Contents of this issue:
  • Muskegon ISD looking to privatize busing

  • Union unhappy with district newsletter to residents

  • House passes graduation standards

  • Detroit teacher robbed in school

  • New Mona Shores contract includes MESSA changes

  • List of convicts working in schools slated for end of March

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District is looking to privatize transportation for six local districts, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The districts — Fruitport, Holton, Muskegon Heights, Oakridge, Reeths-Puffer and Whitehall — would turn over employee management to a private company, but keep their buses, The Chronicle reported. If a private company is hired, it would be encouraged to retain the 145 bus drivers now working in those districts.

School officials estimate they could reduce costs by about $280,000 a year if they no longer must contribute to a state employee retirement system, The Chronicle reported. School districts next year must contribute 17.74 percent of salaries to the fund.

"We're working with other districts to see if there's a way to save dollars for the classroom," Fruitport Superintendent Nicholas Ceglarek told The Chronicle. "That's the key to it: to put as many dollars as we can into the classroom."

If the drivers worked for a private firm, the districts would also reduce the cost of contributing to a health insurance plan affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, The Chronicle reported. Overall, benefits in the six districts for bus drivers cost nearly $1.4 million a year.

Kathleen Oakes, a union representative with the MEA, said the drivers question the need for the change, according to The Chronicle. Drivers have attended Reeths-Puffer board meetings, where a projected $830,000 deficit also prompted officials to look at privatizing custodial and food service operations.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Districts weigh bus driver privatization," Feb. 25, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey: School Outsourcing Grows," Oct. 27, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Grand Rapids board privatizes busing," Aug. 16, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "GRPS private busing gets positive reviews," Sept. 6, 2005

LESLIE, Mich. — The teachers union in the Leslie Public Schools has filed an unfair labor complaint against the school board over a newsletter that explains the district's financial status to taxpayers, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

The complaint by the Leslie Education Association says the newsletter gives specific bargaining details relevant to the ongoing contract negotiations, The Citizen Patriot reported.

"The document is misleading and contains inaccurate information," a press release from the union said, according to The Citizen Patriot.

Superintendent Robert Howe Jr. disagreed. He told The Citizen Patriot that the union complaint is a ploy.

"This almost gets in the way of progress more than it helps," Howe said. "This is a pressure tactic. It's part of what the MEA does when negotiations are not going their way."

The eight-page newsletter, titled "Leslie Highlights," details the district's revenues and expenditures, including enrollment declines. The district says employee health insurance costs have gone up 15 percent each year since 2000, while retirement increases and automatic pay raises this year will cost about $170,000, according to The Citizen Patriot.

"We made every attempt to give information to the public without a slant," Howe said. "We have nothing bad to say about any of our teachers — they are great people and great teachers. The bottom line is their proposals cost more than we can afford."

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission has scheduled a June 1 hearing on the complaint, The Citizen Patriot reported.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Union files labor complaint," Feb. 28, 2006

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

Michigan Education Digest, "Teachers union faces unfair labor charge," Nov. 22, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Union files unfair labor complaint against Holland district," Nov. 9, 2004

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that increases the number of state graduation requirements, but is not the same set of requirements approved in December by the State Board of Education, according to The Detroit News.

The bill, which must still be approved by the state Senate and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, would require the class of 2010 — students who will be freshmen this fall — to pass four credits each of math and English, three credits each of science and social studies and one credit each in physical education and fine arts, The News said. Missing from the proposal is a requirement of two credits of foreign language.

The bill also allows students who finish 10th grade to choose an alternative curriculum that does not include math and science, The News reported.

"The governor believes the early opt-out is a cop-out," Liz Boyd, Gov. Granholm's spokeswoman, told The News.

Some local school officials have raised concerns that there might not be enough qualified teachers to cover the high-end math and science classes, and that the availability of vocational education courses might suffer, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "House toughens standards for graduation," March 3, 2006

FURTHER READING:, "2006 House Bill 5606 (Mandate High School Graduation Requirements)"

Michigan Education Digest, "Graduation standards put future of vocation ed in doubt," Feb. 14, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hope in State Graduation Standards Misplaced," Jan. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "State board approves graduation requirements," Dec. 20, 2005

DETROIT — A Detroit Public Schools teacher on March 1 was robbed at gunpoint inside Owen Elementary School, according to the Detroit Free Press. The incident occurred about an hour before students arrived for classes.

The man entered the school through a window and waited, then took the woman's purse, the Free Press reported. She is the 31st crime victim on or near Detroit school property since August.

"We are sitting ducks," teacher Ruby Johnson told the Free Press. She was robbed at Marquette Elementary/Middle School last June and now carries a hammer for protection.

Students and parents are concerned, too.

"He might do it again tomorrow," Tiffany Lipsey, a second grader, told the Free Press.

Debra Lipsey, Tiffany's mother, told the Free Press she will be more careful when walking her daughter to school, and won't carry her purse.

The recently elected DPS school board is considering an offer from Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, who said his office should take over security for the school district, according to the Free Press. A group of Detroit ministers also is trying to recruit and train 2,000 safety volunteers to work in the city's public schools.

The Free Press also reported that DPS will spend $600,000 to hire laid-off Detroit police officers to work in the schools.

Detroit Free Press, "Teacher latest victim in school crime wave," March 2, 2006

Detroit Free Press, "Laid-off city police could aid schools," March 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit school janitor shot," Feb. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit seeks school security volunteers," Feb. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS still seeking solutions to school violence," Jan. 24, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Two students stabbed at Detroit high school; shots fired," Jan. 17, 2006

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Teachers in the Mona Shores school district will pay more to keep costly health insurance under a new contract, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

Teachers will get 2 percent raises per year, retroactive to the 2004-2005 school year, through 2006-2007, and a 1 percent raise for 2007-2008, The Chronicle reported.

Effective April 1, teachers' health care deductibles will double, to $100 per person or $200 per family, for teachers who want to keep Super Care I through the Michigan Education Special Services Association. MESSA is a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the largest teachers union in the state, the Michigan Education Association.

Premiums for the health insurance will be $500 a year through the end of September for Super Care I, but will increase to $900 on Oct. 1, The Chronicle reported. Teachers can opt for a less expensive PPO, MESSA Choices 2, and avoid those fees.

Retiree benefits also change under the new contract, according to The Chronicle. Starting in June 2007, retirees will no longer have free health insurance through MESSA, because they are already covered by the Michigan Public Schools Retirement System, which school districts are required to pay into.

The contract took more than a year to settle and included sometimes heated negotiations between the school board and the Mona Shores Teachers Education Association, The Chronicle reported. Teachers used T-shirts, buttons and signs to protest the lack of a contract, picketed school board meetings and even opened a "crisis center" across from the district's administration building.

"We're relieved and happy that it's settled," Keith Sauter, union vice president, told The Chronicle. "It took a lot of work on both sides to reach. Overall, it's a fair agreement."

A January budget forecast said Mona Shores faced a $2.1 million deficit for the 2006-2007 school year, The Chronicle reported.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Teachers, school board sign four-year contract," March 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Contract tensions go public in Muskegon," Nov. 15, 2005

Mona Shores Public Schools, "An Open Letter to Residents of the Mona Shores School District," Oct. 27, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "District Taps Savings for Retiree Insurance, Deficit," July 19, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Muskegon-area School Districts Settle on Contracts," Sept. 13, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Deserve Good Benefits; Schools Deserve To Know What They Cost," July 6, 1998

LANSING, Mich. — State officials are promising a more accurate list of convicted criminals working in Michigan's schools, according to Booth Newspapers.

The Michigan State Police is compiling the list and will use names, dates of birth, gender and Social Security numbers to eliminate false-positive matches, Booth reported.

"The Michigan State Police will use its expertise to individually verify the information to eliminate false positives and remove the burden of proof from individual school employees," Col. Tadarial J. Sturdivant, director of the State Police, according to Booth.

A list was sent to school districts in early February with some 1,500 names of school employees that matched those in the State Police criminal database. That list was blocked from public release and ordered to be recalled by two different judges, due to complaints about the list's accuracy, Booth reported.

The Michigan Department of Education expects the list to be given to schools around March 31, Booth reported. According to, legislators are now considering House Bill 5675, which would exempt the lists school districts receive from Freedom of Information Act requests for 14 days. Districts could use this time to independently verify the information on the lists.

Booth Newspapers, "State police revamp school employee criminal list," Feb. 22, 2006, "2006 House Bill 5675 (Revise convicted school employee list requirements)"

Michigan Education Digest, "Judge blocks release of names; new list complete by March 1," Feb. 14, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "State wants employee list back," Feb. 21, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Still Have an Option to Check Kids' Safety," Feb. 2, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Schools get names of employees with criminal backgrounds," Feb. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Court seals data on school employees with criminal backgrounds," Jan. 31, 2006

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 148,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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