Contents of this issue:

  • Superintendent: Cap health care payments
  • Anti-millage signs removed, replaced
  • More students in meals programs
  • Candy giveaway part of larger plan
  • Two recalls in Romeo


LANSING, Mich. - Rather than placing all public employees in a single health care pool, a west Michigan school superintendent says the state should save money by capping government payments to health care plans or requiring employees to pay a percentage of the premium, according to a report in The Grand Rapids Press.

Testifying before a committee of the state House of Representatives, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler said that under his plan, legislators would set the percentage required of employees, but not choose the actual plan, The Press reported.

Teachers and other workers could still bargain for the health plan of their choice, but would have to pay more out of pocket for more costly plans.

Alternatively, Shibler testified, the state could cap the amount schools or other public entities are required to pay for health plans and require employees to pay the remainder, according to The Press. The caps and percentages could be adjusted for inflation each year.

Shibler said his plan would not require the state to set up its own public employee health pool, an idea proposed by House Speaker Andy Dillon earlier this year, which Dillon said could save up to $900 million.

Some public school districts already have negotiated contracts requiring teachers to pay part of their health insurance premium. Grand Rapids Public Schools teachers now pay $900 annually, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Rockford Superintendent pushes alternative to Speaker Dillon's plan to pool insurance for state employees," Oct. 29, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Splitting the health insurance bill," Aug. 19, 2009


ANN ARBOR, Mich. - An Ann Arbor "community standards officer" took down anti-school millage signs in front of a township residence, only to learn that he was outside his jurisdiction, according to a report in AnnArbor.com.

Scio Township resident John Boyle told AnnArbor.com that he placed four signs in his front yard urging residents to vote "no" on a Washtenaw County school millage request. When an Ann Arbor city enforcement officer tried to confiscate the signs, Boyle informed him that he was not within city limits, the report said.

"It was just utterly astounding," Boyle told AnnArbor.com. "The officer said, 'You're violating community standards.' And I said, 'Whose standards?' And he said, 'The city of Ann Arbor.'"

Boyle said that when he retrieved his signs from the officer's truck, he saw the officer had confiscated a number of other anti-millage signs, but no signs supporting the millage.

City Administrator Roger Fraser said he has personally apologized to Boyle for the incident, AnnArbor.com reported, and called it a case of human error which was not politically motivated. He said sign removal is generally based on right-of- way restrictions.

The Washtenaw Intermediate School District is asking voters to approve a new 2-mill tax today that would raise about $30 million annually for school districts countywide.

AnnArbor.com, "Scio Township resident claims city officer overstepped bounds by removing  anti-school millage signs," Oct. 20, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan School Money Primer: Local Property Taxes by Type," May 30, 2007


MUSKEGON, Mich. - More students have signed up for reduced-cost meals in Muskegon-area public schools, likely reflecting parental unemployment but also because students don't know any more who among them gets free lunch, food directors told The Muskegon Chronicle.

Compared to a year ago, the number of Muskegon Heights Public Schools students receiving meal subsidies rose by 13 percentage points as of September, The Chronicle reported. Oakridge Public Schools and Muskegon Public Schools reported increases of 11 and 9 percent, respectively.

"It's alarming for us," Mary Darnton, food service director for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, told The Chronicle. "It's a 25 percent jump over last year."

Schools today use computerized debit systems to track lunch payments, so there is no visible way to tell if a student is drawing off money put into a lunch account by their parents or if their meal is subsidized by the federal government, The Chronicle reported.

"Before debit cards, some kids would have cash, others were on a check-off list. If you were in line, you would kind of know," Dan Gorman, director of food service at Montague Public Schools, told The Chronicle.

School districts encourage eligible students to apply for free or reduced-price meals because various grants and supplemental government funding are based on those numbers, The Chronicle reported. North Muskegon Public Schools waives pay-to-play fees for student-athletes who are eligible for meal subsidies.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Schools seeing rise in free and reduced-price lunches," Oct. 29, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Stimulus pays for lunch equipment," July 25, 2009


PONTIAC, Mich. - Pontiac School District teachers were to hand out Halloween candy in front of district schools Saturday as part of a larger effort to entice parents and students back to the district, The Oakland Press reported.

Pontiac Education Association President Lance Davis said the plan called for costumed teachers to pass out the sweets at five schools.

"Teachers are doing it to strengthen bonds with the community," Davis told The Press.

Half of Pontiac's elementary schools were closed as part of a restructuring plan this year, The Press reported. Some students who live in the district now attend public charter schools or schools in other districts.

"We are trying to convince parents to give us another chance," Davis told The Press, pointing to new efforts by the district to develop themed schools, an International Baccalaureate program and early college enrollment.

The Oakland Press, "Teachers will pass out Halloween candy," Oct. 30, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Pontiac school plan ends up in court," May 26, 2009


ROMEO, Mich. - Five of seven Romeo Community Schools board members have been named in two separate recall efforts, with a school closing and privatization as key issues, The Romeo Observer reported. One set of recall petitions names the board's treasurer, vice president and secretary, while the other names two board trustees.

The petitions to recall the two trustees cite their votes in favor of closing an elementary school and hiring the "most costly" auditor, and their votes against "transparency" issues, The Observer reported. Petitions to recall the officers cite their votes for privatizing custodial services, staff layoffs and the school closing.

David Peterson-Tousignant, who filed the petitions against trustees Sue Hier and Sara Murray, told The Observer that he is frustrated that the trustees have left board meetings early or refused to vote.

Vice President Michael Stobak said at a recent meeting that the petition language misrepresents the truth, except for information on spending $25,000 for a superintendent search and information on employee layoffs, according to The Observer.

Secretary Jennifer White said she believes the recalls only hamper board dialogue, The Observer reported.

"We are in such a budget situation that it calls for us to discuss everything . . . and we shouldn't put a muzzle on board members and threatening them with recalls for discussing these items," she said, The Observer reported.

The Romeo Observer, "2 recall efforts target five on school board," Oct. 28, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Privatization Survey Shows Gains in Support Service Contracting," Sept. 7, 2009

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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