Contents of this issue:
  • Holland teachers, district agree on new contract
  • Study: Independent school students outperform public students
  • Byron to save $1 million with insurance change
  • Competitive contracting getting more popular
  • DPS spending $500,000 to lure students back

HOLLAND, Mich. — Teachers in the Holland Public Schools have agreed to pay a portion of their premiums and higher prescription co-pays in exchange for keeping union-backed health insurance, according to The Holland Sentinel.

The school board and teachers ratified the new three-year contract in separate meetings Monday night. The deal is retroactive to August 2005, when the previous contract expired, The Sentinel reported.

Teachers agreed to pay $40 a month toward premiums and will return to health insurance offered through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, according to The Sentinel. MESSA, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association union, acts as a middleman to repackage health insurance for school districts.

Teachers will see their monthly contribution increase to $60 in July 2007, and will now pay twice as much for prescription co-pays, according to The Sentinel. As previously reported in Michigan Education Digest, teachers were not paying anything out-of-pocket for health insurance under a previous contract implemented by the school board that allowed the district to buy non-union health insurance directly from an insurer.

The Holland Sentinel, "Union, board OK deal," Aug. 8, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland declares second impasse, teachers get free insurance," Jan. 17, 2006

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

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

DETROIT — Students at independent schools outperformed their public school counterparts in 11 of 12 instances, according to a study released recently by Harvard University, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The study, conducted by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, used the data from a July U.S. Department of Education study that originally suggested public school students perform as well as students in private schools, according to the Free Press.

Harvard's study, however, used what its authors called "an improved methodology," comparing reading and math scores of fourth- and eighth-graders while factoring out variables like race or income. Authors Paul Peterson and Elena Llaudet said they "identified a consistent, statistically significant private school advantage," the Free Press reported.

"This new study does a good job of showing the defects of the U.S. Department of Education study," Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas, told The New York Sun.

Detroit Free Press, "Students do better in private schools, researchers find," Aug. 3, 2006

The New York Sun, "Report ranking public school students above private school students said 'flawed,'" Aug. 2, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The School Choice Movement's Greatest Failure," Aug. 7, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private School Costs vs.

Public School Costs," Nov. 13, 1997

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits: Which is the Better Choice for School Choice?" July 27, 2004

BYRON, Mich. — Teachers and support staff in the Byron Center schools have agreed to health insurance changes that will save the district about $1 million over four years, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The board of education and the unions representing the employees unanimously approved the contract, which adds two years to a current deal that would have expired June 20, 2008, The Press reported. The district expects to save $250,000 per year for each of the next four years because employees agreed to pay a bigger share of their prescription drug costs. Co-payments will double to $10 for generic drugs and $20 for others, according to The Press.

Support personnel and teachers will get raises of 2.5 percent and 2 percent, respectively, each year, The Press reported. Teachers also can receive a 1 percent raise if the district achieves certain goals, including an enrollment increase of 100 or more students and a grade of "A" on the state report card for five of the district's six buildings.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Teacher, support staff deal approved," Aug. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Rapids administrators could get incentive-based raises," July 19, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Rapids teachers agree to incentive-based pay," June 27, 2006

DETROIT — Public school districts across Michigan are increasingly turning to competitive contracting for non-instructional services as a way to save money, according to the Detroit Free Press.

More than one-third of Michigan's 552 districts contract for custodial, food or busing services. Garden City schools voted in July to contract for custodial and food service, the Free Press reported. The district estimates it will save up to $2.3 million over the next three years.

"We had to look for some options that would reduce our costs considerably," Superintendent Richard Witkowski told the Free Press.

Those opposed to the plan are trying to recall five Garden City board members, according to the Free Press. In the St. Clair Shores Lakeview schools four board members survived a recall effort after voting for a custodial contract that saved the district about $400,000, the Free Press reported.

"School boards are stuck between a rock and a hard spot on this," Tom White, executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials, told the Free Press. "They're looking for ways they can save money so they can continue to keep the same number of people in the classroom."

Detroit Free Press, "Schools embrace outsourcing," July 30, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Schools continue to privatize," July 26, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Hartland schools to save $5 million with competitive contract," May 16, 2006

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools will spend $500,000 in an effort to stop an outflow of students, according to The Detroit News.

The public relations campaign will focus on the theme of "Come Home to DPS" and try to attract Detroit families who have chosen to enroll their children in charter public schools, independent schools or in other districts, The News reported.

Some 11,500 students left DPS last year, and the district estimates another drop in enrollment of 9,000 students for the coming school year, The News reported.

Felisa Ware, whose four children attend charter public schools in Detroit, said the ads will not be enough to change her mind.

"You cannot do a media blitz when you have a myriad of (unresolved) issues," she told The News. "Not to bash DPS, but my position is to advocate for my kids."

The Detroit News, "Schools push to win pupils," July 31, 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

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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