Contents of this issue:
  • DPS, DFT disagree on compulsory dues, legal fees
  • West Michigan schools contract for substitute teachers
  • Garden City school board recall effort fails
  • Madison contracts stall over health insurance
  • Pellston teachers choose less expensive union health plan

DETROIT — The Detroit Federation of Teachers and the Detroit Public Schools are arguing over the district's late payment of $780,000 in compulsory union dues, according to the South Bend Tribune. The district collects the money from teacher's paychecks, then forwards it to the union.

DPS claims that the union owes it $1 million in reimbursements for legal fees, while DFT maintains it owes the district only $550,000, according to the Tribune.

DFT President Janna Garrison was escorted out of DPS administrative office by police after meeting with DPS officials.

Garrison refused to leave the building until she could talk with the district's general counsel. Sometime after meeting with the district's attorney, the police were called, according to the Tribune.

South Bend Tribune, "Detroit teachers union leader raises ruckus," Nov. 11, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS fights union to keep at-risk program," Nov. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS teachers union strikes," Aug. 29, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit teachers union wants more money," June 27, 2006

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Many west Michigan school districts are following the lead of Portage and Comstock schools by signing competitive contracts for substitute teachers, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

This year, seven Ottawa County districts hired Professional Educational Services Group to oversee their substitute teacher services. The move will cut back the amount the districts are required to pay into the school employee pension system, The Gazette reported.

Portage Public Schools has been working with another private company, WSI Educational Staffing, for three years and has saved at least $28,000 each year.

"It's been excellent for us," Portage Human Resources Manager Vickie Herzberg told The Gazette. "We've not had any problems or concerns."

Currently, districts must contribute an amount equal to 17 percent of a substitute's pay into the state retirement system, according to The Gazette. Privatization relieves the district of this burden and also cuts down on administrative costs.

Coopersville Public Schools Superintendent Kevin O'Neill would recommend contracting for substitute teachers to any district.

"They've been good to work with," O'Neill told The Gazette about PESG. "It's been kind of a seamless operation. We haven't seen any negatives to it yet."

Kalamazoo Gazette, "Privatization of substitute teachers grows throughout western Michigan," Nov. 15, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Houghton Lake to privatize substitute teachers," July 25, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Substitute teachers privatized in Grand Rapids," May 9, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Privatized subs can save schools money," April 11, 2006

GARDEN CITY, Mich. — Residents attempting to recall five members of the Garden City school board were unable to gather enough signatures to put the issue before voters, according to The Detroit News.

The group was led by Rick Smith, a former custodian for the district, who was not hired by a private company when the district contracted out maintenance services earlier this year. The group sought to recall the five school board members who voted to save $2.1 million over three years by signing competitive contracts for food and custodial services, according to The News.

"We're going to protest it," Smith told The News. "We're not going to give up. We don't have anything to lose."

The school board stands behind its decision.

"Hopefully this will be the end of it and we don't have to worry about an additional expense to the school district for the cost of running a recall election," school board member Patrick McNally told The News.

The Detroit News, "Garden City school recall movement falters," Nov. 16, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Competitive contracting getting more popular," Aug. 8, 2006

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

ADRIAN, Mich. — Madison School District contract negotiations are at a standstill as the district and teachers union disagree over healthcare and pay increases, according to The Adrian Daily Telegram.

District business manager Jennifer Morin gave a presentation on the district's and union's proposals for salary increases and health insurance plans. The district's current proposal would allow for teachers to choose between the two plans, Supercare I and Choices II, provided through the Michigan Education Special Services Association. Teachers who pick the more costly Supercare could pay the difference between the two plans. The district's proposal would cost $200,000 less than the union's, The Telegram reported. MESSA is a third-party health insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union.

The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district because it feels the presentation was inaccurate, and demanded an opportunity to give a presentation of its own, according to The Telegram.

"The bargaining team agrees that the presentation was not completely accurate," Jim Berryman, a Michigan Education Association UniServ director told The Telegram.

The district stands behind its presentation and proposal.

"I have every reason to believe that would be another frivolous ULP on their behalf," Superintendent Jim Hartley told The Telegram.

In addition to health insurance, the union and district also are arguing over salary increases for teachers. The district has proposed a 1.5 percent pay raise, while the union is suggesting a 4.25 percent pay increase. Hartley thinks that endorsing the union's plan would mean financial trouble for the district, according to The Telegram.

"When you run a deficit because of normal operational expenses, it's going to snowball and compound down the road," Hartley told The Telegram. "This is about creating a structural deficit that could force us into the same situation some other districts in the county have found themselves in."

The Adrian Daily Telegram, "No end in sight," Nov. 15, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "St. Johns board declares impasse," Sept. 19, 2006

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

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

PELLSTON, Mich. — Pellston Public School teachers have opted for a more cost-effective health plan that will save the district 3 to 8 percent on insurance, according to the Petoskey News-Review.

Teachers agreed to a two-year contract and will switch health insurance plans from MESSA Supercare I to Choices II. Both plans are sold by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party health insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union. The contract also includes a 2 percent pay increase for teachers.

Petoskey News-Review, "Pellston teachers getting raises," Nov. 16, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Fruitport teachers flock to less expensive MESSA," Sept. 12, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Pinckney teachers voluntarily abandon MESSA," Feb. 7, 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 Sarah Grether at

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