Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit school board votes down school closure plan
  • Birmingham offers volunteer-taught elective classes
  • Spring Lake board, union at impasse over health benefits
  • Jackson schools extend contract with cleaning service
  • Many Muskegon-area districts adopting trimesters
  • Win an iPod; Map: Does your district competitively contract?

DETROIT — The Detroit board of education voted 6-5 to reject a school-closing plan that would have saved the district $16.9 million a year, according to The Detroit News.

The plan called for the closing of 33 underutilized schools by the fall of 2007 and 10 more in the fall of 2008 unless they met certain enrollment or academic targets. Board members who voted against the plan said the district did not take academic achievement and enrollment losses into consideration when developing the school closure list, The News reported.

Board President Jimmy Womack said the board's rejection of the plan may lead to 1,800 layoffs, the outsourcing of services and an inability to fund repairs for buildings. Board Vice President Joyce Hayes-Giles said she believes the members who voted against the measure didn't understand the severity of the problem.

"We really could go into receivership," she said, according to The News, "We aren't going to have enough money to pay off our debt. This is a very sad day for DPS."

The Detroit News, "DPS Board kills Detroit schools closure plan," March 24, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "DPS enrollment down by thousands," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools announces school closings," Jan. 9, 2007

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

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

DETROIT — Following a decision last year to switch from a seven to six period day, Birmingham's middle schools are offering weekly volunteer-taught classes that provide teachers use the time for preparation, according to television station WZZM.

Cutting an hour from the day saved $1.3 million, but meant that teachers would lose some preparation time and students would only be allowed to take one elective class. So, the district decided to offer classes in acting, scrapbooking, Sign Language, finances and digital photography. These courses are taught by professionals from the community and only cost the district $8,000 for supplies, WZZM reported.

The classes are less rigorous than regular electives, but have received praise from parents, students and school officials, according to WZZM.

"This is a time in their life when they're trying new things, new skills they're going to use the rest of their life," program coordinator and Derby Middle School Assistant Principal David Simpson told WZZM.

Parent Dave Force is among the volunteers.

"They're so academically pushed that just to have a little break is exciting for them," he told WZZM.

WZZM13, "Creativity thrives as schools cut back — Volunteer-taught classes enrich kids and save money," March 21, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Michigan lags behind some states: Alternative teacher certification," Nov. 21, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Does Teacher Certification Matter?" Sept. 14, 2004

Spring Lake, Mich. — The Spring Lake Board of Education is expecting budget deficits of $450,000 this year and more than $1 million next year if the district cannot reach a contract with the Spring Lake Education Association, according to the Grand Haven Tribune.

The board and union have been at odds over health insurance and salary increases since last June. Superintendent Larry Mason released a statement last week explaining the district's budget problems and negotiation details, the Tribune reported. The most recent board proposal will grant a 1.5 percent salary increase with no health insurance changes for the 2006-2007 school year. Next year, teachers would receive a 1.75 percent pay increase and would contribute to the cost of their own prescriptions, the Tribune reported. Teachers' co-pay on generic prescriptions would increase from $5 to $10 and from $10 to $20 for name brand drugs. However, teachers would be reimbursed by the district for the band name increase, according to the Tribune.

The district currently spends $16,498 per teacher each year by purchasing health benefits through the Michigan Education Special Services Association. Every group except the district's teaching staff has switched insurance to save money, according to the Tribune. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employee union.

The Spring Lake union's proposal is similar, but would grant a 2.9 percent pay increase for the 2007-2008 school year. Mason said in his statement that the union's proposal would increase the district's deficit to $1.2 million next year, the Tribune reported.

Mason was surprised at the union's position.

"We have been fortunate that our financial situation has allowed us to provide good contracts with the teachers in the past," Mason said in his prepared statement. "When those settlements were announced, I always said they were fair and we could afford them. I also said that if times became difficult I was confident our association representatives would work with us. I was wrong."

Grand Haven Tribune, "SL teacher talks at impasse," March 21, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Howell board stands behind decision to leave MESSA," March 20, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Collective Bargaining Primer For Michigan School Board Members," Feb. 28, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Growing number of districts seek solutions to costly health insurance," Dec. 15, 2005

JACKSON, Mich. — The Jackson school board extended its contract with Enviro-Clean Services Inc. until June 2010 and will continue to see per-pupil savings of $179 a year, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

The current contract, which began in December 2004, was set to expire in June 2008, but the company was granted an early two-year extension by the board, The Citizen Patriot reported.

The move to contract out for custodial services provides about $1.2 million per year for instructional services, according to The Citizen Patriot.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Cleaning contract at JPS extended: Private service has deal through 2010," March 16, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Map: School contracting continues to grow," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Competitive contracting popular in Port Huron area," March 20, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Profit has a role in public schools," Feb. 23, 2007

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Eight of the 12 Muskegon County high schools are planning to implement trimesters for the 2007-2008 school year, while two more plan to make the switch for the 2008-2009 school year, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

Under the trimester system, students take five 70-minute classes per day for 12 weeks. Under the traditional semester schedule, students usually take six classes for 18 weeks. The switch to trimesters allows students to take up to 15 classes a year, instead of 12, The Chronicle reported.

The move to trimesters has been a popular one because it gives students more options while meeting the new state graduation requirements, The Chronicle said.

"We've been studying it for months now, looking at different types of schedules to increase opportunities for students to take classes and fulfill the new graduation requirements," Fruitport High School Principal Jeff Haase told The Chronicle. "We felt the best thing for us was to go to a trimester schedule because it allows for more classes and it's easier to remediate a failed class in the same school year."

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Many area high schools switching to trimesters," March 25, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Rapids area schools move to trimesters," Jan. 16, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Lapeer may switch to trimester system," Nov. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Hope in state graduation standards misplaced," Mar. 7, 2006


MIDLAND, Mich. — The spring issue of Michigan Education Report offers a map illustrating which districts have taken advantage of competitive contracting. It can be accessed here:

Michigan Education Report is offering readers a chance to win an iPod when they comment on articles in its spring 2007 issue.

Comments can be made via e-mail about stories on the U.S. House Fellows program (, school district health benefits savings (, whether private employees in public schools provide the same quality of service as public employees in public schools ( and, a community college cooperating with home-school students ( and the role of profit in public schools ( Please visit for more information.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of approximately 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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