Oct. 21, 2014

Contents of this issue:

  • Teacher sues union, district over deductions for ‘release time'
  • School board org tries to help Flint reduce overspending
  • Dearborn Heights officials defend move to suspend student
  • New Detroit public charter school posting stellar results
  • MEA, Colbeck exchange jabs over political involvement

Teacher Sues Union, District Over Deductions for ‘Release Time’

BRIGHTON, Mich. – Adam Neuman, a Brighton High School teacher, is challenging a school district contract that requires him to pay for union “release time,” even though he left the union, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus. 

Under the Brighton teachers’ contract, all teachers – even though who choose to leave the union – must pay for a Brighton union official to take paid time off from school to work on union matters, the Press & Argus reports.

Neuman is suing the Brighton School District and the Brighton Education Association, with legal support from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. The Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

MCLF attorneys say that Brighton’s release time payment requirement violates two laws – Michigan’s right-to-work law, and a law prohibiting school districts from deducting money from school employees’ paychecks on behalf of the union, according to the Press & Argus.

“What part of opting out does the union not understand?” MCLF attorney Patrick Wright said to the Press & Argus. “They are not allowed to raid a nonmember’s paycheck.”

SOURCE: Livingston Daily Press & Argus, “Brighton teacher takes issue with union fees,” Oct. 15, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “BEA President Unsure What Her Contract Says,” Oct. 17, 2014 

School Board Org Tries to Help Flint Reduce Overspending

FLINT, Mich. – The Michigan Association of School Boards will be helping the Flint School District to address its overspending crisis, MLive reports.

According to MLive, Flint is overspending by more than $20 million each year. MASB’s consulting with the district, according to MLive, will not cost Flint any money.

Doug LaFleur, a consultant who works with MASB, made a presentation to the Flint school board, showing them that Flint spends more on instruction than any other comparable district, MLive reports. 

“It’s really an outside-the-box thought,” LaFleur said, according to MLive. “We’re going to walk you through this for six months. I really think this is a great idea.”

SOURCE: MLive, “Flint schools join new MASB program to stay out of deficit,” Oct. 15, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “How to Fix Flint Schools,” Oct. 8, 2010 

Dearborn Heights Officials Defend Move to Suspend Student

DEARBORN, Mich. – The Dearborn Heights school district recently suspended Atiya Haynes, a 17-year-old senior, for bringing a pocket knife to school, MLive reports.

Haynes, who has a 3.0 grade-point average and takes advanced placement classes, says she brought the knife to school accidentally after her grandfather gave it to her as a gift, according to MLive.

District officials say bringing a knife the size of Haynes’ can be punishable by expulsion, MLive reports. Had Haynes been expelled, according to MLive, she would have been unable to enroll in any other Michigan school, and would not have graduated on time. 

Instead, the district chose to suspend Haynes, and give her the option to enroll in the district’s virtual school, MLive reports.

Haynes will still be able to graduate on time, according to MLive.

Superintendent Todd Thieken told MLive that “…we have people who disagree with the decision and people who agree with the decision. If we have rules and all the sudden we don’t enforce them, I think it takes some credibility away from those rules...That’s a tough thing for us to go through.”

SOURCE: MLive, “Dearborn Heights Schools superintendent defends permanent suspension of Atiya Haynes, student caught with pocket knife,” Oct. 17, 2014 

FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “District adopts rules on wearing Sikh daggers," Feb. 5, 2011

New Detroit Public Charter School Posting Stellar Results

DETROIT – Students at the new Detroit Achievement Academy are posting stellar results, scoring among the 95th percentile of students nationally in math, Crain’s Detroit reports.

The founder of the charter public school, Kyle Smitley, told Crain’s that she is not surprised at DAA’s success because she has made certain that the school directs resources to the classroom and has encouraged a very supportive culture at the school.
“When you pay attention to school culture and put kids first, everything will come into line,” Smitley told Crain’s.
Smitley believes that charter public schools are able to be more responsive to student needs because they are smaller, according to Crain’s.
“…we can adapt very easily whereas bigger districts can’t,” Smitley told Crain’s.

SOURCE: Crain’s Detroit, “Q&A with Kyle Smitley: Detroit Achievement Academy focuses on class size, teachers,” Oct. 19, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Moratorium or Mortuary? School Choice Proponents Claim Bill Would Kill Charters, Oct. 9, 2014 

MEA, Colbeck Exchange Jabs Over Political Involvement

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The Michigan Education Association is upset that Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, has taken a stance on the Plymouth-Canton school board election, according to the Observer & Eccentric.

Sen. Colbeck recommended two board members on his Facebook page, the Observer & Eccentric reports. Charles Portelli, who works for the MEA, complained about the endorsements, saying they were improper, according to the Observer & Eccentric.
The MEA is involved politically, the Observer & Eccentric reports, and directly mails political endorsement mailers to teachers.
“I’m not going to silence my opinion,” Sen. Colbeck told the Observer & Eccentric. “And it’s probably naïve thinking politics haven’t always been a part of school board races.”

SOURCE: The Observer & Eccentric, “Colbeck endorsement causes stir in school board race,” Oct. 18, 2014 
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Democrat Mark Schauer Receiving the Big Donations in Gubernatorial Race,” Sept. 8, 2014