Contents of this issue:

  • Fewer teachers retiring
  • Parents, teachers could run schools
  • Privatization helped Lakeview comeback
  • Longer school year on the table
  • Bargaining details posted; union angry


PORTAGE, Mich. - Kalamazoo area school districts won't save as much money as usual on teacher retirements this year because fewer educators have opted to leave, according to a report in The Kalamazoo Gazette.

While the situation keeps experienced teachers in the classroom, it comes at a cost, The Gazette reported.

Teacher retirements are less than half the typical number in Kalamazoo and Portage this year, The Gazette said, meaning those districts will not be able to replace teachers at the top of the pay scale with newcomers at the bottom. In Kalamazoo, staff turnover usually generates enough money to offset the cost of step increases in the salary scale, according to The Gazette, but this year the increases will cost $1.4 million while savings will approximate $350,000.

"There's an awful lot of teachers who are saying, 'Holy cow, can I afford to retire?'" Ron Fuller, superintendent of the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, told The Gazette.

Several school administrators told The Gazette that some teachers put retirement plans on hold while state lawmakers earlier this year debated a one-time-only plan to boost pensions for retiring school employees. The plan was not adopted.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Some teachers can't afford to retire - and that's hurting district budgets," June 14, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Blanc reopens contract," March 23, 2009


LANSING, Mich. - Parents and teachers could run their own independent "neighborhood schools" under legislation introduced in the state House last week, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

Each school would be under contract to a sponsor, such as a mayor, a city or the state board of education, and would have to meet certain standards, but also would have more flexible rules than existing public schools, according to the Free Press.

The new schools could not be affiliated with a church or religious organization, the report said. Teachers and parents at existing public schools could vote on whether to go independent, according to the Free Press. The schools would receive state funding based on enrollment.

Michigan law already allows public charter schools, but they must be under contract to a local or intermediate school district, community college or state university. The number of university-sponsored charters is capped at 150.

Senate Republicans said they expect teachers unions to support the plan because it would give educators a large role in curricula and procedures, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, "State Senate GOP floats plan to shift school control," June 11, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Should Michigan lift the cap on charter public schools? Yes," Nov. 21, 2006


ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. - The money saved by privatizing custodial and maintenance services and eliminating transportation, combined with increased enrollment, will allow Lakeview Public Schools to maintain staffing levels and buy textbooks and technology in the coming year, according to a report in The Macomb Daily.

The Macomb County district anticipates a 4.5 percent increase in the number of students, combining in-district and schools-of-choice growth, The Daily reported. The budget for 2009-2010 includes $200,000 in computer and other technology purchases and $100,000 in instructional material.

The Daily reported that the unpopular decision to outsource custodial and maintenance work in 2006 led to an unsuccessful recall effort against four board members at that time.

Daniel Dombrowski, school board president, told The Daily that the decisions were both controversial and difficult, and said, "All we knew is we were facing some significant shortfalls."

He said he believes families are attracted to the district by its curriculum, extracurricular activities and the community at large.

The Macomb Daily, "Lakeview Schools buck trend," June 11, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Privatization numbers up again," Aug. 19, 2008

Michigan Privatization Report, "School board members survive recall attempt," July 26, 2006


LANSING, Mich. - Michigan lawmakers may mandate a 170-day school year over concern that some districts are shortchanging students, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan used to mandate 180 days of instruction, but lawmakers revised that five years ago to 1,098 hours, the Free Press reported. The idea was to help districts economize by lengthening the school day but decreasing the number of days, which resulted in savings on facilities use, bus runs and support-staff payroll.

The average school year in Michigan is now 171 days, but some districts operate on 160-day or shorter schedules, the Free Press reported.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan told the Free Press that students need more learning time in order to compete globally. The state House has approved a new minimum of 170 days; that proposal is now before the Senate.

The Obama administration is backing an even longer school year as part of its school reform platform, the Free Press reported, though University of Michigan education professor Brian Rowan said that studies show the number of days spent in school doesn't predict international differences in achievement.

Detroit Free Press, "Push is on to add days to Michigan school year," June 11, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Year-around schools give parents, students another option," Sept. 6, 2006


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Teachers union officials in Traverse City are "appalled" that the school district posted details about ongoing contract negotiations on its Web site, according to a report in the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Traverse City Education Association President John Scrudato said that, "This was done to make the teachers look like greedy, foolish people," while Superintendent James Feil said the district posted the summary of contract proposals to halt the spread of inaccurate information, the Record-Eagle reported.

Feil said he wants the district's 640 teachers and others to be aware of what the district is offering, according to the report.

Scrudato told the Record-Eagle that the summaries contain some errors.

The latest contract expired more than a year ago. According to the posted information, negotiations are stalled over salary and step increases, health insurance payments, class size, preparation time and extracurricular compensation, the Record- Eagle reported.

Traverse City Record-Eagle, "TCAPS releases contract details, riles union," June 16, 2009

Michigan School Databases, "Traverse City Area Public Schools Master Agreement with Traverse City Education Association, Sept. 1, 2004 - Aug. 31, 2007"

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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