Contents of this issue:

  • Bobb ready to modify union contracts
  • Bill would require health cost sharing by public workers
  • Lansing School District works to head off $25M deficit
  • Intervention said to lower special education count
  • Race to the Top funded for another year

Bobb Ready to Modify Union Contracts

DETROIT — Layoff notices that went out in Detroit Public Schools last week were no surprise, but a letter announcing potential changes in the teachers’ union contract is a first under a new state law, according to an Associated Press report posted at Mlive.com.

Nearly 5,500 Detroit Public Schools teachers and 248 administrators will receive layoff or non-renewal notices in anticipation of declining enrollment, according to AP.

Members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers also will get letters noting possible changes in their collective bargaining agreement with the district, AP reported.  A new state law gives  emergency financial managers like Robert Bobb, who has been the DPS emergency manager since March 2009, more authority to make changes in contract provisions, AP reported.

Bobb did not elaborate on what changes he might make, AP reported, but a Wall Street Journal report said that he may target seniority rights.

Mlive.com, “Detroit schools send layoff papers to all teachers,” April 14, 2011

The Wall Street Journal, “Detroit Moves Against Unions,” April 18, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Taking Steps in the Right Direction,” April 8, 2011

Bill Would Require Health Cost Sharing by Public Workers

LANSING, Mich. — A Senate committee has approved legislation that would require K-12 school employees, among other public workers, to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums, The Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township, said Senate Bill 7 would reduce government spending while preserving services for taxpayers, The Gazette reported. It would apply to local government, K-12 school districts, community colleges and universities.

If adopted, the bill would become mandatory on January 1 or when current union contracts expire.

As of 2009, the average contribution among public school teachers to their health care premium was 4 percent, according to research by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Ray Holman, a member of the state employee union UAW 6000, said that health benefit cost sharing should be decided at the bargaining table, The Gazette reported.

The Senate Fiscal Agency calculated that the measure could save more than $500 million, according to The Gazette.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, “Health cost sharing by Michigan public workers passes first test,” April 13, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Beware Legislators Posturing on 20 Percent Co-pay Proposal,” April 18, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Senate Set to Help Schools Save Health-Care Dollars,” April 14, 2011

Intervention Said to Lower Special Education Count

ALPENA, Mich. — School districts in the Alpena area are seeing a decline in the number of students identified as eligible for special education services, which officials attribute to intervention programs, according to The Alpena News.

The Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District school board learned at a recent meeting that the special education count dropped by 6.5 percent in the past year, The News reported. Much of the decline has been in the category of learning disabilities, Superintendent Brian Wilmot said, according to The News.

The district offers intervention programs in reading, writing and behavior that are intended to help students in that category, according to the report.

“What this tells me is the investment that this board and this district has made in these student programs ... is paying great dividends,” Wilmot said, according to The News.

The Alpena News, “Special ed drops 6.5 percent,” April 14, 2011

Michigan Education Report, “Specializing in special education,” Feb. 1, 2010

Lansing School District Works to Head Off $25M Deficit

LANSING, Mich. — Facing a $25 million projected deficit in 2011-2012, Lansing School District officials are considering school closures, a 10 percent wage reduction and elimination of some jobs, while a union official says administration also should be trimmed, according to the Lansing State Journal.

At a recent school board meeting, the district’s chief financial officer said the district could save $12 million if teachers and other labor groups agree to a 10 percent wage reduction, the Journal reported.  The current teachers’ union contract expires on June 30, according to the Journal.

The board, itself divided on many issues, has voted to close one elementary school and is expected to vote later this month on closing a second building, the Journal reported. The district also is considering eliminating 70 positions.

Teachers’ union President Jerry Swartz has called for administrative reductions, including cutting the superintendent’s cabinet from seven to five members and wage concessions among those remaining, the Journal reported.

Lansing State Journal, “Sharply divided Lansing board must fix $25M deficit before July 1,” April 16, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “The School Employee Concession Myth,” Dec. 24, 2010

Race to the Top Funded Again

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Funding for another year of Race to the Top competition was preserved by Congress in its recent budget battle, while the U.S. Department of Education’s overall budget was sliced by about $1 billion, to $68.5 billion, according to Education Week magazine. That total does not include Pell Grant money.

Debate over the department’s 2011 budget resulted in elimination of several smaller, targeted programs, including grants for educational technology, while larger Title I grants and special education state grants were maintained, the report said. The budget also includes funding for another year of Investing in Innovation, or i3, competitive grants, the report said.

Many expect further debate when Congress tackles the budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins Oct. 1, Education Week reported.

Education Week, “Federal Budget’s Approval Sets Stage for Future Battles,” April 14, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Michigan 21st in Race to the Top,” March 30, 2010

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