Contents of this issue:


  • Granholm: Change pensions to save money
  • Students protest layoffs, seniority
  • 'Give back' saves jobs
  • Schools team up on custodial bids
  • Districts eye security upgrades

GRANHOLM: CHANGE PENSIONS TO SAVE MONEY


LANSING, Mich. - In a bid to reduce state spending by up to $450 million, Gov. Jennifer Granholm has proposed modifying the pension and health care plans for future school and state retirees, but also would offer an incentive to current employees to retire this summer, according to media reports.

Speaking to the Lansing Rotary Club, Gov. Granholm said employees with at least 30 years of experience who retire between July and September would get a pension boost ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per year, according to reports in the Lansing State Journal and The Oakland Press.

But she also proposed cutting spending by requiring employees to contribute more to their own pensions and by cutting retiree dental and vision benefits, the Journal reported.

Granholm also suggested consolidating school districts and services, and aligning the school and state budget years, The Press reported. The proposals would require legislative approval.

Michigan Education Association spokesman Doug Pratt called the retirement incentive "pretty tiny" and a "political game and gimmick," the Journal reported.

SOURCES:
Lansing State Journal, "Retirees from schools get boost, but others to see cut in benefits," Jan. 30, 2010

The Oakland Press, "Granholm proposes retirement plan to cut costs," Jan. 29, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Public Pension Plans Need to Reflect Reality," Jan. 3, 2006


STUDENTS PROTEST LAYOFFS, SENIORITY


PONTIAC, Mich. - Students rallied outside Pontiac High School last week to protest the layoffs of 15 teachers, but comments made by one student to The Macomb Daily suggested that the youths also disagreed with teacher seniority rules.

"The young, motivated teachers that are gone are the ones that actually cared about us," Ravon Williams, 17, told The Daily.

"The ones that got to stay because of seniority, because of a contract, are the ones that aren't so patient with us and can't relate to us."

Williams, former class president, organized the gathering of about 200 students outside the high school on Friday, according to The Daily.

Robert Martin, the district's chief deputy for strategic reform, confirmed that 15 teachers were laid off at the end of the first semester, The Daily reported.

The protesting students gathered outside the high school before school, and the building was put on lockdown after other students began leaving the school between classes to join them, according to The Daily. It was unclear whether the students would be punished, The Daily reported.

SOURCE:
The Macomb Daily, "Students protest in Pontiac," Jan. 30, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Teacher Quality Primer: Discretion in Hiring," June 30, 2008


'GIVE BACK' SAVES JOBS


MOUNT PLEASANT - Custodians in Mount Pleasant Public Schools are turning back part of their earnings to the district as a way to save the jobs of four colleagues, according to The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun. Separately, bus drivers and support staff have ratified new contracts that include wage schedule freezes and insurance changes.

The Sun reported that the district avoided laying off four custodians when their coworkers agreed to "give back" five hours of pay per week toward health insurance costs.

In related news, the wage schedules for bus drivers and support staff members will be frozen for one year and two years, respectively, though any workers who are not at the top of the schedule still will receive step increases, according to The Sun.

To pay for those increases, workers agreed to switch to Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans administered through the Michigan Education Special Services Association. MESSA is an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association.

Peter Tresize, assistant superintendent for human resources, told The Sun that MESSA rates came in lower when compared to another carrier. The article did not name the district's current insurance provider.

SOURCE:
The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, "School workers take freezes," Feb. 2, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Are Schools Underfunded?" Nov. 23, 2009


SCHOOLS TEAM UP ON CUSTODIAL BIDS


MIDLAND, Mich. - Three public school districts and an intermediate district are jointly seeking bids from private custodial firms, though one official said that doesn't necessarily mean the districts will privatize the work, the Midland Daily News reported.

Administrators told the Daily News that they want to learn more about potential cost savings of outsourcing.

"Given the financial state that our districts are in and the pessimistic outlook for next year, we're being forced to look at every possible way to reduce our costs," Meridian Public Schools Superintendent Doug Fillmore told the Daily News.

Nearby Midland Public Schools already has outsourced its custodial work.

SOURCE:
Midland Daily News, "County schools consider contracting custodial work," Jan. 28, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Privatization Survey 2009," Dec. 7, 2009


DISTRICTS EYE SECURITY UPGRADES


DETROIT - Surveillance cameras, secured entryways, swipe cards and enhanced alarm systems are the new face of school security in metro Detroit, according to a report in The Detroit News.

In an overview of current and planned security systems in a number of school districts, The News reported plans ranging from reconfiguring front entrances to adding surveillance cameras to locking doors and using a "swipe card" entry system.

In some districts, upgrades depend on the outcome of bond proposals, according to The News. In Chippewa Valley Schools, for example, the district is asking voters to approve an $89 million bond next month, part of which would be used to install surveillance cameras in four middle and 12 elementary schools, The News reported.

Chippewa Valley High School Principal Jerry Davisson told The News that existing cameras in the high schools have reduced bullying, vandalism, fighting and theft.

Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school security consultant, told The News that new equipment alone is not sufficient unless schools also include staff and student body training.

One school board member told The News that while it's important that children feel safe, some devices such as metal detectors can make them feel they are entering a prison rather than a school.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Metro Detroit schools step up security," Jan. 29, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Schools beef up video surveillance," Oct. 30, 2008


MICHIGAN EDUATION 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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