Contents of this issue:
  • DPS enrollment drop biggest in 20 years
  • Goodrich battles over instructional time and insurance
  • Dowagiac crunched by teacher benefits
  • Niles schools lease bandwidth
  • Lapeer may switch to trimester system

DETROIT — The Detroit Public Schools is reporting its single biggest enrollment drop in two decades, according to The Detroit News.

Enrollment decreased by 12,300 students from last fall, putting the district's count at 116,800, The News reported. Enrollment had dropped below 100,000 shortly after the Detroit Federation of Teachers union conducted an illegal strike that denied instruction to students for several days in September.

District officials planned for an enrollment drop after the strike by sending 500 layoff notices to teachers. Layoffs will begin in December.

Carol Summers, president of the Detroit Council PTA-PTSA, believes that many more students would have left had the option been available.

"You have to look at those critical factors," Summers told the News. "Transportation is a large part of why they stayed."

The Detroit News, "Detroit schools' strike tab is $12M," Nov. 23, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit enrollment projections could be wrong," Oct. 24, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS enrollment drops 19,000," Oct. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit enrollment could fall 25,000," Sept. 26, 2006

GOODRICH, Mich. — Instructional time and health insurance are the major negotiating issues in the Goodrich school district, according to The Flint Journal.

The Goodrich teachers union is demanding an increase in instructional time, even though an arbitrator ruled that the school district was not in the wrong by revising the school instructional calendar by 14 days last year, according to The Journal.

The district stands behind its move.

"It allows us to maintain programs and services for kids," Goodrich Superintendent Kimberley Hart told The Journal.

Goodrich also is looking to switch its health insurance provider from the Michigan Educational Special Services Association to a more cost-effective one, according to The Journal. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union.

"MESSA is very expensive," Hart told The Journal, "The cost of benefits packages goes up every year."

According to The Journal, insurance premiums increased by 1.23 percent last year, but have increased by more than 10 percent in previous years.

"(Last year's small increase) is not a trend," Hart told The Journal. "We have to look to the future."

The Flint Journal, "Teachers, districts still talking," Nov. 18, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Blue Cross and MESSA," Sep. 6, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Pinckney teachers voluntarily abandon MESSA," Feb. 7, 2006

DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Payroll in Dowagiac Union Schools has increased 20 percent in five years, while revenues have increased at about one-fourth that pace, according to The Dowagiac Daily News.

Auditor Mike Wilson explained that the district's current financial situation is eating away at its general fund balance, The News reported.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if your major source of revenue has only increased 5.6 percent since 2002 and your major expenditure, which is payroll, has increased by 20 percent, it's got to come from somewhere, and where it's been coming from is fund balance," Wilson told the school board, according to The News.

The district and the Dowagiac Education Association currently are negotiating a new contract, The News reported.

The district recently was named an "outperforming school district" which the union believes should prompt a faster contract settlement. The union picketed at a recent school board meeting where the findings of the district's audit were being presented.

"What upsets us the most is that we should be the first priority," union President Bob Kwiatkoski told The News.

The Dowagiac Daily News, "Teachers picket school meeting," Nov. 21, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

NILES, Mich. — Niles Community Schools are expected to gain more than $650,000 after agreeing to lease its bandwidth to a Grand Rapids business technology company, according to the Niles Daily Star.

Niles was one of a handful of districts that received the bandwidth as a donation from the Federal Communications Commission 20 years ago.

"We never used it, never had the equipment, never had the desire," Superintendent Doug Law told the Star.

The proposed contract with SourcIT will include an initial payment of $620,000 and a $100 monthly payment for 30 years, according to the Star.

The contract is awaiting FCC approval, but the district will receive payments during this fiscal year. The district is planning on spending some of the money on new computer labs and for employee fingerprinting.

Niles Daily Star, "IT lease deal to net Niles schools $600K," Nov. 17, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Kentwood leases land for billboards," Nov. 14, 2006

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

LAPEER, Mich. — The Lapeer school district could switch its high school to a trimester calendar system in response to the new state graduation requirements, according to The Flint Journal.

The proposed switch could begin with the 2008-2009 school year and would allow students to take more electives while still meeting new graduation requirements. Students will take 60 classes in a four-year period as opposed to the current 48, The Journal reported.

The plan is being reviewed by the school board.

The Flint Journal, "Class changes ahead for high school students," Nov. 18, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Hamilton looking at trimesters," June 20, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Hope in state graduation standards misplaced," Mar. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Shelby district ponders cost-saving 'trimester' system," Feb. 1, 2005

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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