Contents of this issue:

  • EMU asks unions to give up raises
  • Wisconsin considers ‘parent petition’ voucher
  • Armada keeps MESSA, freezes salary schedule
  • Tennis star Agassi backing $500M charter school fund
  • DPS won’t release draft budget

EMU Asks Unions to Give Up Raises

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Eastern Michigan University may cut up to 70 positions — none of them faculty — depending on whether unionized employees agree to give up planned pay raises in the coming year, according to AnnArbor.com.

The university faces a $23 million budget gap next year, created by a spending plan that is $12 million higher than the current year against an anticipated $11.4 million decrease in state funding, the report said.

President Susan Martin said in an email to the campus community that if all employees forgo pay raises, it would save about $3.2 million, AnnArbor.com reported. She announced earlier that non-union employees will not receive a raise next year and that cell phone allowances will be eliminated, the report said.

The contract already in place between the university and the faculty union calls for a 2 percent pay increase beginning in September, according to AnnArbor.com. Union secretary Howard Bunsis told AnnArbor.com that the university is overstating the problem and that that there is “no justification” for a pay freeze.

Union leaders have suggested cutting administrators and their salaries, as well as athletic spending, the report said, which Martin told AnnArbor.com are already part of the plan. She said a tuition increase is likely, but did not predict the amount.

AnnArbor.com, “Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin asks unions to forgo raises for next year,” June 3, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Public universities spending more on administrators,” March 29, 2011

Wisconsin considers ‘parent petition’ voucher

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Residents could petition to create a new school voucher program in Green Bay, Wis., under legislation passed by a committee of the Wisconsin Legislature, an advocacy group is reporting.

The legislation is now headed to the full Wisconsin Assembly, according to a press release from the American Federation for Children.

If a petition were successful, eligible families in Green Bay could access vouchers to send their children to qualifying private schools, the report said. In a press release, the federation called the “parent petition” for a school voucher program the first of its kind in the country, noting that California residents used a “parent trigger” law there to convert a failing elementary school into a public charter school, the report said.

The new voucher program, if triggered by a petition, would begin with 250 students in the first year, 500 in the second and progress to no cap on voucher enrollment in subsequent years, the press release said.

American Federation for Children, “Wisconsin Legislature Moves Forward with ‘Parent Petition’ Voucher Effort for Green Bay,” June 4, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “School choice programs gain ground,” April 12, 2011

Armada Keeps MESSA, Freezes Salary Schedule

ARMADA, Mich. — Teachers in Armada Area Schools have ratified a two-year contract that calls for freezing the salary schedule in both years and temporarily halting automatic “step” increases, according to The (New Baltimore) Voice.

Members of the Armada Education Association will continue to receive health insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, The Voice reported. They will contribute $80 per month for family coverage or lesser amounts for single or two-person plans, The Voice reported. It was not clear from the report if those amounts are an increase over previous years.

The new contract calls for resuming “step” increases in the third trimester of the 2012-2013 school year, according to The Voice.

Superintendent Arnold Kummerow said no teacher layoffs are currently planned, though some could occur depending on student enrollment in specific courses, The Voice reported.

Armada may qualify for extra funding as a rural district and one that has contracted out for non-instructional services, according to The Voice.

“Contracting out services has kept us solvent through these tough times,” Kummerow said, according to The Voice.

The (New Baltimore) Voice, “Armada School Board approves new teacher contract,” May 31, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Extra K-12 Cash to Be Tied to Mandatory Health Care Cost Sharing and Other Reforms,” May 22, 2011

Tennis Star Agassi Backing $500M Charter School Fund

LOS ANGELES — Tennis champion Andre Agassi has helped create a real estate investment fund intended to pump $500 million into building charter public schools nationally, according to Bloomberg News.

Agassi and Canyon Capital Realty Advisers LLC have created the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, the report said. Plans call for using the fund to develop more than 75 urban campuses with space for 40,000 students within four years, according to Bloomberg.

The fund will develop facilities for charter school managers, lease them to school operators and ultimately allow the schools to purchase the campuses, Bloomberg reported. The fund is the first for-profit investment vehicle dedicated to building charter schools, with investors expected to receive a return based on the rental and sales income, according to the report.

A lack of new facilities is one of the greatest obstacles to charter school growth, Bobby Turner, chairman of Canyon Capital, told Bloomberg.

The new fund will “allow us to access traditional capital,” Agassi, 41, told Bloomberg. He founded the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Las Vegas, in 2001.

Bloomberg reported that University of Michigan regents have approved a $15 million investment in the fund.

Bloomberg News, “Andre Agassi Forms Charter-School Fund With Canyon Capital,” June 2, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Charter School Demand Continues to Rise,” Feb. 8, 2010

DPS Won’t Release Draft Budget

DETROIT — Two school board members want Detroit Public Schools to publicly release the 2011-2012 draft budget it submitted to the state, saying taxpayers have a right to know the details, The Detroit News reported.

The district is under emergency financial management and declined to release a copy of the spending plan to The News, the paper reported. District spokesman Steve Wasko called it a “working discussion draft,” which Michigan Department of Education spokeswoman Jan Ellis said is under review, according to The News. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 23, the report said.

Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts is expected to make final decisions soon on school closures, layoffs and service consolidations as the district tries to work its way out of deficit, according to The News.

Board President Anthony Adams and board member Elena Herrada called for the draft to be released, according to The News, though under the terms of emergency financial management, the board currently has no fiscal authority.

“Although we have no oversight, they have a responsibility to share the budget,” Adams said.

Russ Bellant, parent of a DPS graduate, told The News that the draft should be made public so that taxpayers can be part of the discussion and planning process.

Keith Johnson, president of Detroit Federation of Teachers, told The News that he has not seen the draft, but that it is based on a district of 68,000 students, down from the current 73,000.

The Detroit News, “Board: Take wraps off Detroit Schools draft budget filed with state,” June 2, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Center Study Compares Financial Data for Michigan’s Urban, Suburban, Town and Rural School Districts,” May 31, 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

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