Contents of this issue:
  • Study: Urban schools hurt by union staffing rules

  • Residents attempt to form school board, reopen school

  • Budget surplus could be disbursed to Michigan schools

  • Charters, independent schools not worried about K-Promise

  • Otsego bus drivers drop MESSA

  • Detroit Public Schools enrollment drops again

  • Teachers sue Lakeview Public Schools

New York, N.Y. - Union staffing rules, rather than employee performance or student need, dictate how 40 percent of teacher vacancies are filled in urban public schools, according to a study by The New Teacher Project.

The study, "Unintended Consequences: The Case for Reforming the Staffing Rules in Urban Teachers Union Contracts," looked at hiring and teacher movement in five urban districts, the Sante Fe New Mexican reported. The districts were given anonymity in exchange for access, but two, San Diego and New York City, have identified themselves.

Specific contract rules such as "voluntary transfer," and "excessed teacher" were examined, according to a TNTP press release highlighting the study. A voluntary transfer is a teacher with seniority who moves between schools in the same district, while an excessed teacher is one whose position has been cut, usually for budget reasons. Excessed teachers are often given jobs at a different school within the same district.

"These staffing rules often require other schools to hire these incumbent teachers even if they are not the right match for the job," TNTP's press release said. "As a result, urban schools are often forced to hire teachers regardless of students' needs. These contract rules thwart any sustained attempt to significantly improve teacher quality - the single greatest school-based factor in increasing student achievement."

The study also found that of more than 70,000 teachers in the five districts, only four tenured teachers were terminated due to poor performance in a one-year period. Because of the difficulties in firing teachers, 25 percent of principals surveyed in one district and 40 percent in another admitted that they urge poor performers to transfer to another school.

The American Federation of Teachers, a union of 1.3 million teachers and school personnel, called the study "meritless," in its own press release.

"The TNTP report completely misses the mark on the challenge of retaining new teachers in urban schools," said Antonia Cortese, the AFT's executive vice president. "Almost 50 percent of new teachers leave schools within five years."

TNTP's study, although not about new teacher retention, did find that staffing rules in union contracts mean new teachers are often expendable.

"Novice teachers are, by default, the first to be excessed," TNTP's press release said. "In three districts, a subset of novice teachers also can be stripped of their positions if more senior teachers need or want their jobs. As a result, one-quarter of principals surveyed reported having a new or novice teacher bumped from their school the prior year."

According to its Web site, "The New Teacher Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to partnering with educational entities to enhance their capacity to recruit, select, train and support new teachers effectively."

The New Teacher Project, "Unintended Consequences: The Case for Reforming the Staffing Rules in Urban Teachers Union Contracts"
http://www.tntp.org/newreport/TNTP%20Unintended%20Consequences.pdf (PDF file)

American Federation of Teachers, "Study Falsely Links Low Teacher Quality to Union Contracts," Nov. 16, 2005

Sante Fe New Mexican, "Union rules force city schools to hire unwanted teachers, study says," Nov. 16, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table," Aug. 1, 1998

Michigan Education Report, "Labor Contracts Hurting Michigan Teachers and Schools, Study Says," Nov. 2, 1998

Greenville, Mich. - Local residents have reorganized the defunct Hubbardston Community School Board in an effort to reopen an elementary school, but the group is not legally recognized, according to The Greenville Daily News.

Hubbardston Elementary School was closed at the end of the 2004-2005 school year by a 6-1 vote of the Carson City-Crystal Area Schools Board of Education. The district faced a $1.2 million budget deficit, The Daily News reported.

Dan Pfeiffer, appointed president of the new board, said the former Hubbardston Community School Board owns part of the elementary school.

"They never signed the deed over to Carson City," Pfeiffer told The Daily News. "We verified with the Ionia County (Register of) Deeds Office that the deed was owned by the Hubbardston Community School Board. So we organized the Hubbardston Community School Board and took our deed back from the Ionia County Deeds Office."

Martin Ackley, Michigan Department of Education spokesman, said the board lacks legal authority.

"This group can call itself anything it wants, and they can play school board all they want," he told The Daily News. "But it is not recognized by the State of Michigan as a legal board of education or school district because it doesn't meet the requirements set forth by the state's election law and school code."

The group plans to continue meeting at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, according to The Daily News.

According to Carson City-Crystal Superintendent Bob Swanson, the Hubbardston school was merged into the CC-C district by an action of the Montcalm County Intermediate School District, The Daily News reported.

The Greenville Daily News, "Hubbardston residents form own school board," Nov. 4, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit Administrators Propose Closing More Than 100 Schools," Jan. 25, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Why Are Michigan's School Districts Borrowing More?" March 1, 2004

Lansing, Mich. - Public schools in Michigan could get as much as $67 more per student under legislation introduced by House Republicans last week, according to Booth Newspapers. The money could come from a $55 million surplus that is expected for the state's school aid fund. However, the state budget office said that figure cannot be known with certainty until January.

Another $195 million surplus is expected in the state's general fund, according to House Fiscal Agency projections. That money also could be shifted to schools, Booth reported.

Middle schools could receive $49 per student to enhance math programs, totaling $18.5 million, according to Booth. Districts that receive less than $7,200 per student could get an additional $18 per pupil, Booth reported. Some 672 of the state's 768 school districts, charter schools and intermediate school districts would be eligible for that money. The plan would provide $16.5 million in addition to the extra $175 that public schools received for each student as part of the 2005-2006 fiscal budget, which brought the state foundation grant up to $6,875.

"There is an urgency here in helping our kids be successful in school," Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Farwell, said school funding should be more equitable, according to Booth.

"Where a child lives shouldn't dictate how much that child's education is worth," Moore said.

Rep. David Farhat, R-Muskegon, said he wants $20 million of the additional $55 million placed in a rainy day fund, Booth reported.

Booth Newspapers, "GOP plan sends new money to schools," Nov. 22, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Executive Order Cuts School Funding," Feb. 18, 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding, Proposal A and Property Taxes," Nov. 5, 2001

Michigan Education Report, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Management?" Aug. 30, 2001

Kalamazoo, Mich. - Leaders of charter and independent schools in Kalamazoo are taking a "wait-and-see" approach to how they will be impacted by a plan that will pay for college for Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The "Kalamazoo Promise," announced earlier this month, is funded by a group of anonymous donors. It will cover 100 percent of college tuition at any Michigan public university for KPS graduates enrolled since kindergarten, the Gazette reported.

Graduates enrolled since at least ninth grade will have 65 percent of college tuition paid for.

"This is a wonderful program for the community," said David Rutten, executive director of Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo. "It's great to see that kind of generosity poured into the community."

Larry Baker, superintendent of the Kalamazoo Christian School Association, told the Gazette he doubts families in his schools will leave. Those families, he said, are looking for a Christ-centered education that is not available in public schools.

"I'm just not that worried," he said. "We offer things KPS can't offer. We pray in our schools. We talk about Jesus."

Rutten said the scholarship program could prompt students to leave Catholic schools to attend a Kalamazoo public high school.

"Children can spend their first nine years (of schooling) with us and they're only giving up 35 percent" of the scholarship, Rutten told the Gazette.

"Sixty-five percent is still a very significant amount," Sharon Lockett, director of Paramount Charter Academy in Kalamazoo, told the Gazette.

Lockett said the Promise could affect Paramount's enrollment, but her school offers things parents are looking for.

"We have a safe environment, moral guidance and academic excellence," she told the newspaper. "We make sure that our students are prepared for college when they do go."

Kalamazoo Gazette, "Private, charter schools wait to see effect of Promise," Nov. 17, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf? /base/news-15/1132248044262770.xml?kzgazette?NEKP&coll=7&thispage=1

Michigan Education Digest, "Kalamazoo Students Promised Free College," Nov. 15, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Marketing Public Schools: Competition for Students Heats Up," Aug. 13, 1999

Otsego, Mich. - A new three-year contract between the Otsego Public Schools and the district's 25 bus drivers will cut health insurance costs by 10 percent, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette. Drivers agreed to switch from the Michigan Education Special Services Association to Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

MESSA is an insurance administrator established by the Michigan Education Association. Drivers will get a 1 percent pay increase this year, retroactive to July 1, and a 2 percent raise in the second and third years, the Gazette said. The district faces a projected $517,600 budget deficit.

Trustee Jerome Bohl was the only school board member to vote against the contract, the Gazette reported. He said salary and retirement agreements were too expensive, in light of the budget shortfall, but he did favor the insurance change.

Kalamazoo Gazette, "Otsego schools bus drivers' contract OK'd by board," Nov. 15, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf? /base/news-15/1132086002134090.xml?kzgazette?NEKP&coll=7

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services Agency: The MEA's Money Machine," Nov. 1, 1993

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table," Aug. 1, 1998

Detroit, Mich. - Detroit Public Schools has 10,000 fewer students than it did a year ago, according to The Detroit News. The lower enrollment means $73 million less in state funding, although school officials say they planned for such a reduction.

"We are not happy we lost 10,000 students but we are pleased we met our projections," DPS spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo told The News.

Detroit's enrollment was also about 10,000 students lower from 2003 to 2004, but the district underestimated that figure by 7,000, The News reported. That led to a budget deficit and the need to borrow $200 million to balance a $1.4 billion budget. It also necessitated closing 29 schools. Another 20 to 30 schools could be closed this year, and more than 90 by 2009.

Earlier this year, DPS spent $500,000 in an effort to attract more students, touting test score increases and new programs, according to The News. Tanya Bradford, however, chose a charter school for her son, a kindergartner, mainly for after-school programs and smaller class sizes. She said she struggled with the decision, The News reported.

"I would like to see the school system become stronger," she said. "I love Detroit. I want to see it prosper."

The Detroit News, "Detroit schools down by 10,000," Nov. 23, 2005
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20051123/SCHOOLS/511230328& SearchID=73227832836087

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit-Area Schools Districts Encourage Students to Attend Count Day," Oct. 4, 2005

St. Clair Shores, Mich. - The union representing teachers in the Lakeview Public Schools is asking a circuit court judge to block a health insurance plan imposed by the board of education after a year of negotiations failed to bring about an agreement, according to The Macomb Daily.

The school board in August declared an impasse in contract talks and picked a Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance plan for the more than 180 teachers in the district. Abandoning the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party insurance administrator founded by the Michigan Education Association, is expected to reduce the district's health care costs by more than $500,000 this year, The Macomb Daily reported.

"We believe they are violating the law and imposing a changed working condition without bargaining to an impasse," said union attorney Daniel Hoekenga.

Lakeview Superintendent Sandra Feeley Myrand disagreed.

"The board has been careful to act with integrity during negotiations," she told The Macomb Daily. "We are on two different pages. We realize any entity can have their day in court. (But) we will continue to seek ongoing negotiations."

An unfair labor practice charge the union filed against the district will be heard by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission in January 2006, The Macomb Daily reported.

The Macomb Daily, "Lakeview Public Schools sued," Oct. 4, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Lakeview Drops MESSA," Aug. 30, 2005

Lakeview Public Schools, "Lakeview School Board takes action on contracts," Aug. 11, 2005
http://www.lakeview.misd.net/Board/Press%20Release%20-%20 School%20Brd%20Takes%20Action%20on%20Contracts.pdf (PDF file)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine," Nov. 1, 1993

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

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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