Contents of this issue:

  • MEA to members: Save money for layoffs, job action
  • Bills would stiffen strike penalties
  • Bloomfield Hills eyes consolidating high schools
  • Public universities spending more on administrators
  • Some worry that Portage buyout will affect tax vote

MEA to Members: Save Money for Layoffs, Job Action

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Education Association is advising members to save money as a hedge against future layoffs or a possible job action, according to the Detroit Free Press, but some lawmakers say that amounts to planning an illegal strike.

In a letter to union members, the MEA advised on holding off on major purchases, the Free Press reported. Union spokesman Doug Pratt said that was a reference not only to a possible job action, but to prepare for layoffs in the case of state funding cuts.

The MEA already has asked local units to vote by April 15 on authorizing “crisis activities” up to and including a work stoppage, according to the Free Press. Pratt said the MEA will not make those vote tallies public, the Free Press reported.

“What a way to ruin the end of someone's high school career,” Don Wotruba, of the Michigan Association of School Boards, told the Free Press, referring to the potential for an illegal strike to disrupt final exams and high school graduation.

House Speaker Jase Bolger criticized union leaders in a statement, noting that while teachers could suffer penalties for going on strike, union leaders would not, the Free Press reported.

Lawmakers have recently introduced a bill to fine the authorizing union in the event of teacher strikes.

Detroit Free Press, “MEA's advice seen by some as preparation for strike,” March 26, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “The MEA President Lays on the Guilt Trip: How Will Michigan Respond?” April 28, 2010

Bills Would Stiffen Strike Penalties

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation to fine the Michigan Education Association $5,000 for every participating teacher, per day, in the event of a teacher strike was introduced in the state House of Representatives last week, according to The Flint Journal. The proposal also would suspend or revoke each striking educator's license.

While teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, existing penalties are hard to enforce, House Republicans said in a press release, according to The Journal.

The proposals by Reps. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, and Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, came shortly after the MEA called on local units to vote on authorizing “crisis activities up to and including job action,” The Journal reported.

The bill would also fine teachers an amount equal to one day’s pay for every day or partial day they participate in a strike, the report said.

Teachers in the Wayne-Westland Community School District went on strike for four days in fall of 2008, until a circuit court judge ordered them back to work, according to a 2008 report in The Westland Eagle. The judge ordered the school district not to take disciplinary action until ongoing contract negotiations were concluded. Later media reports said that a letter of reprimand was placed in each teacher’s personnel file.

The Flint Journal, “Paul Scott introduces bill to fine teachers union in event of strike,” March 22, 2011

The Westland Eagle, “Court orders Wayne-Westland teachers back to work,” Oct. 9, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, “Wayne-Westland settles on raises, health concessions,” Feb. 4, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Make Unions Accountable for Illegal Strikes,” Dec. 22, 2008

Bloomfield Hills Eyes Consolidated High Schools

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Bloomfield Hills Public Schools has hired a design firm to draw up plans for combining two high schools, according to The Oakland Press.

The first design plan would renovate Andover High School to make room for Lahser High School students and other educational programs, The Press reported. The alternative design would be of a new school at the Andover site, the report said.

School Board President Ingrid Day said the work is preliminary and that the board has not approved any plan, The Press reported.

Superintendent Rob Glass and board trustees agree that keeping two high schools open is not feasible, The Press reported.

Some residents have objected to spending sinking fund money to plan a new high school configuration, while others have supported the single high school option, according to The Press.

The Oakland Press, “Bloomfield Hills school board approves firms to create school consolidation designs,” March 26, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “More school buildings up for sale,” Feb. 15, 2011

Public Universities Spending More on Administrators

DETROIT — State universities in Michigan increased spending on administrators by 30 percent, on average, over the past five years, while faculty compensation went up an average of 22 percent, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The number of administrative jobs at public state universities grew by 19 percent from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010, on average, the Free Press reported, much higher than average increases in student enrollment or state funding. The report was based on data from the House Fiscal Agency, according to the Free Press.

University representatives told the Free Press that the extra spending on administration is needed to attract and retain top personnel and also that the number of credit hours has increased, even if enrollment has not, so more employees are needed.

“It's still a small number,” Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, told the Free Press, referring to the $260 million increase in administrative spending across 15 universities.

“When you add a rare-isotope machine” at Michigan State University, “you're going to be hiring” professionals to run it, Boulus told the Free Press.

But accounting professor Howard Bunsis, treasurer for the faculty union at Eastern Michigan University, told the Free Press, “There are too many administrators making too much money.”

“Universities are enlarging their payroll” while “at the same time consistently beating the drum that the state has to appropriate more money to them,” said Michael Van Beek, education policy director for the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “There's a lesson here in bureaucratic bloat.”

The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Detroit Free Press, “Amid tougher times, spending on payroll soars at Michigan universities,” March 27, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “State College Money Should Follow Students, Not Lobbyists,” May 15, 2006

Some Worry that Portage Buyout Will Affect Tax Vote

KALAMAZOO, Mich.  — Portage Public Schools is paying $272,500 to buy out the last year of Superintendent Marsha Wells's contract, a financial decision that has some officials worried that voters there won't want to renew a 1.5-mill school tax, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

The tax is levied countywide and generates about $11 million annually for the nine districts in Kalamazoo County, according to The Gazette. A renewal election is scheduled May 3.

Officials say that Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed K-12 school budget reduction makes renewing the millage “more important than ever,” The Gazette reported.

But school officials are worried that Portage voters, who previously supported the tax, might be so unhappy at the cost of the buyout that they will vote against the renewal and dampen its chance for success countywide, according to the Gazette.

Each district in the county receives about $340 per student through the so-called “enhancement tax,” the report said.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, “School officials hopeful on vote, concerns raised that Portage buyout could impact May election,” March 27, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Superintendent, teacher pay,” March 14, 2011

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

To subscribe or unsubscribe, go to http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/mer/listserver.aspx?Source=MED