Contents of this issue:

  • Niles teachers protest contract offer
  • Bill to ban grad student unionization moves to Senate floor
  • School claims township implementing ‘neo-Jim Crow’ in lawsuit
  • State grants emergency $4 million for Highland Park students
  • Endowments up at Michigan colleges and universities

Niles Teachers Protest Contract Offer

NILES, Mich. — About 100 teachers carrying signs showed up at a recent Niles Community Schools board of education meeting to protest the board’s latest contract offer, according to The Niles Daily Star. The protesters claimed the signs, which had various percentages ranging from 19.5 to 28.3 written on them, represented the real decrease in total compensation each teacher was facing should the union accept the offer.

“We wanted to remind the board that their last best offer’s overall impact is more than just a 7 percent or 8 percent decrease in pay; it also includes insurance costs,” teachers’ union President Katherine Elsner told The Star. “That impacts the community as a whole. For every dollar we make, we spend about $1.50 in the community.”

Board president Jeff Curry argued the spending reductions were essential to prevent the district from running a deficit as soon as the 2013-14 school year, according to The Star.

“Simply stated, our cost exceeds our revenue and we are entrusted to balance the budget,” Curry told The Star. “We are burning through over $200,000 a month right now, and we cannot afford to do that and educate our kids.”

According to The Star, the two sides failed to reach an agreement after state mediation last year and are currently completing a fact finding process.


The Niles Daily Star, “Teachers protest contract offer," Feb. 20, 2012


Michigan Education Report, “Niles secretaries take 2.5 percent pay cut,” Jan. 29, 2012

Bill To Ban Grad Student Unionization Moves To Senate Floor

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Government Operations Committee has approved a bill that would block the unionization of graduate student research assistants at state-funded universities, according to The Associated Press. The vote was 3-2 along party lines and the bill now moves to the Senate floor.

According to the AP, the bill comes in response to an attempt to unionize by a group of graduate student research assistants at the University of Michigan. The bill seeks to put into law a 1981 decision by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that found grad students were not employees and therefore not eligible to unionize.


The Associated Press, “Michigan bill would ban some grad student unions,” Feb. 21, 2012


Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Bill To Stop Graduate Student Unionization Moves Ahead,” Feb. 22, 2012

School Claims Township Implementing ‘Neo-Jim Crow’

PITTSFIELD TWP., Mich. — The Michigan Islamic Academy has asked a federal district court judge to overturn a Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees decision that rejected its rezoning request, according to AnnArbor.com. MIA is seeking to have land it purchased in 2010 rezoned so it can build a new 360-student school.

According to AnnArbor.com, the lawsuit claims representatives from the school met with Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal before purchasing the land. Grewal reportedly told MIA that they should not have any problems getting the land rezoned for a school as long as they followed the proper procedures.

Because Pittsfield “has not identified any compelling government interest for denying MIA’s application” the lawsuit argues the township has violated the First and 14th Amendment as well as the federal Religious Institutions Land Use Protection Act, according to AnnArbor.com.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is a partner in the lawsuit, told AnnArbor.com the township’s arguments that the school would lead to traffic issues and a fall in neighboring property values were the “same old, tired, bigoted arguments that have been made in the past.”

“This will set a dangerous precedent if the community is allowed to block the construction of this school,” Walid said. “It is neo-Jim Crow in a sense.”


AnnArbor.com, “American-Islamic council: Pittsfield Township's blocking of Islamic school is 'neo-Jim Crow',” Feb. 22, 2012


Michigan Education Report, “Muslim school backers ask federal oversight,” July 28, 2011

State Grants Emergency $4 Million for Highland Park Students

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed an emergency bill that allocates $4 million dollars to the help students of Highland Park, according to The Detroit News. The funding will not go to the school district, but rather gives each student about $4,000 to go the school of his or her choice.

Concerns about the continued operation of the Highland Park schools arose because the district does not have enough cash to make the next pay period. According to The News, this measure was intended to ensure that students would be able to continue their studies should the district have to shut down.

The funding is not without its opponents, according to The News. "There's still a question about how this will positively impact the district," said school board Secretary Robert Davis.

The News reports the bill provides the funding to any school district or charter public school that accepts a student from Highland Park. Highland Park will not receive any of the funds unless someone is brought in from the outside to run the financially troubled district. Gov. Snyder had asked Jack Martin to step down as emergency financial manager after an Ingham County judge ruled his appointment process violated the Open Meetings Act.


The Detroit News, “Snyder signs bill to aid Highland Park students,” Feb. 24, 2012


Michigan Capitol Confidential, “School District: Spending Up, Revenue Up, Red Ink Up — Wants More Money,” Jan. 23, 2012

Endowments Up At Michigan Colleges and Universities

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A recent study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers has found that college and university endowments around Michigan saw strong growth in the previous fiscal year, according to MLive.com.

“The main factor is that the financial markets in general for that 12 month period had very strong returns,” Brian Copeland, associate vice president for business and finance at GVSU, told M-Live.com.

Central Michigan University saw the largest percentage increase at 27.9 percent. MLive.com reports that the University of Michigan, at $7.8 billion, has the largest overall endowment in the state.

According to MLive.com, schools use their endowments to offer scholarships, endow faculty positions, and fund various student programs.

“Without endowments you rely more heavily on tuition, room and board for expenses,” Tom Bylsma, Hope College’s vice president for business and CFO told MLive.com. “We’re trying to make higher education as affordable as possible. Endowments help.”


MLive.com, “Growing investments: Endowments on the rise at West Michigan colleges and universities,” Feb. 21, 2012


Michigan Education Report, “Michigan public universities have $4.2 billion in unrestricted assets,” Jan. 18, 2012

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 Kyle Jackson at mailto:med@educationreport.org

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