Contents of this issue:

  • School districts circumventing RTW face financial risk
  • Many Kalamazoo-area teachers could choose to leave union soon 
  • Using new EM law, Roy Roberts fires DPS superintendent 
  • Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidated school district makes plans
  • Birth rates affect school district budgets 
  • Grading teachers a nationwide problem

School Districts Circumventing RTW Face Financial Risk

LANSING, Mich. – More than 40 school districts approved contracts that circumvent Michigan’s new right-to-work law, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Pending legislation would pull funding from school districts that approved contracts that will force employees to financially support their union for years without achieving significant savings, the Free Press reports.
Gov. Rick Snyder told the Free Press that “If people are bargaining in good faith and showing real benefits, I don’t believe they should be penalized. But if they’re simply extending the date, then I can see legislators having a concern.”
Some of the largest districts that approved extended contracts include Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Utica and Dearborn, according to the Free Press.
SOURCE: The Detroit Free Press, “School districts, universities skirt right-to-work at a hefty financial risk,” March 27, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Union Rushes Contract To Avoid Right-to-Work; ‘Put This Whole Nightmare Behind Us!’" March 25, 2013

Many Kalamazoo-Area Teachers Could Choose to Leave Union Soon

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Though Kalamazoo Public Schools approved a union contract that extends until June 30, 2015, many other Kalamazoo-area district contracts will expire this summer, according to MLive.

MLive reports that the Mattawan and Parchment school districts will both see their contracts expire soon, meaning that employees will no longer be forced to financially support a union as a condition of their employment.
Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency Superintendent Ron Fuller told MLive that “A lot of people are going to make decisions based on their individual financial needs, and they’re not going to pay the union dues until they feel they need the union.”
Fuller estimated that less than half of unionized employees will continue to pay dues, according to MLive.
Roger Rathburn, superintendent of Three Rivers Community Schools, raised the question of when a union is considered to be representing members in a letter to state legislators, MLive reports. According to MLive, he wrote:
“My union has 160 members. Let’s assume that one member chooses not to pay and 159 remain. A sensible person would conclude there is still a significant majority and 159 should represent the entire group. On the other hand, let’s assume 159 choose not to pay and only 1 remains. A sensible person would conclude that one person is not a majority and shouldn’t be representing the entire group. I know those are two extremes, but what is the middle?” 
SOURCE: MLive, “Most Kalamazoo-area school employees will feel impact of new right-to-work law this summer,” March 18, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Commentary: A Milestone for Michigan — Worker Freedom in the ‘Big Labor’ State,” March 28, 2012

Using New EM Law, Roy Roberts Fires DPS Superintendent

DETROIT – Using a new emergency manager law that took effect March 28, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts fired DPS Superintendent Jon Telford, according to WDIV Channel 4.

WDIV reports Roberts said that there could not be two people leading the district. Telford, according to WDIV, will challenge Roberts’ decision in court.
Roberts also rescinded academic changes made by Telford and canceled union contracts, among other things, WDIV reports.
Under the new emergency manager law, according to WDIV, Roberts only has 18 months before the elected DPS school board could fire him from the district.
SOURCE: WDIV Channel 4, “Detroit Public Schools emergency manager fires superintendent,” March 28, 2013
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Tall Tales," Feb. 19, 2013

Ypsilanti-Willow Run Consolidated School District Makes Plans

YPSILANTI, Mich. – In the new consolidated district, Ypsilanti and Willow run students in grades 5-8 will attend school at Willow Run High School and Intermediate Learning Center, and students attending grades 9-12 will attend Ypsilanti High School, reports.

The Ypsilanti-Willow Run Board of Education also voted to contract with Washtenaw Intermediate School District for superintendent services. WISD will receive $60,000 per year in compensation for WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel’s work to help facilitate the merger of the two districts.
The board also decided to keep both the Ypsilanti and Willow Run superintendents as associate superintendents under Menzel, according to characterized the move to keep the other superintendents as a “controversial move that angered many” in attendance at the Ypsilanti-Willow Run board of education meeting.
SOURCES:, “Consolidated school district to house grades 5-8 in Willow Run, high-schoolers in Ypsilanti,” March 29, 2013, “Contract for superintendent services between Ypsilanti schools and WISD is approved,” March 29, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “After Five Years Of Deficits, District Signed Contract Paying 100 Percent Of Health Care,” Sept. 7, 2012

Birth Rates Affect School District Budgets

PETOSKEY, Mich. – The Charlevoix and Petoskey school districts are seeing a decline in enrollment — due in part to declining birth rates, according to the Petoskey News.

Kenneth Darga, state demographer for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget told Petoskey News that most counties in the northern Lower Peninsula have more deaths than births, with the exception of Emmet County.
Since schools receive state funding based on the number of students attending, the Petoskey school district pays a statistician to estimate area birth rates, according to the Petoskey News.
This year, about 250 students will graduate from the Petoskey district, but the kindergarten class is about 30 students smaller, the Petoskey News reports.
“. . . a lot of our school education infrastructure was built in times when families were larger and people had more children,” Matt McCauley, director of regional planning at the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, told the Petoskey News.
SOURCE: Petoskey News, “Northern Michigan schools: how birth rates affect budgets,” March 29, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Report: Number of high school graduates will shrink, July 24, 2011

Grading Teachers a Nationwide Problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 25 states require teacher evaluations, but few teachers receive low ratings, according to The New York Times.

In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better, The Times reports. In Florida and Tennessee, similar percentages of teachers received high rankings, according to The Times.
Grover Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, told The Times that evaluation systems are flawed if the vast majority of teachers are rated highly. “It would be an unusual profession that at least 5 percent are not deemed ineffective,” Whitehurst told The Times.
Teachers’ unions have fought against linking teacher evaluations to student test data, according to The Times.
Joseph Martineau, director of the Michigan Department of Education’s Bureau of Assessment and Accountability, told The Times that the 0.8 percent of Michigan teachers rated ineffective represents about 800 teachers who might lose their jobs.
“There’s a possibility, a real possibility, that students will have a more effective teacher,” Martineau told the Times.
SOURCE: The New York Times, “Curious Grade for Teachers: Nearly All Pass,” March 30, 2013
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Less Than 1 Percent of Michigan Teachers Rated ‘Ineffective’" Dec. 1, 2012