Lawsuit says contract illegally prohibits privatization

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Residents who joined a lawsuit against nine West Michigan public school districts say they were motivated by wasteful spending, while a school superintendent called the lawsuit “frivolous,” The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed suit on behalf of five Kent County taxpayers against the nine districts, the Kent Intermediate School District and the Kent County Education Association, The Press reported.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is a public-interest law firm within the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The center also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

The lawsuit claims that the groups entered into labor contracts that illegally included a ban on privatizing school services, The Press reported. Privatization could save the districts up to $6.9 million, Patrick Wright, the legal foundation director, said at a press conference announcing the suit, according to The Press.

"The union and those districts knew it was against the law to include the no privatizing language in the contracts and still did it," said Gail Schuiling, a Grand Rapids retiree who is part of the lawsuit. "I am very, very tired of my tax dollars not being used properly. There is a time when people have to stand up for what's right and be brave."

Kevin Konarska, superintendent of the Kent Intermediate School District, said the contracts did save money by requiring union members contribute financially to their health care premiums for the first time, as well as agreeing to a salary freeze.

"This is a landmark agreement we thought we would be getting accolades for, not sued," Konarska told The Press. He said that all parties involved knew that the contract provision against privatization wasn’t enforceable.

The Grand Rapids Press, “Readers sick of wasteful spending join Mackinac Center lawsuit against Kent County school districts,” Dec. 15, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Jurians v. KISD.”