Contents of this issue:
  • Study: School choice saves at least $444 million in tax money
  • State retirement system causes problems for public schools
  • Ex-DPS superintendent files lawsuit against district
  • Howell union ties to block release of e-mails
  • Election consolidation still unpopular in many districts
  • Hillsdale offering free seminar for teachers

INDIANAPOLIS — A study published by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation found that school choice has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Education Week.

The study, "Education by the Numbers: The Fiscal Effect of School Choice Programs, 1990-2006," shows that in all districts with school choice policies, instructional funding per-student has increased in response to competition from educational alternatives, Education Week reported.

The study finds that most of the 12 voucher or tax-credit programs operating before 2006 have resulted in savings, and all are at least "fiscally neutral." Seven programs have been established since 2006, according to a press release issued by The Friedman Foundation.

"School choice saves. It saves children, and now we have empirical evidence that it saves money," Friedman Foundation Executive Director and COO Robert Enlow said. "In the face of $444 million in savings, another excuse to deny children a quality education has vanished before our eyes."

The study can be downloaded at

Education Week, "School Choice," May 11, 2007
(subscription required)

The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, "School choice saves $444 million," May 9, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Is Every 'Choice' a Good One?" June 8, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Advancing the cause of educational excellence," March 7, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001

DETROIT — As school districts look to spare academic programs and extracurricular activities while balancing their budgets, it is becoming increasingly difficult as state pension costs continue to rise, according to The Detroit News.

This year, schools are paying about $1,015 per-pupil into the state retirement fund. This exceeds the combined cost of books, buses, computer technology and building maintenance, according to The News. School districts currently contribute 17.74 percent of payroll to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, and could see their contribution jump to 30 percent by 2020, The News reported.

Phil Stoddard, executive director of the Office of Retirement Services, said he thinks the system is fair, according to The News. Tom Clay, former director of the state's Executive Budget Office thinks differently.

"It's a time bomb," Clay told The News. "It's a train wreck. Use whatever term you want. And it hasn't reached (the worst of the) crisis yet."

The Detroit News found that about $2 million per year in tax money is spent on retired school employees who work 102 hours at age 60 or older to earn lifetime health care from the state, The News reported. Additionally, hundreds of school administrators are receiving pension benefits while still being employed at the schools through a contracted company, costing taxpayers an estimated $25 million each year, The News reported.

Currently, the state pension system has $25 billion in unfunded liabilities for retired employees, according to The News.

"People don't understand what they're talking about," Al Short, director of government affairs for the Michigan Education Association union, told The News. "It's an excellent system that serves as an incentive to keep people in education."

Tom White, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan School Business Officials, said it is time for the state's pension program to be reformed.

"We've got these big problems we've been trying to fix for years," he told The News. "Yet we've not found a legislature that has the political will to make these changes."

The Detroit News, "Michigan's education time bomb: Costly, loophole-ridden retirement system threatens public schools," May 10, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "It's time to get serious about school employee pension reform," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Pension costs seen as key reason voters reject Proposal 5," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Schools reel from mandatory pension increase," May 4, 2004

DETROIT — Ex-Detroit Public Schools Superintendent William F. Coleman III believes his contract was not renewed because he wanted the FBI to investigate questionable wire transfers from the district's financial department, according to The Detroit News.

Coleman believes he was fired because he asked for an investigation into $12.1 million over 20 months in wire transfers to Long Insurance Co. without bids showing evidence of contracts or purchase orders, according to the lawsuit, The News reported.

Larry Long, CEO of Long Insurance, said the company has been the district's insurance provider since 1976, but hasn't always had a contract.

"Once you were the successful bidder, there was no contract," Long told The News.

Coleman believes he was fired after placing the district's financial director, Dori Freelain, on paid leave. He is also concerned about the fact that Freelain was allowed to vote against him as a superintendent candidate after he placed her on leave, according to The News.

Coleman has filed a lawsuit against DPS and is seeking at least $25,000 in damages, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "Lawsuit claims DPS errors," May 8, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS creates inspector general position," May 8, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS suspends two administrators," March 13, 2007

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

HOWELL, Mich. — The Michigan Education Association is suing the Howell school district to stop a researcher from gaining access to school e-mails about union activity, according to The Detroit News.

Chetly Zarko alleges that union leaders inappropriately used staff time, district computers and school records to advance union goals and support candidates, The News reported.

Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille issued an injunction on the release of e-mails, but not before some information was handed over to Zarko. He received copies of e-mails sent by Jeff Hughey, a Howell Education Association union leader and high school teacher, according to The News.

HEA President Doug Norton said the e-mails were disclosed by mistake and refers to this lawsuit as "friendly" because many district officials believe the information shouldn't have been released.

From what Zarko has seen, he believes there may be cause for concern.

"I think there's pretty solid evidence from those e-mails that (the union) has been using public resources to advance the (union) and their political candidates," Zarko told The News.

The Detroit News, "Judge issues injunction on e-mails in Howell school battle," May 9, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Howell teachers union breaks political mailing rule," May 8, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Tough Love for Labor Unions," Feb. 28, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Elected School Boards or Unions: Who Rules the Roost?" Jan. 11, 2007

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Most Michigan school districts are still opting to hold their elections in May, despite a 3-year-old law that encourages districts to move their election dates to November and align them with other political races, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

Only 35 of 539 school districts have voted to eliminate all costs associated with school elections and move the date to November. All other districts are still paying full price to hold elections in May, The Gazette reported.

Justin King, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards says this is because districts want their issues to be the primary concern on Election Day.

"Education is hugely important in any community and it deserves the right to be focused on separately rather than thrown in the mix of everything else," King told The Gazette.

Tom Bower, of Saline, and a teacher at Washtenaw Technical Middle School thinks keeping elections in May is fiscally irresponsible and refused to support the district's proposed sinking-fund millage.

"You're still holding the school-board elections in May, and you're asking me for more tax money? I don't think so," Bower told The Gazette.

Saline schools could save $13,000 a year if they consolidated elections, according to The Gazette.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Schools buck push to fall elections," May 7, 2007

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Is there a case for election consolidation across the sate or should such matters be decided at the local level?" June 10, 2002

HILLSDALE, Mich. — Economics, social studies, civics and history teachers are invited to participate in a free summer seminar July 15-21 as part of the Foundation for Teaching Economics program, "Economics for Leaders." The seminar takes place on the campus of Hillsdale College and will be led by Dr. Gary Wolfram, Munson Professor of Political Economy at the school. The program is based on the National Voluntary Standards in Economic Education. Room and board is free, and each participant will receive a $150 stipend. Credit hours are available, and three SBCEUs are free of charge for Michigan public school teachers.

Visit for more information, or call (800)383-4335.

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

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

To subscribe or unsubscribe, go to