Contents of this issue:

  • Hundreds volunteer to teach DPS students
  • School officials 'vote' on cuts
  • Utica split on furloughs
  • 'Restraint law' abused, group says
  • Districts study shared services
  • MED will not publish Dec. 29


DETROIT - More than 800 volunteers signed up to help teach Detroit students to read after Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb said that Detroit Public Schools needs a "reading revolution," according to a report at

Bobb asked for a total of 100,000 hours of volunteer time in response to last week's report that the district's reading and math scores were the worst ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to mlive.

The Detroit Free Press is a partner in the literacy initiative.

The Free Press reported that more than 700 volunteers from across the metro area signed up online within 36 hours and an additional 140 people registered by phone, according to mlive.

"I have to have faith that the coming generation can make Detroit, Michigan, the nation and the world a better place than the one we are leaving behind," retired mechanic and self- published poet Mark Durfee told the Free Press.

"We want people to have not just a sense of urgency after seeing these scores, but a sense of outrage over these scores," Bobb said in a statement at the district Web site. "But we do not want these scores to paralyze us. ... Please volunteer with us and help a child learn to read."

SOURCE:, "Robert Bobb calls for 'reading revolution' in Detroit Public Schools; more than 700 volunteer in 36 hours," Dec. 15, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Beyond Basics: Reading, writing and 'expanding horizons' in Detroit," Nov. 11, 2008


BAY CITY, Mich. - A majority of public school officials in Bay and Arenac counties would support sharing business and transportation services, state-run health care for school employees and higher taxes to generate money for schools, according to a report in The Bay City Times.

In a straw poll taken at a public town hall-style gathering, the superintendents, administrators and school board members also indicated they would support hiring a single superintendent to oversee all their districts, if such a move was cost effective, but were divided on cutting funding for athletics and said they would not support reductions in fine arts programs, according to The Times.

About 85 to 90 percent of district spending goes to teacher and support staff salaries, according to The Times.

Various districts shared budget information and plans for spending reductions in view of reduced state aid, according to The Times.

Bay Arenac Intermediate School District Superintendent Michael Dewey said a communications committee is being formed to spread information to parents about education funding at the state and local levels, The Times reported.

The Bay City Times, "School districts come together for crisis meeting, spell out realities," Dec. 7, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Cuts to the Classroom: How Will Funding Reductions Affect Michigan Students?" Nov. 9, 2009


STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. - Five employee groups, including administrators, have agreed to take three unpaid furlough days this school year in Utica Community Schools, while teachers and two other groups declined, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The district estimated it would save about $2.8 million if most employees agreed to unpaid days off, the Free Press reported.

The total savings now will be about $360,000.

Teachers, clerical workers and paraprofessionals will not participate, district spokeswoman Hildy Corbett told the Free Press. Aside from administrators, the report did not indicate which employee groups accepted the furlough.

Utica Education Association President David Kenewell said in a news release from the Michigan Education Association that teachers helped the district save money in the past by reducing health care costs, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, "Macomb County news: 3 unions decline furloughs," Dec. 10, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School District Collective Bargaining Agreements, "Agreement, Utica Community School District, Utica Education Association,  July 1, 2008-June 30, 2010."


FRUITPORT, Mich. - A Muskegon-area couple is pushing lawmakers in Michigan and in Congress to ban the use of restraints and seclusion as means of controlling children in public schools, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

Alan and Nicole Holden, of Fruitport, told The Chronicle that their 4-year-old autistic son is now thriving in the special education program in Fruitport Community Schools, but that at a preschool he formerly attended he was strapped into a high chair for three hours a day for several weeks.

The chair tipped over several times, the couple told The Chronicle, but staff told the couple that the child's bruises were caused on the playground. The parents declined to name the preschool, The Chronicle reported.

The Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service included the Holdens' story in a report it released recently that said about 3,200 cases of restraint or seclusion were reported in 22 intermediate school districts in Michigan in 2008-2009, according to The Chronicle. The other intermediate districts did not file reports.

Current state law allows restraint and seclusion if a student's behavior interferes with school functions and if the student has refused to comply with requests to stop being disruptive, according to The Chronicle. The law is not sufficient to prevent abuse and overuse, according to MPAS, The Chronicle reported.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Fruitport couple in Washington D.C. to push for ban of restraints, seclusion to control students," Dec. 9, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Parents push for changes in special ed waiver system," Feb. 29, 2008


CADILLAC, Mich. - Public school districts throughout the Cadillac area are studying ways to save money by consolidating services, including transportation, according to a report in the Cadillac News.

Cadillac Area Public Schools Superintendent Paul Liabenow said that a consulting firm is working on a transportation study on behalf of all districts in the Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District, the News reported. Sharing technology and some staff are other possibilities.

"We have an ISD-wide contract for trash collection. We are looking at every way to save revenue and implementing plans as soon as it is feasible," Liabenow said.

Cadillac News, "CAPS board considering consolidation plan," Dec. 11, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Source of the School Budget Quagmire," Dec. 7, 2009


Michigan Education Digest will not publish on Dec. 29, 2009; publication will resume on Jan. 5, 2010.

MICHIGAN EDUATION 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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