Contents of this issue:

  • State OKs DPS plan to close half its schools
  • Snyder budget may force issue of pay, benefits
  • Saline bond proposal, video draw questions
  • Study: Michigan gets B for history standards
  • West Bloomfield site of apparent teacher ‘sick-out’

State OKs DPS Plan to Close Half Its Schools

LANSING, Mich. — State officials have put their weight behind a Detroit Public Schools plan to close half its schools and consolidate some operations with other entities in order to address a $327 million deficit,  The Detroit News reported.

Robert Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager, is working on a list of recommended school closures, and employee layoff discussions will begin this spring, according to The News.

Bobb drafted the deficit reduction plan, which results in a district of 72 schools with an estimated 58,570 students as of 2014. Enrollment has declined by more than 50,000 students in the past decade, The News reported.

Bobb also will meet with city officials and the intermediate school district on sharing transportation, public safety and finance operations, among other services, The News reported.

The district may not declare bankruptcy during the remainder of Bobb’s tenure, which ends June 30, a letter from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan to the district said, according to The News.

The Detroit News, “Michigan orders DPS to make huge cuts,” Feb. 21, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Motor City Finance: Then and Now,” Jan. 11, 2011

Snyder Budget May Force Issue of Pay, Benefits

DETROIT — A $470-per-pupil cut in state funding along with this year’s $230-per-pupil increase in retirement costs would be “potentially devastating” to public school districts, the executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials told the Detroit Free Press.

“Unless we’re really going to put this on the backs of kids, we really need to adjust our pay of employees,” Dave Martell told the Free Press.

In Bloomfield Hills Public Schools, Superintendent Rob Glass told the Free Press that the district would need to cut about $5 million from the 2011-2012 budget under Snyder’s proposal, up from earlier estimates of $3.5 million.

Public school districts currently pay an amount equivalent to 20 percent of payroll into a fund for retirement benefits for public school employees, according to the Swartz Creek View. Swartz Creek Community Schools officials said that number could increase to nearly 26 percent next year, making the district “unsustainable,” the View reported.

Of the $898,000 the district received in federal “edujobs” funds, $720,000 will go to teacher retirement benefits, the report said.

University funding would be reduced by 15 percent under the governor’s proposed budget, though $83 million in grant funding would be available for universities that keep tuition increases to 7 percent or less.

Detroit Free Press, “Education: Schools reeling over cuts,” Feb. 18, 2011

The Swartz Creek View, “Swartz Creek discusses the financial impact of MPSERS rate,” Feb. 17, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Benefits in Balance.”

Saline Bond Proposal, Video Draw Questions

SALINE, Mich. — Saline Area Schools residents were to vote today on a $22 million bond proposal that some taxpayers said was too expensive and others supported as necessary, according to The Saline Reporter.

In related news, the district removed a video about the bond from the district website after questions arose about whether the district was inappropriately using public resources to advocate a “yes” vote, reported.

The bond issue would raise money for technology and building repair and improvement, according to The Reporter. It would not increase the tax rate, but would extend it for six additional years, from 2024 to 2030, The Reporter said.

Judy McCoy, a member of the group “We Can’t Afford It,” told The Reporter that residents should be aware that the bond language does not include anticipated interest payments of $7 million, and that the total cost would be $29 million.

Superintendent Scot Graden said the district cannot cut the operating budget enough to pay for such items as roofs and buses, even if it negotiates concessions from teachers during coming contract talks, The Reporter said.

The district posted and later removed a video in which Doug Bacon, director of facilities, asked for “support” of the bond, but not explicitly a “yes” vote, reported. Attorneys differed on whether the video violated election rules that bar the use of public resources to advocate for or against a proposal. An attorney with the Thrun Law Firm told that Bacon’s comments were not a violation, but Bob LaBrant, general counsel with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said that asking for support is equivalent to advocating a yes vote.

The Saline Reporter, “Saline: Opposition surfaces against school bond proposal,” Feb. 9, 2011, “Saline school district removes pro-bond proposal video, but says it didn’t violate campaign laws,” Feb. 15, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Legal Experts Say Saline Schools Broke Campaign Finance Laws,” Feb. 15, 2011

Study: Michigan Gets B for History Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michigan gets a grade of B for the standards it applies to the teaching of history, putting it in the top 10 in a national ranking by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, according to Education Week magazine.

The education research and advocacy organization gave 28 states a D or lower, Education Week reported, though critics said the low grades mainly reflect a difference of opinion between Fordham and various states on what makes for good history instruction.

A history professor in Colorado told Education Week that Fordham’s approach valued the learning of dates and events over in-depth understanding of ideas, and Fordham responded that knowledge of facts must precede deeper understanding, according to Education Week.

Michigan tries to bridge that gap in its standards, according to the Fordham review, which said that the state’s high school curriculum standards are generally better than the elementary.

Education Week, “Report gives majority of states a poor grade on history standards,” Feb. 16, 2011

Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The State of U.S. History Standards 2011: Michigan,” Feb. 16, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Michigan standards get mixed grades,” July 31, 2010

West Bloomfield Site of Apparent Teacher ‘Sick-Out’

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. — About 40 percent of West Bloomfield High School teachers did not show up for work on Feb. 15, an apparent “sick-out” in the midst of contract negotiations, according to Michigan Capitol Confidential.

Superintendent JoAnn Andrees said that 41 high school teachers were absent, while the more typical number is about a dozen, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported. State data from 2009-2010 indicates there are 100 teachers employed at the school, the report said.

“Nothing has happened to this degree before,” Andrees told Michigan Capitol Confidential. The affected classes were staffed with substitute teachers, administrators and support staff from other buildings, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

The collective bargaining agreement between the West Bloomfield Education Association and the school district expired on Aug. 31, 2010, and Andrees indicated that health insurance costs are a sticking point in current negotiations.

The district currently pays the full premium for a no-deductible health plan for educators, but Andrees told Michigan Capitol Confidential that, “The money is not there now. I cannot continue that practice.”

Cyndi Austin, the Michigan Education Association representative for West Bloomfield Public Schools, didn’t return a message left at her office in Farmington Hills, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported, and Kim Pilarski, the West Bloomfield Education Association president, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “The West Bloomfield Teacher Sick-Out,” Feb. 18, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Benefits or Jobs: Schools, Legislature Must Choose,” Feb. 18, 2011

MICHIGAN EDUCATION 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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