Contents of this issue:
  • Atherton saves by contracting coaching positions
  • Otsego County schools see enrollment drop
  • Royal Oak teachers keep MESSA, contributes more for co-pays
  • Metro Detroit parents upset over dress codes
  • Negotiations between Marquette schools, union focus on MESSA
  • Comment and enter to win an iPod

BURTON, Mich. — Atherton Public Schools will save about $50,000 by contracting for noninstructional services. The district recently added athletic coaches to the list of contracted services within the district, according to The Flint Journal.

The schools will rehire all coaches through Portland-based PCMI West. This will result in savings of approximately $7,000, as the district no longer has to pay 18 percent of a coach's $1,500 to $3,000 stipend into the state retirement system. Contracting has allowed for an increase in employees' pay.

"The only difference is you get your paycheck from someone else," Atherton Athletic Director Ralph LaDuke told The Journal.

Many teachers who served as coaches in the past have refused to fill any of the 23 positions, The Journal reported. "I don't believe in privatization," said Stephanie Sudz, an elementary school teacher and former junior varsity volleyball coach. "I cried and explained it to the team and I told them that I hoped they understood."

The Flint Journal, "Atherton privatizes athletic coaches, causes stir in school district," Sept. 19, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007

OTSEGO COUNTY, Mich. — Schools in northern Michigan's Otsego County are waiting to determine the effect that enrolling fewer students will have on their budgets, according to the Gaylord Herald Tribune.

Public and private schools in Otsego County lost a total of 77 students since last year. Although Gaylord Community Schools saw an increase in the number of kindergarteners, the district's enrollment is still down by about 40 students. The Vanderbilt and Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools are also expecting slight decreases in their student counts. Each of the districts is concerned about how enrollment figures will affect their budgets, the Herald Tribune reported.

"I really can't say what the impact to our budget will be until we find out what the per-pupil amount is going to be. If it turns out to be $225 less per student, then we are going to have to make adjustments to our budget. We're just going to have to wait and see," Gaylord Superintendent Cheryl Wojtas told the Herald Tribune.

County private schools also are experiencing drops in enrollment. Grace Christian Baptist School saw a decrease from 120 students last year to 107 currently. St. Mary Cathedral School is experiencing a similar decrease. Otsego Christian is the only school in the county to see a significant increase in enrollment, according to the Herald Tribune.

Tom Saporito, Principal at St. Mary Cathedral, said the economy is the primary reason behind the drops in enrollment.

"There seems to be a direct correlation between economic situations and enrollments," Saporito told the Herald Tribune. "In the 1990s enrollments at private schools were up, and since 2001 they have been going down, especially in Michigan, due, in part, to the poor economic situation here."

Gaylord Herald Tribune, "Student enrollment down in northern Michigan schools," Sept. 19, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Pupil Counts," in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 31, 2007

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — Royal Oak Public Schools will save at least $400,000 a year after 90 percent of teachers agreed to contribute more to their health insurance co-pays, according to the Royal Oak Daily Tribune.

Under the new three-year contract, teachers will still receive health benefits administered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, but will now have co-pays of $10 for generic prescriptions and $20 for brand name drugs, the Daily Tribune reported. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union.

Teachers will also receive a retroactive pay increase of 1.25 percent for the 2006-2007 school year, as well as a 1.75 percent raise for this school year. Salaries for teaching positions in the district now range from $37,884 to $80,449. The contract includes a clause allowing the district to re-open discussion of salary and benefits at the beginning of the third year, according to the Daily Tribune.

"With state funding and health care the way they are, we can't lock into anything long term," Board of Education President Gary Briggs told the Daily Tribune.

Royal Oak Daily Tribune, "Teachers pay more to keep insurance," Sept. 18, 2007

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

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Parents in Metro Detroit are resisting school districts' new dress code policies, according to The Detroit News.

Southfield, Redford Union and Harper Woods schools have either revised or rewritten their dress code policies. Most districts have some sort of dress policy, which usually consists of banning revealing or offensive clothing. But students in Southfield and Harper Woods are now prohibited from wearing denim, stripes, plaid or certain colors, like green. They are required to wear solid-color shirts, dresses, skirts or dress slacks, The News reported.

"We're giving them the idea that when you go in to work, you can't always dress the way you want to because there is a dress code in the business world," Bruce Kefgen, superintendent of East Detroit Public Schools, told The News. "Going to school is their job right now. Britney Spears can wear what she wants. They can't."

Almost 250 parents protested at a Redford Union school board meeting, and administrators decided to back off their strict enforcement proposal. Some experts say that dress codes alone do little or nothing to improve student achievement, according to The News.

"I'm all for rules and setting standards," Gary Fenstermacher, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan School of Education, told The News. "But it would be so much more valuable to get them discussing these things. Teachers will ban something without having a discussion with students about what they want to accomplish."

The Detroit News, "Parents take schools to task over strict dress codes," Sept. 18, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Increased Regulation Has Not Improved Education," July 24, 2000

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Contract negotiations between the Marquette Area Schools and the Michigan Education Association are focusing intensely on health benefits, as the district attempts to reduce health insurance costs, according to The Mining Journal.

The district spends about $2.5 million annually on health care benefits for 205 teachers, or about $14,428 per teacher. Currently, teachers contribute nothing to their health insurance plans, which are administered by the Michigan Educational Special Services Association, The Journal reported. MESSA is a third party administrator affiliated with the MEA school employees union.

District officials have offered two options during negotiations. The first includes continued coverage under the MESSA Choices II plan, with no increase in pay. The second consists of a 2 percent raise and a monthly contribution by teachers to their health insurance premiums. All other employee groups in the district are now making contributions to their health benefits, according to The Journal.

The Mining Journal, "MAPS teacher union talks set for Oct. 11," Sept. 19, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Selective Moral Outage," Sept. 24, 2007

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

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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