Contents of this issue:
  • Parents sue Detroit Public Schools to keep buildings open
  • Ypsilanti school board members violate Open Meetings Act
  • Jackson teachers vote to contribute more to health care
  • Cedar Springs teachers voluntarily give up pay increase
  • Ypsilanti schools forced to remove ads from buses
  • Win a gift certificate

DETROIT — Several parents, students, school advocacy groups and a member of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education filed a lawsuit against the Detroit city school district to prevent the closing of eight schools, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The group argues that the closing of four elementary and four high schools would have a negative effect on Latino and Bengali communities and make it unsafe for students who walk to and from school, the Free Press reported.

"If allowed to go forward, the school closing plan will eliminate the fundamental right to a free public education to the youth of Detroit and will give Detroit parents no choice but to accept charter schools," Shanta Driver, an attorney in the case and national co-chair for the group BAMN, By Any Means Necessary, told the Free Press.

Under Michigan law, charter public schools are supported by tax dollars and cannot charge tuition. They are open to all students, not just those assigned to them as is the case with conventional public schools.

Board member Jonathan Kinloch is an active supporter of the lawsuit, but refused to comment, and the Detroit Public Schools does not comment on pending litigation, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, "Lawsuit seeks to block planned school closings," June 6, 2007

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

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

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit school board votes to close 34 schools," April 10, 2007

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Four Ypsilanti school board members will not be prosecuted for violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act in March, when they attended a meeting with teachers and other staff members, according to The Ann Arbor News.

The board members attended a meeting on March 8 at the Michigan Education Association school employees union office to hear complaints about one of the district's principals. Although the board members said they rotated in and out of the room to avoid reaching a quorum, Washtenaw County Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Steve Hiller found through investigation that a quorum was present and thus made the gathering a meeting of the board of education, according to a memo sent by the Prosecutor's office to The News.

The Michigan Open Meetings Act was violated because a quorum constitutes a board of education meeting and members of the public were not notified and minutes were not taken, The News reported.

"We did not know there would be four board members," board member Tom Reiber told The News. "Some mistakes were made. Either all board members should have been notified or have it said that we're only inviting less than a quorum of board members. We shouldn't have been rotating, but that's the way it was being handled at the time I came in."

According to the memo, two of the board members have since resigned and the two others have displayed a desire to obey the law, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "School board trustees broke the law," June 7, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Judge rejects Livonia parents' lawsuit," March 14, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Ann Arbor school board violates open meetings act," Nov. 19, 2002

JACKSON, Mich. — Teachers in the Jackson Public Schools ratified a two-year contract that includes a 1.9 percent pay increase for both years while also contributing more to their own health insurance premiums and saving the district $215,650, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Both the union and district were pleased with the speediness of the negotiations, which started in March.

"A lot of the things they did were to help us," JPS Superintendent Dan Evans told The Citizen Patriot. "That's a significant help."

Teachers will pay $60 a month, up from $20, toward the premiums of their own health insurance.

The contract also eliminates the paid leave of absence for the union president. The union president will be allowed one hour a day to complete union business, The Citizen Patriot reported.

"I do believe the board did the best they could do for us," Jackson Education Association President Mary Lou Konkle told The Citizen Patriot.

The new contract also allows the district to fire first and second-year teachers without union appeal. Michigan Association of School Boards Executive Director Justin King told The Citizen Patriot there is a trend towards unions making more concessions with school districts because of the state's economy.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Teachers union ratifies contract," June 8, 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

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. — Cedar Springs teachers will save the district approximately $300,000 and the jobs of some teachers by giving back the negotiated 2.5 percent pay increase to take effect next school year, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

"I'm very pleased they were able to help us out in these tough financial times. The school board is proud of their efforts, which exemplifies just how much they put students first," Superintendent Andy Booth told The Press.

The district has also worked to balance its budget by contracting for custodial services, a decision that will save about $192,000, The Press reported. That is an effective per-pupil funding increase of $55.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Cedar Springs teachers forego pay raises," June 2, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Effective Funding Increase from Competitive Contracting in Selected Michigan School Districts," June 11, 2007

Michigan Privatization Digest, "Cedar Springs contracts for cleaning," March 5, 2007

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

Michigan Education Digest, "Royal Oak teachers protest at board meeting, want to keep MESSA," May 1, 2007

YPSILANTI, Mich. — The Michigan Motor Carrier Division has told the Ypsilanti Public Schools to remove advertisements inside their school buses, and will fail all buses with ads inside in the next set of bus inspections, according to The Ann Arbor News.

The district has had a contract with InSight Media, of Pittsburgh, to place ads inside their school buses since November 2005 and both parties are confused by the decision to restrict advertising, The News reported.

"To our knowledge, there's no legal documentation that advertisements on the inside of school buses is illegal in Michigan," InSight President Brian Ungar told The News. "We know it's illegal on the outside. But we've been doing this in Michigan for two and a half years, starting with Ypsilanti. Buses have always passed inspection. This is a surprise. No reason was given except they needed to be taken down."

The company also contracts with the Bay City, Hazel Park, West Bloomfield and Southgate school districts. Sgt. Sharon VanCampen, head of the Michigan State Police school bus inspection program, said the state allows educational messages inside school buses, but general advertisements are not allowed, according to The News.

"We'll comply with the state's directive, but the state has not produced any documentation that ads on the inside of a school bus is a violation," Ypsilanti district spokeswoman Emma Jackson told The News.

The Ann Arbor News, "Ypsilanti schools drop school bus advertising," June 9, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Kentwood leases land for billboards," Nov. 14, 2006

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

MIDLAND, Mich. — Michigan Education Report introduces a new online forum dedicated to discussing Michigan education issues. Available at, the site features timely news about Michigan schools, a variety of open forums and the chance to participate in an opinion survey on a current education issue. Those who register and comment on stories will be entered in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate.

The summer 2007 edition of Michigan Education Report readers will find articles about:

  • research concluding that consolidating school districts is not the best way to save money in education;

  • the first year at one of Michigan's newest private schools, Trinitas Classical School in Grand Rapids;

  • incentive pay programs for teachers in Michigan districts;

  • schools using radio, television and billboards to market themselves;

  • an update on the country's first statewide school voucher program in Utah.

Michigan Education Report is available online at

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

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