Contents of this issue:

  • St. Clair RESA to open virtual high school
  • Teachers pay more to keep MESSA
  • Survey: Teacher satisfaction up
  • Districts (quietly) consider consolidation
  • Troy goes private, Rochester does not
  • Teacher pension fund takes investment hit


MARYSVILLE, Mich. - The St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency will charter an online school for dropouts this fall, according to an Op-Ed in the Port Huron Times Herald.

Virtual Learning Academy students will take courses offered by Michigan Virtual School, using laptop computers provided by the academy, the Times Herald reported. Most coursework can be done at home, though students will be required to spend some time on the RESA campus, Dan DeGrow, St. Clair County RESA superintendent, wrote in the Times Herald.

About 350 St. Clair County high school students drop out or are expelled each year, DeGrow said.

Virtual classes have the same academic content and standards as classroom-based instruction, according to DeGrow.

The Port Huron Times Herald, "DeGrow: Virtual school gives students a second chance,"
April 19, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Jail-based academy offers GED,"
March 3, 2009


BRIDGMAN, Mich. - Teachers in the Bridgman Public Schools district agreed to pay higher deductibles and a larger share of the premium in order to retain the Michigan Education Special Services Association as their insurance administrator, according to a report in the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

The 76 members of the Bridgman Education Association ratified the three-year tentative agreement in voting Friday, the Herald-Palladium reported. The contract provides a 1 percent wage increase in 2009-2010 and 1.75 percent in 2010-2011.

Salary and health care benefits were the key issues during negotiations, which began last fall, according to the Herald-Palladium.

Superintendent Kevin Ivers said earlier this month that the district could save $243,000 by shifting to a different company's health insurance plan, the article said. The union rejected that offer and countered with one that would save $170,000, the Herald-Palladium reported.

MESSA, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, outsources insurance underwriting and re-sells Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans to Michigan schools.

St. Joseph Herald-Palladium, "Teachers ratify new contract,"
April 25, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed, but not resolved,"
Sept. 16, 2008


DALLAS - More teachers today say they are satisfied in their careers, feel respected and are optimistic for the profession than at any other point in the past 25 years, according to the 2008 "MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Past, Present and Future."

As reported in The Dallas Morning News, the number of teachers who called themselves "very satisfied" reached an all-time high of 62 percent, compared to 40 percent in 1984, the first year the survey was conducted. The survey is administered by Harris Interactive and is based on interviews of 1,000 teachers across the country, according to the report.

Seventy-five percent of teachers surveyed said they would advise a young person to begin a career in teaching, compared to 45 percent in 1984. Teachers overall reported higher satisfaction, more parent and community support, better availability of educational materials and better school facilities, the Morning News reported.

However, teachers in urban schools gave lower marks in each of those areas, and principals in urban schools reported more often than rural or suburban principals that students come to school unprepared, the survey showed. Principals were surveyed separately.

Only 48 percent of today's teachers favor standardized tests as a way to track student performance, according to the survey; the number in 1984 was 61 percent.

The Dallas Morning News, "Sandy Kress: Survey trumps stereotypes about teachers,"
April 16, 2009

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., "MetLife Survey of the American Teacher,"

Michigan Education Report, "Teach the teachers, test the students,"
Aug. 12, 2004


DEERFIELD, Mich. - The Deerfield school board wants to learn more about school consolidation and annexation, according to a report in the Adrian Daily Telegram, and an attorney says they aren't the only ones.

The smallest district in Lenawee County, Deerfield Public Schools hosted Beverly Bonning, an attorney with the Thrun Law Firm in East Lansing, and Del Cochran, former Adrian Public Schools superintendent, at a school board meeting recently to discuss each option, the Daily Telegram reported.

Annexation is the term used when one district becomes part of another, the article said. Bonning said that the "takeover" district adopts a resolution to that effect, which must be approved by the state board of education as well as voters of the district being annexed.

Consolidation is the term used when two districts merge to form a single new district, the Daily Telegram reported. In that case, teachers and other school employees technically lose their positions, though they could be rehired by the new district. Bonning said that millages also are reconfigured, according to the report.

Bonning said that other school districts in Michigan have been contacting her about both options, the Daily Telegram reported.

She told the board, "I'm getting a lot of phone calls regarding annexation and consolidation. I applaud this board for talking about this openly. There are other districts talking about this, but no one in the community knows about it."

Adrian Daily Telegram, "Deerfield board examines options for future,"
April 22, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Merger talks end in Arenac County,"
April 23, 2009


ROCHESTER, Mich. - Rochester Community Schools will retain in-house custodial and transportation programs, while the Troy school district will hire an outside firm for busing, according to media reports in each district.

In Rochester, the school board has accepted a three-year contract with 200 custodial, grounds, maintenance and transportation employees that could save the district up to $2.2 million in the next year, the Detroit Free Press reported. The agreement includes pay cuts ranging from 5.5 to 25.5 percent and provides an HMO insurance plan.

Troy school board members voted to accept a bid for transportation services from First Student, a Scotland-based firm that already works in several other Michigan districts, according to C&G News.

The district anticipates saving $2.5 million over three years. The 77 members of the school's transportation department will be offered jobs with the new company at the same wage and will be offered health insurance, according to Tim McAvoy, the district communication manager, C&G News reported.

Harry Sahourieh, president of the Troy Educational Support Personnel Association, said that the union had offered 10 percent pay cuts and a two-tier wage and benefit system. The groups will continue to negotiate over other support services.

Detroit Free Press, "Rochester school board accepts contract,"
April 21, 2009

C&G News, "Troy school board out sources bus services,"
April 22, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Privatization numbers up again,"
Aug. 19, 2008


LANSING, Mich. - The retirement fund for public school employees reported $7.4 billion in investment losses and an overall $9.2 billion decline in net assets in the fiscal year ending September 2008, according to a report in Michigan Education Report. Those numbers will begin working their way down to local school budgets beginning this fall.

Stock market declines left the Michigan Public School Employees' Retirement System with about $39.8 billion in total net assets, down 19 percent from the previous year, according to its latest annual report.

Schools districts will begin making higher contributions to the fund in October, according to Michigan Education Report, but opinion varies on what will happen in subsequent years.

Further stock market losses, combined with more retirees and fewer active workers, would exacerbate the problem, while an economic turnaround would mitigate 2008's impact on the pension fund, the article said.

Some education observers say that retiree health care costs are a larger worry than pension benefits, given the increasing number of retirees, increased health care costs, and the fact that Michigan does not set aside money in advance for those benefits.

Michigan Education Report is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Michigan Education Report, "Retirement fund losses will cost schools, but how much?"
April 20, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "It's time to get serious about school employee pension reform,"
Feb. 23, 2007

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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