Contents of this issue:
  • DPS enrollment drops 19,000
  • S.C.S. Lakeview settles contract
  • Legislation addresses illegal teacher strikes
  • Gull Lake teachers contract hinges on insurance
  • Parents concerned about padded room
  • Oakland County schools save money with competitive contracting

DETROIT — Initial estimates show enrollment in Detroit Public Schools is down about 19,000 students compared to the start of the 2005-2006 school year, according to the Detroit Free Press.

An unofficial count puts DPS at 110,000 students. Count day, which was held on Sept. 27, is part of a formula that determines how much per-pupil funding is given to public school districts. Detroit school administrators earlier said enrollment could have been down by as much as 25,000 after a teachers strike delayed the start of classes, the Free Press reported. The Detroit Federation of Teachers union conducted an illegal 16-day strike, denying instruction to students for several days.

Detroit schools used free food, gift certificates and other prizes to entice students to attend school on count day, according to the Free Press.

The state spends $7,459 for every student enrolled in DPS, the Free Press reported. A drop in enrollment could mean school closures and employee layoffs.

Cindy Lang, principal at Clark Elementary School, said she would lose two staff members if enrollment remained low. As of last week, 427 students were in class, down from 462 a year ago.

"We have to get on the phone," Lang told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Prizes get kids to schools," Sept. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit enrollment could fall 25,000," Sept. 26, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Classes resume after Detroit teachers end illegal strike," Sept. 19, 2006

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. — The St. Clair Shores Lakeview school board voted 7-0 recently to approve a five-year contract that gives teachers 3 percent raises per year and keeps in place less costly health insurance, according to the St. Clair Shores Sentinel.

The contract, which runs through the 2008-2009 school year, is retroactive to 2004, when the previous one expired, the Sentinel reported. Since that time, the Lakeview school board voted to implement a Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO that the district estimated was $500,000 a year less expensive than insurance offered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association union. MESSA acts as a middleman, and repackages health insurance for school districts. The board in 2005 also voted to sign a competitive contract for custodial work, worth another $500,000 in savings, according to the Sentinel.

"I sincerely hope that much of the acrimony will fade and we can channel all our efforts in the right direction," school board Vice President Donald Wheaton said. "It's been a really tough couple of years."

Wheaton and three other board members survived a recall effort earlier this year.

"It is a big relief for all teachers to have this destructive time come to an end, but we cannot forget what we have been through," Jane Cassady, president of the Lakeview Teachers Union, told the Sentinel.

The district and union met approximately three dozen times, for more than 100 hours, in bargaining sessions, the Sentinel reported. Contract talks included fact-finding, mediation, unfair labor charges and court proceedings.

St. Clair Shores Sentinel, "Lakeview settles contract dispute," Sept. 20, 2006

Michigan Privatization Report, "School board members survive recall," July 26, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Labor struggles continue for SCS Lakeview district," March 7, 2006

LANSING, Mich. — House Bill 6528, introduced last month, would require school districts to immediately report teacher strikes to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, as well as give parents authority to report a strike if a school board fails to do so, according to

Teachers cannot strike under Michigan law, and can face fines for each day they fail to report for work, the Detroit Free Press reported.

HB 6528 would shorten to seven days the time in which the MERC can determine a strike is taking place, according to the Free Press, and allow the commission to begin fining teachers. The current window is 60 days.

Detroit Public Schools did not file the appropriate paperwork with the MERC while the Detroit Federation of Teachers union conducted an illegal strike in early September, according to the Free Press.

Current law requires an individual hearing be held for each striking teacher. The Free Press reported that none of Detroit's 7,000 teachers have been fined following two illegal strikes in recent years.

"What this does is it gets the process moving faster so that kids are getting their education," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, told the Free Press. Pavlov also said he thinks the Detroit strike would have been "wiped out very early," had teachers been fined.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Janna Garrison told the Free Press, "Just because it's the law doesn't make it right," when asked if a new law would prevent future union strikes.

SOURCES:, "2006 House Bill 6528 (Revise teacher strike ban law)"

Detroit Free Press, "Bill would speed up fines in teacher strikes," Sept. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Classes resume after Detroit teachers end illegal strike," Sept. 19, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers' Strikes, Court Orders and Michigan Law," Sept. 11, 2006

RICHLAND, Mich. — Teachers in the Gull Lake Community Schools could receive 3.5 percent raises if they would agree to pay a portion of their own health care costs, according to The Battle Creek Enquirer.

"We're committed to getting staff salaries increased," Gull Lake school board President Deb Ryan told The Enquirer. "We're looking at different insurances that would allow us to save on insurance, and those savings would be put in the salary increase."

The district wants to switch to a Health Savings Account through Blue Cross Blue Shield. Teachers currently have health insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association union.

"We're willing to make concessions (within the MESSA program) to make this more feasible," Joyce Gibson, president of the Gull Lake Education Association union, told The Enquirer. "A health savings account is not an option."

The Battle Creek Enquirer, "Some teachers still without contracts," Sept. 26, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Blue Cross and MESSA," Sept. 6, 2006

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

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

HOWELL, Mich. — A padded room that locks from the outside has parents of special-needs students upset with the Livingston Education Service Agency, according to The Detroit News.

The room, which measures 5 feet by 5 feet and has a peep hole, was built inside the new $5 million Pathway School, which serves about 100 students in Livingston's five public school districts. Parents recently asked the LESA board to padlock or remove the structure until policies can be developed and staff is trained, The News reported.

A 13-member parent advisory committee was never told about the room, even though they were shown plans for the new building and given monthly construction updates, The News reported.

LESA Superintendent Sally Vaughn told The News the room would only be used to calm students who pose a threat to themselves or others, and only as part of a student's "individual education plan," to which parents must agree.

The Michigan State Board of Education is reviewing the use of such rooms statewide, according to The News.

The Detroit News, "Parents air fears about school room," Sept. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Punishment box removed from Marshall school," May 16, 2006

CLAWSON, Mich. — Several school districts in southern Oakland County have been able to save money by signing competitive contracts for food services and school principals, according to the Royal Oak Mirror.

Jim Nolan, superintendent of Clawson schools, told the Mirror the district saves about $70,000 a year by contracting for two principal positions, and $6,000 a year with a contract for cafeteria management.

"Every $1,000 we save, that's that much more we can put into the school district," Nolan said.

The Royal Oak, Berkley and Ferndale school districts also contract for food services, to varying degrees. Royal Oak, as does Clawson, contracts for cafeteria management, while Berkley and Ferndale contract for the entire operation.

The Royal Oak Mirror, "Finding ways to save," Sept. 15, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Competitive contracting spreading," Sept. 6, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Competitive contracting grows despite myths," Sept. 6, 2006

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