Contents of this issue:
  • Bay City teachers union takes insurance over jobs

  • Brighton 'sick-out' draws parent response

  • Hartland schools to save $5 million with competitive contract

  • Agreement saves hundreds of Michigan schools from NCLB problems

  • Punishment box removed from Marshall school

  • Benefits cost more than wages for some JPS employees

  • List of felons forwarded to schools

BAY CITY, Mich. — About three dozen employees, including 10 teachers, will be let go in the Bay City Public Schools as the district attempts to reduce a $7.4 million deficit, according to The Bay City Times.

Unions covering seven non-instructional employee groups signed two-year contracts with the district earlier this month. All of them agreed to abandon the Michigan Education Special Services Association in favor of a Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan, The Times reported. The change will save the district about $3,000 a year per employee. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.

The same unions agreed last December to switch from MESSA Super Care I to MESSA Choices II, which saved the district about $200,000 at the time, according to The Times. Teachers also agreed to that change, but as of now they are refusing to join their fellow employees in getting rid of MESSA entirely in favor of less expensive insurance.

Superintendent Carolyn Weirda said the Blue Cross plan is similar to the current union-backed insurance.

"It's a significant savings and a very comparable plan," she told The Times.

Other cuts the district plans to make include eliminating some bus routes and increasing "pay to play" fees for athletics, The Times reported.

The Bay City Times, "Ten teachers among 39 cut at B.C. Schools," May 9, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Bay City teachers take pay freeze, cheaper MESSA," April 18, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Bay City schools could save $4 million with insurance change," Feb. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Bay City to close schools, cut staff," March 21, 2006

BRIGHTON, Mich. — Several parents have expressed their displeasure over the behavior of Brighton teachers during a time of tense contract negotiations, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Two Brighton middle schools were closed May 5 when 60 of 90 teachers called in sick, the Press & Argus reported. Teachers also staged pickets at several schools after classes ended on May 9, then marched for a half hour before that night's school board meeting.

"We spent all this money to put in an anti-bullying program," parent Lori Lalama said at the board meeting, according to the Press & Argus. "We don't allow bullying by our students. Why are we allowing it by our teachers? ... This is ridiculous. It's an embarrassment. Everybody has to make concessions."

Arnella Park, a high school teacher, told the Press & Argus that the informational pickets are designed to convey a message that teachers believe the district has "mismanaged funds" by spending money on things "we feel are unnecessary."

Park cited a career resource center for high school students and new school buses as among those unnecessary items.

"The career center at the high school was cut, but it's going to reopen next year for $100,000," Park told the Press & Argus. "That alone would be 0.5 percent raise for teachers."

Park's school bus comments drew the ire of bus drivers, several of whom attended the school board meeting.

"We were upset, and we feel the teachers dragged us back into this," driver Jessica Anderson told the Press & Argus.

Driver Mary Ann Davis told the newspaper that buses as old as 18 years needed to be replaced.

"I don't appreciate the teachers misrepresenting the truth about their contract," Davis told the Press & Argus. "All they talk about is themselves. They are absolutely just greedy."

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Contract divides district — Additional pickets, protests on horizon," May 9, 2006

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Resentment simmers over contract trouble," May 10, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Two Brighton schools close after teachers call in sick," May 9, 2006

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

HARTLAND, Mich. — Hartland Consolidated Schools expects to save $5 million over five years by privatizing custodial services, according to The Detroit News.

The school board voted 5-2 on May 8 to contract with Grand Rapids Business Services, The News reported. The district expects to save $600,000 the first year.

The union representing the janitors offered about $250,000 in concessions before the board meeting, The News reported. The offer led to a 50-minute closed session while it was debated.

"If I have to choose between education programs and other cuts, I would pick for the students," board member Nora Kessel said while explaining her approval of the privatization, according to The News. "This eleventh-hour idea doesn't make business sense. It is not even half of the amount we need, and hasn't been approved by the general (union) membership."

The Detroit News, "Custodial work outsourced," May 10, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Hartland teachers willing to sacrifice jobs for insurance," April 18, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Privatization shows signs of growth across the state," Dec. 15, 2005

LANSING, Mich. — The U.S. Department of Education has determined it will allow alternative assessments to count toward progress standards, a decision that will keep hundreds of Michigan schools from being labeled as "failing," the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.

According to the federal No Child Left Behind law, 95 percent of students must take standardized tests, the Record-Eagle reported. If a school falls below a minimum participation rate, it risks not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress.

The federal Department of Education originally determined two of the three alternative tests given to disabled and special education students in Michigan would not count because they did not assess math and reading, the Record-Eagle reported. That decision was reversed last week, however, after the Michigan Department of Education agreed to give up a portion of the federal dollars it receives for administrative purposes. That amount has not yet been set, according to the newspaper.

A memo to school districts from the Michigan Department of Education quoted state Superintendent Mike Flanagan as saying it would be better for the department to "take the hit on this," meaning the loss of money, rather than have schools "inappropriately labeled," the Record-Eagle reported. The state is revamping the alternative tests for next year to make sure they cover math and reading.

Traverse City Record-Eagle, "State, feds reach testing deal," May 10, 2006

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

Michigan Education Report, "NCLB underfunded?" April 11, 2005

MARSHALL, Mich. — A "time-out booth" has been removed from a Marshall elementary school after a mother complained her son was put in it for two hours, according to The Battle Creek Enquirer.

"I got to school a little after noon, and he was sweaty, distraught," Kelly Isaac told the Marshall school board on May 8, The Enquirer reported. "He had some dried blood on his face from a bloody nose. I don't think it was from the teacher, but nevertheless, it doesn't look good."

Isaac said she pulled her son out of school after the April 12 incident, The Enquirer reported.

Superintendent Joyce Phillips said the booth was dismantled and removed from the Hughes Elementary School special needs classroom, according to The Enquirer. The structure was 7 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 4 feet deep, with carpeting, ventilation and lighting.

"We are expecting the administration will conduct its investigation and will report back to us," board member Paul Beardslee told The Enquirer. "We'll take appropriate action once that happens."

The Battle Creek Enquirer, "Time-out booth gets time out," May 11, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Strange Lessons in School Discipline," June 10, 2004

JACKSON, Mich. — People who supervise special education students on buses in the Jackson Public Schools can earn more in benefits than in wages, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Superintendent Dan Evans told taxpayers that type of financial set-up cannot continue.

Evans gave an example at a recent budget forum of a supervisory rider earning $19,181 in wages, and $24,519 in benefits, The Citizen Patriot reported. Evans said the same job in other Jackson County districts pays $7 an hour, compared to $13 an hour for JPS.

"We think if we privatize, we can get those riders for a lot less," Evans said, according to The Citizen Patriot.

Evans said privatizing 15 supervisors and special education bus drivers would save the district about $300,000, The Citizen Patriot reported. Overall, 15 teachers could be eliminated and 10 paraprofessional reduced to part-time as part of a $1.7 million budget deficit reduction.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Evans offers argument for private special-ed bus services," May 10, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Jackson will privatize again to save money," May 9, 2006

Michigan Privatization Report, "Enviro-Clean Services Rated in Jackson Survey," Feb. 24, 2006

LANSING, Mich. — Almost 70 public school teachers in Michigan were found to have felony records in a recent background check, according to The Detroit News.

A May 1 report to the Legislature showed 66 teachers who were employed as of Jan. 1 had felony convictions, while another three had sex crime records, The News reported. Those three must be fired immediately under child protection laws passed last year. Teachers with non-sex related felony records must obtain permission from their local superintendent and school board to keep their jobs.

"School districts with employees who have listed offense convictions have been notified by the Michigan Department of Education of their responsibility to terminate those individuals," according to a cover letter on the report written by Jeremy Hughes, deputy superintendent for the Michigan Department of Education.

Names of the teachers and schools were not included in the report, according to The News. A Michigan State Police check of all school employees was completed March 31. The names were cross-checked against Department of Education personnel information.

An earlier check of more than 200,000 school employees erroneously identified several innocent people as criminals, The News reported. The new report will not be made public until the findings are double checked by both the state and individual school districts.

The Detroit News, "Checks expose teacher crimes," May 9, 2006

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

Michigan Education Digest, "School employee background check turns up felons," Jan. 24, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "High cost of fingerprinting school employees," Dec. 6, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Granholm signs student safety bills," Oct. 4, 2005

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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