Contents of this issue:
  • Belding teachers union, district battle over health insurance
  • Otsego Schools anticipate $1 million budget deficit
  • Student threatens principal with BB gun
  • Clawson schools survey community
  • Lansing teachers may have to re-apply for their jobs
  • Comment and win an iPod

BELDING, Mich. — Contract negotiations for Belding teachers continue to stall over raises and health insurance contributions, according to the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.

The teachers and school board recently met through a state mediator, but the district's proposed contract was immediately rejected by the union. The proposal included a 2 percent pay increase for two years and increased co-pays under the Michigan Education Special Services Association to $10/$20 from $5/$10. The district would still continue to pay 100 percent of the MESSA premiums, the Sentinel-Standard reported. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union that outsources insurance underwriting and then sells the policies to school districts.

"That shift alone would save the district $144,000," Belding Superintendent Charles Barker told the Sentinel-Standard. "The savings in turn would have helped with an increase in (the teachers') pay. It was misrepresented that the drug card would consume everyone's entire pay increase and that's simply not true."

Barker also noted that the contract proposal was better than any of the contract agreements with three other employee groups, including bus drivers, support staff and administrators, according to the Sentinel-Standard.

The Belding union's bargaining team spokeswoman Lynn Mason said she understands the many issues facing the district, including decreasing enrollment, but says that should not have any bearing on the teachers contract.

"I understand the uncertainties and the various costs of running a district and inflation, but we have to go at it from the viewpoint of staff, people who work closest to the children," Mason, a teacher at Belding Middle School, told the Sentinel-Standard. "The most important resource we believe is our members and their working conditions which ultimately are students' learning conditions."

Negotiations will be stalled until another state mediator is available in April, the Sentinel-Standard reported.

Ionia Sentinel-Standard, "BAS contract talks still stalled," Feb. 28, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Employee Salaries and Benefits," in "A Collective Bargaining Primer," Feb. 28, 2007

OTSEGO, Mich. — The Otsego Public Schools are anticipating a budget deficit of $1 million due largely to a combination of decreasing enrollment and a rise in benefit costs, according to The Plainwell & Otsego Union Enterprise.

Last year, the district had a balanced budget because of an enrollment increase. This year, however, the number enrolling in the district has decreased by 25 students, including 20 who left the district in the last two weeks, Superintendent Denny Patzer told The Union Enterprise. District officials are now including a loss of $100,000 in budget projections to account for the fact that fewer students are enrolling.

The district is also struggling with increases in employee benefit costs, including an increase in retirement contributions and federal income tax. Insurance costs are expected to increase by 10 percent, although Patzer says there is a chance the increase will be less extreme, The Union Enterprise reported.

"One (insurance provider) told us that was what it was going to be," Patzer told The Union Enterprise. "But I'm starting to hear that the increase could be half that. Usually at the end of April, MESSA (Michigan Education Special Services Association) will put information out (about what it expects)."

The district is looking at the possibility of reducing staff and cutting programs. The district's fund balance is currently $4.08 million, or 22 percent of operating expenses. However, the district is expecting to spend $250,000 before the end of the school year.

The Plainwell & Otsego Union Enterprise, "Budget: Deficit looms for Otsego schools," Feb. 28, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Pupil Counts," in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Foundation Allowance: General Education," in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School District Budgeting," in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

Michigan School Money Database, "Otsego Public Schools: Revenues and Expenditures, 2005-2006, 2004-2005" fiscal.aspx?Year1=2005-6&DCode1=03020&Year2=2004-5&DCode2=03020

DETROIT — A 12-year old boy is in custody after allegedly threatening his former elementary school principal with a BB gun, according to WDIV Channel 4 in Detroit.

Authorities say the boy transferred out of Brewer Elementary School due to behavior problems, but returned with a BB gun, cursed at teachers and then threatened the principal. Detroit Public Schools is working with police to determine appropriate disciplinary or legal action, WDIV reported.

WDIV Channel 4, "Police: 12-Year-Old Threatens Principal with BB Gun," Feb. 25, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "The three P's of school safety: parents, prevention, and police," Nov. 1, 2001

CLAWSON, Mich. — The Clawson school board will send surveys to the 5,000 households in the community asking them to evaluate district performance and programs, including its schools of choice policy, according to the Royal Oak Mirror.

The survey is 28 questions long and will be sent to every household, even those without school-age children. In addition to collecting general perceptions of the district, the school board is looking for insight into the possibility of support for a new sinking fund millage. The district, which currently has an enrollment of 1,800 students, is seeking community opinions on continuing schools of choice. Clawson currently accepts an unlimited number of K-12 students within Oakland County and has accepted about 100 students a year for three years, the Mirror reported.

"We're like the 'Three Little Bears.' We want to be just right (in size)," School Board President Mike Bosnic told the Mirror, while also saying the district may be getting a little too big.

The survey cost the district about $1,200 for printing and postage, according to the Mirror.

Royal Oak Mirror, "How are we doing? School board asks residents," March 2, 2008 NEWS18/803020312/1035

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Conclusion: Competition Is Improving Public Schools for Michigan Children," July 24, 2000

LANSING, Mich. — Lansing Community Schools teachers working in schools undergoing restructuring may have to reapply for their jobs, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Lansing Schools Education Association President Jerry Swartz said the contract language only applies to schools that receive federal funding. Schools begin a restructuring process after failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress for four years, as mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the State Journal reported.

Lansing Superintendent T.C. Wallace recently announced a proposal to lay off all teachers in Eastern and Everett high schools and have them reapply for positions. No teacher will actually lose their job, or pay, but may be reassigned. The reapplication process will allow principals to select teachers and will allow teachers to choose where they want to work and what they want to teach, if they are qualified in more than one subject, according to the State Journal.

Swartz argues that the contract language was only included for elementary schools and that the proposal to interview all teachers would be unmanageable.

"It's impossible with the current staffing," Swartz told the State Journal. "The contract clearly details the interview process. It was never designed for this sort of wholesale reorganization."

Robert Taylor of the state Teacher Tenure Commission says such restructuring plans are entirely legal.

"They're entitled to be continuously employed at the same rate of pay they have been all along," Taylor told the State Journal. "The tenure act doesn't guarantee any teacher to any position."

Lansing State Journal, "Lansing teachers face scenario rare in state," March 1, 2008 803010334/1006/news05

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Nov. 17, 2002

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper 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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