Contents of this issue:
  • Teacher "sick-out" forces Detroit schools to close

  • Fact finder agrees with both sides in Ironwood

  • Detroit school enrollment down more than expected

  • New Catholic school planned

  • East Detroit to enforce residency requirement

  • Leelanau County schools consider collaboration

  • Intermediate school districts form consortium

DETROIT — More than 38,000 students in the Detroit Public Schools were denied instruction on March 22 as 1,700 teachers staged an apparent sick-out, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The action caused 54 schools to be closed for the day, the Free Press reported. The number of teachers who called in sick was about five times as many compared to an average day. The Free Press reported that teachers were upset because while they agreed to a contract provision calling for them to loan five days' pay to the district, administrators and principals will receive pay increases of up to 10 percent. The district has said it will repay the teachers next year. The district also said administrators and principals took 10 percent pay cuts last year, and this year's increase is to get them back to original levels, the Free Press reported.

The teachers' action caused scheduling problems for parents who had to pick up children at school.

"I understand what the teachers are doing; I'm a union worker," parent Debra Jones told the Free Press. "But what about the kids? There's got to be an easier way to solve this."

Jones said she had to leave her job as a manager at Kroger's in order to pick up her daughter.

The teachers' "sick-out" came one day after the first of the five reduced paychecks they will receive this semester, the Free Press reported. If the situation continues, the school year may have to be extended to make up for lost class time, Superintendent William F. Coleman III said.

"I don't want to believe the teachers will continue to deprive Detroit Public Schools students of an education over a contract dispute," Coleman told the Free Press. "The majority of our teachers came to work today. That in itself shows there's dedication."

Janna Garrison, president of the Detroit teachers union, said the Detroit Federation of Teachers did not condone the action, the Free Press reported. A memo sent to schools said teachers who called in sick and do not have a doctor's excuse may not be paid for the day, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Teachers' protest over pay cancels classes," March 23, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit school district reaches short-term agreement," Aug. 30, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table," Aug. 1, 1998

IRONWOOD, Mich. — A state-appointed fact finder said both the Ironwood school district and teachers union have valid points on the various issues that divide them, according to the Ironwood Daily Globe.

The report, submitted by James Mackracz to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, sides with the Ironwood Area School District on fiscal matters, and with the Ironwood Education Association on work rules, the Daily Globe reported.

Mackraz said an insurance cap of $975 a month per person, which the district agreed to for support staff, also should apply to teachers. Insurance costs at the start of the school year stood at more than $16,200 per teacher annually, the Daily Globe reported. The district had offered teachers a monthly cap of $1,050, but lowered that to $900 a month.

The fact finder said the district "made an impressive case for its adverse financial condition," according to the Daily Globe. Mackraz sided with the union, however, regarding the work rules, or "non-economic" areas, such as a longer school day and instituting a middle school model.

"From the beginning, I was convinced that something was awry in the parties' relationship," the Daily Globe said, quoting Mackraz's report.

According to the Daily Globe, the district and union say negotiations with a mediator will resume. The fact finding report is non-binding.

Ironwood Daily Globe, "Fact finder issues recommendation," March 16, 2006

Ironwood Daily Globe, "Negotiations to resume," March 16, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "MESSA at heart of Ironwood deadlock," Feb. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "UP students add voices to labor battle," Jan. 24, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA Reference Page," March 10, 2006

DETROIT — Enrollment in Detroit Public Schools is down about 11,500 students compared to last year, according to The Detroit News.

The drop, estimated by the Wayne County Regional Education Service Agency, is about 1,500 more than expected, and will result in more than $60 million less in state aid for the district, The News reported. DPS in November estimated enrollment at about 130,600, which would have been 10,000 less than the 2004-2005 school year. The Wayne County RESA audit, submitted to the state earlier in March, shows the number at about 129,150, The News reported.

"Naturally we are concerned about the suggestion we lost more kids than we thought," school spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo told The News. "We are going to work hard at our outreach and we want to step up our campaign even more this year."

The Detroit News, "Detroit schools lose 11,500 kids at a cost of $63M," March 17, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit-area districts encourage students to attend count day," Oct. 4, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "State charter schools see enrollment increase; urban schools continue to lose students," March 7, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit Schools' Deficit Appears Linked to Adding Staff During Enrollment Decline, Says Analyst," July 29, 2004

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools enrollment drops again," Nov. 29, 2005

MACOMB TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Groundbreaking for a new Catholic high school north of Detroit should take place within two years, according to The Detroit News.

Austin Catholic Academy, planned for northern Macomb County, will cost about $24 million to build. Backers say they have raised about 20 percent, The News reported.

The Macomb County Regional Catholic High School group, consisting of seven area parishes, has been pursuing a new school since 1996, The News reported. The Archdiocese of Detroit approved the plan in 2000 and bought 63 acres for the new school. The academy will house up to 800 students in grades 9-12, and will be run by the Augustinian Fathers, an order that ran Austin Catholic Prep on Detroit's east side for more than 25 years.

The Detroit News, "School backers optimistic," March 13, 2006 603130322/1026

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit could get new coed Catholic school," Dec. 20, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Catholic schools and the common good," Aug. 16, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Court correctly ended MEA's Catholic school bid," Dec. 15, 2005

MT. CLEMENS, Mich. — East Detroit Public Schools will enforce its residency requirement by making parents produce evidence they live within the district's boundaries, The Macomb Daily reported.

Beginning in the fall, any of East Detroit's 5,700 students who do not live in the district or provide the proper documentation will be prohibited from enrolling in the district's schools, according to The Daily. The district, which does not participate in "schools of choice," will require parents to give proof of address with a driver's license, a utility bill, a property affidavit or a mortgage payment book. The district sent 3,200 letters to students' homes to notify parents that registration begins April 3. The letters have provoked questions and complaints from parents, which the paper reported would likely continue at the school board's April 6 meeting. According to The Detroit News, registration will close on June 16.

In addition to postage and clerical expenses, the district hired a private investigator who found that at least 60 East Detroit students did not live in the district, according to The Daily. Furthermore, for each student it prohibits from re-enrolling, the district would lose the per-pupil funding it receives from the state, the newspaper said.

The Macomb Daily reported that nonresident parents who enroll their kids in the district could be prosecuted for falsifying government documents.

The Macomb Daily, "Schools demand residency proof," March 27, 2006

The Detroit News, "E. Detroit students required to reregister," March 28, 2006 SearchID=73239832462279

Michigan Education Report, "School choice develops in Michigan: Not universal, though school employees get a leg up," Aug. 16, 2005

LELAND, Mich. — School districts on the Leelanau Peninsula are considering a "federated" school system that would allow them to work together but maintain autonomy, according to the Leelanau Enterprise.

School board members and administrators from Glen Lake, Suttons Bay, Northport and Leland will meet April 12 to discuss the idea, including information presented at a recent Michigan Association of School Boards "Creative Collaborations" conference, the Enterprise reported.

"A federation is a different look that would allow us to centralize operations, staffing and administrative services without the schools losing their identities," Leland Superintendent Mike Hartigan told the Enterprise.

Leelanau Enterprise, "Federated school system?" March 9, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "State law gives financial incentive for district consolidation," March 5, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Consolidation of School Districts," Jan. 29, 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Districts: Is Less More?" July 11, 2001

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Superintendents in nine southwest Michigan intermediate school districts have signed a consortium agreement that could reduce costs by avoiding duplication of services, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Participating ISDs are from Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties. The agreement covers seven specific areas, including teaching and learning, administrative services and technology, the Gazette reported.

"The ISDs have been working collaboratively together for many years," Jeff Mills, superintendent of the Van Buren ISD, told the Gazette. The consortium provides the separate districts a formal way to work on projects, Mills added.

Mills said, for example, Van Buren already offers services for hearing-impaired children to Barry and Cass, the Gazette reported, because teachers certified for special education are harder to find.

Kalamazoo Gazette, "Nine local school superintendents sign consortium document," March 12, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm approves ISD reform bills," July 27, 2004

Michigan Education Digest, "House approves local control of ISDs," June 29, 2004

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of nearly 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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