Sept. 16, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • Detroit Federation of Teachers president stepping down
  • District saves $737K by dropping MESSA health insurance
  • Number of overspending districts declines to 48
  • Bad Axe questions ‘focus school’ designation
  • Certification rules force AAPS to fire two teachers

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Stepping Down

DETROIT – Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, is stepping down, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Johnson has been with the DFT for more than 20 years, according to the Free Press. He is leaving because he no longer has the energy and motivation to “go full throttle,” the Free Press reports.
According to the Free Press, Johnson’s leadership was sometimes controversial among union membership. Johnson publicly said Detroit Public Schools would be better off without ineffective teachers, and supported certain reforms of the district, the Free Press reports.
With Michigan now a right-to-work state, union leadership is changing, Johnson told the Free Press.
“…I’m from the era…when your union membership was never a question,” he told the Free Press. “Now that narrative will change. You’re going to have to go out and convince people to be part of a union.”

SOURCE: Detroit Free Press, “Rochelle Riley: Detroit teachers union president Keith Johnson to step aside,” Sept. 11, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “DFT: Ignore district interview procedures,” May 18, 2012 

District Saves $737K by Dropping MESSA Health Insurance

DANSVILLE, Mich. – The Dansville school district has saved $737,800 over three years by switching health insurance providers, Michigan Capitol Confidential reports. Capitol Confidential is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Dansville Superintendent Amy Hodgson told Capitol Confidential that the district dropped the Michigan Education Special Services Association insurance for a different plan. MESSA, according to Capitol Confidential, is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.
Dansville made the switch, Capitol Confidential reports, in response to a 2011 law that places a cap on health insurance costs that can be borne by school districts.

SOURCE: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Dropping Union Health Insurance Saves District $737K” Sept. 11, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “District Dumps Union Insurance, Saves $450K and Pays 100% of Health Care,” July 19, 2013 

Number of Overspending Districts Declines to 48

LANSING, Mich. – There are 48 school districts and public charter schools currently spending more than they receive, The Detroit News reports. This is a decline from 52 during the previous quarter, according to The News.

Warren Consolidated Schools has created an overspending crisis, The News reports, while River Rouge is one of the districts to work its way into the black.
Detroit Public Schools is overspending by $127 million, an increase of more than 33 percent over the previous year, according to The News. The district had tried to trim its overspending crisis with a 10 percent across-the-board pay cut, but dropped the plan when teachers and the state superintendent complained, The News reports.

SOURCE: The Detroit News, “School financial health: 48 districts operating in deficit, state says,” Sept. 11, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Dire Predictions for School District Deficits Doesn’t Materialize," Dec. 16, 2013 

Bad Axe Questions ‘Focus School’ Designation

BAD AXE, Mich. – Bad Axe High School was recently named a ‘focus school’ by the Michigan Department of Education, the Huron Daily Tribune reports.

Bad Axe Superintendent Greg Newland told the Daily Tribune that state and federal requirements mean that 10 percent of Michigan schools will be automatically labeled as focus schools, regardless of achievement level.
Newland told the Daily Tribune that the focus school designation only measures the gap between the top-scoring 30 percent of students in a school and the bottom-scoring 30 percent of students.
“You don’t want to bring your top students down in order not to be on the list,” Newland told the Daily Tribune. “One of the frustrations of the designation in some ways is that sometimes people feel like they are getting penalized for having high achieving students.”

SOURCE: Huron Daily Tribune, “Bad Axe Schools trying to adjust its focus,” Sept. 13, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Public High School Context and Performance Database: Bad Axe High School, 2013 

Certification Rules Force AAPS to Fire Two Teachers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ann Arbor Public Schools has fired two teachers and one assistant principal due to certification requirements, MLive reports.

Ann Arbor Superintendent Jeanice Swift explained that state law does not allow the district to employee educators who are not able to meet certification requirements, according to MLive.
“The state is now auditing school districts to ensure that staff are all properly certified,” AAPS chief counsel David Cosma said, according to MLive.
The terminated employees will have to re-apply to the district upon receiving proper certification, MLive reports.

SOURCE: MLive, “Ann Arbor school district fires 3 educators over expired certifications,” Sept. 11, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Ann Arbor Students and Parents Take Cuts While Teachers Get Raises,” July 15, 2013