Contents of this issue:
- Pontiac schools to lay off 43 teachers, 52 staffers
- Rochester to privatize custodial and transportation services
- MEA clashes with lawmakers over pension reform
- Benton Harbor to consolidate school buildings
- Saginaw Twp. to continue accepting schools of choice students
Pontiac Schools to Lay Off 43 Teachers, 52 Staffers
PONTIAC, Mich. – Starting next month, the Pontiac Public School District will begin laying off 43 teachers and 52 other staff members, including administrators, secretaries and support personnel, as a first step in closing a $24.5 million budget deficit, according to The Detroit News. The cuts will take place between mid-April and the end of June.
The News reports the layoffs are a key part of the district’s state-approved deficit elimination plan and were met with hostility by union leaders.
"Shame on the state of Michigan," Pontiac Education Association President Aimee McKeever told The News. "Shame on them. They are setting us up to fail because they put all these stipulations on the deficit elimination plan, including cutting wages, cutting staff and increasing student growth. What an awful thing for the state to do."
But Interim Superintendent Walter L. Burt told The News the cuts were necessary to help fix a district plagued by overspending.
"Normally, we would not recommend taking such drastic measures, but layoffs are critical to the survival of the school district of the city of Pontiac," he said. "Despite the staff cuts, I am confident we will be able to provide our students with a quality education."
The Detroit News, “Pontiac schools to lay off 95, including 43 teachers," March 28, 2012
Michigan Education Report, “State approves Pontiac deficit elimination plan," March 25, 2012
Rochester to Privatize Custodial and Transportation Services
ROCHESTER, Mich. – The Rochester Board of Education will most likely move forward with privatizing custodial and transportation services after learning the move could save the district $11.7 million over the next three years, according to the Oakland Township-Lake Orion Patch. The move would help the district close a projected $10.8 million budget deficit.
Though no formal action was taken at the meeting, every board member present voiced support for the privatization, according to The Patch. One board member was absent.
"I believe this is our fiscal responsibility — it's what we were elected for," Board President Jennifer Berwick told The Patch. "I do not think we can not move forward with this."
The Patch reports that the board is expected to take a formal vote at its Apr. 16 meeting.
Patch.com, “Rochester Will Move Forward With Privatization of Bus Drivers, Custodians,” March 26, 2012
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Privatization Survey Results Available,” Nov. 9, 2011
MEA Clashes With Lawmakers Over Pension Reform
LANSING, Mich. – A bill introduced in the Michigan Senate to deal with unfunded teachers’ pension liabilities is meeting some strong resistance from the MEA, according to The Livingston Daily Press & Argus. Currently, school districts are required to pay 24 percent of payroll into the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System, and that rate is expected to increase to 27.3 percent next year to cover increased benefits costs. Senate Bill 1040 would require school employees to contribute 8 percent of their salary to their pension, up from the current 5 percent.
The MEA is critical of the bill, arguing that the state should be required to fill the funding gap rather than school employees. MEA spokesman Doug Pratt told The Livingston Daily that requiring higher contributions from school employees could have a negative impact on local economies.
"What you're going to do is you're going to suck thousands of dollars out of local economies. You're going to take people who already aren't making a lot of money and put them in worse shape. Should school employees have to bail out political decisions from the last 20 years?"
According to The Livingston Daily, school officials note the potential savings could alleviate a lot of financial stress at the district level.
"There's something for everybody not to like, but at the end of the day, the thing to like about this is it's going to help the schools' budgets. At the end of the day, it's going to lower the amount that schools have to pay into the pension system," David Campbell, Livingston Educational Service Agency superintendent, told The Livingston Daily. "Districts will feel, 'Boy, maybe we don't have to cut teachers and raise the class sizes or pay pay-to-play fees.' This will have a positive impact."
The Livingston Daily Press & Argus, “Sides clash on pension reform,” March 28, 2012
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “State Behind on School Employee Pension Reform,” Feb. 6, 2012
Benton Harbor to Consolidate School Buildings
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – The Benton Harbor School Board has approved a plan to consolidate schools in an effort to eliminate the district’s deficit, according to the Associate Press. After implementation, the district will operate a pre-K program, four K-8 schools and one high school.
Superintendent Leonard Seawood told the AP the moves should be completed by 2016 and will be “historic for our students.” The district hopes to eliminate overspending and avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.
The Associated Press, “Benton Harbor school board approves consolidation,” March 28, 2012
Michigan Education Report, “State halts takeover of Benton Harbor schools,” Jan. 4, 2012
Saginaw Twp. To Continue Accepting Schools of Choice Students
SAGINAW TWP., Mich. – The Saginaw Township Board of Education has voted to accept schools-of-choice students for the upcoming school year, according to MLive.
The district has accepted schools-of-choice students since the mid-1990s, though MLive reports there is an added incentive this year: participation in the program is on a list of “best practices” schools need to use in order to qualify for an extra $100 per student in state aid.
Superintendent Jerry L. Seese told MLive that he wasn’t sure how many students the district would be able to accept.
“We usually take most that apply,” Seese said. “We never know how many from year-to-year.”
MLive.com, “Saginaw Township Community Schools continues schools of choice for 2012-13 year,” March 27, 2012
Michigan Education Report, “Schools of choice has led to improved opportunities,” Jan. 2, 2012
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