Contents of this issue:

  • Michigan teachers join spate of ‘grade-ins’
  • Leelanau area schools do the math on health insurance
  • Dearborn turns over health care management to union
  • Lansing School District facing deadline on cuts
  • Madison voters OK bond for performing arts center

Michigan Teachers Join Spate of ‘Grade-Ins’

LANSING, Mich. — Unionized teachers in Michigan and Wisconsin are conducting “grade-ins” at malls and hotels in the latest round of fighting over public education funding, according to media reports. Lansing area teachers told WILX-TV that they want to show the public that educators work hard.

The teachers are doing such work as grading homework and writing notes to parents during the public gatherings, according to WILX. A similar, union-organized event has been announced this month for Clare area teachers.

The teachers hope Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to cut school funding falls through, but some lawmakers have said the state must address rising pension and health care costs for teachers before giving schools more money, WILX reported.

Similar grade-ins have been held in Wisconsin, Connecticut, New Jersey and Oklahoma.

WILX-TV, “Teachers take budget battles to local malls,” April 10, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Helpful Facts about Michigan’s Public Sector,” March 15, 2011

Leelanau Area Schools Do the Math on Health Insurance

LEELANAU COUNTY, Mich. — Teachers who now contribute nothing toward their own health insurance premiums would have to pay between $3,600 and $4,500 a year to keep their current benefit levels if the state Legislature adopts legislation requiring a 20 percent contribution, the Leelanau Enterprise reported.

Those numbers are based on the current cost of health insurance provided to instructional staff in Northport, Suttons Bay, Leland and Glen Lake, which ranges from $18,000 to $22,700 annually for a family plan, the Enterprise reported. None of those employees currently contribute to the premium cost except for Northport, where they pay approximately $200 annually, according to the Enterprise.

Paying 20 percent would cost teachers less than an alternate plan to cap the amount each district pays for health insurance to $13,000 per employee annually, the Enterprise reported. Under that plan, teachers would pay amounts ranging from $5,000 to $9,700 annually to retain current benefit levels, according to the report.

Northport, Suttons Bay and Leland purchase health insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association. Glen Lake teachers are organized through the Michigan Federation of Teachers and receive coverage through Michigan Employee Benefits Services, according to the Enterprise.

Gov. Rick Snyder has said that much of a proposed cut in school aid in 2012 could be absorbed by requiring public school employees to contribute to their benefit packages, the Enterprise reported.

Leelanau Enterprise, “Teachers would pay under new budget,” May 5, 2011

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

Dearborn Turns Over Health Care Management to Union

DEARBORN, Mich. — Management of teacher health care would shift from the school district to the teachers union in Dearborn pending final approval of a tentative agreement that teachers OK’d last week, according to The Detroit News.

Dearborn Public Schools would pay a fixed amount annually to a health care trust that would be managed by the Michigan State AFL-CIO Public Employee Trust, The News reported. This year the contribution would be about $12,000 per employee, with fixed increases in the next two years. Future levels would be subject to collective bargaining.

Chris Sipperley, president of the Dearborn Federation of Teachers, said the new health care plan would be “union-managed and union-owned,” The News reported, while the district said it is saving money by capping its contribution.

The tentative contract also includes pay cuts of 3 percent for top-scale teachers and 3.5 percent for all others, according to The News. Teachers will still get seniority step increases, but not retroactively, and it will take more years of service to reach the top step, The News reported.

The Detroit News, “Dearborn teachers union votes to own, operate health plan,” May 4, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Benefits in Balance

Lansing School District Facing Deadline on Cuts

LANSING, Mich. — Chided by the city mayor for appearing to be in “chaos,” and facing a June 30 deadline to come up with a balanced budget, Lansing School District trustees say they will find a way to reduce spending by $25 million, though their chief financial officer is skeptical, according to Lansing State Journal reports.

Board trustees have rejected an administration proposal on school closings, as well as trustees’ own proposals, though they did vote to issue layoff notices for up to 325 district employees, the Journal reported. The district must cut between $19.7 million and $24.8 million, according to the Journal.

“There is no way I see we can present a balanced budget. There are some major issues,” Chief Financial Officer Venkat Saripalli said at a recent meeting, according to the Journal.

More than $12 million of the proposed cuts depend on wage concessions from the district’s labor unions, which must be negotiated, the Journal reported.

The board asked Saripalli for a line-item budget to review, according to the Journal. Saripalli said that would encompass 45,000 items, a level of detail he termed “ridiculous,” the Journal reported.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said at a separate meeting that the public “... needs to see something approaching competence and consensus” from the school board, the Journal reported.

Lansing State Journal, “Lansing school board promises to balance budget despite CFO’s misgivings,” May 6, 2011

Lansing State Journal, “Bernero, other leaders to Lansing school board: Shape up,” May 6, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “School Funding in Michigan: Common Myths

Madison Voters OK Bond for Performing Arts Center

ADRIAN, Mich. — Madison School District voters this month approved a millage extension to pay for a $3.6 million performing arts center, according to The (Adrian) Daily Telegram.

Superintendent Jim Hartley said the wide margin of approval ? 217-80 ? was “a bit of a surprise,” The Telegram reported. Taxpayers in the Lenawee County district now will pay a 1.45-mill levy through 2031, rather than seeing it expire in 2013, according to The Telegram.

Work may begin this fall, pending the state’s permitting process, Hartley told The Telegram, with completion by fall of 2012.

The district’s operating millage renewal also passed, by a margin of 256-42, The Telegram reported.

The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, “Madison School District voters OK bond for performing arts facility,” May 3, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “The play’s the thing,” Oct. 9, 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

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