Contents of this issue:
  • Saginaw schools consider staff layoffs

  • CMU saves millions without MESSA

  • Traverse City could move school elections to November

  • Ann Arbor schools want to learn from charters

  • Privatized subs can save schools money

  • Detroit teachers stage protest

  • One-quarter of Ironwood teachers to retire

SAGINAW, Mich. — The Saginaw School District could layoff more than 250 employees, according to The Saginaw News.

The Board of Education approved Superintendent Gerald Dawkins's plan 6-0 at a special meeting in late March to send out layoff notices to 196 teachers and 61 administrators, The News reported.

The layoffs, for the 2006-2007 school year, would include all administrators except Dawkins and teachers with less than five years of experience, including 50 with tenure, according to The News.

Mary Ann Dupuis, president of the local teachers union, said she is upset that school board members made no comments during the meeting, The News reported.

"Why aren't they questioning the magnitude of this layoff? I was amazed," Dupuis told The News. "This is very alarming."

The News analyzed salary and benefits information for the district and found that if all 257 employees are laid off, the district would reduce costs by about $16 million, more than twice the projected $6.7 million deficit.

According to a 2005 survey by Michigan Privatization Report, the district has not privatized any non-instructional services, such as busing, custodial work or food service, a practice shown to cut costs at school districts around the state.

District officials also say they plan to move forward with a $70 million building improvement plan, including construction of a new elementary school, according to The News. Enrollment in the district has dropped 10 percent in 18 months, The News reported.

Dawkins said he should have a better idea within 45 days as to how the layoffs will affect the 2006-2007 school year, The News reported.

"There will be principals to greet our students and there will be teachers in classrooms on the first day of schools," district spokesman Michael Manley told The News.

The Saginaw News, "School layoffs risky?" March 31, 2006

The Saginaw News, "Falling enrollment won't slow upgrade," April 5, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Contract Out School Services Before Laying Off Teachers," Nov. 20, 2003

Michigan Education Digest, "School looks for donations," Jan. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Bay City to close schools, cut staff," March 21, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit Schools' Deficit Appears Linked to Adding Staff During Enrollment Decline, Says Analyst," July 29, 2004

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Central Michigan University employees no longer covered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association have saved taxpayers millions of dollars in the last few years, according to the Morning Sun.

CMU moved non-faculty staff to a self-funded health insurance system in 2003 after costs increased 20 percent the year before, the Morning Sun reported. Faculty members remain under MESSA, a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.

CMU estimates it reduced costs by $5.3 million in fewer claims from 2003 to 2005, the Morning Sun reported, and expects to reduce health insurance costs another $5 million by the end of fiscal year 2006, the Morning Sun reported.

"We take a very active role in managing our benefits programs," Maxine Kent, associate vice president of human resources, told the newspaper. "Many public entities have gone to self-insurance plans, but universities are not really there yet."

Kent told the Morning Sun a big reason for the drop in costs is a wellness program that offers incentives to employees, and the PPO emphasis on preventive measures.

The cost of a health insurance plan at CMU is $1,081.50 a month for a family of four, according to the Morning Sun. Other plans, including MESSA, cost $1,361.46 a month, or $3,350 more per year.

The Morning Sun, "CMU saves millions on health care," April 8, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "School districts wrestle high health care costs," March 7, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA Reference Page," March 10, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Another school employee group abandons MESSA," Feb. 14, 2006

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Traverse City Area Public Schools could move its school board elections to November starting in 2007, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

The switch from May elections could reduce the district's expenditures by tens of thousands of dollars, the Record-Eagle reported. Trustee David Barr recently asked the district's finance committee, which he chairs, to study the change.

"The bottom line is we just voted to cut $2 million out of our budget, yet we're going to hold on to a May election," Barr told the Record-Eagle. "It comes down to cost."

Last May's school board election cost taxpayers $48,000, the Record-Eagle reported, which was about double the cost of the previous year's election. During even-numbered years, the school district would only have to spend about $350 if school board elections were held in conjunction with the general elections, Grand Traverse County Clerk Linda Coburn told the Record-Eagle.

Richard Crampton, also on the school board's finance committee, said the district needs to think about the possibility of school elections getting lost at the bottom of a general election ballot, according to the Record-Eagle.

This year's school board election will be May 2. The board would have to vote before the end of the year to change the 2007 date, the Record-Eagle reported. A change in state law last year consolidated elections in Michigan to four days in February, May, August and November. School elections previously were held in June.

Traverse City Record-Eagle, "School elections may move," April 5, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Reforms Election Calendar," June 22, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Consolidating Elections is the Right Thing To Do," Dec. 15, 2003

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Ann Arbor Public Schools will study charter schools in an effort to retain students, according to The Ann Arbor News.

"The objective is (to obtain) a description of who they seek to attract and who they are getting," school board Trustee Glenn Nelson said at a recent meeting, according to The News.

Nelson passed out figures at the meeting showing overall enrollment in Washtenaw County's conventional public schools at about 45,600 students last year, The News reported. Area charter schools had almost 2,200 students. Ann Arbor schools' enrollment, with about 16,800 students, grew about 1.2 percent this year, while local charter school growth is at more than 71 percent.

"The charters are achieving rapid growth at a funding level below public schools," Nelson told The News, referring to the fact that charter schools receive fewer tax dollars per student than do conventional public schools.

District staff was directed to collect marketing materials from charter schools, including brochures and Web sites, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "Ann Arbor school board to study charters," March 31, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Public schools step up marketing," Jan. 18, 1999

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Competition Works," March 31, 2000

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — School districts in West Michigan are considering contracting with private companies to oversee substitute teachers in an effort to cut costs, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Kent County Intermediate School District hired a Caledonia company to administer its substitute teacher process, including hiring and training, The Press reported. Professional Educational Services Group also is discussing a similar arrangement with school districts in Ottawa, Muskegon and Newaygo counties.

Districts could reduce costs for substitute teachers by signing on with a private company, according to The Press. Most of the savings would be realized by not having to pay into the statewide teachers' retirement system for the substitutes, The Press said. Substitutes in West Michigan receive between $65 and $120 a day, depending on the district, while schools must pay an additional 24 percent of that for retirement and Social Security costs.

The private firm can handle scheduling, background checks and payroll for 18 percent of the substitute's pay, according to The Press.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Substitute teachers may be shifted to private company," March 27, 2006

Michigan Privatization Report, "Chesaning Union School District May 'Substitute' Privatization," Oct. 27, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Schools hire private staffing firm to find substitute teachers," Aug. 18, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Substituting the Private for the Public," Feb. 1, 2000

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools teachers protested outside the Board of Education offices the afternoon of April 4, upset over their agreement to loan the district five days of pay this year while principals receive raises, according to The Detroit News.

Principals are to get raises, retroactive to last July, of between 4.7 and 10.6 percent, The News reported. The district has said the money is not really a raise because principals took a 10 percent pay cut in January 2005; and this is to bring them back up to previous wage levels.

Teachers had agreed to work five days without immediate pay this semester, The News reported. More than 1,700 teachers called in sick on March 22, forcing the district to close more than 50 schools and to deny instruction to more than 36,000 students.

The Detroit News, "Teachers protest wage cuts, principals' raises," April 5, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Teacher sick-out forces Detroit schools to close," March 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit school district reaches short-term agreement," Aug. 30, 2005

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

IRONWOOD, Mich. — Some 16 teachers in the Ironwood Area School District, about 25 percent of the total, will retire between now and May 2008, according to the Ironwood Daily Globe.

The teachers opting for early retirement had to submit their names by April 1 in order to be eligible for an incentive package offered by the district, the Daily Globe reported. Each teacher who retires will receive $25,000 paid over three years, as well as $1,000 a year for 10 years to go toward health insurance costs, according to the Daily Globe. The district expects to recoup that money and reduce costs by hiring new teachers, who will start at lower salaries.

Ironwood Daily Globe, "Teachers opt for early retirement," April 5, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Fact finder agrees with both sides in Ironwood," March 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "MESSA at heart of Ironwood deadlock," Feb. 28, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Irony in Ironwood," March 23, 2006

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of nearly 150,000 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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