Regional concessions on the table

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. - The Comstock Park Education Employees Association voted to approve what could become a regional labor contract if their colleagues in other school districts adopt it as well, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Details of the contract have not been made public, but it includes concessions and health care changes intended to bring down school spending, The Press reported. Sixteen of the 21 public school districts in Kent County face contract negotiations in 2010-2011, which led school administrators and the Kent County Education Association to jointly develop the template contract, according to the report.

All bargaining units and school boards in at least nine districts would have to adopt the template in order for it to take effect; otherwise, each district will negotiate independently, The Press reported.

"The message I got was that it passed overwhelmingly, which is a sign of our staff's good faith," Comstock Park Superintendent Ethan Ebenstein told The Press. "It's also a sign that they realize the severity of schools' loss of revenue and what it will take to get through this."

County schools project an 18.6 percent increase in health insurance premiums next year, based on the current average cost of insurance purchased through the Michigan Educational Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association, Comstock Park Finance Director Jamie Carnes told The Press.

Opposition to the concessions may be seen in districts with larger fund balances, according to The Press.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Comstock Park educators first group to approve template contract in Kent County," Feb. 23, 2010

The Grand Rapids Press, "Kent County schools consider template contract for teacher, support staff bargaining," Feb. 23, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan School District Health Insurance," (Database).