Contents of this issue:

  • DPS hires turnaround firms
  • Privatization leads to recall
  • Stimulus spending decisions begin
  • Funding uncertainty stalls negotiations
  • Hamtramck expands tobacco ban


DETROIT - Four private education management firms will work to turn around what one administrator called "shameful" achievement records at 17 Detroit high schools, Detroit area media reported.

According to The Detroit News, the companies are Edison Learning and Institute for Achievement, both based in New York; Ed Works, based in Cincinnati; and the Model Secondary Schools Project, based in Washington. Each has received a multiyear, "several-million dollar" contract from Detroit Public Schools, The News reported, paid for with federal stimulus money.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, DPS chief academic and accountability officer, said that the most recent Michigan Merit Exam test scores for the 17 targeted schools were "abysmal" and "shameful," according to The News.

Robert Bobb, the district's emergency financial manager, said the schools' new principals should have authority to select the teaching staff, but Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said the union contract does not give principals that authority, The News reported.

In related news, the DFT has charged that 397 layoff notices sent to teachers violate the teacher contract because they were issued too near the end of the school year, according to the Detroit Free Press. The union called on the district to rescind the notices or face a lawsuit, the Free Press reported.

The Detroit News, "DPS enlists private firms to overhaul 17 high schools," July 3, 2009

Detroit Free Press, "DPS teachers union says layoffs violate contract," July 9, 2009

The Detroit News, "DPS gives control of lagging schools to private sector," July 11, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Accountability in education requires choice and competition," Sept. 21, 2001


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Three school board members in the Benton Harbor Area Schools are being targeted for recall after voting to privatize transportation services, according to The (Benton Harbor) Herald-Palladium.

Ronnie Brown, custodian and president of the district's service workers union, submitted language for proposed recall petitions to the Berrien County Election Commission, The Herald-Palladium reported. The school board voted 4-1 in May to hire First Student Inc. to provide bus service for the next five years, according to the report.

Board President Dan McGinnis, named in the recall, told The Herald-Palladium that privatization was the only alternative after service workers refused during contract negotiations to accept a less expensive health plan than one sold by the Michigan Education Special Services Association.

Brown said that McGinnis was "misinformed" about negotiations, The Herald-Palladium reported. Ultimately the union and district signed an agreement that moves workers to a non-MESSA plan, the report said.

"I voted my conscience because we're in a $7 million deficit and we're trying to save district money," Allene Smith, a board trustee also named in the recall, told The Herald Palladium.

The (Benton Harbor) Herald-Palladium, "Petitions seek recall of 3 board members," July 9, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "School Employees Union Shows School Boards the Whip," Nov. 24, 2008


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - School officials in southwest Michigan are looking for ways to use short-term stimulus money for long-term impact, according to The (Benton Harbor) Herald-Palladium.

In Watervliet Public Schools, for example, about $95,000 in stimulus funds will pay for computer software and hardware aimed at helping students who have fallen behind in reading and math, Superintendent Bob Gabel told The Herald-Palladium.

Benton Harbor schools will use part of its stimulus funding to develop an instructional coaching program, strengthen writing instruction and beef up a K-12 literacy initiative, Superintendent Carole Schmidt said.

"What's important is we use this money wisely so whatever impact it has will be sustainable without the funding," Schmidt told The Herald-Palladium. The stimulus provides funding for two years only.

Most officials told The Herald-Palladium they do not intend to use the money to hire teachers.

"After the stimulus money disappears in two years, the district would incur unemployment costs, which are substantial," Gabel told The Herald-Palladium.

The (Benton Harbor) Herald-Palladium, "Teachers want fed aid to focus on skills," July 5, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Must schools use money to keep teachers?," March 13, 2009


ALMA, Mich. - Uncertainty about state funding is one reason for lengthy teacher contract negotiations in Alma and Shepherd, school officials in each district told the (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun.

In Alma, the school board has proposed a budget that includes no salary increases for the coming year, but teachers have not agreed to a freeze, the Sun reported. Teachers there previously agreed to switch to a lower-cost health insurance plan and the district should "show a little reciprocity," union negotiator Linda Goward told the Sun.

In Shepherd, the key disagreement is whether to continue to purchase health insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association, or to switch to another provider, Superintendent Terry Baker told the Sun. Baker said the rest of the Shepherd staff is enrolled in a lower-cost health plan.

Officials in each district told the Sun that uncertainty over per-pupil funding from the state makes it difficult to predict revenue.

(Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, "Teacher contract talks go on in Alma, Shepherd," July 7, 2009

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


HAMTRAMCK, Mich. - Previously barred from smoking on school property before 6 p.m., teachers in the Hamtramck School District couldn't smoke at any time on school grounds during the most recent school year, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Middle school students prompted the policy expansion, according to the Free Press. Dominique Pruitt, a seventh-grader in 2008-2009, told the Free Press that when adults smoke at school, "It's not a good influence."

About half of the public middle and secondary schools in the state have complete tobacco bans, the Free Press reported, citing a 2008 survey by the Department of Community Health.

State Sen. Martha Scott, D-Highland Park, whose district includes Hamtramck, told the Free Press she would like school tobacco bans to become statewide policy.

Detroit Free Press, "Smoking ban due to Hamtramck students," July 14, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling," Dec. 2, 2008

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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