Contents of this issue:
  • Reeths-Puffer to save money by privatizing janitors

  • Holland teachers skip student events

  • District, state disagree on Beecher deficit

  • More Michigan teachers face background checks

  • Tuition tax credits get the nod in Arizona

  • Some teachers doubtful students can meet NCLB requirements

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Reeths-Puffer school board unanimously voted to privatize janitorial services as part of a savings plan to reduce an estimated $830,000 budget deficit, according to The Muskegon Chronicle. Administrators say the deficit is due to increasing employee health care and retirement costs.

The custodial union and school officials did not reach a contract agreement that could have kept the 29 janitorial positions in-house, The Chronicle reported. The school board instead voted to hire Enviro-Clean Services of Holland, according to the newspaper.

Several hundred people protested before the meeting, and a uniformed police officer was present, The Chronicle reported. Michigan Education Association President Iris Salters attended the rally and told the protestors to "hang tough," according to The Chronicle. Also at the rally, state Rep. Doug Bennett, D-Muskegon, said school districts in West Michigan would get rid of "everyone you trust," and give the jobs to "illegal immigrants," by privatizing custodians and bus drivers, The Chronicle reported.

Bennett was heard to tell Kathie Oakes of the teachers union, "We all know what's going to happen — they are going to hire illegal immigrants to fill the jobs," according to The Chronicle. The newspaper said Bennett tried to clarify his remarks when he discovered a Chronicle reporter was standing next to Oakes.

The Chronicle said Bennett explained himself by saying Holland, home of Enviro-Clean, also is home to many illegal immigrants. The Chronicle also reported that Bennett repeated his remarks to the entire crowd a few minutes later and was met with a "somewhat muted response."

Reeths-Puffer and several other Muskegon County schools are considering a move to privatize bus drivers as a way to save more money, The Chronicle reported.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Board votes to hire janitor firm, cut union jobs," April 18, 2006

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Legislator: 'Illegals' will fill jobs," April 18, 2006

Michigan Privatization Report, "Around the State," April 17, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Earning High Marks for Privatization in Pinckney," Sept. 1, 1997

Michigan Education Digest, "Muskegon ISD looking to privatize busing," March 7, 2006

HOLLAND, Mich. — Teachers in the Holland Public Schools are skipping student events as a way to protest ongoing contract negotiations, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

No teachers attended an open house at Harrington Elementary School, including those who had earlier signed up to volunteer, The Press reported. Parents and administrators stepped in to run the event. The district is holding six open houses for parents and children as part of a school reorganization plan.

Some Harrington teachers left their unattended vehicles parked in front of the school with signs taped in the windows, according to The Press.

Charles Bullard, president of the local teachers union, indicated union members were not present at a senior band concert the same night, The Press reported. Teachers are invited to extracurricular activities, but are not required to attend.

Contract negotiations continue monthly, although the school board earlier declared an impasse and implemented a less expensive health insurance plan, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Teachers stage mini-mutiny on pirate parties," April 17, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland declares second impasse, teachers get free insurance," Jan. 17, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "School districts wrestle with high health care costs," March 7, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Irony in Ironwood," March 23, 2006

FLINT, Mich. — Beecher Public Schools and the Michigan Department of Education have a $1.9 million disagreement over the district's budget, according to The Flint Journal.

Beecher Superintendent Forrest Gunderson said the district has emerged from a seven-year budget deficit and will end the 2005-2006 school year with a six-figure surplus, The Journal reported. The state, however, shows Beecher ending the year with a $1.9 million shortfall.

"That's a year old," Gunderson said. "We did end last year with sizable (debt)."

Glenda Rader of the Michigan Department of Education said a deficit reduction plan filed Jan. 11 by the district shows a $1.9 million deficit at the end of the year, according to The Journal.

"I'm not saying (a surplus is) impossible," Rader told The Journal. "We'd love to see it happen. It's just not in the information they've supplied to us."

The district cut $1.2 million from its budget last year by closing buildings, freezing salaries and cutting positions, according to The Journal.

The Flint Journal, "Beecher, state differ on deficit," April 17, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Money," Feb. 11, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Education reviewed 40 percent more teaching certificates in the first quarter of 2006 than it did last year, according to The Detroit News.

In the first three months of this year, the state reviewed 73 teachers who have criminal records, The News reported. Only 52 certificates were reviewed during the same period in 2005. The increase is due, in part, to a check of criminal backgrounds for all Michigan school employees, The News reported.

The checks are done for college graduates seeking a teaching certificate, as well as for working teachers, The News reported. About one-third of those reviewed have criminal convictions from more than 20 years ago. Background checks on teachers were not required by law until 1993, according to The News.

Among the convictions found were misdemeanor assault, furnishing alcohol to a minor and misdemeanor negligent homicide, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "Teachers undergo scrutiny," April 20, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "State wants employee list back," Feb. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Judge blocks release of names; new list complete by March 1," Feb. 14, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Still Have an Option to Check Kids' Safety," Feb. 2, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Schools get names of employees with criminal backgrounds," Feb. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Court seals data on school employees with criminal backgrounds," Jan. 31, 2006

PHOENIX — Up to 5,000 low-income children will be eligible for scholarships under a tuition tax credit law passed in Arizona, according to The Arizona Republic.

Businesses will receive tax credits for donating to a $5 million scholarship fund that will give at least a $1,000 scholarship to each eligible student for use at the school of their choice, The Republic reported. The law, which was enacted without Gov. Janet Napolitano's signature, sunsets after five years.

"This is a wonderful day for educational opportunities in Arizona," Clint Bolick, president of the Alliance for School Choice, told The Republic. "We hope that this is just the beginning for school-choice legislation this year."

The Arizona Republic, "Corporate tuition tax credit is law," March 30, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education," Nov. 13, 1997

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which is the Better Choice for School Choice?"
July 27, 2004

WASHINGTON — Half of the people tasked with helping students become proficient in reading and math under the No Child Left Behind Act are not so sure it can happen, according to an Associated Press-AOL poll that appeared in Booth Newspapers.

Half of the teachers surveyed said they are not confident children will meet the NCLB standards by the 2014 deadline. Parents, however, are more optimistic, with almost 80 percent of them saying they think their children will succeed, Booth reported.

"Schools in general are not going to be able to meet the standards," Steve Peterson, an Illinois teacher of 31 years, told the AP.

The survey also found that parents are twice as likely as teachers, 31 percent compared to 15 percent, to consider current standards "too lenient," according to Booth. Minority teachers were found to be more optimistic than white teachers that students will succeed, but the optimism of parents was the same between minorities and whites, Booth reported. Parents with college degrees and higher incomes were more optimistic than parents without.

Booth Newspapers "AP Poll: Teachers dubious of 'No Child,'" April 19, 2006 storylist=washington

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "No Cop-Out Left Behind," March 23, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Making the Grade," Jan. 27, 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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