Contents of this issue:
  • Insurance sold by MESSA a major issue in metro Detroit, state
  • Detroit mayor encouraging more charter schools
  • DPS board member could see jail time
  • Long-time school bandit suspect arrested in Florida
  • Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools consider wind power
  • Win an iPod; Map: Does your district competitively contract?

DETROIT — Health benefits have been a major issue in recent school employee contract negotiations in the metro Detroit area, according to the Detroit Free Press.

According to the Free Press, costs for insurance benefits sold by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party health administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union, are on the rise. The Southfield School District, for example, pays $16,300 per employee each year, almost twice as much as it cost in 1997. In 2006, MESSA administered insurance to about 75 percent of the state's school districts. Its premiums have come under scrutiny as the state attempts to control education costs, the Free Press reported.

A 2004 survey by Standard & Poor's found that benefits cost 42 percent more in Michigan school districts compared to the national average. In 2006, the average cost per Michigan school employee was $11,300, according to the Free Press.

The coverage, which includes a Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy with some additional benefits, usually requires minimal out-of-pocket expenses for school employees.

"We deserve some good health care. We're raising our future," Woodhaven-Brownstown teacher Caryn Jimenez told the Free Press.

The difference between insurance costs in the public sector and private sector, where employees usually contribute to their own health coverage, is causing school boards and administrators to look for other options. Many districts are trying to look for less expensive insurance rates, but are having trouble getting accurate cost comparisons because MESSA refuses to provide claims data, according to the Free Press.

"It's like trying to move a mountain to move teachers to another health care plan," Wayne-Westland Schools Superintendent Glen Baracy told the Free Press.

In total, school employees' health benefits and pensions cost Michigan taxpayers $4 billion a year, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, "Price of teachers' benefits soars," March 26, 2007

Detroit Free Press, "Teachers love their MESSA health plans," March 26, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "School districts report saving money in insurance pool," Feb. 23, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Boards and Teachers Should Address Their Own Insurance Issues," Feb. 15, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA: Keeping School Districts From Saving Money on Health Care," Nov. 3, 2003

DETROIT — Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is openly promoting an increase in the number of charter public schools within the city in an effort to prevent families from moving, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Kilpatrick spokesman Matt Allen told the Free Press that the mayor is getting involved with the city's education because many of the buildings on the Detroit Public School's proposed closing list are in new housing developments. The mayor also believes that families will want choices in their education, Allen told the Free Press.

Kilpatrick has already offered to help open four new charter public schools in the fall of 2008 authorized through Grand Valley State University. Wayne County Community College has many charter schools outside Detroit, but can open an unlimited number within the city if DPS enrollment drops below 100,000 students, the Free Press reported.

DPS board President Jimmy Womack hasn't discussed charter public schools with the mayor, but understands why Kilpatrick supports them.

"Most people move out of the city to provide a better life for their families, and you hear people constantly talking about moving to a city with better schools," Womack told the Free Press. "My job as a board member is to make Detroit Public Schools the best option for parents."

Detroit Free Press, "Charter boom could begin," March 28, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "DPS enrollment down by thousands," Feb. 23, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Legislators: Listen to Detroit Parents," Feb. 5, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Should Michigan lift the cap on charter public schools? Yes," Nov. 21, 2006

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools board member Jonathan Kinloch may face 30 days in jail for failing to meet the conditions of his drunken driving plea deal, according to The Detroit News.

In 2005, Kinloch pleaded guilty to second offense drunken driving in order to avoid jail time for his third offense. According to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, the condition of the original plea deal, which included a 30 day sentence in jail, was changed by the judge at a later date, the Free Press reported.

Worthy said she is planning to enforce the original agreement and Kinloch must either serve his jail sentence or he will be prosecuted for third offense drunken driving, according to the Free Press.

Kinloch refused to comment before seeking legal advice, the Free Press reported.

The Detroit News, "DPS board member faces jail time," March 30, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "State to grade safety of schools," Nov. 19, 2002

OCALA, Fla. — A man suspected of entering schools throughout Michigan and stealing money from classrooms, desks and purses was found in Florida by the Michigan State Police and placed into custody by Florida police, according to the Lapeer County Press.

Alfred James Bailey, 49, who was last reported living in Grand Blanc, is suspected to be the criminal caught roaming schools in Dryden, Metamora, North Branch, Imlay City, New Baltimore, Novi and Royal Oak, the County Press reported.

Police say a man would usually appear during after-school activities and was hard to catch because he would blend in by claiming he was looking for a meeting and would leave before police would arrive at the school, according to the County Press.

Bailey is currently charged with a felony for entry without breaking with intent to steal and is a primary suspect in other investigations, the County Press reported.

"He's a career criminal," Michigan State Police First Lieut. Patrick McGreevy told the County Press. "We're glad to take him off the streets and out of the schools where he was a danger to students and staff."

According to McGreevy, Bailey has a criminal record dating back to 1970 in Michigan, Florida, Kansas and Arizona.

Lapeer County Press, "School bandit suspect is caught in Florida," March 30, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Still Have an Option to Check Kids' Safety," Feb. 2, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "The three P's of school safety," Fall 2000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Private Protection: A Growing Industry Could Enhance School Safety," Nov. 16, 1998

CARSONVILLE, Mich. — Carsonville-Port Sanilac Superintendent Harold Titus is looking to save the district some money in the long-run by using wind turbines to produce the district's electricity, according to the Port Huron Times Herald.

A representative from Woodland Wind LLC will speak to the board later this month about the possibility of utilizing wind power in the district. This company also helped bring wind turbines to the Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Schools in Huron County, the Times Herald reported.

Titus hopes to receive some grant money for the project and will, in turn, include alternative energy in the Carsonville-Port Sanilac curriculum, according to the Times Herald.

Port Huron Times Herald, "Schools see future in wind power," March 26, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Merrill schools move to alternative fuel," Nov. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Private firm helps Battle Creek schools cut energy costs," July 19, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Walled Lake implements program to save on energy," Nov. 1, 2005


MIDLAND, Mich. — The spring issue of Michigan Education Report offers a map illustrating which districts have taken advantage of competitive contracting. It can be accessed here:

Michigan Education Report is offering readers a chance to win an iPod when they comment on articles in its spring 2007 issue.

Comments can be made via e-mail about stories on the U.S. House Fellows program (, school district health benefits savings (, whether private employees in public schools provide the same quality of service as public employees in public schools ( and, a community college cooperating with home-school students ( and the role of profit in public schools ( Please visit for more information.

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