March 11, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • Two teachers win against MEA under Right-to-Work law
  • Traverse district in violation of election law, may owe $26K
  • Capac district asks teachers union to share costs further 
  • Online devices, private funding bridge tech divide at DPS
  • Saginaw can’t look to SodexoMAGIC for extra cash, says attorney
  • Issues & Ideas forum on school collective bargaining
  • Correction

Two Teachers Win Against MEA Under Right-to-Work Law

LANSING, Mich. – Two teachers who sued to the Michigan Education Association have won the right not to be forced to pay union dues under Michigan’s worker freedom law, according to The Detroit News.
The MEA is maintaining that teachers must resign during August. The two teachers who won, Miriam Chanski of Coopersville and Ray Arthur of Petoskey, say that the MEA failed to adequately inform them of the window.
I’m very thankful that the MEA has finally acknowledged it was my right to opt out,” Chanski told The News. “But my case settlement does not bring justice to all those who deserve it.”
Chanski and Arthur were represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, according to The News. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.
The News reports that the Center has filed another complaint to prevent the union from using a collections agency to collect dues from a Novi teacher.
“The MEA does not bully or intimidate its members,” Nancy Knight, MEA spokesperson, told The News.

SOURCE: The Detroit News, “2 Mich. Teachers win fight to quit union under right-to-work law, think tank says,” March 6, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Files Suit in Oakland County on Behalf of 39-Year Teaching Veteran to Prevent MEA Harassment,” Feb. 28, 2014 

Traverse District in Violation of Election Law, May Owe $26K

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Traverse City Area Public Schools misspent $25,600 on school election campaign materials, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
The Record-Eagle reports that the district now has to show that someone reimbursed the district for the money, or it could face further investigation.
The TCAPS school board president told the Record-Eagle that officials are trying to determine who should pay. Jason Gillman, the resident who filed the complaint against the district, suggested that the superintendent might have to pay back the money since the superintendent said he took “full responsibility,” for the illegal campaign, according to the Record-Eagle.

SOURCE: Traverse City Record-Eagle, “UPDATE: Ruling will force someone to reimburse TCAPS for violation,” March 4, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Advocacy Alleged in School District Bond Promotion," Oct. 27, 2012 

Capac District Asks Teachers Union to Share Costs Further

CAPAC, Mich. – The Capac school district sent out a letter to residents regarding ongoing negotiations with the district’s teachers union, according to the Port Huron Times Herald.
In recent years, according to the Times Herald, the district has reduced the teachers salary schedule by 10 percent and has increased teachers’ health insurance deductible.
However, the letter sent out to residents stated that more cuts have been borne by other school employees, according to the Times Herald. Administration has been cut in half, the Times Herald reports, and the district’s superintendent is now working part-time and does not receive benefits.
“Thus all of the employee groups mentioned so far have taken deep concessions to help the district stay afloat,” the district letter said, according to the Times Herald. “However, the teachers have voluntarily given up essentially nothing.”
The vice president of the Capac Education Association told the Times Herald that the letter felt unfair and that “teachers have tried really, really hard to be here for students, be professional.”

SOURCE: The Port Huron Times Herald, “Capac school board letter upsets teachers,” March 4, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Port Huron: Emergency or not," Dec. 22, 2009 

Online Devices, Private Funding Bridge Tech Divide at DPS

DETROIT – Since last fall, Detroit Public Schools has been piloting devices that enable students without internet to access education-related sites from home, according to The Detroit News.
As many as 70 percent of DPS students do not have access to the internet at home, according to The News. This is twice the national rate, according to DPS.
The News reports that 500 “SmartSpot” Wi-Fi hotspot devices have been sent home with DPS students, allowing them to access classroom materials online. According to The News, teachers filter out non-educational sites, meaning that the connection DPS is providing is primarily used for the child’s education.
The News reports that the total cost of the pilot program is $75,000, all of which was covered by grants and private donations.
“The students are elated, especially those that travel between homes,” Diane Jones, DPS chief information officer, told The News. “Teachers can give more challenging work," she told The News.

SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Detroit schools project always keeps virtual classroom open,” March 9, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “A Virtual Learning Revolution,” March 7, 2011  

Saginaw Can’t Look to SodexoMAGIC for Extra Cash, Says Attorney

SAGINAW, Mich. – Though the Saginaw School District was hoping to pursue $450,000 from SodexoMAGIC, a food and janitorial service company, the district’s attorney advised otherwise, according to MLive.
The company had promised the district guaranteed savings, which is why Saginaw school board members had hoped for extra cash, MLive reports. But those savings can be impacted by snow days and student enrollment, according to MLive.
“I don’t believe there is any money for the district to aggressively pursue,” John Humphreys, the district’s attorney, said, MLive reports. “SodexoMAGIC is in compliance with the contracts.”
SOURCE: MLive, “Attorney: SodexoMAGIC in compliance with Saginaw School District contract,” March 5 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Saginaw to close three schools, Feb. 18, 2014 

Issues & Ideas Forum on School Collective Bargaining

MIDLAND, Mich. – An Issues & Ideas forum hosted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on March 31 will examine whether or not school districts in Michigan have complied with various state laws passed in 2011 designed to help school officials retain and reward effective teachers. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.
The forum is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. on March 31 at the Michigan Restaurant Association in Lansing. For more information please visit http://www.mackinac.org/19799.


MIDLAND, Mich. – An item in the March 4, 2014, edition of Michigan Education Digest misidentified Oakridge Public Schools in Muskegon County as pursuing up to $380,000 in savings via privatization.