Contents of this issue:


  • Clerical workers leave MEA
  • School officials travel at taxpayer expense
  • Changing the rules on teacher licensing
  • Layoffs, closings and philanthropy in DPS
  • Troy considers private busing

CLERICAL WORKERS LEAVE MEA


WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. - Clerical workers in the South Redford School District recently left the Michigan Education Association in favor of forming their own union, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Free Press reported that the 22-member clerical group, an MEA affiliate formerly called the Clerical Education Association of South Redford, is now an independent union titled South Redford Office Professionals Association. The group represents 17 office professionals and five part-time media assistants, the article said.

"Restructuring our association allows us to reduce our costs for representation and significantly lower the dues," Kim Meray, president of SROPA, told the Free Press.

SOURCE:
The Detroit Free Press, "Wayne County News Briefs: Clerical workers split from MEA,"
April 12, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Union Spending in Michigan: A Review of Union Financial Disclosure Reports,"
Aug. 28, 2008


SCHOOL OFFICIALS TRAVEL AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE


GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. - Genesee County school officials spent at least $365,000 in the past three years traveling to conferences in Orlando and San Diego as well as closer to home, a Flint Journal investigation showed.

The Journal reviewed more than 1,000 pages of receipts, check orders and expense forms obtained from the county's 22 public school districts under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a report published Sunday.

The report highlighted such cases as the Beecher school district, which sent five board members to a national conference in San Francisco in 2007 and seven members to the next year's conference in Orlando, the report said. Those trips totaled about $28,800, but the district overall spent $65,000 on travel since July 2006, according to the article.

The Genesee Intermediate School District spent $62,000 on 29 trips during the time period examined, The Journal reported.

"If it ain't benefiting the kids, they shouldn't be spending the money," Darrell Walker, 46, told The Journal. "They don't need to spend that so they can go off on a vacation pretending it's all business."

Education officials told The Journal that the conferences are necessary as a way to keep current with new ideas.

The Montrose School District spent only $973 for three trips, The Journal reported. Superintendent Mark Kleinhans said the district has essentially eliminated travel outside the county, with few exceptions.

SOURCE:
The Flint Journal, "Genesee County school boards, superintendents rack up $370,000 in travel expenses,"
April 12, 2009

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


CHANGING THE RULES ON TEACHER LICENSING


DETROIT - Michigan is considering changing the rules on how teachers get and keep their teaching license, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

The Michigan Department of Education is shifting away from assessing teacher quality by years of experience and course work, according to the Free Press, but opinion varies on how to replace that system. Educators and education organization representatives interviewed for the report offered ideas ranging from peer evaluations by other teachers to giving more authority to principals to meeting predetermined national standards.

State education department spokeswoman Jan Ellis told the Free Press that preliminary discussions have begun with "a variety of stakeholders" on the issue, including the Michigan Education Association and American Federation of Teachers of Michigan.

June Teisan, a science teacher at Harper Woods Middle School and Michigan's 2007 teacher of the year, told the Free Press that those discussions are crucial to the profession.

"There is sort of a moral imperative to ensuring a high caliber, excellent educational experience," Teisan told the Free Press. She is on sabbatical this semester, providing professional development at the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency.

SOURCE:
The Detroit Free Press, "Michigan considers changing teacher licensing rules,"
April 13, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Teacher Quality Primer,"
Aug. 20, 2008


LAYOFFS, CLOSINGS AND PHILANTHROPY IN DPS


DETROIT - Six hundred teacher layoffs and 23 potential school closings have been announced in Detroit Public Schools, as emergency financial manager Robert Bobb addresses a $306 million deficit, according to The Detroit News. In related news, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has pledged funds toward a financial review and restructuring plan for the district.

Bobb said his team considered population, neighborhood development, building condition and student achievement levels before identifying schools to close, The News reported. Final decisions won't be made until May.

The district closed 33 schools two years ago and now owns 56 vacant structures, according to The News. Bobb said he will review those for potential demolition, redevelopment or sale to charter schools. He also will ask the state to use federal stimulus money to pay for up to $200 million in upgrades to remaining buildings, The News reported.

In a separate article, The News reported that The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will contribute about a third of the $1.4 million needed for an outside firm to review DPS finances and develop a fiscal plan for the next five years. Eli Broad, a Detroit Central High School graduate, made his fortune in the home building industry and has invested millions in education reform, the article said.

SOURCES:
The Detroit News, "Philanthropist Broad to aid Bobb, DPS,"
April 8, 2009

The Detroit News, "DPS to close 23 schools, lay off 600, use $200 million for school upgrades,"
April 9, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "First class or 21st century?"
July 14, 2008


TROY CONSIDERS PRIVATE BUSING


TROY, Mich. - Support personnel are offering wage concessions in the Troy School District as officials there review bids on outsourcing janitorial, transportation, food and grounds maintenance services, according to C&G News.

The district faces an $8 million budget gap, C&G News reported. The Troy Education Support Personnel Association has offered to take a 5 percent pay cut, which union president Harry Sahourieh said would save $5 million, according to the report.

Troy has received transportation bids from Durham School Services, based in California, and First Student, whose North American operations are based in Ohio. Both firms already contract with other Michigan districts, C&G News reported.

The board is tentatively scheduled to consider the bids at an April 21 meeting. Operational cost savings to the district over a three-year period by outsourcing transportation services would range from $1.16 million to $1.8 million, the article said, citing documents posted at the district Web site.

School board President Carol Pochodylo said the district wants to "work directly with TESPA to study cost savings that could avoid this change," but that the board's goal is to make cuts that do not directly impact instruction, according to C&G News. She also said that the companies under consideration "would be committed to hiring our existing transportation employees at their current wage or an increased rate," the article said.

SOURCE:
C&G News, "Troy school board to vote on privatization April 21,"
April 7, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Mackinac Center releases 2008 school privatization survey,"
Jan. 16, 2009


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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