Contents of this issue:
Holland district concerned about possible illegal teacher strike
Schools can count Katrina evacuees for funding
Post-Labor Day start bill could reach governor soon
Houghton Lake Board facing budget problems
West Michigan schools try to save money by changing health insurance
Grayling home school students challenge public school sports policy
State Superintendent Flanagan wants rigorous graduation standards
HOLLAND DISTRICT CONCERNED ABOUT POSSIBLE ILLEGAL TEACHER STRIKE
Holland, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Press reported over the weekend that
the Holland Public School district is concerned about the prospect of
an employee walkout.
The district has been in negotiations over a teacher contract for
months, and teachers are not working under a contract presently. Marty
Blankford, a Michigan Education Association Uniserv director told The
Press, "There has been some discussion about that issue (striking)."
The union, he said, "is prepared and willing to bargain all aspects of
the contract, however long that takes. Teachers would consider a
walkout if the school board imposes an illegal contract." The Press
reported that the union would consider any contract "illegal" that did
not come about as a result of collective bargaining.
A sticking point is health insurance, according to The Press. The
district is offering a contract that pays $1,081 per employee for group
health insurance, with its contribution increasing by five percent each
July. Employees would pay the rest. Currently, the Holland district
uses the MESSA Super Care 1 plan, but the board announced in June that
it was looking to seek competitive bids on health insurance rather than
maintain exclusive coverage through MESSA, a health insurance
administrator established by the MEA.
The Press reported that Holland's Human Resources Director Carol
Minnaar sent an e-mail to district employees last Friday reminding them
that it is illegal for Michigan public employees to strike. She wrote,
according to The Press, "Our board's policy has not changed — illegal
activity by a student, teacher or staff member will not be tolerated."
Minnaar also said the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act gives
school districts the right to terminate employees who participate in
walkouts and that they cannot be reimbursed for any fines they incur
during a strike, according to The Press.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Holland frets over teacher walkout,"
Sept. 17, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Important Differences between
Government and Private-Sector Unions," Aug. 24, 1999
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing
Education to the Table," Aug. 1, 1998
SCHOOLS CAN COUNT KATRINA EVACUEES FOR FUNDING
Lansing, Mich. — Michigan Information & Research Service reported last
Wednesday that Michigan schools taking in students displaced by
Hurricane Katrina may add them to their student counts for school year
The policy of including evacuees in student counts is part of House
Bill 4306, which MIRS said was finalized for passage in the state
Legislature last week. According to
, the bill guarantees that schools will receive state per-pupil grants for "students who are 'refugees' from Hurricane Katrina, in the same way they receive the grants for children who are residents of the school
MIRS reported that no extra money was set aside by the state to provide
for the displaced students, but that the Michigan Department of
Education can seek reimbursement from the federal government when it is
determined how many evacuees are attending Michigan schools.
Michigan Information & Research Service, "Schools Get Money For Katrina
Kids," Sept. 14, 2005
Michigan Votes, "2005 House Bill 4306 (Appropriations: 2006 school aid
budget)," Sept. 14, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan schools take in hurricane
evacuees," Sept. 13, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Lansing schools offer help to Katrina
evacuees," Sept. 6, 2005
POST-LABOR DAY START BILL COULD REACH GOVERNOR SOON
Lansing, Mich. — Gongwer News Service reported last week that the
Michigan Legislature is on the verge of passing a bill that would
require Michigan school districts to wait until after Labor Day to
begin their school year — an idea first proposed 16 years ago — and
Gov. Jennifer Granholm is considering signing it into law.
House Bill 4803 passed in the House 69-40 and also made it through a
Senate committee last week on a party line vote of 3-2, according to
Gongwer and the Detroit Free Press. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed.
Gaffney (R-Grosse Pointe Farms), said he plans to discuss the
legislation with the governor in the near future, Gongwer reported.
The bill's proponents argue that the measure will provide a boost to
Michigan's summer tourism by allowing families an extra weekend of
travel before the school year begins. According to Gongwer,
representatives of tourist-related industries are relying on a Senate
Majority Policy Office analysis that points to the prospect of boosting
tourism by $132 million and producing $10 million more in state tax
revenue if the law were to take effect.
While many school officials are opposed to the legislation, Gongwer
reported, some business people are speaking out in favor of it. Bill
Shepler, president of the Shepler Ferry Company that serves Mackinac
Island, said, "I haven't heard how it would hurt schools. All we're
doing is taking a block of time and moving it a little this way,"
according to Gongwer. However, Don Wotruba of the Michigan Association
of School Boards says the economic benefit would be negligible. "You
will have a lot of disruption for a very minimal gain," he told
The Detroit Free Press reported that a recent EPIC/MRA poll showed 63
percent of Michigan voters were in favor of the move, while 22 percent
opposed it and 15 percent were undecided. As for Gov. Granholm, the
governor's spokeswoman Liz Boyd told Gongwer, "The governor is much
more receptive to a post-Labor Day start of school than she has
indicated in the past. That comes from obviously listening to people
from throughout the state, including comments she received during her
trip (through northern Michigan)."
Gongwer News Service, "Granholm Open To Signing Post-Labor Day School
Bill," Sept. 14, 2005
Detroit Free Press, "Senate panel votes to keep schools from starting before Labor Day," Sept. 14, 2005
, "2005 House Bill 4803 (Ban school year starting
before Labor Day)"
Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan lawmakers to push school start
past labor day," Sept. 2, 2003
HOUGHTON LAKE BOARD FACING BUDGET PROBLEMS
Houghton Lake, Mich. — The Houghton Lake Resorter reported last week
that Steve Smaka, a Certified Public Accountant who has experience
certifying state audits and as a school business official, urged the
Houghton Lake Board of Education to take "immediate action" to reduce
the school district's budget by about $1.4 million. The district is
facing the possibility of a fund balance deficit of $670,000, the
According to The Resorter, Smaka is projecting expenditures for school
year 2005-2006 of $17,424,271, with revenues lagging behind at
$16,083,243. Smaka said at a special board meeting last week that the
school district's fund balance has been in decline, from $3,728,960 in
school year 2001-2002 to last year's $667,563. The Resorter reported
that Smaka believes the main reason for the downturn is a three-year
contract the district settled with the Houghton Lake Education
Association in 2003, as well as rising health insurance and retirement
costs, declining enrollment and a flat state per-pupil allowance.
The newspaper reported that the district is looking at potential long-term effects of a teacher contract that schedules 5 percent pay
increases at every pay level. According to the newspaper's analysis,
the highest-paid Houghton Lake teachers earn $71,218 annually, almost
$10,000 more per year than the highest-paid teachers at neighboring
Smaka said that the recent $175 increase in state per-pupil grants
would add approximately $300,000 to the district's revenue and would
only be a "small drop in the bucket." He said that with a payroll of
$10 million, "health care alone would exceed the increase," The
According to The Resorter, Smaka made five recommendations to the
Houghton Lake Board of Education: roll back teacher salaries, which,
along with benefits, constitute about 59% of the total budget, and seek
bids directly from Blue Cross Blue Shield for health insurance, which,
he said, "should reduce your cost from your current MESSA contracts;"
privatize transportation and food services, if it is unable to
eliminate insurance benefits for all employees who work fewer than 40
hours a week; develop a plan for replacing buses and making other
capital improvements; close under-used facilities; and have the
business manager keep close tabs on overtime pay. He also said, "If you
can't negotiate a contract you can afford, you'll be forced to make
immediate cuts," The Resorter reported.
The Houghton Lake Resorter, "Drastic budget cuts may save schools,"
Sept. 15, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally
Responsible School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002
WEST MICHIGAN SCHOOLS AIM TO SAVE MONEY BY CHANGING HEALTH INSURANCE
Muskegon, Mich. — Two West Michigan school districts, Reeths-Puffer and
Spring Lake, hope to save thousands of dollars every year by switching
health insurance providers for administrators and nonunion support
personnel, and by forming a West Michigan Health Insurance Pool,
according to The Muskegon Chronicle.
The savings the Reeths-Puffer district will accrue from switching
insurance providers will enable the administrators to receive a 1.5
percent pay raise this year, according to The Chronicle, compared to a
1 percent pay decrease administrators accepted last year.
These school districts, along with Caledonia, East Grand Rapids,
Northview, Rockford, South Haven, Kent Intermediate School District and
Ottawa Area ISD, have formed their own insurance group through the
Michigan Education Welfare Association, The Chronicle reported. Reeths-Puffer Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Dean VanZegeren
said shopping for health insurance together will allow the districts to
receive discounts from insurance carriers, resulting in lower costs for
the districts. VanZegeren's district expects to save 18 percent, or
$37,000 annually with such a plan, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 1,
Reeths-Puffer and Spring Lake have said that they have tried to make
the transition as seamless as possible. The Chronicle reported that
while employees affected by the plan will now have to choose their
doctors from a list of preferred physicians, they will no longer pay a
deductible. VanZegeren told The Chronicle, "Overall, this one is equal
to, or better than, the former policy — except they have to use the
Spring Lake implemented its new insurance on Sept. 1, according to The
Chronicle. Spring Lake Superintendent Larry Mason told The Chronicle,
"So we're basically getting the same benefits and we're hopeful we'll
be able to do it for an 8 percent savings. It will take a couple years
to see how this works ... and we have every reason to believe it will
The Chronicle reported that the districts currently use the Michigan
Education Special Services Association for administrators and nonunion
personnel. According to The Chronicle, they banded together in part to
allow themselves to shop for the best prices on health insurance.
Teachers, whose insurance is negotiated by their unions, will not be
affected by the plan.
Muskegon Chronicle, "Insurance switch saves schools money,"
Sept. 15, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Deserve Good Benefits;
Schools Deserve To Know What They Cost," July 6, 1998
Michigan Education Report, "MESSA: Keeping school districts from saving
money on health care," Summer 2004
GRAYLING HOME SCHOOL STUDENTS CHALLENGE PUBLIC SCHOOL SPORTS POLICY
Crawford County, Mich. — Two home schooled students in the Grayling
area are petitioning the Crawford AuSable School Board to allow them to
play on Grayling High School's sports teams, according to the Crawford
Chelsea Chamblee and Jessica Bobenmoyer, teenagers who are being home
schooled, want to be able to play on the public school's sports teams
after practicing and attending camps with Grayling girl's basketball
teams this summer, reported the Avalanche. The girls had planned on
joining the team for the fall season until district officials said they
wanted to be sure that students were meeting academic requirements.
The Avalanche reported that the district requires home school students
to be tested for proficiency, in some cases by taking higher-level
courses, and by a district review of their home school curriculum.
Milli Haug, then-superintendent of the Crawford AuSable Schools,
pointed to a Michigan High School Athletic Association provision that
requires student athletes to be passing 20 credit hours of course work
at the school to play on sports teams. Haug also cited a recent
Michigan Court of Appeals decision that she says ruled that home school
students do not have a constitutionally protected right to play on
public school teams.
The girls' parents plan to make an appeal to the Crawford AuSable
school board this week. They say there is an alternative MHSAA
provision that allows home school credits to be counted toward the
mandatory 20, provided academic progress reports are carried out every
10 weeks. They also told the Avalanche they are willing to pay fees to
let their children play. According to the Avalanche, former
Superintendent Haug maintains, "We are certainly willing to open up
every opportunity we can for these students if they choose to attend
our schools 20 hours a week."
The newspaper reported that Chamblee participates in band class at
Grayling High School, but neither she nor Bobenmoyer have high hopes
for getting into the sports program for this fall. "We wouldn't expect
them to open the door and say come back to the team," said Julie
Bobenmoyer, Jessica's mother. "It's too late."
Crawford County Avalanche, "Home school students to contest policy,"
Sept. 15, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "Bill would allow home schoolers to
participate in public school activities," Fall 2002
Michigan Education Report, "Home-schoolers turn to public schools for
support," Early Fall 2001
STATE SUPERINTENDENT FLANAGAN WANTS RIGOROUS GRADUATION STANDARDS
Lansing, Mich. — State Superintendent Mike Flanagan appeared before the
Michigan Senate Education Committee for the first time as
superintendent last Thursday, promoting more rigorous high school
graduation standards, Gongwer News Service reported.
According to Gongwer, the Michigan Department of Education is currently
researching how to raise those standards, and whether the state should
take a larger role in establishing them. Gongwer reported that local
school districts currently set their own curriculum, except for one
semester of civics instruction that is required by the state.
Flanagan told the committee, "Far too many kids are graduating from our
schools (who) have not been subjected to a rigorous curriculum. We are
in danger of becoming a third-rate state, and we do not have much time
to fix the problem," according to Michigan Information & Research
Service. MIRS also reported that Flanagan advised the state to consider
curriculum requirements that include math, science and some sort of art
or cultural studies. Flanagan said: "I will not be a cheerleader ... I
will use my office as a bully pulpit to help change the shape of
education in Michigan."
Flanagan emphasized that in an era when business and employment
competition is global, Michigan's graduates should be prepared to
According to remarks obtained by Booth Newspapers, Gov. Jennifer
Granholm said, "With Michigan's economic future on the line, we can't
afford to have our 500 local school districts marching in different
Education Committee Chairman Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, told MIRS
that Flanagan will be "taken seriously," and districts that "are not
delivering" need to improve, but that he favors local, not state,
control of school districts.
Gongwer News Service, "Panel Told State Considering Higher Graduation
Standards," Sept. 15, 2005
https://www.gongwer.com/programming/news_articledisplay.cfm?article_ID=441790111 &newsedition_id=4417901&locid=1&link=news_articledisplay.cfm ?article_ID=441790111%26newsedition_id=4417901%26locid=1
Michigan Information & Research Service, "Flanagan Calls For Standards,"
Sept. 15, 2005
Booth Newspapers, "Granholm backs mandated classes for high school,"
Sept. 16, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "Momentum builds for tougher curriculum,"
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
a quarterly newspaper
with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center
for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org
nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.