Contents of this issue:
  • Some convicted felons still working in schools

  • Thousands of parents exercise limited school choice rights

  • DPS to cut jobs; unions reject concessions

  • Fowlerville custodians agree to pay part of health insurance

  • Holland charter breaks ground

  • DPS must repay almost $1 million to feds

LANSING, Mich. — Drug dealing, stalking, drunk driving and armed robbery are among the felonies some 469 public school employees across Michigan have been convicted of, according to a list published by The Detroit News.

Results of a Michigan State Police background check were turned over to The News in a 43-page document that details more than 600 felonies committed by school employees, including administrators, cooks, janitors, teachers, aides and others. State law requires convicted felons to get written permission from the superintendent and school board to maintain employment with their district. Those convicted of felonies involving sex crimes are supposed to be fired immediately.

Waterford schools employs two maintenance workers with felony records, according to The News, one for assaulting a police officer and the other for carrying a concealed weapon.

"The offenses happened a while ago and the board felt they would not adversely affect their employment," Rhonda Lessel, spokeswoman for Waterford schools, told The News. "If anything happens in the future with them, we will look at it again at that time."

At least five names have been found to be on the list that should not be, The News reported. State Police officials say school districts were given a copy of the list for verification purposes, but some districts did not alert the state to mistakes.

The full list, including school district, employee, title, crime and year, is available at:

The Detroit News, "Felons keep school jobs," June 29, 2006

The Detroit News, "Mistakes hit felony list again," July 4, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "List of felons forwarded to schools," May 16, 2006

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

Michigan Education Digest, "School employee background check turns up felons," Jan. 24, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "High cost of fingerprinting school employees," Dec. 6, 2005

LANSING, Mich. — More than 63,000 Michigan students attended public schools outside of their home district during the 2005-2006 school year, according to The Bay City Times.

Since passage of Michigan's Schools of Choice law 10 years ago, students can attend a participating school district other than the one to which they've been assigned either in their own intermediate school district, or in a neighboring ISD.

"When you look at 10 years, Schools of Choice offers options for parents, which is always a positive thing," Bay City Public Schools Superintendent Carolyn Wierda told The Times.

Some 417 of Michigan's 552 school districts participate in the choice program. Because the state foundation grant, currently at $6,875 per pupil, follows the student, districts are now forced to compete, The Times reported. In 2002, for example, the four districts located in Bay County spent close to $100,000 on advertising.

The Bay City Times, "Schools of Choice legislation has forced districts to compete for students," June 25, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001

Michigan Education Report, "Public Schools of Choice gives parents more options," Jan. 18, 1999

DETROIT — Unionized workers in Detroit Public Schools balked at district requests for concessions, even if it could mean as many as 2,000 jobs may be cut, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Administrators said at a recent budget hearing that $105 million in concessions is needed from the 19,000 unionized employees in the district, the Free Press reported.

"We gave at the office," Ruby Newbold, president of a coalition of Detroit school unions, told the Free Press.

The unions agreed to 5 percent cuts last year, while teachers worked five days without pay, the Free Press reported.

"We in good faith just gave the district one year to get the budget in control," Phil Schloop, business representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers, told the Free Press.

The 2006-2007 budget is based on a potential loss of 9,400 students and the closure of three schools, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "District asks unions for $105 million," June 27, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS students leave rather than relocate," June 6, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools enrollment drops again," Nov. 29, 2005

FOWLERVILLE, Mich. — The 17 custodians in the Fowlerville Community Schools will pay $864 a year toward the cost of their health insurance as part of a new contract, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

The employees previously had not been paying anything toward the insurance, purchased through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, the Press & Argus reported. MESSA is a third-party administrator that is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association union.

Superintendent Ed Alverson told the Press & Argus that because the custodians agreed to pay a share of the cost, the district would not contract out for janitorial services.

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "School custodians avoid privatization," June 23, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Montague teachers approve MESSA changes," June 20, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Holton staffers drop MESSA," May 2, 2006

HOLLAND, Mich. — Black River Public School plans to build a $3 million addition, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Black River, a public school academy, expects full enrollment of about 700 students in 12 grades when the new school year begins, with another 150 on a waiting list, The Press reported. Holland Public Schools, meanwhile, will close a school two blocks away from Black River due to falling enrollment, according to The Press.

Black River has raised about $1.2 million for the project, which will house a gym, music rooms and cafeteria, according to The Press. As a charter school, Black River receives per-pupil funding from the state, but cannot raise additional funds by levying local property taxes.

The Grand Rapids Press, "$3M project kicks off," June 22, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Charter Schools: 13 Years and Still Growing," May 3, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland teachers threaten illegal strike," May 2, 2006

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools has to repay almost $1 million in federal grants after a U.S. Department of Education audit found much of the money was not spent appropriately, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The district owes the federal government $930,448 in Title I money that was to be used to increase parental involvement at low-income schools, the Free Press reported. The audit, while it does not accuse anyone of theft, acknowledges that, "There are no assurances that these costs did not benefit an employee personally," the Free Press reported.

Among the findings: A nearly $500,000 no-bid contract with an ex-convict to pass out flyers; $63,000 on anger-management classes that were never held; $5,578 on five flat-screen televisions that are unaccounted for; and $25,516 for membership fees to professional organizations, according to the Free Press.

DPS Superintendent William F. Coleman told the Free Press that the FBI did not tell him agents were in the district on June 27 to interview employees. Coleman also told the Free Press, "This was not business as usual and we took swift action. I will not tolerate mismanagement."

Jan Ellis, a spokeswoman with the Michigan Department of Education, told the Free Press the money probably would be withheld from future Title I dollars the district may receive, rather than requiring the district to pay back the money.

Detroit Free Press, "City schools owe nearly $1 million," June 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS limits 'excessive' retreat spending," May 23, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Study: Detroit graduation rate worst in the nation," June 27, 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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