Contents of this issue:
  • Jewish day school no longer recognizes teachers union

  • GRPS private busing gets positive reviews

  • Lansing schools offer to help Katrina evacuees

  • Study concludes school funding outpaces inflation under Prop A

  • MEA protests Lakeview contract

  • School safety legislation passed by state Senate

  • More students to take MEAP; Testing earlier in school year

  • Mackinac Center to award four $1,000 scholarships

Detroit — The 21-member board of directors at Farmington Hills' Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit decided to end their recognition of the Hillel Federation of Teachers last week, according to the Detroit Free Press. The move comes days after a Michigan Court of Appeals decision that prevented unionization of teachers at a suburban Detroit Catholic high school.

Steve Freedman, the head of Hillel, told the Free Press that the school "doesn't need an outside organization" to be involved in decisions about how to best serve Hillel's teachers, administrators and parents. Teachers at Hillel began work last week by signing their own individual service agreements with the school. The union had been in the process of negotiating a new contract when the school's board of directors voted unanimously to end discussion with the union. The Free Press reported that under the new individual contracts, pay will increase by up to 17 percent for some teachers, and benefits will stay the same.

Teachers at Hillel earn an average yearly salary of $50,000. They are some of the most highly paid private school teachers in the country, Freedman said.

According to New York's Forward newspaper, Hillel Federation of Teachers head Robin Lash said that the board acted unilaterally and that the teachers were "quite somber." However, Freedman told Forward that the teachers are "moving on" and "very excited" about their new students. He added that the school has a right "to govern itself — to set its own curriculum, to determine the credentials of its teachers — without outside parties."

Forward speculated that the Michigan Court of Appeals decision could affect other religious schools in the state.

Forward, "School Boots Teachers' Union, Fueling," Sept. 2, 2005

Detroit Free Press, "Hillel School board ends recognition of union," Aug. 23, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Michigan Catholic School Remains Union-Free," Aug. 22, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Court rules against union in Brother Rice case," Aug. 23, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Brother Rice case in court," Spring 2005

Grand Rapids, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Press reported Wednesday that Grand Rapids Public Schools received fewer transportation-related phone calls than usual on its first day of school last week. Last June, the GRPS school board voted to contract with Dean Transportation to operate its busing service in a deal that is projected to save the district $18 million over the next five years.

GRPS Superintendent Bert Bleke told The Press Wednesday that the issue had been "emotional and politically charged," but that he still believes contracting with Dean Transportation was "a good decision." The Press article said that union leaders are "uncomfortable" with the company's presence.

The first day of service went smoothly, said Dean Transportation owner Kellie Dean, except for some delayed elementary school routes, The Press reported. Dean told The Press, "I think we had a good day." Dean Transportation hired 40 drivers from among 400 applicants seeking positions not filled by the 125 GRPS drivers rehired by Dean. Dean's drivers are getting different retirement and health benefits, and contribute between $193 and $882 per month for health insurance premiums. The company is also paying its employees who formerly worked for GRPS a weekly bonus of $250 to ease the transition, The Press said. Dean drivers spent the summer in training sessions before the start of school last week.

Dean driver Oscar Lowery, one of many former GRPS drivers who have been hired by the company, said, "Change is scary, and there were a lot of people worried about what was going to happen. A lot of times, a new company will come in and kick everyone to the curb. But we've been treated very well."

The Grand Rapids Press, "GRPS reports fewer calls than usual on first day of private bus service, Aug. 31, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Grand Rapids union privatizes busing," Summer 2005

Lansing, Mich. — The Lansing State Journal reported Friday that closed school buildings in Lansing and Detroit may be used to house victims of hurricane Katrina. The effort to offer shelter is being headed up by Lansing educator Freya Rivers, with help from the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and the Lansing School District, according to the Journal. The Lansing district's spokeswoman Roni Rucker Waters told the Journal, "Our buildings are empty and ready to accommodate the families who are in need." The Journal also reported that Dean Transportation has volunteered to bus people from New Orleans to Lansing.

Lansing State Journal, "Recently closed Lansing schools could house hundreds of refugees," Sept. 2, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Storm Drain," Oct. 7, 2004

Lansing, Mich. — An Anderson Economic Group study shows that "schools have been well-funded since Proposal A passed in 1994," according to a Michigan Information and Research Service report last week.

AEG's Scott Watkins analyzed school finance data and concluded that average school revenue and expenses in the state grew at rates exceeding inflation and consumer prices. Watkins told MIRS, "I think there's a lot of misunderstanding of the amount of funding that schools are getting. There's a lot of misinformation being put out there by the school lobbying groups."

Tom White of Michigan School Business Officials and chairman of the K-16 Coalition, a group that is lobbying to require annual spending increases for education, told MIRS that the data seems "factual," but that, "There are so many different ways to look at the numbers." According to MIRS, White compared the minimum per-pupil state grants in January 1995 and January 2005, and claimed that schools relying on the minimum grant received only a 0.72 percent actual revenue increase after inflation.

But, according to Watkins, "If you look at the operating revenue and compare that to inflation, the per-pupil operating revenues are up 55 percent and inflation has only been 21 percent during that period. That excludes the 217 percent explosion in property tax revenue for debt sinking funds and millages."

MIRS Capitol Capsule, "Go Figure — Two Sides To Education Numbers Game," Sept. 1, 2005 (subscription required)

Anderson Economic Group, "Recent growth in public K-12 spending, revenues outpaces inflation," Aug. 29, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "K-16 Coalition begins circulating petition for inflationary increases," Aug. 23, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "K-12 spending guarantee ignores economics," Summer 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Jen and the art of education," Summer 2005

St. Clair Shores, Mich. — According to The Macomb Daily, teachers from various school districts in Macomb County demonstrated last week on behalf of teachers from Lakeview Public Schools. The district ended stalled negotiations with teachers last month and imposed a new contract.

About 200 teachers marched up and down 11 Mile Road in St. Clair Shores to show their support for the 182 Lakeview teachers who they say are not getting a fair deal, according to The Daily.

Michigan Education Association President Lu Battaglieri told the newspaper that teachers "are being denied a fair and equitable contract." He said that the district "forced members of our union to accept the insurance they want us to have, not the insurance we want to have," and told the demonstrators they were being "denigrated, devalued, and demoralized," according to The Daily. "This could end up in the courts with litigation. But I have a stable of attorneys in Lansing who are ready to fight the fight," Battaglieri said.

Last week, Michigan Education Digest reported that the new Lakeview contract dropped the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an insurance administrator established by the MEA. The district estimated that the change of insurance administrators could save up to $500,000.

The Macomb Daily, "Teachers from across county join Lakeview in rally, march," Aug. 30, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Lakeview Public Schools drops MESSA," Aug. 30, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "4M: The real structural problem," Feb. 16, 2005

Detroit — A package of bills that seeks to protect Michigan's school children from sex offenders was passed unanimously by the Michigan Senate last week, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to sign the legislation. She said in a statement, "Michigan will not rest until we have done everything we can to keep the 'bad guys' away from our children."

According to, one of the bills, Senate Bill 129, would "prohibit a person on the sexual offenders registry from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of a school, with certain exceptions for those convicted of less serious non-coercive crimes or for certain offences committed as a juvenile." The bills would institute background checks for all school employees, not only teachers and administrators. Other provisions would increase penalties for sex offenders not reporting necessary information to law enforcement, the Free Press reported.

The Free Press also noted that last year state auditors found that 222 licensed school workers, many of whom were teachers, had criminal records. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is concerned that the current registry system includes people who "aren't dangerous to society," Shelli Weisberg, an ACLU lobbyist, told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Legislature approves bills to protect children from sex offenders," Aug. 31, 2005

The Detroit News, "Granholm gets child safety bills," Sept. 2, 2005, "2005 Senate Bill 129 (Establish sex offender parole restrictions)"


Michigan Education Report, "The three P's of school safety," Fall 2000

Detroit — This fall, there will be a 75 percent increase over last year in the number of Michigan students who will be taking the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, The Detroit News reported.

The state Department of Education says the number of students taking the test will rise from 520,000 last year to 910,000 this year, due mainly to the fact that third- and sixth-graders will now be included, in compliance with federal law. Students in grades three through eight will take math and English MEAP tests; students in fifth and eighth grade will take a science MEAP test; and sixth- and ninth-graders will be tested in social studies.

As well as including more students, the tests will be moved from their old dates in January and February to a date in October. The News reported that some schools opted to start before Labor Day, in part to accommodate the testing changes. "With the testing in early fall, we wanted to put students in a better position to be successful," said Ron Simon, superintendent of Pewamo-Westphalia Community Schools, a district northwest of Lansing.

Michigan Education Association spokeswoman Margaret Trimer-Hartley told The News that the union is concerned about an overemphasis on MEAP tests, especially with the first-time participation of third-graders. "If you make them fill in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil on a test like this, you could cut off that enthusiasm (for education) for a lot of them. It raises a host of issues in the classroom."

The MEAP is the main component in measuring Adequate Yearly Progress under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

The Detroit News, "This school year, more pupils to take Michigan standardized tests," Sept. 2, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "New MEAP procedure will begin this fall," Summer 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Which educational achievement test is best for Michigan?" May 28, 2002

High School Teachers: Help one of your students win a $1,000 College Scholarship!* Join the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for our annual High School Debate Workshops. For further details please visit, or call (989) 631-0900.

*A $1,000 college scholarship will be awarded to one student from each Debate Workshop. An essay topic will be released the day of the workshop. Essays will be judged by a panel, and authors of the winning essays will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Students must attend the workshop to apply.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

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