Contents of this issue:
Holland union, district still split
School board will not sell building to charter school company
Utica school district ponders layoffs
State worried about student health
State Board of Education rejects accreditation plan
Detroit to elect new school board
Walled Lake implements program to save on energy
HOLLAND UNION, DISTRICT STILL SPLIT
Holland, Mich. — The Holland teachers' union and school board
remain split over health care coverage and other contract issues,
according to the Holland Sentinel.
Holland Public Schools offered teachers a health insurance plan
worth just over $13,000 per teacher per year, the Holland
Sentinel reported. The Holland Education Association proposed a
plan that would cost $14,390 per teacher. Current health care
costs in the district are $15,360 per teacher annually, the
Sentinel said. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found the average
family insurance plan nationwide for 2005 costs about $10,880.
Talks between the union and district have included the Michigan
Education Special Services Association, the health insurance
administrator established by the Michigan Education Association.
The Sentinel said health insurance costs are approaching $5
million a year, or about 12 percent of the district's total
About 150 teachers, including supporters from neighboring
districts, carried picket signs during a rally before a
bargaining session last week, the newspaper said. The Sentinel said the union threatened to take a strike vote if the school board chose new health care provisions on its own.
"I don't think it's helpful rhetoric," school board Treasurer
Kevin Clark told the Sentinel. "I don't think the community wants
to see that."
The HEA announced its insurance offer at a press conference a day
before talks resumed, the Sentinel reported. Members of the union
have been working without a contract since Aug. 31.
Clark questioned why the union announced its plan at the Holland
City Hall, the Sentinel said.
"This is a highly unusual act that has the potential to be an
unfair labor practice," Clark told the Sentinel. "They should not
be making proposals before sharing them with the other side."
The union also proposed a four-point plan it labeled "contract
with our community," the Sentinel reported, which included
establishing a task force aimed at student retention and seeking
a school improvement millage through the Ottawa County
Intermediate School District. State law allows ISDs to ask voters
to levy up to 3 mills for a "regional enhancement" tax that can
be used by area school districts. The money can be used to pay
for salaries, utilities, benefits and operational expenses.
Karen McPhee, superintendent of Ottawa ISD, told the Sentinel
such a millage would be difficult to pursue. She said she knows
of just one that has passed statewide since Proposal A was
Holland Sentinel, "Union offers concessions," Oct. 26, 2005
Holland Sentinel, "Gap remains between district, union,"
Oct. 27, 2005
Kaiser Family Foundation, "Survey Finds Steady Decline in
Businesses Offering Health Benefits to Workers," Sept. 14, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Holland teachers prepare for strike,"
Sept. 27, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Holland district concerned about
possible illegal teacher strike," Sept. 20, 2005
SCHOOL BOARD WILL NOT SELL BUILDING TO CHARTER SCHOOL COMPANY
Grand Rapids, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Public Schools board of
education is refusing to sell a building to a charter school
management company, even though it is the high bidder, according
to The Grand Rapids Press.
Atlanta-based Mosaica Education has offered $1.38 million to buy
Huff Elementary School.
"We're coming to the Grand Rapids area, and we can buy that
building or we can build one somewhere else," Mosaica President
Gene Eidleman told The Press. "For them to say they won't sell it
to us because we are a charter school is outrageous. And to find
out that they want to sell it to a board member, that just
doesn't look right."
The school board has no policy against selling buildings to
charter schools, but they do not want to sell the school to a
company they see as competition, The Press reported.
Board President Amy McGlynn told the newspaper, "We're not afraid
of competition, but we don't have to help them either."
Mosaica at first offered $1 million for the building, then
increased its bid to $1.38 million. The board is considering
selling the 11-acre lot to a development group that includes a
non-profit organization run by board member David Allen, The
Press reported. The group wants to build low- and middle-income
condominiums on the site.
According to The Press, Allen's group is offering less money, but
proposed petitioning the state to declare the area a Brownfield,
which would generate future property taxes the school district
could collect. The board also says that selling the lot to
Mosaica could cost the district money in per-pupil funds if the
company opened a charter school that lured students away from
Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Eidleman countered by telling The Press, "If they're worried
about people coming in and taking their students, they need to
improve their education. That's what competition is about. Grand
Rapids parents deserve to have more choice."
Mosaica manages 41 charter schools nationwide and 12 in Michigan.
All 12 are at full capacity and attained Adequate Yearly Progress
last year, The Press reported.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Company bidding for school cries foul,"
Oct. 28, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School
Choice on Public School Districts," July 24, 2000
Michigan Education Report, "Public Schools Step Up Marketing,"
Jan. 18, 1999
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Forging Consensus,"
Apr. 30, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Public Schools Learn Their
Lesson About Competition," Aug. 1, 2000
UTICA SCHOOL DISTRICT PONDERS LAYOFFS
Sterling Heights, Mich. — Utica Community Schools could lay off
120 employees, including 40 teachers, to eliminate a projected
$15 million budget shortfall, The Macomb Daily and The Detroit
Higher health care and retirement costs were cited by The Macomb
Daily as reasons for the budget problems. Utica, the second
largest school district in the state, also is considering cutting
the number of elective classes and reducing the school day from
eight periods to six, the paper said. Parents and students
objected to the proposed cuts.
Student Jeremy Pearson told the school board he would have to
take fewer electives, according to The Macomb Daily: "To get into
a good college, you need two years of a foreign language. You're
forcing me to make decisions that are not necessary."
The district already has trimmed $19 million in spending,
eliminated 61 positions and sold surplus property over the past
few years, The Macomb Daily said. Its fund balance grew from $36
million in 2004 to $49 million this year, but that will be
exhausted by 2008 without significant changes, according to The
The Macomb Daily, "Parents, students upset about layoff plan for
Utica schools," Oct. 25, 2005
The Detroit News, "Proposed school cutbacks criticized,"
Oct. 25, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally
Responsible School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Contract Out For Services
Before Laying Off Teachers," June 2, 2003
STATE WORRIED ABOUT STUDENT HEALTH
Lansing, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature and the Michigan
Department of Education both took up the issue of student health
The Senate Health Policy Committee held a hearing on childhood
obesity, the Detroit Free Press reported. Senate Bill 91,
introduced by Sen. Virg Bernero, D-Lansing, was discussed at the
hearing. The bill would restrict sales of food classified as
having minimal nutritional value, high fat or high sugar content,
the Free Press reported. Schools not in compliance could be
fined, according to the Free Press.
In a separate action, the State Board of Education adopted a
wellness policy in accordance with federal law, according to the
Michigan Information & Research Service. The policy covers
nutrition education, staff training, physical education and other
activities to promote student wellness, MIRS reported.
, House Bill 5265, introduced Oct.
6 by Rep. LaMar Lemmons III, D-Detroit, would require all public
school districts, beginning in 2006, to measure the Body Mass
Index of every student and report it to parents in a confidential
health report card. The bill has been assigned to the House
Detroit Free Press, "Childhood obesity target of state Senate
hearing," Oct. 9, 2005
MIRS Capitol Capsule, "Board of Education: Eat Right, Stay
Healthy," Oct. 11, 2005
, "2005 House Bill 5265 (Require schools to
measure children's fat)"
, "2005 Senate Bill 91 (To prohibit the sale or
distribution of "junk food" in public schools and charter
schools. The bill contains definitions of what foods are
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION REJECTS ACCREDITATION PLAN
Lansing, Mich. — A plan to draw more attention to school
accreditation was rejected by the State Board of Education,
according to Gongwer News Service. The plan called for displaying
school accreditation status below MEAP grades on state report
cards, Gongwer reported, with grades adjusted up or down based on
whether or not schools met Adequate Yearly Progress standards as
spelled out by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Michigan Department of Education officials presented a plan to
the Board of Education that would combine information from the
state's School Improvement Framework and data from the Michigan
Educational Assessment Program to determine a school's
accreditation, according to the Michigan Information & Research
Service. The number of benchmarks in the SIF would more than
double, from 11 to 26, MIRS reported.
Board President Kathleen Straus said she agreed with what the
plan tried to accomplish, Gongwer reported, but added that she
thought the plan was complicated. Sue Carnell, education adviser
to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the plan appeared to add more
layers, MIRS reported.
"We have AYP, Education YES!, accreditation and Blue Ribbon
schools," Carnell told MIRS. "It compounds the way to look at the
strengths and weaknesses of schools."
The board is expected to review a proposal in December that will
create more measurable indicators of school improvement, Gongwer
Gongwer News Service, "Ed board rejects accreditation changes,"
Oct. 11, 2005
https://www.gongwer.com/programming/news_articledisplay.cfm? article_ID=441970106&newsedition_id=4419701&locid=1&link=news_articledisplay.cfm? article_ID=441970106%26newsedition_id=4419701%26locid
MIRS Capitol Capsule, "Accreditation changes," Oct. 11, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "State Board of Education Adopts
School Grading Plan," May 30, 2002
Michigan Education Digest, "Workers Disrupt Hearings on Michigan
School Accreditation," Jan. 22, 2002
DETROIT TO ELECT NEW SCHOOL BOARD
Detroit — Voters in Detroit Nov. 8 will elect a public school
board of education for the first time in seven years.
The Detroit News reported that 20 candidates are running for 11
openings, offering ideas ranging from single gender schools to
firing unsatisfactory teachers. The elected school board was
removed in 1999 by a vote of the Michigan Legislature and
replaced with an appointed one. Voters in Detroit approved a plan
by a 2-1 margin in November 2004 to return to an elected board,
according to the Detroit Free Press.
Enrollment in DPS has declined by roughly 33,000 in the past six
years, reflecting the increased popularity of expanded
educational options, including schools of choice, charter schools
and home schooling, The News said. The loss of students meant
less revenue for Detroit public schools, The News reported,
leading to a $200 million budget deficit, 2,000 layoffs and the
closure of a number of buildings.
Tom Watkins, Michigan's former superintendent for public
instruction, said the state's financial future is tied to
improving education in Detroit.
"If it's about teaching, learning, children and teachers, the
board will make the right decisions," he told the Free Press. "If
it becomes about power, control, politics and adults, we're going
to be mired in things that are not going to serve our children
The Detroit News, "New school board's task: Keep students in
Detroit," Oct. 23, 2005
Detroit Free Press, "Not the same old school board,"
Oct. 26, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit schools lose students,
funding," Nov. 26, 2002
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The $200 million question,"
Jan. 17, 2005
WALLED LAKE IMPLEMENTS PROGRAM TO SAVE ON ENERGY
Walled Lake, Mich. — Walled Lake Consolidated Schools reduced
energy costs by $850,000 last year, The Detroit News reported.
Walled Lake employs motion-sensitive light switches and high-efficiency furnaces in their buildings, The News reported, but
they are now engaging in a money-saving strategy that focuses on
employee energy use. The district consulted with Texas-based
Energy Education Inc. to come up with energy-saving
recommendations that would not require the district to spend
large sums upgrading equipment and infrastructure, The News said.
Over the course of the 2004-2005 school year, Walled Lake saved
money primarily by requiring teachers to turn off lights and
computers at the end of the day, and by turning down the heat,
according to The News. The district's energy manager, Carol
Holly, said the changes in habit are having an effect: "There was
a small amount of people who thought that one computer wouldn't
make a difference. But we have over 7,000 computers in the
district. It does add up."
Walled Lake also is focusing on energy use in its buildings when
school is not in session. District Director of Operations Bill
Chatfield told The News that of 8,760 hours in a calendar year,
school is only in session for about 1,000 hours, so the district
decided to shut off heating and air conditioning systems when the
schools are not being used.
According to The News, as Walled Lake Consolidated Schools
expanded — the district now has 16,000 students and has built
seven schools in the past decade — the need to contain high
energy costs became apparent.
The News reported that the consensus among Walled Lake employees
is that making little changes to save $850,000 is a good idea.
Central High School Principal David Barry said, "It hasn't cost
us any lack of instruction or lack of resources. We don't feel
like we're missing anything. The requests the district made were
very reasonable; it was just common sense," according to The
The Detroit News, "Schools power down to save," Oct. 26, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally
Responsible School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002
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.