Contents of this issue:

  • Bill prohibits schools from collecting union dues
  • House committee considers increased number of count days
  • Gov. Snyder calls for renewed efforts to reduce truancy
  • Muskegon Heights may close without emergency manager
  • Mackinac Center releases study on closing underfunded MPSERS

Bill Prohibits Schools From Collecting Union Dues

LANSING, Mich. — A bill that would ban school districts from collecting union dues has passed the Legislature and is on its way to Gov. Snyder, who is expected to sign it, according to WILX-TV. Under the bill, school districts could no longer automatically deduct dues from employees' paychecks and responsibility for dues collection would fall to the respective unions.

WILX-TV reports that some union officials see this bill as retaliation from a Republican-controlled Legislature.

"This bill has sat in the Legislature for months, but then 24 hours after we announced in coalition with other unions and community groups the formation of the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining, within 24 hours this bill was suddenly resurrected from the dead and passed," Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association, told WILX-TV.

Supporters of the bill deny these accusations and instead claim the purpose of the bill is to relieve school districts of an unnecessary financial burden and make sure district assets are better allocated, according to WILX-TV.

"Why waste money on collecting dues. The school employees can simply write a check or transfer through their credit union or bank," Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, told WILX-TV.


WILX-TV, “Bill Prohibits Schools from Deducting Union Dues," March 9, 2012


Michigan Capitol Confidential, “School Districts Will Soon No Longer Be Responsible For Deducting Teacher Union Dues," March 8, 2012

House Committee Considers Increased Number of Count Days

LANSING, Mich. — State legislators are considering increasing the number of count days to better allocate per-pupil state aid, according to MLive. Count days determine a school’s enrollment for the year, which in turn determines how much financial aid a district will receive from the state.

Currently, the state has just two count days during the school year and official enrollment figures are based 90 percent on the October headcount day and 10 percent on the count day in February. According to MLive, school leaders are concerned that increased student mobility means some schools aren’t receiving the funds they need for students who move after October while lawmakers are concerned the state is paying for hundreds of students who are no longer in a district.

MLive reports that Thomas Howell, director of the state’s Center for Educational Performance and Information, told the House Appropriations Committee that about 35,000 students change districts after the fall count, which represents about 2.2 percent of statewide enrollment.

Chairman Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, thinks increasing the frequency of count days would not represent too large a burden to schools as they already have the technology to perform additional count days, according to MLive.

“When you visit a class, it seems the first thing you see a teacher do at the start of each class period is punch attendance numbers into a computer,” he said. “That information has to go somewhere.”

But school administrators objected, saying that those headcounts were simply to ensure they knew if the district was missing any children just for that day. According to MLive, count day data is collected separately and must be audited by an outside authority.


MLive, “Michigan House committee asks whether more frequent student headcounts would lead to fairer funding,” March 6, 2012


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Pupil Count Day,” Sept. 30, 2009

Gov. Snyder Calls for Renewed Efforts to Reduce Truancy

GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has called for renewed efforts to reduce truancy, according to MLive. Along with funding for a new internship program and more social workers in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw elementary schools, Gov. Snyder also called for regular school attendance to be required for a household to be eligible to receive temporary cash assistance. Under current state policy, only children 16 to 18 are required to attend school for a household to receive welfare.

"There's nothing that says, if you're 8 years old, you have to go to school," Gov. Snyder told MLive. "How dumb is that?"

Opponents of Gov. Snyder’s previous welfare reforms were concerned with the details, but are tentatively open to the governor’s suggestion, according to MLive.

"It doesn't seem unreasonable to require children to be in school," said Judy Putnam, spokeswoman for the Michigan League for Human Services. "On the other hand, families without resources often struggle with transportation, with trying to work a job and with illnesses. Until we walk in their shoes, we don't know why those kids are missing class."

SOURCE:, “Gov. Rick Snyder aims to stop truancy; cut welfare if children skip school,” March 8, 2012


Michigan Education Report, “Schools crack down on truancy,” Sept. 3, 2008

Muskegon Heights May Close Without Emergency Manager

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — Officials at Muskegon Heights Public Schools told an emergency manager review team the district may have to close as early as April unless they receive an emergency manager, according to MLive. Other options include consolidating with another district, having another district take over administrative functions, or filing for bankruptcy.

MLive reports Dave Sipka, superintendent of the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, told the review team the district’s operations were in total disarray under Dana Bryant, Muskegon Heights’ former superintendent.

“Things just weren’t getting done,” Sipka said. “I don’t think anyone knew what the other person was doing. And … everything apparently needed to go through Dr. Bryant.”

According to MLive, Muskegon Heights ran an $8.4 million deficit the previous school year. The district currently owes $1.7 million to MESSA, the union-run administrator from whom the district buys health insurance, and another $1.2 million to MPSERS, the state’s public school employee retirement system.

According to MLive, the MPSERS debt is the most threatening to the district since the MPSERS board could decide to seize all of the district’s April state aid payment and a good portion of its May payment.


MLive, “MAISD: Muskegon Heights schools need emergency manager or district may close,” March 7, 2012


Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Bloated Teacher Contracts Much To Blame For Issues In Highland Park, Muskegon,” March 12, 2012

Mackinac Center Study: Close Underfunded MPSERS

MIDLAND, Mich. — The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released a new report discussing five ways to close the state’s badly underfunded public school employee pension plan. The report critically examines the notion that the “transition costs” of closing the fund are too high to realize fiscal savings.

The Mackinac Center for Public policy publishes Michigan Education Digest.


The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Five Options for Addressing 'Transition Costs' When Closing the MPSERS Pension Plan,” March 12, 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

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