Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit schools open without teachers
  • Howell custodians abandon MESSA
  • Kalamazoo leaders speak out against Prop 5
  • Jackson looks at competitive contracts for principals
  • SAT scores down

DETROIT - Detroit Public Schools were scheduled to open as planned today, despite a continued refusal to work by the union representing thousands of teachers, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The district planned to hold a half-day of classes today for its 129,000 students, and then start full-day classes Wednesday. The district was to staff schools with administrators, teachers who cross picket lines, parents and more than 8,000 employees who do not belong to the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the Free Press reported.

The union and district remain at odds over pay and benefits, with the most recent contract ending last June. DPS says it needs $88 million in concessions from the teachers, while the union wants a 5 percent pay raise for its members.

It is illegal under Michigan law for teachers to strike, and those who do can be fined one day's wages for each day they strike. Detroit teachers refused to report to work as scheduled Aug. 28.

The strike could impact already declining enrollment, according to the Free Press. The district saw enrollment fall by 11,000 students last year, and predicts 50,000 students will leave over five years.

"They are making it easy for thousands of students to flee to charter schools," DPS spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo said of the striking teachers, according to the Free Press.

Layonda Baldwin, who attended Detroit Public Schools, said she will send her son to Detroit Edison Public School Academy, a charter school, to start kindergarten Wednesday.

"As long as DPS is doing what they are doing and it's a lousy job of it, yes, he will be in a charter school," Baldwin told the Free Press.

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said charter enrollment statewide grew between 9 and 12 percent last year.

"This is an ongoing trend," he told the Free Press. "Parents are looking for choices and options."

Detroit Free Press, "No deal yet for Detroit teachers," Sept. 5, 2006

Detroit Free Press, "Teachers' strike could affect more than start of school year," Sept. 4, 2006

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

HOWELL, Mich. - Custodians in the Howell Public Schools agreed to abandon union-sponsored health insurance, a move that will save the district $125,000 this year, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

The 56-member union agreed to a health plan provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO through the Michigan Employee Benefits Service. The union dropped the Michigan Education Special Services Association. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association union, and acts as a middleman to repackage health insurance plans and sell them to school districts.

"Clearly our custodians are, at least, wise in recognizing that a lot of folks are walking around out there without any health insurance at all," Rick Terres, associate superintendent of business for Howell schools, told the Press & Argus. "They've shown a willingness to compromise."

The one-year contract also includes a 1 percent pay increase, according to the Press & Argus.

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Custodial contract equals big savings," Aug. 30, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "CMU saves millions without MESSA," April 11, 2006

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

Michigan Education Digest, "Pinckney teachers voluntarily abandon MESSA," Feb. 7, 2006

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Business and community leaders in the Kalamazoo area have voiced their concerns about Proposal 5, a November ballot measure that asks taxpayers to mandate funding increases for schools with no mention of accountability or performance, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

"It's not about kids. It's about their members," Steward Sandstrom, president of the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce, told The Gazette in reference to the Michigan Education Association union.

Prop 5 would require that public schools receive annual increases equal to the rate of inflation, while also capping the amount local school districts contribute to the retirement system for school employees, The Gazette reported. The additional retirement money would have to come from other areas of the state budget, which worries former legislator and current Kalamazoo County Administrator Don Gilmer.

"Schools have a problem, but the solution is not making it everybody else's problem," Gilmer told The Gazette.

The House Fiscal Agency has projected that some $700 million would need to be taken out of Michigan's budget to fund the mandate if Prop 5 passes, according to The Gazette.

"Had it been written to include real reforms, with benchmarks, it might be something to consider," Bill Martin, a Western Michigan University trustee, told The Gazette. "But there's nothing about student achievement or graduation rates or technology. It's simply about more money."

Ken MacGregor, a spokesman for supporters of Prop 5, said he does not believe state services would suffer if the measure passes.

"There is more than enough revenue for the Legislature to und Proposal 5 without cutting other services," he told The Gazette. "They could close all those tax loopholes."

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Prop 5 helps teachers, not kids, opponents say," Aug. 30, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Why Colorado Matters to Michigan," July 3, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Mandatory funding increase faces uphill battle," May 25, 2006

JACKSON, Mich. - Jackson Public Schools could save $100,000 a year if just three administrators agree to retire and work for the district on a contractual basis, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Principals and department directors could take advantage of the program if they are eligible to retire, The Citizen Patriot reported. Those who retire would begin receiving pensions, as well as the same salary they now make by continuing in their current roles for the district. The savings for the district would come from not having to pay their benefits.

The union that represents the administrators agreed to the plan once the district said it would fill contracted positions after two years, according to The Citizen Patriot.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Principals get option to retire, return on contract," Aug. 23, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "South Haven contracts for principal," Aug. 1, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Climax-Scots could privatize principal's job," May 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Scholastic Assessment Test scores of applicants at some colleges are down by double digits compared to last year, according to USA Today.

The average SAT score for applicants in the University of California system is down 15 points, while the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill saw average scores of applicants fall 12 points.

This marks the first year of a new SAT that includes a writing section in addition to the original math and reading sections. James Montoya, vice president of the College Board, which owns the SAT, estimates a nationwide average drop of about four to five points, USA Today reported. Montoya told the newspaper that there has been a decline in the number of students retaking the test, which increased in price from $24 to $41.50, and that repeat takers often see a combined increase of up to 30 points.

USA Today, "SAT scores drop; some see red flag," Aug. 31, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Which Educational Achievement Test is Best for Michigan," Sept. 8, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Colleges slow to adopt new SAT essay section in admissions," May 17, 2005

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 150,000 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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