Contents of this issue:

  • Wary districts eye possible proration
  • Teachers keep MESSA, accept wage freeze
  • DPS board eyes downsizing, other cuts
  • Michigan schools in NCLB lawsuit
  • Ontario teachers miffed at deadline


UTICA, Mich. - Utica Community Schools has announced a freeze on all nonessential spending in view of a possible state aid proration in 2009, according to the Advisor & Source, while media reports in other Michigan communities show similar wariness among school boards.

Utica Superintendent Christine Johns announced the freeze Nov. 24, citing a report that state aid could be cut by $100 to $200 per student during the current fiscal year, the Advisor & Source reported. A $100 cut would cost Utica about $2.8 million.

Similarly, Tecumseh Board of Education members were told recently that the Michigan School Business Officials association has projected a cut of $50 to $75 per student, which would cost Tecumseh about $160,000, according to the Tecumseh Herald. Final figures will be determined after the state's Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference in January, the Herald reported.

Cass City Board of Education members approved trimming $109,300 from the current budget, including five staff jobs, in an effort to maintain fund balance, according to The Huron Daily Tribune.

Superintendent Ron Wilson called a $75-per-student proration "a distinct possibility," which would cost the district nearly $98,000, according to The Tribune.

The Advisor & Source, "Utica Community Schools announces spending freeze," Nov. 30, 2008

The Tecumseh Herald, "State aid projections for schools show drop," Nov. 26, 2008

The Huron Daily Tribune, "CC to lay off five staff, but no teachers," Nov. 25, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007


YPSILANTI, Mich. - Lincoln Consolidated Schools teachers have agreed to a salary schedule freeze in exchange for retaining Choices II health insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, The Ann Arbor News reported.

Teachers agreed to a freeze for the first year only of a new, three-year contract, followed by further wage negotiations in the second and third years, according to The News. The freeze affects only the overall salary range; teachers who move up the salary schedule due to advanced degrees or years of experience still will receive increased pay, The News reported. The current salary range is $35,580 to $82,125.

Jackie Schock, president of the 319-member Lincoln Education Association, said that members agreed to the freeze because of the district's financial situation, according to The News. The district recently made $228,000 in budget reductions and more are anticipated, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "Lincoln teachers accept wage freeze," Nov. 26, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Teachers opt to leave MESSA, get pay hike," Nov. 17, 2008


DETROIT - Detroit Public Schools board members voted 8-2 to approve the first phase of a deficit elimination plan calling for the possibility of closing 18 schools and merging others, cutting 400 staff jobs and trimming hours for assorted non-teacher instructional positions, according to The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.

The board must submit the plan to the state by Dec. 5, after which State Superintendent of Instruction Michael Flanagan will decide whether the state should take over district finances, The News reported.

No additional teachers are expected to be laid off next year, according to The News, though 818 teaching jobs already have been eliminated through attrition or past layoffs. The plan does call for $19 million in employee concessions this year, but Detroit Federation of Teachers President Virginia Cantrell told the News that the "DFT is not looking at concessions." Both media reported conflicting accounts of whether other unions have been contacted about potential concessions.

School board members are divided on the plan, The News reported.

Board member Marie Thornton, who voted against it, according to the newspaper reports, said that the state is not putting similar pressure on other deficit districts, but member Tyrone Winfrey said the plan is preferable to state intervention.

The Detroit News, "DPS plan requires deep cuts," Nov. 27, 2008

The Detroit Free Press, "DPS plan: Close schools, cut jobs," Dec. 1, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS lays off 300," Oct. 7, 2008


PONTIAC, Mich. - A lawsuit taking aim at the federal No Child Left Behind Act is on the docket of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 10, with a Bloomfield Hills attorney representing Pontiac and other participating school districts, The Oakland Press reported.

Dennis Pollard told The Press that he will argue that school districts should not have to comply with the act because the federal government has not funded it appropriately.

Pontiac is one of nine school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed three years ago by the National Education Association, according to The Press.

Pollard told The Press that the argument is not over improving student achievement or the requirements of the act, but over funding. The case likely will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

The U.S. Attorney General's Office has argued that the current requirements are appropriate under the law, The Press reported.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has said that a decision against NCLB would undermine efforts to improve education.

Pontiac's financial situation is even worse now than in 2001, when the act took effect, or in 2005, when the lawsuit was filed, according to The Press. The district is restructuring schools to address a $10 million deficit.

The Oakland Press, "Pontiac-led lawsuit could change school initiative," Nov. 24, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Cash flow an issue in Pontiac," Oct. 25, 2008


TORONTO - As contract negotiations wind their way through mediation and fact finding in numerous Michigan school districts this year, teachers in Ontario, Canada, face a different type of bargaining. Teachers throughout the province had until Nov. 30 to accept an offer of 3 percent pay raises in each of the next four years, according to newspaper accounts. If they decline, the offer drops to 2 percent for two years.

According to the Toronto Star, teacher salaries are decided through discussions at the provincial level in Ontario, with non-monetary issues decided at the local bargaining unit level.

The system has been in place for three years, the Star said.

Ontario's public school elementary teachers called the deadline unreasonable, while teachers in French and Catholic schools in Ontario already have agreed to the deal, according to The Star.

Elementary teachers want to address a funding gap of $711 per student that they say exists between elementary and high school funding, The Star reported.

However, the provincial deficit already stands at $500 million, according to The Ottawa Citizen, and closing the alleged gap would cost $900 million.

The Toronto Star, "Teachers unions irked by contract deadline," Oct. 29, 2008

The Ottawa Citizen, "Teachers should take the deal," Nov. 25, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Shedding light on teacher contracts," May 5, 2008

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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