Contents of this issue:
  • Lawsuits planned after DPS students pepper-sprayed at protest
  • DPS creates inspector general position
  • New bill would allow unions to negotiate contracting
  • Innovative charter school sets standard for MEAP scores
  • Howell teachers union breaks political mailing rule
  • Hillsdale offering free seminar to teachers

DETROIT — Some parents of Detroit Public Schools students are planning to file a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools after students were taken to a demonstration to protest school closings and were exposed to pepper spray, according to The Detroit News.

The civil rights group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) organized the protest and held a press conference to announce parents' plans to file the lawsuit. Eight people were also arrested at the protest, including one student, The News reported.

BAMN national co-chair Shanta Driver thought the police response was too brutal.

"We think this was Rodney King-style violence being used against a peaceful protest of students and teachers and other adults," Driver told the News.

Parent and Detroit resident Monique Greene plans on filing a lawsuit against BAMN for placing her child in a dangerous situation. She told The News that she signed a permission slip allowing her 14-year-old son to attend a demonstration against the school closings, but was told it would be held at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, not at other schools.

"You exploited my kids to fight your fight," Green said of BAMN, according to The News.

The Detroit News, "Pepper-sprayed students alleged; suits planned," May 3, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit school board votes to close 34 schools," April 10, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools announces school closings," Jan. 9, 2007

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

DETROIT — The Detroit Public Schools will create an inspector general position in response to claims of internal theft and financial mismanagement, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Serious discussion of creating this position spurred from recent allegations that DPS Chief Financial Officer Dori Freelain never repaid the district for charging almost $1,400 to her district purchase card for plane tickets in November. She was initially put on paid leave in March after wire funds were inappropriately transferred to an insurance provider. This is currently under investigation by the FBI, the Free Press reported.

"Any allegations that Ms. Freelain has acted improper are false. Ms. Freelain has not done anything wrong," Freelain's attorney, Jason Hegedus, told the Free Press. "Ms. Freelain has requested to meet with the administrators to address this manner on several different occasions."

The new inspector general would be paid $154,100 to $231,200 a year to manage an internal audit department. The department would be in charge of investigating and reporting financial problems to the board, according to the Free Press.

Board member Jonathan Kinloch has supported the idea of hiring a finance inspector since 2005 and is interested in examining whether the inspector could have the legal power to subpoena school officials and contractors. Parent and political consultant Chris White also agrees with the board's decision to create this position, the Free Press reported.

"It's long overdue. It's something the parents of Detroit have been wanting for years," White told the Free Press. "The position pays for itself and it gives the new superintendent the opportunity to focus on academic achievement."

Detroit Free Press, "Schools will hire person to watch cash," May 2, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS suspends two administrators," March 13, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools spent $1 million on artwork," Feb. 27, 2007

ISHPEMING, Mich. — State Senator Mike Prusi introduced a bill that would allow the issue of competitive contracting to be a part of a school employee union's contract negotiations with a district, according to The Marquette Mining Journal.

Michigan law currently states that contracting for non-instructional services is not subject to a bargaining. Prusi said his bill was meant to keep districts from immediately terminating employee contracts when a company approaches with a lower bid, the Journal reported.

"Right now, a school can basically terminate an agreement with their employees and outsource the work if someone underbids the contract," Prusi told The Journal. "This bill is designed to eliminate that."

According to Michigan law, the issue of whether or not a school district will bargain over non-instructional services cannot be included in bargaining talks or an actual contract. If a district does sign a contract with district employees to provide a non-instructional service, however, the contract must be honored until it expires.

Critics of the bill argue that this would eliminate a district's right to contract for non-instructional services, while also hindering their ability to balance yearly budgets, according to The Journal.

"I think a law like that would give unions an unfair advantage when bargaining for their next contract," Ishpeming school board member Scott Martin told The Journal. "When they know we have to use them or no one else, that gives us nothing to bargain with. To me, it's an unfair labor practice."

The Mining Journal, "Critics knock Prusi bill," May 7, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Collective Bargaining Primer For Michigan School Board Members," Feb. 28, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Do private employees in public schools provide the same quality of service as public employees in public schools? Yes," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Profit has a role in public schools," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Map: School contracting continues to grow," Feb. 23, 2007

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Walden Green Montessori School's innovative teaching methods are impressing parents and helping the school's students outscore those in other charter and conventional public schools on standardized tests, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The school, which was established as a private school in 1983, became a charter when its enrollment dropped too low to remain open. For the past two years, Walden Green has ranked No. 1 among the state's 229 charter public schools in performance on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, The Chronicle reported.

Although the school performs well on standardized tests, parents are attracted to the fact that the school does not focus on the tests, according to The Chronicle. Walden Green creates an environment where students are taught to respect others and their property, and supports the autonomy of individual students by allowing them to set their own schedules each week. The school's curriculum focuses on general life skills, language development and core subjects like math, science and geography, The Chronicle reported.

"It's an excellent school statewide, both in terms of charter public schools and traditional public schools," Michigan Association of Public School Academies President Dan Quisenberry said told The Chronicle. "It all boils down to having site-based control, putting the teachers and school leaders in charge and really responding to kids' needs. That always makes a big difference."

Walden Green has been criticized for teaching a less diverse group of students, but has a student population that looks a lot like the districts in its area. About 6 percent of Walden Green's students are minority, compared to 5 percent for Spring Lake Public Schools and 7 percent for the Grand Haven Area Schools, according to The Chronicle. About 11 percent of Walden Green's students are enrolled in special education, which is nearly the same percentage of special education students in the Spring Lake and Grand Haven school districts.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "School offers different feel, big test results," May 4, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Charters make strides on MEAP tests," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Survey: Parents losing confidence in Michigan public schools," April 24, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Choice and Accountability in Public Schools," Oct. 16, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "State charter schools see enrollment increases," March. 7, 2006

HOWELL, Mich. — The president of the Howell teachers union has admitted that a postcard sent out by the Howell Education Association supporting two school board candidates failed to identify the financial supporter for the mailings, according to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

HEA President Doug Norton said about $2,000 was spent on 9,000 postcards reading, "Howell teachers support Edwin J. Literski and Dan Fondriest for Howell school board." The postcards were the same color green as union T-shirts worn to board meetings to protest contract disagreements, The Daily Press & Argus reported.

"It was an oversight we regret," Norton said. "We also are confident all recipients understood it was from the Howell teachers and that it was paid for with our PAC dollars."

Under Michigan campaign finance law, printed campaign material must have an identification of who paid for it, or a sentence stating a candidate did not pay for it, according to the Daily Press & Argus.

Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network said because more money has been spent on school board elections in recent years, the union should have been aware of the rule and said it would be a hard thing to excuse, the Daily Press & Argus reported.

Livingston Daily Press & Argus, "Union mailing breaks rules," May 2, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Paycheck Protection: Political Contributions," Feb. 28, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Tough Love for Labor Unions," Feb. 28, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Elected School Boards or Unions: Who Rules the Roost?" Jan. 11, 2007

HILLSDALE, Mich. — Economics, social studies, civics and history teachers are invited to participate in a free summer seminar July 15-21 as part of the Foundation for Teaching Economics program, "Economics for Leaders." The seminar takes place on the campus of Hillsdale College and will be led by Dr. Gary Wolfram, Munson Professor of Political Economy at the school. The program is based on the National Voluntary Standards in Economic Education. Room and board is free, and each participant will receive a $150 stipend. Credit hours are available, and three SBCEUs are free of charge for Michigan public school teachers.

Visit http://www.fte.org/teachers/programs for more information, or call 800-383-4335.

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

To subscribe or unsubscribe, go to