Contents of this issue:


  • MEA lawsuit may be costing teaching jobs
  • In deficit, Ishpeming privatizes custodial work
  • 'Edujobs' money on hold in Lansing
  • Taylor announces concessions
  • Albion looks to lure back students

MEA LAWSUIT MAY BE COSTING TEACHING JOBS


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Michigan Education Association lawsuit over retiree health care is one reason some districts aren't hiring, school leaders in west Michigan told The Grand Rapids Press.

The MEA is challenging a new state law that requires school employees to pay 3 percent of their base salaries toward school retiree medical benefits, The Press reported. A judge has ordered those payments to be put in escrow until the lawsuit is settled, the report said. In the meantime, school districts have to make up the difference.

That means districts must send an amount equal to 20.66 percent of payroll — the highest level ever — to the statewide school employee retirement fund, The Press reported. The amount could drop to about 17 percent if the MEA loses in court.

The higher retirement payments will eat up some of the federal "Edujobs" money that districts anticipate receiving this year, the report said. Even when money becomes available, school districts said they may not use it to hire new teachers because the money is one-time-only, The Press reported.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Michigan education retirement costs hit new high: Schools will pay 20 percent surcharge on payroll," Oct. 14, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Teachers sue over retirement contributions," June 16, 2010


IN DEFICIT, ISHPEMING PRIVATIZES CUSTODIAL WORK


ISHPEMING, Mich. — Ishpeming Public Schools will privatize custodial services at two schools as of Jan. 1, 2011, in a move that will eliminate four jobs and is expected to save the district about $95,000, according to the Marquette Mining Journal.

Superintendent Stephen Piereson said the district received a "blistering letter" from the Michigan Department of Education in September requiring it to do more to eliminate a $500,000 budget deficit or face penalties, according to the Mining Journal.

The Michigan Education Association will charge the district with unfair labor practices and the school board with violating the Open Meetings Act in response, the Mining Journal reported.

The union alleges that the board used possible privatization of services as a bargaining tool with the Ishpeming Education Support Personnel, which it says violates state law, according to the Mining Journal. It also claims that a board committee has met privately regarding the issue, a charge that board President Robert Nadeau disputed, the report said.

Piereson told the Mining Journal he had not reviewed the charges and could not comment at that point.

In related news, the district will close a middle school to create additional savings, the Mining Journal reported.

SOURCES:
Marquette Mining Journal, "Teacher's union to file unfair labor practice charge, claim violations of Open Meetings Act," Oct. 12, 2010

Marquette Mining Journal, "Layoffs, privatization OK'd by Ishpeming school board," Oct. 12, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan School Privatization Up 8 Percent," Sept. 21, 2010


'EDUJOBS' MONEY ON HOLD IN LANSING


LANSING, Mich. — About $316 million in federal 'Edujobs' money is on hold in Lansing until legislators discuss whether the distribution plan meets federal guidelines, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The $154-per-student payment that public schools expected to receive will be delayed and, in some cases, reduced, according to the report.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed the original funding formula, saying it may violate federal rules. That plan awarded a one-time payment of $154 per pupil and an additional $23 to $46 per pupil, with lower-spending districts receiving more, according to the Free Press. The new distribution plan likely will give twice as much to lower-spending districts, Rep. Terry Brown, D-Pigeon, told the Free Press.

"We are shocked and dismayed that this has occurred," Wayne-Westland Community Schools Superintendent Greg Baracy told the Free Press. "This is going to create a cash-flow problem for us."

Grosse Pointe Public Schools didn't plan on the extra cash when budgeting, Chris Fenton, assistant superintendent for business, told the Free Press. He said it would be fairer to give more of the federal money to districts with large numbers of low-income students, according to the Free Press.

SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, "State to redo school aid plan," Oct. 13, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Underfunded Myth," June 2, 2010


TAYLOR ANNOUNCES CONCESSIONS


TAYLOR, Mich. — Newly hired support staff in the Taylor School District will start at lower wages and pay more for health care under an agreement expected to save the district $1.6 million over two years, according to The (Southgate) News-Herald.

New employees will receive 70 percent of "base pay" and work their way up to 100 percent over five years, The News-Herald reported. The current base pay in dollars was not reported. They also will pay a larger share of the cost of medical office visits and emergency room visits.

The workers are members of Local 26M of the Service Employees International Union. A union official told The News-Herald that the union is not currently in contract negotiations, although the contract posted at the district website expired on June 30.

The district moved a number of substitute support staffers to permanent status after 57 employees retired this summer, The News-Herald reported.

SOURCES:
The (Southgate) News-Herald, "TAYLOR: School service employees union concedes $800, 000," Oct. 12, 2010

Taylor School District, "Master Agreement between The Board of Education of Taylor School District and Local 26M Division of SEIU Local 517, Dec. 8, 2008 - June 30, 2010."

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School Databases, "Michigan School District Collective Bargaining Agreements."


ALBION LOOKS TO LURE BACK STUDENTS


ALBION, Mich. — Looking to lure back former students, Albion Public Schools will allow them to re-enroll in the district at any time instead of waiting until semester break, The Jackson Citizen Patriot reported. The "Try Us Out" program is open to students who left Albion through schools-of-choice programs.

Superintendent Frederick Clarke said the district is confident it can offer a "product that is much better than probably when (a student) left," The Citizen Patriot reported. Unofficial numbers show the district now has about 915 students, 48 fewer than projected for 2010 and 118 less than a year ago, according to The Citizen Patriot.

The school will set up an academic support plan for transfer students within two weeks of their arrival, The Citizen Patriot reported. If the student is not successful, Albion will not prevent him or her from leaving again and will agree to transfer the state funding for that student to a different district, according to The Citizen Patriot.

SOURCE:
The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Albion Public Schools instituting 'Try Us Out' policy in attempt to boost enrollment," Oct. 12, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "East Grand Rapids Limits Choice Enrollment," Sept. 16, 2010


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 med@educationreport.org

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