Contents of this issue:
  • Thirteen districts have budget surpluses
  • Districts could save money with private energy consultant
  • Parents, MDE concerned about restraining special needs students
  • Northville considers competitive contracting
  • Avondale moves elections to November
  • District bans bags in response to bomb threats
  • Win an iPod

LANSING, Mich. — While many school districts in Michigan have been unable to control spending, 13 districts are reporting budget surpluses, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service, a Lansing based newsletter.

Verona, Colfax, Arvon, Sigel, Grant, Mackinac Island, Berlin, Easton, Bois Blanc Pines, Church and Bloomfield Township schools all have fund balances ranging from 93 to 199 percent. Common features among the districts are their small size and stable enrollment, according to MIRS.

MIRS Capitol Capsule, "Thirteen Schools With Significant Cash Balances," Dec. 4, 2006 (subscription only)

Michigan Education Digest, "Ewen-Trout Creek Schools uncovers deficit," Dec. 5, 2006

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

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

ITHACA, Mich. — Ithaca Public Schools could save up to $40,000 in energy costs if other Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District schools decide to join it in an energy consortium headed by a private consultant, according to The Saginaw News.

IPS already has voted to join the consortium, while the other districts are planning to vote this month. The districts would collectively hire an "energy manager" from Energy Education Inc. of Wichita Falls, Texas, to analyze and make suggestions for reducing energy usage in each of the districts' buildings. Energy Education Inc. told the schools it could save them $3.9 million total over seven years, according to The News.

"There won't be significant savings to begin with because of start-up costs, but over the course of a year, there will be," Superintendent Charles Schnetzler told The News.

Forty districts in Michigan and 800 nationwide are cooperating with Energy Education Inc., The News reported.

The Saginaw News, "Ithaca schools join energy consortium," Dec. 6, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Merrill schools move to alternative fuel," Nov. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Private firm helps Battle Creek schools cut energy costs," July 19, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Walled Lake implements program to save on energy," Nov. 1, 2005

LANSING, Mich. — The treatment of combative special education students is under the scrutiny of both parents and the Michigan Department of Education, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Two special education students died in 2003 while being restrained by staff members, causing the MDE to reconsider its policy on student seclusion and restraints. The plan under consideration would restrict the use of seclusion and restraints to emergency situations, ban the use of mechanical or chemical restraints, set time limits on seclusions, require training for school employees who may need to restrain or seclude students, as well as require stricter documentation of incidents where restraints or seclusion needed to be used, according to the Free Press.

The parents of the deceased children, as well as special-education advocates, are fighting for the complete elimination of these practices.

"Seclusion and restraint are cruel, inhumane and degrading practices. I don't think they belong in educational settings," State Board of Education member Elizabeth Bauer told the Free Press.

Blu Hintz of Midland is raising her grandson, Dustin, who has a form of Autism and spina bifida. She believes that restraint and seclusion are necessary to keep special education students in school.

"If children like Dustin aren't restrained, they have no other place to go," Hintz told the Free Press. "They would end up in an institution."

Detroit Free Press, "A way to safely restrain students?" Dec. 8, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Parents concerned about padded room," Oct. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Punishment box removed from Marshall school," May 16, 2006

NORTHVILLE, Mich. — Northville Public Schools has decided to look into competitively contracting for some, or all, of its non-instructional services, according to the Northville Record.

It is too early in the process to estimate savings, but Northville is looking into contracting for its custodial, maintenance, food service and transportation services, so it can maintain current programs and staff, according to the Record.

"The district wants to maintain progress and class size and our good teachers," David Bolitho, Northville assistant superintendent for administrative services, told the Record.

Bolitho said districts like Garden City, which has reported it will save $800,000 to $1 million, show privatization works, according to the Record.

Tom White, executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials, encourages members to consider competitive contracting.

"Whether you like it or not, or whether you do it or not, you have to evaluate the option," he told the Record.

Northville Record, "School district investigates privatization for cost-savings," Dec. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Beyond brooms, burgers and buses," Nov. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Oakland County schools save money with competitive contracting," Oct. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Competitive contracting grows despite myths," Sept. 6, 2006

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Starting next year, the Avondale School District will save about $30,000 a year by holding its elections in November of odd-numbered years, according to The Detroit News.

"We were told by going to November elections that our costs would be virtually nothing," Avondale Board of Education President Stephen Sucher told The News.

The Detroit News, "Avondale schools set for odd-year voting," Dec. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Rochester moves school board elections, lengthens terms," Nov. 14, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Secret Ballot?" May 22, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Voter's Checklist for School Elections," April 28, 2006

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. — Lakeview High School has banned purses and backpacks from classrooms in response to several bomb threats it has received this school year, according to The Detroit News.

Purses and backpacks must be kept in lockers during the school day, which the district says will allow police to search the building more quickly when a bomb threat is received. The school had four such incidents in September and October, including one that forced an evacuation, The News reported.

"The kids really know it's an issue with safety," Principal Bob DuBois told The News. "They recognize the need. Are they happy about? No, but they're used to it."

The Detroit News, "School tells girls to bag the purses," Dec. 11, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "School safety drill angers parents," Nov. 7, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private Protection: A Growing Industry Could Enhance School Safety," Nov. 16, 1998

MIDLAND, Mich. — Michigan Education Report is offering readers a chance to win an iPod when they comment on articles in its Winter 2006 issue. Comments can be made via e-mail about stories on alternative teacher certification, successful public school reform and Michigan's cap on charter public schools. Please visit for more information.

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

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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