up an $11.3 million deficit over its $18.9 million school budget.

Joyce Parker, appointed emergency district manager by Gov. Rick Snyder, ruled out merging Highland Park with a nearby district. “The financial problems were immense and we had to look at nontraditional ways to get the district back on track,” said Parker.

Under Leona’s management, the schools will receive $7,110 per pupil in state funding and an undetermined amount of federal funds for low-income and special education students.

Under the state emergency law, all the district’s professional staff has been laid off.  Teachers can apply for jobs with Leona, but the company “has budgeted about $36,000 a year for Highland Park teachers on average . . . compared with almost $65,000 a year the teachers received in the 2010-11 school year, reports the Journal.

So Leona will have much less money per student, inexperienced teachers and students who are way, way behind academically. It doesn’t look promising.


Grass cutters earn more than teachers

Eighteen grass cutters and three pest sprayers earned $50,000 last year working for Broward County schools, more per day than most teachers with 10 years experience, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  Seventeen stock clerks earned $52,000 or more; two mail clerks were paid $49,000. Painters and roofers outearned teachers with 16 years of experience: 34 painters and 24  roofers made at least $59,000.

Broward County laid off more than 1,000 people last year and cut art, physical education and music programs, but hasn’t taken advice to outsource maintenance and transportation jobs.

The graders are in Bangalore

To improve undergrads’ writing skills, University of Houston Professor Lori Whisenant assigns lots of writing in her business law and ethics class, which enrolls 1,000 students a year. But she doesn’t have time to read all those papers. Her seven teaching assistants lack the experience and time to provide detailed feedback. So she outsources assignment grading to Virtual-TA, which relies on readers based mostly in Asia, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Asia” must mean India, where educated people speak English — though not American English. You’d think there’d be a pool of unemployed English majors available for online work for low pay in the U.S. There are plenty of unemployed PhDs in the humanities, a Chronicle column notes.

Via Mark Perry’s Carpe Diem.

In response to comments: A newspaper friend who edits calendar write-ups outsourced to India finds it necessary to change Anglo-Indian expressions and diction to American English.