Contents of this issue:


  • Pontiac school plan ends up in court
  • District at odds with union over stimulus
  • Another U Prep charter to open
  • Schools cut spending as enrollment falls
  • When meeting time is also mealtime

PONTIAC SCHOOL PLAN ENDS UP IN COURT


PONTIAC, Mich. - A circuit court judge has offered to facilitate discussions between Pontiac school teachers and the school district over the district's reorganization plan, according to The Oakland Press.

Judge Rudy Nichols refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the district by the Pontiac Education Association over the layoff of all teachers, but also has refused to grant the teachers an injunction that would have put the layoffs on hold, The Press reported.

He told the sides to try to work out their differences over layoffs, recalls, reassignments and unemployment benefits, according to The Press.

The school district gained widespread attention this spring when it issued layoff notices to all unionized employees, saying it would call them back as needed according to seniority, qualifications and certification. The district plans to close half its schools and combine others to address its overspending problem, The Press reported.

The teachers union filed suit, claiming the plan violates the collective bargaining agreement. In denying its request for an injunction, Nichols said the union failed to show it would suffer irreparable harm, and also noted that the collective bargaining agreement outlines procedures for handling disputes, The Press reported.

SOURCE:
The Oakland Press, "Judge tells district, Pontiac teachers to keep talking," May 21, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Pontiac to lay off 700-plus," March 11, 2009


DISTRICT AT ODDS WITH UNION OVER STIMULUS


ROYAL OAK, Mich. - The Royal Oak Education Association sponsored a rally to protest plans to spend the school district's stimulus funding for professional development and computers rather than to hire back staff, according to the C&G News.

The district has proposed using its stimulus dollars for professional development, technology upgrades and developing after-school programs, among other items, C&G News reported.

Superintendent Tom Moline told the News that the federal government has asked school districts to use the money for effective education reform, and not to fund positions that will have to be eliminated when federal funds run out in two years.

But Sidney Kardon, a school social worker and president of the union, told the News, "The purpose of the stimulus is to avert layoffs and retain jobs." He also criticized the district's plan to privatize its food service operation.

Meanwhile, Romeo school district administrators said they are waiting for details on how to spend stimulus money earmarked for special education, at-risk students and technology, though in general the money is intended to improve student achievement, The Romeo Observer reported. Examples of uses would include teacher training or online course software, the Observer reported.

Macomb County is estimated to receive about $14 million for at- risk students and $29 million for special education. That doesn't include "stabilization" funds, which are expected to be used to avert a statewide $59 per-pupil funding reduction, the Observer reported.

SOURCES:
C&G News, "Teachers, staff hold rally over budget decisions," May 22, 2009

The Romeo Observer, "Schools await criteria for stimulus package funds," May 20, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Must schools use money to keep teachers?" March 13, 2009


ANOTHER U PREP CHARTER TO OPEN


DETROIT - The Thompson Education Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan will fund the construction of a new public charter high school opening in fall 2010 on the Detroit riverfront, according to The Detroit News.

The $15 million science and math school will be located at the former site of Franklin Furniture, and will be affiliated with the existing University Prep Science and Math Middle school, The News reported. The middle school currently operates in the Compuware Building, but is expected to move to a new facility next to the Detroit Science Center.

Representatives of the Community Foundation, which contributed $1.5 million, said they hope the investment will spur redevelopment of the city's far east-side neighborhood, according to The News.

Former businessman Bob Thompson, who heads The Thompson Education Foundation with his wife, Ellen, once offered up to $200 million to create 15 charter high schools in Detroit, but was turned down, The News reported. Since then he has supported a series of University Prep charter school initiatives, including University Prep High School and the new science and math schools.

Speaking at the announcement, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said he supports all forms of schools, according to The News.

"I'm for education. Period," Bing said.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Mayor Bing gives support to charter schools," May 21, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Bob Thompson renews $200 million offer," Dec. 15, 2005


SCHOOLS CUT SPENDING AS ENROLLMENT FALLS


YPSILANTI, Mich. - As the June deadline to adopt a balanced budget nears, school district after Michigan school district is telling a story of fewer students, flat per-pupil funding and a consequent shakeup in staffing and programs, according to media reports.

The Ypsilanti Citizen reported that the Lincoln School District needs to cut $2 million to keep spending in line with anticipated revenue. Administrators there are recommending staff cuts and outsourcing custodial services, the Citizen reported.

After-school programs may be discontinued unless volunteers step up to run them.

The Mount Pleasant school district is debating the costs and benefits of closing or remodeling schools and regrouping students, according to the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun. Despite an anticipated savings of $900,000 next year through a combination of retirements and severance packages, the district still anticipates budget pressure after federal stimulus money is spent, the Sun reported.

In Calhoun County's Athens Area Schools, the current spending plan outstrips projected revenue by about $400,000, according to a report in the Battle Creek Enquirer. Superintendent Randy Davis has recommended two teacher layoffs, a combined superintendent-principal position, and spending down the district fund equity as part of the reduction plan, according to the report.

He also suggested entering into talks with employee unions to negotiate a reduction in salary or compensation, the Enquirer reported. On the revenue side, Davis said that hosting a special education program and federal stimulus money would bring in some new money.

"The economists and the legislatures have said Michigan will look better in 2014," Superintendent Lynn Cleary told the Lincoln school board, the Citizen reported.  "They don't have the answer. They don't know what they're going to do."

SOURCES:
The Battle Creek Enquirer, "Athens ponders cuts to fill shortfall," May 19, 2009

Ypsilanti Citizen, "Lincoln eyes $2 million in cuts," May 19, 2009

Mount Pleasant Morning Sun, "Mt. Pleasant schools' fiscal crisis deepens," May 19, 2009

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


WHEN MEETING TIME IS ALSO MEALTIME


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A survey of what's on the menu - literally - when public officials in northern Michigan gather for meetings turned up such fare as continental breakfasts, pizza and full-course meals, according to the Traverse City Record Eagle.

The Record Eagle said that Northwestern Michigan College board members partake of a full-course meal with dessert prior to their meetings, catered either by culinary arts students or a restaurant management firm that contracts with the college. In April, the Record Eagle reported, trustees ate beef Wellington.

Board members of a regional bus service receive pizza and salad, while Traverse City Area Public Schools has shifted away from a full meal to boxed lunches and munchies. All meals are paid for by taxpayers, the Record Eagle reported.

The Eagle said there is a difference of opinion on whether the free food must be shared with the public. Grand Traverse County Administrator Dennis Aloia said it must, which is why the county board receives only coffee, and makes it available to anyone attending its meetings, the Record Eagle reported. Aloia pointed to state treasury department guidelines which state that spending money on food must be for a "public purpose," not private use, the Record Eagle reported.

But NMC college spokesperson Paul Heaton told the Eagle that, "We have not been able to turn up anything in state law or policies that say we cannot provide meals for trustees, or that we have to provide food for anyone who attends a meeting."

The Bay Area Transportation Authority allows visitors to help themselves to pizza and salad, the Record Eagle reported, and visitors at school board meetings can receive a boxed lunch.

SOURCE:
The Traverse City Record Eagle, "Officials dig into free meals at meetings," May 12, 2009

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


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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