Contents of this issue:

  • Detroit imposes 10 percent wage cuts, unions promise lawsuit
  • Michigan wants NCLB waiver, calls goals ‘unreasonable’
  • Breckenridge to open virtual high school
  • Muslim school supporters ask for federal oversight
  • Otsego teachers get pay raise, leave MESSA

Detroit Imposes 10 Percent Wage Cuts, Unions Promise Lawsuit

DETROIT — Union leaders in Detroit Public Schools say they will go to court over emergency financial manager Roy Roberts’ order to impose $81 million in wage concessions beginning this month, the Detroit Free Press reported.

All 10,000 employees in the district — union and nonunion, including Roberts — will take the 10 percent pay cut as of Aug. 23, as well as begin to pay 20 percent of the cost of their health care benefits as of Sept. 1, the Free Press reported.

This is the first time that Michigan’s new emergency financial manager law has been used to modify school district collective bargaining agreements, according to the Free Press. In all, eight union contracts will be modified, the report said.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon gave Roberts permission to enact the cuts, as required, and Gov. Rick Snyder expressed support, the Free Press reported, while Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said the union will file suit.

DPS currently has a $327 million deficit, Roberts said, according to the Free Press. The new cuts replace an earlier Termination Incentive Plan under which teachers deferred $250 per paycheck to the district, collectible upon leaving the district.

A petition drive to repeal the emergency financial manager law through a ballot initiative is under way, the Free Press reported.


Detroit Free Press, “Detroit Public Schools workers to see a 10% pay cut,” July 30, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Acts of God: Don’t like the EFM law? There’s an alternative: Rein in Government employee unions,” April 20, 2011

Michigan Wants NCLB Waiver, Calls Goals ‘Unreasonable’

LANSING, Mich. — Saying it is “unreasonable” to require that all Michigan public school students be proficient in reading and math by 2014, the Michigan Department of Education has asked the federal government to extend that deadline by 10 years, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, state officials said that Michigan only recently raised the bar on state standardized tests, which will make it harder for students to be rated “proficient,” the Free Press reported.

“Many schools will experience an initial drop in proficiency rates, which makes the 2014 goal of 100% proficiency unreasonable,” Sally Vaughn, deputy superintendent at the MDE, said in the letter, the Free Press reported.

The 100 percent proficiency requirement is part of the federal No Child Left Behind act, according to the Free Press. Schools that fail to meet the goal face sanctions ranging from giving students the chance to attend a better school to replacing staff, the Free Press reported.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he is open to granting waivers as long as states can show they are holding schools and students to high standards, the Free Press reported. Michigan is asking that the state be allowed to meet a goal of having 80 percent of students be career or college ready, or having them be on track to be career and college ready, according to the Free Press.


Detroit Free Press, “Michigan’s education department seeks waiver on federal standardized test goals,” July 29, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “What MEAP scores mean,” March 22, 2010

Breckenridge to Open Virtual High School

BRECKENRIDGE, Mich. — Breckenridge Community Schools is opening a virtual high school this fall intended to serve area students who aren’t already enrolled in the district’s traditional ninth- through twelfth-grade program, the Midland Daily News reported.

Under an arrangement with Job Skill Technology Inc., of Auburn Hills, Breckenridge will offer about 140 courses in an online format, including core classes, advanced placement courses, electives and foreign languages, according to the Daily News. The program is aimed at such groups as former parochial school students, home-schoolers, suspended or expelled students and dropouts, the report said.

Students can take up to six classes per semester, tuition free, according to the Daily News.

Participants receive online access to courses and receive textbooks and lab kits sent to their homes, the Daily News reported, and enrollees are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities offered to Breckenridge students.


Midland Daily News, “Breckenridge announces new online high school,” July 31, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Virtual Learning,” April 18, 2011

Muslim School Supporters ask for Federal Oversight

DETROIT — Pittsfield Township planners have denied the Michigan Islamic Academy’s request to rezone property where the school wants to locate, prompting a Muslim civil rights organization to ask federal officials to investigate, The Detroit News and the Michigan Messenger reported.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Michigan branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations asked officials to consider whether the school’s religious rights are being violated, according to The News.

Dawud Walid, CAIR-Michigan executive director, said that township planning commission members cited traffic concerns and a “disruption of neighborhood harmony” as reasons for denying the request, but that it is concerned that opposition by local residents “negatively influenced” the decision, The News reported.

Walid said in the letter that in other cases nationally, planners have cited traffic or neighborhood concerns “to provide legal cover” for denials based on prejudice, The News reported. CAIR-Michigan wants a Justice Department representative to attend the next meeting on the subject in August, according to The News.

Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal told The News that the township community is “very diverse,” as is membership on boards and commissions.

The Academy is a 300-pupil school that has outgrown its Ann Arbor site, The News reported.


The Detroit News, “Civil rights group asks feds to monitor Pittsfield decision on Muslim school,” July 25, 2011

Michigan Messenger, “CAIR calls for DOJ investigation of mosque refusal,” July 27, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Adding private schools to the school choice debate,” June 7, 2010

Otsego Teachers Get Pay Raise, Leave MESSA

OTSEGO, Mich. — Otsego Public Schools teachers will receive a 2 percent salary increase in the coming year after agreeing to a health insurance switch that will save the school district $500,000, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

The one-year contract calls for switching from the Michigan Education Special Services Association health plan to one offered by Priority Health, The Gazette reported, as well a switch in dental plans that will save up to an additional $40,000.

Teachers will pay 10 percent of the premiums in 2011-2012, up from 6 percent in 2010-2011, with the district covering the remainder, The Gazette reported.

Salary “step” increases, which are pay raises given on the basis of years of experience, also will resume under the new contract; those increases were frozen under the terms of the last contract.

The district now appears eligible for additional “best practice” state funding, according to The Gazette.


The Kalamazoo Gazette, “Otsego teachers agree to switch from MESSA; get 2 percent base pay raise,” July 26, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “A Good Start, Policymakers. Now For the Heavy Lifting,” July 4, 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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