Contents of this issue:

  • Newspaper: Union postcard got it wrong
  • Facing takeover, Benton Harbor to cut spending
  • MEA, MESSA to get aid for retiree health care
  • Trustee: Sell schools, end vandalism
  • State Supreme Court won't hear teacher case
  • Clarification

Newspaper: Union Postcard Got It Wrong

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. — The political arm of the teachers union sent a postcard to Brighton-area voters last week that inaccurately depicted a school board candidate as being involved in a string of lawsuits, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported.

The 8-D Coordinating Council PAC, a political action committee for the Michigan Education Association in Livingston County, linked board candidate John Conely to 21 lawsuits, the Press & Argus reported.

The newspaper reviewed the cases and learned that only 13 involved Conely, while the remainder involved his father, whose legal name is John D. Conely, the Press & Argus reported. Of the cases related to the younger Conely, two were more than 20 years old and several were small-claims cases that the younger Conely filed to collect payments from people who owed money to his business, the report said.

"I think it's an indication of how desperate they are for not wanting change," Conely told the Press & Argus. Conely has said the district should link employee compensation to state funding, so that if funding goes down, so does pay, according to the Press & Argus.

Barry Goode, president of the Brighton Education Association teachers union and the 8-D Coordinating Council, disputed that the postcard was inaccurate in an e-mail to the Press & Argus. He said he found the cases at the court website, the Press & Argus reported.

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "Postcard paints error-filled picture," Oct. 31, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Government Unions: The Real Wealth in American Politics," Oct. 29, 2010

Facing Takeover, Benton Harbor to Cut Spending

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Facing a potential state takeover, Benton Harbor Area Schools will decide this week whether to reduce spending by about $2.9 million through closing a middle school, laying off up to 40 employees and taking bids for custodial service, The (Saint Joseph) Herald-Palladium reported.

Michigan Department of Education officials have strongly recommended the district approve the plan, Superintendent Leonard Seawood said, according to The Herald-Palladium.

The new plan would bring total spending down by about $6.7 million when combined with previously announced reductions, against an $11 million deficit, The Herald-Palladium reported. Even further cuts are likely because of declining enrollment and the cost of borrowing, The Herald-Palladium reported.

The biggest savings would come from laying off 14 elementary school teachers for an estimated $826,000, a summary showed, according to the report. Closing the middle school would save an estimated $734,000, The Herald-Palladium reported.

The (Saint Joseph) Herald-Palladium, "BH school cuts are going deeper still," Oct. 30, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Picket as One of Michigan's Wealthiest School Districts Faces Big Deficit," Oct. 13, 2010

MEA, MESSA to Get Aid for Retiree Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Education Special Services Association will get financial aid from the federal government to help pay for health care for their early retirees, according to information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

More than 160 Michigan unions, businesses, educational institutions and local units of government are on the receiving list for early retiree money through national health care reform legislation, according to the department.

The "Affordable Care Act" reimburses unions and other employers a share of health care costs for retirees who are too young to receive Medicare, according to the site. The union and MESSA, and others on the list, can use the money to reduce their own costs or to cut the premiums or deductibles they charge retirees. MESSA is the third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the MEA. The MEA's financial services affiliate is also approved for early retiree funding.

The Detroit Free Press reported that 44 new unions and other employers joined the list last week. The program will end in 2014 when state health insurance exchanges are expected to be in operation, the Free Press reported.

The list also includes more than 60 Michigan cities and counties and a number of other unions and businesses.

The Detroit Free Press, "Funding to help more employers, unions pay for health care," Oct. 28, 2010

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Early Retiree Insurance Program: Michigan"

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "'Cause You Know It Don't Matter Anyway: Why the MEA Keeps Going Too Far," March 3, 2010

Trustee: Sell Schools, End Vandalism

PONTIAC, Mich. — Closed school buildings have attracted vandals and burglars in Pontiac School District, leading one school board trustee to call for selling the vacant structures, The Oakland Press reported.

The district has filed more than 47 insurance claims related to the incidents, the report said. Operations manager John Parker told school board members that boarding the windows and welding the doors closed have not stopped the vandalism, The Press reported. Some buildings do not have working alarms, Parker said, The Press reported.

One person pleaded guilty to taking copper valued at nearly $95,000 from a closed school, according to the report, and two residents reported that vandals damaged display cases and memorabilia at now-closed Pontiac Central High School.

The district has closed eight schools as enrollment dropped from 12,000 a decade ago to today's 6,000 students, The Press reported.

Damon Dorkins, a school trustee and Pontiac police officer, said the board should proceed with selling the schools, according to The Press.

The Oakland Press, "Board members express frustration at Pontiac school break-ins," Oct. 26, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Schools for Sale," Aug. 15, 2007

State Supreme Court Won't Hear Teacher Case

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court won't take up the case of a school district that wants to fire a teacher based on behavior outside the classroom, The (New Baltimore) Voice reported. One observer told The Voice that the decision leaves open the question of whether conduct outside school can ever be the basis for firing an educator.

L'Anse Creuse Public Schools fired a middle school teacher after photos of her allegedly lewd behavior at a party that took place two years earlier were posted on the Internet, according to The Voice. An administrative law judge upheld the action, but the Michigan Tenure Commission overruled the judge, saying the photos were taken without the teacher's consent and that her conduct did not merit discharge, The Voice reported.

"As a practical matter, it (the Supreme Court denial) brings the case to an end," said William Albertson, attorney for the district, told The Voice. "I think it's fair to say the district is disappointed."

The teacher's attorney could not be reached for comment, The Voice reported. The teacher has been reassigned to an elementary school, according to the report.

Albertson told The Voice that the high court's decision to avoid the case leaves unanswered the question of whether off-duty conduct can ever be sufficient reason for discharge.

The (New Baltimore) Voice, "Supreme court passes on case involving L'Anse Creuse teacher," Oct. 28, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How to Remove an Ineffective Tenured Teacher in 13 Easy Steps," Jan. 14, 2010


An item in the Oct. 26, 2010, Michigan Education Digest should have said that a Detroit Free Press report on graduation rates in Michigan was based only on data from Michigan's 15 public universities and did not include private institutions.

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 med@educationreport.org

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