Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit teachers won't agree to contract
  • South Haven contracts for principal
  • Grand Rapids board could change public address rules
  • District moves offices to save on MESSA
  • New charter school opening in Ypsilanti

DETROIT - The Detroit Federation of Teachers is demanding 50 items be added to contract talks, while Detroit Public Schools says it must slash $88 million in costs, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"We can't afford to let them off," Superintendent William F. Coleman III told the Free Press. "It's not business as usual in Detroit."

DFT President Janna Garrison left open the possibility that teachers could strike if a contract is not in place when classes start in September, telling the Free Press the union has a "No contract, no work" position. Teacher strikes are illegal under Michigan law.

The union is demanding 15 percent raises for veteran teachers, access to copy machines and telephones in every classroom, as well as the ability for a teacher who receives an unsatisfactory performance review to transfer to a new school, according to the Free Press.

Coleman said salaries and benefits make up almost 60 percent of the district's $1.4 billion budget, and DPS cannot afford to give raises. If the union does not agree to the cuts, Coleman told the newspaper the district would impose its own cuts while trying to preserve current wage levels.

Although Garrison has often said, "What's good for teachers is good for students," according to the Free Press, Lisa Blais, of the nonprofit education advocacy organization Education Partnership, said what's best for teachers financially is not always what is best for students.

"You can pay a mediocre teacher more and more and more, it does not necessarily mean they're going to become a better teacher," Blais told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit schools, teachers not budging," July 27, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit teachers want more money," June 27, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS to cut jobs; union rejects concessions," July 5, 2006

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. - South Haven Public Schools for the second time will have a competitive contract in place for a school principal, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

John Weiss, who is retiring as principal of Baseline Middle School, will return in the same position for the 2006-2007 school year, but not as a district employee.

South Haven will contract with Professional Contract Management Inc. for Weiss's services, The Gazette reported. The district has the same arrangement with high school Principal Dene Hadden, who retired last year.

Weiss's salary and benefits will cost the district about $86,000, as compared to nearly $104,000 when he was a school employee, according to The Gazette. Most of the savings will come because the district will no longer have to pay into the state's defined benefit retirement plan for Weiss.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Principal retires, but will return," July 25, 2006

Michigan Privatization Report, "Michigan Schools Continue to Privatize," July 26, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Climax-Scotts could privatize principal's job," May 30, 2006

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Grand Rapids Board of Education could require residents to sign up ahead of time if they wish to address the board during public meetings, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Board members discussed the change during a recent retreat. The change could entail requiring people sign up before the meeting and indicate what issue they want to address, and discuss only policy matters, The Press reported.

"You won't be denying people the ability to speak to the board," Superintendent Bernard Taylor told The Press. "You're telling them there is a process that will be used."

The Press also reported that Taylor wants to consider whether the district should continue showing board meetings on public access television.

Past board meetings have become chaotic, board Secretary Luis Pena told The Press.

"There were people insulting board members and intimidating board members, and saying they were going to go on a radio station and destroy board members," Pena told The Press.

The Grand Rapids Press, "School board may limit comment at meetings," July 23, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Judge orders Ann Arbor schools to pay legal fees in free speech case," Oct. 12, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Happy Anniversary, Free Speech," March 18, 2005

WAYLAND, Mich. - The Wayland Union Schools moved its administration office to another town in order to save money on union-backed health insurance, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The office was moved from Wayland, in Allegan County, to Byron Township, in Kent County, where MESSA premiums are less expensive, The Press reported. MESSA is the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employee union. MESSA serves as a middleman, repackaging insurance plans and selling them to school districts.

MESSA sets premium costs by region based on the number of employees enrolled and how many claims are filed, according to The Press. MESSA often won't release those aggregate claims data to school districts, thereby making it difficult for districts to seek more competitive insurance bids directly from insurance companies.

Wayland expects to pay about $160,000 less because of the move, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "District reaps benefits from office move," July 20, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Holton staffers drop MESSA," May 2, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Pinckney teachers voluntarily abandon MESSA," Feb. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "CMU saves millions without MESSA," April 11, 2006

YPSILANTI, Mich. - More than 100 students are already enrolled in a new charter public school set to open in Ypsilanti, according to The Ann Arbor News.

Victory Academy, authorized by Bay Mills Community College, will be the sixth public school operated by Ann Arbor-based Global Education Excellence. Some 15 teachers and staffers have been hired, and the school will receive a federal grant of $150,000 a year for three years as part of a program to help open new public schools, The News reported. As a public school, Victory Academy cannot charge tuition, but will receive $7,175 per pupil from the state's School Aid Fund.

The Kindergarten through fifth grade school has room for 175 students, many of whom will leave the Ypsilanti Public Schools to attend Victory.

"We are aware that the academy is here," Ypsilanti Superintendent James Hawkins told The News. "We have to respect that parents have a right to make a choice."

Ypsilanti school personnel for the second consecutive year will go door to door in an effort to recruit more students, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "Charter school ready in Ypsilanti," July 5, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Ypsilanti could save $700,000 with competitive busing contract," May 30, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "MEA loses lawsuit against public schools," March 7, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "MEA continues lawsuit against public charter schools," May 25, 2006

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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