Contents of this issue:

  • DPS lays off 300
  • Teacher strike in Wayne-Westland
  • District closes movie deal
  • One-room schools in Huron County
  • "First class" issue opens window for change in DPS


DETROIT - Detroit Public Schools has sent layoff notices to more than 300 employees as part of a plan to address a $408 million budget deficit, The Detroit News reported. Various district employee unions said the move affects primarily bus attendants, substitute custodians and social workers.

The school board voted in June to make $522 million in cuts, including laying off more than 1,700 employees, when the deficit became apparent, The News reported.

Some parents and union officials have said that laying off bus attendants who assist special needs students will create a safety issue. District spokesman Steve Wasko told The News, "Clearly, there is no intent to put any student in harm's way."

He said the district is implementing a deficit reduction plan as required by the state.

The Detroit News, "DPS sparks ire with 300 layoffs," Oct. 4, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Audit details DPS woes," Oct. 2, 2008


WESTLAND, Mich. - Students in the Wayne-Westland Schools were denied instruction and had to be sent home Monday morning after members of the teachers union failed to report to work, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Free Press reported that the Wayne-Westland Education Association announced late Sunday that the teachers union expected an ongoing contract dispute to lead to the cancellation of classes and advised parents to arrange child care. The union did not inform school administrators directly.

Teacher strikes in Michigan are illegal.

"We'll take it one day at a time," Superintendent Greg Baracy told the Free Press. Several hundred students arrived at district high schools at 7:15 a.m. but were bused home.

The contract dispute has focused on health insurance and class size, the Free Press reported.

The Detroit Free Press, "Bargaining talks resume in the Wayne-Westland teachers strike," Oct. 6, 2008 

The Detroit Free Press, "Wayne-Westland classes likely canceled today amid contract impasse," Oct. 5, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Wayne-Westland teachers vote to take job action," Sept. 2, 2008


HOWELL, Mich. - Howell Public Schools will make about $120,000 in a deal allowing Parker High School to be used as a movie location, according to The Ann Arbor News. A production company will shoot the film "High School" this fall in the largely unused building.

The $72 million Parker campus was completed in 2007. Budget problems led the board of education to shut down most of the facility after one year of use, The News reported, though building trades courses continue on site, and some space is used by Lansing Community College.

The school district will provide utilities, custodial and maintenance services during the three months of filming.

Superintendent Ted Gardella also said there is a provision in the contract for educational opportunities for students, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "School to net $120,000 in film deal," Sept. 30, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Schools for sale," Aug. 15, 2007


RAPSON, Mich. - With enrollment down to one student, Rapson School near Bad Axe has closed for good. According to an article in The Bay City Times, the one-room public school had been in operation for nearly 100 years, though the original building was replaced in 1987.

Huron County remains a haven of sorts for such schools, The Times reported, with six others still in operation. The biggest, Church School near Bad Axe, has 25 pupils this year. Verona Mills School, at 21 pupils, has been in operation since 1867. It was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the building in 1890.

U.S. Census Bureau figures show Huron County's population has declined by 7.7 percent since 2000, one of the largest decreases among Michigan's 83 counties, according to The Times.

Jennifer Eugster, who taught at Rapson for seven years, told The Times, "I figured the closing of the school was a possibility, though I didn't realize ... how low the local population was going to get."

The Bay City Times, "Huron County loses another one-room school as Rapson School closes its doors," Sept. 30, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Enrollment down, charters and choice up," Sept. 30, 2008


DETROIT - Declining enrollment in Detroit Public Schools has opened a window for potential change in a district already under scrutiny for a $400 million budget deficit, low graduation rates and an audit showing lack of planning and oversight.

State legislators are now discussing the future of the district's "first-class" status, a legal designation based on enrollment of at least 100,000 students. Theoretically, Detroit lost that status in September when preliminary enrollment figures put the headcount at 88,000.

If Detroit fails to meet the threshold even after enrollments are audited, then a number of possibilities emerge, some that would give parents more choice in education and some that could restrict it.

"From a public policy standpoint, this is a nightmare," said Jeff Williams, vice president of Public Sector Consultants Inc., a Lansing-based consulting firm that analyzed the first-class issue for the Skillman Foundation of Detroit. "I don't know why this didn't come up sooner. It is clearly in the interest of the state, the Legislature ... and the students to have a discussion."

Michigan Education Report, "'First class' issue looms in Detroit," Oct. 7, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Colleges: 'Wait and see' on Detroit charter schools," April 7, 2008

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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