Contents of this issue:
  • Several Metro Detroit districts add Mandarin to curriculum
  • GRPS support staff contribute to health care; union refuses
  • All three Grand Rapids recall signatures deemed invalid
  • Redford Union schools file unfair labor charge against teachers
  • Hillsdale teachers, support staff get raises; help pay premiums
  • Gwinn teachers, paraprofessionals see raises
  • Comment and win book money

TROY, Mich. — A dozen districts in the Metro Detroit area are finding ways to include Mandarin Chinese into their curriculum, according to The Detroit News.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson pushed for Mandarin to be added to the schools, and it is now offered in Troy, Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham and Novi. Troy has offered the language for 10 years in its high schools and plans to expand its program to middle school next year, The News reported.

"We've had a great deal of success," Tim McAvoy, a Troy district spokesperson, told The News. "It is important for kids to learn the language and culture if they're going to be a success in the global economy."

Many of the schools will not have to pay for its Mandarin language program; the money will come from a group of businesses, as well as from grants. Districts that aren't receiving assistance from other organizations, like South Lyon, will begin to offer Mandarin, but at the expense of another language. For instance, South Lyon will begin to phase out its French classes, according to The News.

Howell Public Schools has teamed with Michigan State University to expose students to Mandarin. The International Baccalaureate Academy in the Chippewa Valley School district will start offering the language in the fall of 2008. Additionally, schools associated with the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts will offer Mandarin in some form in preschool through 12th grade, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "As China's global presence grows, more Metro districts add Mandarin to curriculum," July 27, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Online Chinese course to be offered to high school students," April 10, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Asian Food for Thought," Dec. 10, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Undereducated Today, Outsourced Tomorrow?" Nov. 16, 2004

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Public Schools support staff have agreed to contribute $50 a month to their own health insurance in return for a 2 percent pay increase. But district teachers, who received a raise last year, are unwilling to make a similar compromise unless the district offers them more money, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The district's support staff will still receive health coverage through the Michigan Educational Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union.

Teachers agreed to a 1.25 percent pay increase last year, but refuse to make concessions on health insurance unless they receive a higher raise as compensation for the contribution, The Press reported.

"They're knocking at the door, and they're knocking hard," Alex Chess, president of the Grand Rapids Education Association told The Press. "But we have some proposals of our own. I don't see us taking that kind of a monthly hit unless there is a raise that will cover it."

The Grand Rapids Press, "Grand rapids teachers want health fee covered," July 24, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Health care holds up contract negotiations in Grand Blanc," July 10, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Flint area schools battle over health insurance," May 22, 2007

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A recall effort in Grand Rapids came to a halt when members of the recall group turned in three petition signatures, all of which were deemed invalid, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The Committee for Positive Community Change targeted Board of Education member David Allen because of his support for competitive contracting. The group considers their effort a success, as they meant it to be symbolic, The Press reported. The group needed to collect at least 16,000 signatures to have a recall measure placed on the ballot.

"As far as we are concerned, we met our objectives," Kenneth Muhammad, organizer of Positive Community Change told The Press. "We slowed the rate of privatization in the city, and we informed the public about the privatization issue."

The events in Grand Rapids have also gained the attention of nationally syndicated columnist Paul Jacob.

"What were their objectives? How did they do? They gathered a whopping three signatures. Just three," he wrote.

Allen wasn't threatened by the recall attempt, but is bothered by the waste of resources and taxpayer dollars.

"They were allowed to drag my name through the mud all these months, and this is all they can do?" Allen told The Press.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Recall effort garners just 3 signatures," July 24, 2007, "Enemies worth a laugh," July 29, 2007

Michigan Privatization Report, "School Board Members Survive Recall Attempt," July 26, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Board member may face recall for moving kids to new school," Jan. 4, 2006

REDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Redford Union Schools filed an unfair labor practice against teachers who refused to work on three different dates this spring, according to The Detroit News.

According to the district, 67 teachers called in sick from Redford High School on June 7, and an unusually high number of teachers from a district elementary and middle school called in sick on May 22 and June 4, respectively. The district is naming 43 teachers in its complaint. Michigan law prohibits public employees from striking, The News reported.

"The thing that infuriated me the most is the high school teachers that called in on graduation day," Superintendent Donna Rhodes told The News. "They did not even come to graduation and walk with the kids as they have for over 40 years."

Redford teachers have been without a contract since November 2005. The district imposed one on the employees on July 1, but made fewer cutbacks than had originally been expected. Imposing a contract was necessary to create a budget for the 2007-2008 school year, according to The News.

The Detroit News, "Redford Twp. Labor clash hits schools," July 25, 2007

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

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers' Strikes, Court Orders and Michigan Law," Sept. 11, 2006

HILLSDALE, Mich. — Teachers and support staff in Hillsdale Community Schools have both reached tentative contract agreements that include raises and a contribution to their own health care coverage, according to The Hillsdale Daily News.

Teachers will receive a 1.25 percent salary increase for 2007-2008 and an additional 1 percent the year after. If health insurance premiums are less than a certain amount, teachers will receive an additional 0.25 percent raise. Teachers will contribute $300 toward their premiums in 2007-2008 and $500 in 2008-2009. The district will reimburse teachers for up to $300 in insurance co-pays, The Daily News reported.

School support staff will receive 35 cents an hour more in the fall and 25 cents more in 2008-2009. They will be reimbursed up to $200 for co-pays and will contribute $325 and then $300 to their premiums over two years. Both the support staff and teachers will pay $10 co-pays for generic prescription drugs, and $20 for brand name drugs, according to The Daily News.

Superintendent Richard Ames said because employees were willing to contribute to health care costs, the district could afford modest raises.

"The strong working relationship that exists between the board and both units came through during this process," Ames told The Daily News. "We use the phrase 'school family' and we tried to approach things from that point of view."

The Hillsdale Daily News, "School board OKs labor deals," July 27, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Cedar Springs teachers voluntarily give up pay increase," June 12, 2007

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

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Teachers represented by the Gwinn Education Association agreed to salary increases over the next three years, while agreeing to start contributing to the cost of health care, according to The Mining Journal.

Teachers are scheduled for a 0.45 percent pay increase in 2007-2008, a 1 percent raise the following year, and 1.25 percent in 2009-2010. The contract states that if the district receives an increase in state aid, teachers will receive additional raises, The Journal reported.

Teachers will continue to have health benefits administered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, but will begin paying between $15 and $65 per month in 2008-2009 toward insurance premiums. Teachers will have a $10 co-pay for generic prescriptions and a $20 co-pay on brand name drugs, according to The Journal.

District paraprofessionals will receive a 2 percent raise each year for three years. These employees do not receive insurance through the schools, The Journal reported.

"We're extremely pleased with the attitude that all parties brought to the table in helping the district," Superintendent Steve Peffers told The Journal.

The Mining Journal, "Gwinn school board OKs contracts," July 25, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Howell teachers contribute more for MESSA premiums," June 19, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Jackson teachers vote to contribute more to health care," June 12, 2007

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

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win a $50 book gift certificate.

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