Contents of this issue:


  • GR teachers: Let us decide pay, insurance
  • Teachers agree to insurance changes, get pay raises
  • Cash flow an issue in Pontiac
  • Belding offers free breakfast to all
  • Ypsilanti considers lawsuit over state funding
  • Educators invited to Mackinac Center's 20th anniversary gala

GR TEACHERS: LET US DECIDE PAY, INSURANCE


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Grand Rapids teachers have proposed that Grand Rapids Public Schools turn over control of a percentage of its annual budget to them, and let the union set pay and benefits for its own members, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The suggested agreement, believed to be the first collective bargaining proposal of its kind in Michigan, calls for the district to let the union decide how to spend about 57 percent of general operating revenue, the amount generally designated for the classroom, The Press reported.

"Give us the budget, and we will live within our means," union President Paul Helder told The Press. The last contract expired more than a year ago and negotiations have been contentious.

Lisa Freiburger, the chief of operations for the district, called the proposal "complicated, but very intriguing," according to The Press. She said the dollars designated for classroom use cover items other than salaries and benefits, such as textbooks, but that those issues don't rule out discussing the proposal, the article said.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Grand Rapids teachers' union pitches new approach to solve contract dispute," Oct. 23, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Rapids contract still unresolved," Sept. 23, 2008


TEACHERS AGREE TO INSURANCE CHANGES, GET PAY RAISES


ST. CHARLES, Mich. - Teachers in St. Charles Community Schools will receive annual pay raises under the terms of a new, three- year contract, though the amount will depend on health insurance costs, The Saginaw News reported.

The pact includes pay increases of 2.65 percent the first year and up to 2 percent in the following two years, according to The News. Raises in the final two years will be lowered if Michigan Education Special Services Association costs increase by more than 4 percent. Also, teachers agreed to an increased office co- pay of $10, up from $5, The News reported. MESSA is a third- party insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association teachers union that outsources insurance underwriting to Blue Cross Blue Shield and then resells policies to school districts.

"All of our employees have taken significant health insurance concessions that will save our school district money,"

Superintendent Michael L. Wallace told The News. Those savings enabled the district to offer higher salaries.

St. Charles Education Association President David Schmidt said teachers have worked with the administration to maintain the district's fund equity, according to The News.

SOURCE:
The Saginaw News, "St. Charles teachers get contract," Oct. 24, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed, but not resolved," Sept. 16, 2008


CASH FLOW AN ISSUE IN PONTIAC


PONTIAC, Mich. - The Pontiac School District may ask for a state loan or an advance on special education funding to maintain cash flow, The Oakland Press reported.

Anticipating it could overspend its revenue by up to $6.5 million, and with its fund balance already allocated, the district will have to make cuts and borrow money to cover operational costs, The Press reported. Felix Chow, interim deputy superintendent of finance and operations, said that declining enrollment is a factor, but also that the district did not achieve the savings it anticipated through contract negotiations or sale of property, The Press reported.

The district will attempt to borrow money from the state in November, if available, and may ask Oakland Schools for an advance on federal special education funding, though typically those payments are made on a reimbursement basis, according to The Press. An advance payment would reduce Pontiac's borrowing costs, Chow said.

SOURCE:
The Oakland Press, "Pontiac school officials hope loans are available," Oct. 22, 2008 

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Detroit not the only school district seeing red," June 30, 2008 


BELDING OFFERS FREE BREAKFAST TO ALL


BELDING, Mich. - Citing hard economic times, Belding Area Schools will begin giving breakfast to every student, not just those eligible due to family income, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Simple foods like fruit, yogurt, cereal and cheese sticks will be offered in classrooms during the first few minutes of the school day, according to The Press. Superintendent Charles Barker told The Press that rising unemployment and the cost of food were factors in the decision, but also that many children skip breakfast if their working parents are not at home in the morning.

School board President Debra Bach said the closing of Electrolux hit the area hard, according to The Press. More than 50 percent of Belding students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Cheboygan Area Schools reported fewer tardies, better attendance and better student attention after implementing a similar breakfast program through a federal grant, The Press reported.

Belding will pay for its program with surplus money in its cafeteria fund.

SOURCE:

The Grand Rapids Press, "Belding schools will offer free breakfast to all student," Oct. 21, 2008 

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: '31d School Lunch,'" May 30, 2007


YPSILANTI CONSIDERS LAWSUIT OVER STATE FUNDING


YPSILANTI, Mich. - Projecting a budget that overspends revenue by $5.4 million in 2009-2010, Ypsilanti Public Schools will lobby state legislators and investigate suing the state over what it considers inadequate public school funding in Michigan, The Ann Arbor News reported.

At a recent public forum, school board President David Bates said the district is attempting to raise awareness about its efforts, according to The News. Audience members, including some from other districts, suggested that schools work together and present Lansing lawmakers with ideas for solutions.

"We don't want to go up just whining and complaining, we need to go up there with solutions and suggestions," said Tulani Smith, an Ypsilanti school administrator.

SOURCE:
The Ann Arbor News, "Ypsilanti leads school rebellion," Oct. 21, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Detroit not the only school district seeing red," June 30, 2008


EDUCATORS INVITED TO MACKINAC CENTER'S 20TH ANNIVERSARY GALA


MIDLAND, Mich. - Teachers, administrators, school board members and other school employees are invited to attend the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's 20th anniversary celebration at a special promotional price of $50 per ticket or $75 per couple.

The event will take place Nov. 11 in Michigan State University's Kellogg Center, with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 7. 

The keynote speaker will be John Stossel, co-anchor of ABC's "20/20."

Call (512) 476-4403 by Nov. 3 to RSVP.

SOURCE:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "20th Anniversary Gala"


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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