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Posted on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 6:35 a.m.

Bids show Ann Arbor school district could save $2.4M by privatizing bus drivers, custodians

By David Jesse

If the Ann Arbor school board accepts the lowest bids from private companies vying to replace the district’s custodians, maintenance workers and bus drivers, it could save nearly $2.4 million a year.

But whether the district’s administration will recommend the moves - or the board will approve them - remains to be seen. Administrators will present their 2010-11 school year budget recommendations at the end of March.


The Ann Arbor school district continues to explore ways to save on transportation costs.

Melanie Maxwell |

District administrators walked the board through the bids submitted by a variety of firms in each category Wednesday night. Board members asked questions about the numbers, but didn’t discuss whether they would support privatization of any or all of the three areas.

Administrators solicited bids in the three areas as part of the process of finding between $14 million and $18 million in savings in next year’s budget.

In all three of the areas, the district asked for base bids that would keep the wages the same for any current district employees who transferred over to a new company. The base bid also asked for a comparable health plan.

The biggest savings would come from changes in retirement. Private companies don’t have to pay into the state’s retirement system like the district does - a cost of nearly 20 percent of a person’s earnings.

In each area, the district also asked for alternatives from the companies that would lift the wages and benefits restrictions. The savings grew rapidly in those bids, said Robert Allen, the district’s deputy superintendent for operations.

School board Trustee Susan Baskett began to question other board members about whether they wanted to consider those alternatives. But board President Deb Mexicotte intervened, saying that discussion needs to take place in a session closed to the public.

Two companies submitted bids for taking over busing. Durham was the low base bidder, with an estimated cost to the district of $3,998,400. That’s more than $840,000 less than the district spends on transportation.

That base bid didn’t include items like a routing supervisor or fuel for the buses, Allen said.

Ann Arbor is also currently talking with the nine other traditional school districts in the county about a countywide transportation system. Superintendent Todd Roberts told the board the district should know what type of savings would be possible under that system by mid or late March.

Allen also noted if the district privatized busing, it could save about $200,000 a year in indirect costs in the finance, legal and human resources departments in central administration.

In the area of custodial workers, the district could save slightly more than $1 million if it took the low base bid, the figures show. The district bid out 140 custodial positions.

In the maintenance area, the district could save more than $500,000 by taking the lowest base bid, the figures show. The district bid out 25 maintenance worker positions.

Before the meeting, several custodians and maintenance workers picketed the district headquarters.

During public comments before the bids were shown, Darryl Wilson, the president of the custodial union, cautioned the board to think about the loss of quality and the safety of children if private companies were brought in to replace current workers.

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 6:21 a.m.

I hope a year from now, and a year from that point, people look at how much was actually saved through privatization and how much we were TOLD it would save. If you look at the numbers reported to the state in lots of places that privatized, the data is showing (and not a spin, just state-reported DISTRICT numbers)that it doesn't save. Check out what happened in Niles and Hartland Consolidated.


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 11:17 p.m.

As former business owner for 20 years and an employee of the transportation dept. for 3 years, I have a perspective on the arguments here. It's about money spent and also about the people which I learned to appreciate in my business experience. In business, the bottom line cost is often as important as the employee. They can be both equally important dependent upon both production and results. The problem with the schools is that both are in conflict. Yes the Union protects workers from doing a "merit pay" approach to work for some, but others "over achieve" and go beyond what is required and produce an excellent result. In my opinion, the district doesn't evaluate the differences well enough to distinguish between the two. Also where the district could and should use standard business procedures to evaluate performance, they are at times hampered by "contract" reviews of the union. But having said this none of us who have joined the union as part of our job has any ability to change the inefficiencies that we see in our daily operations. Yes this would mean a reduction in our pay as we report these inefficiencies and address changes that would save tax payers money. We are at the mercy of both, our unions, the supervisors and the administration to make changes that would "save" the taxpayers and ultimately our jobs We are not in control, in the sense that we could assess the inefficiencies and make changes and if I could make a comparison to kids in divorce. We dont want it but we are helpless to make any changes that would prevent it except tell everyone we know that we dont want it but would be happy to tell what needs to be changed to prevent it and make fundamental changes that would save the district and taxpayers. Consider addressing your concerns not so much here but to those who will change everything when going private. It is not an easy choice nor is it the complete answer until the State solves its issues in funding its operations which it chooses to bring to your attention by withholding funds from k12 education rather than finding funding solutions while they advocate a pay increase in state employees wages. There are solutions that could reside in keeping these operations in house and saving money as well vs. a private company, just ask around to your contacts in the district, from teachers, custodians, maintenance, bus drivers to those folks up at Balas. Please just ask!


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 5:47 p.m.

I've been in the business world for 35 years not swaddled in a union blanket.


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 5:08 p.m.

@Snapshot-You are the most amazing person. "competant and all those other issues they bring up if a non union worker goes to work in the schools......things will never be the way they were and we'll be lucky if they don't get ten times worse". You can fix all that by "saving" 2.4 million dollars? Where have you been????


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 3:38 p.m.

I keep reading all kinds of numbers flying around from folks who obviously have their own financial perspectives. Does anyone else thing it's strange that there are so many variables in the numbers that have to do with what should be a simple compensation issue. Salary, benefits, pension. The fact that the numbers seem to change from expert to expert is a red flag to me. I say privatize and economize. Does anyone dispute there is a huge shortage of dollars to pay these folks and others who many folks feel bear no blame for the crisis. The fact that their pensions are much higher, wages are much higher, and administrators gave away the store with no concern for fiscal responsibility(think $5,000 dollars budgeted for a retirement party). I don't see any reasonable arguement to not privatize, only desperate pleas for what I think amounts to government welfare. Everyone seems to be pointing fingers and saying it wasn't me, it shouldn't be me, it's them, it's the state, it's always someone else so please keep paying me because I don't want to lose anything. Get real folks. Someone is going to lose, hundreds of thousands have been losing heavily for the past three years. Someone tell me what makes these folks different from all the other people who have lost? Besides the fact they think they're better, more ethical, honest, competant, and all those other issues they bring up if a non union worker goes to work in the schools. It seems a lot of folks want to keep things just the way they are. How you going to do that? Things will never be the way they were and we'll be lucky if they don't get ten times worse with the way the world economy is going. Wake up, the roses are gone!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 1:16 p.m.

@67Wolverine, You said: Owlnignt...the idea is that the number of employees required to clean and maintain the schools may be able to be reduced.......if the district sets the numbers then they are most likely to blame as it is their overall mishandling of the finances that has led to these issues. Two points: Virtually the entire savings in the "base bid" (keeping pay and health benefits "comparable") comes from moving these workers out of the state pension system (MPSERS). Mandated contributions from the district to the state system are approaching 20%. And as I've pointed out before, these contributions are not being saved for the current employees, but are being used to keep the system solvent for current retirees. However, shifting these employees to the private sector will rob them of the years they have logged towards a pension, since the MPSERS pension benefits are not portable if you leave school employment, unless you have enough years to be vested. Second, the financial crisis has in no way been the fault of school officials. Whatever you make think of their choices, the fact remains that the funding the state allows AAPS to have for operations fell 9% in real terms from 1994-2009. The dramatic cuts this year and next are caused by a combination of the poor state economy, and tax policy that has slowly eroded the share of our personal income that we contribute to K-12 education. The real question is whether putting a larger burden of cuts on transportation and custodial workers is really "keeping the cuts away from the classroom." I'm not sure it really works that way.


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

If any one that are still here-When I talked about no meeting from Mr. Allen I was NOT asking for a raise, just let us try to fix the problem so we can keep our jobs.


Sun, Feb 21, 2010 : 9 p.m.

Can we get them to fill the potholes too?

The Grinch

Sun, Feb 21, 2010 : 8:22 p.m.

67wolverine: I don't know how else to say it, but I'll try again. Your only requirements are(apparently) cost effectiveness and efficiency. And I'm saying that slavery was both. If the only goal were efficiency and cost effectiveness, then we'd be purchasing slaves to do this. Or paying 40 cents and hour. Or having 10 year-olds do it. But since we are an allededly civilized society, we should measure the success of any enterprise be something more than cost effectiveness and efficiency. And I especially expect that the standards be much higher than costg effectiveness and efficiency if it is MY tax money that is going into the corporate coffers. Obviously this reference bothers you. GOOD!! It should. Let me suggest that you need to explore why you find the reference so bothersome.


Sun, Feb 21, 2010 : 1:01 p.m.

@67 wolverine- Sorry if i hurt your feelings about that comment about "lazy". The management many years had a company that studied the builders and then set up how many custodians needed.


Sun, Feb 21, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

Owlnignt...the idea is that the number of employees required to clean and maintain the schools may be able to be reduced...not one word was mentioned about current workers being brought that into the discussion...if the district sets the numbers then they are most likely to blame as it is their overall mishandling of the finances that has led to these issues. Grinch...why the continuing reference to slavery? Your comments imply that if a company is efficient and profitable it is the same as absurd. If you believe this is the case, then you should turn back all the items you have acquired that were made by slave owners...or the greedy and profitable business. Lets begin with you unplugging you PC and trashing and its parts were created by companies that were trying to be efficient and profitable. And, while you're at it...donate you car to a worthy charity, along with all your household appliances, cell phone, etc. You may be better able to sleep at night.

David Wallner

Sun, Feb 21, 2010 : 6:28 a.m.

At the heart of societies problems lies the demon of "special interests". The criteria for the bidding process should be "services equal to or better" than the present situation. If this condition can be met, institutions should have the ability to choose based on the overall financial impact. This applies to all aspects of the public sector, including education.


Sun, Feb 21, 2010 : 5:42 a.m.

The maintenance,custodial, and bus drivers have been making concessions for sometime now,some since 1995. They agreed to a two tier system, in 2003 they agreed, the administration said they needed it and the local agreed, the top pay for custodians is 10.85/hour and the bus drivers done a similar pay cut for their starting pay as well. The schools are taking from the smallest piece of the pie and not willing to take a piece from where they can glean most savings. There are to many administrators at Balas and many are just checking each others work. Some of these pompence people are the ones that need to go. And Stunshif it's easy to agree your military retirement but it still is along time to pay for your retirement if you leave the service at 42, heck you could live till your 102 and it's alright for us to pay for 60 years of your retirement. Give me a break.


Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 11:47 p.m.

I drive for the District.If they do Privatize not only will they cut my pay they will cut mine and my families HEALTH INSURANCE. So if I cant get hired back in with the private company then I have not only lost my job I have lost my HEALTH INSURANCE for me and my family so then I would have to go to the State of Michigan and get on Medicade which the tax payers of this state pay for through taxes. So what I am trying to say here is that for me it is not all about Unions but about my family. As a bus driver I have formed friendships with the families that I have driven for. I dont think you will get the same trestment through a private company that you do now. If your child misses the bus at home or at School the bus will not return for your child as to where now we return to stops or Schools for a child that has missed there bus. We care about your children! Private companies do have Unions and they can strike( lets not forget about the Mt. Clemens Private Bus Drivers that went on stike earlier this year). As a School employee we can not strike. We know your children and care about them. Privatizing is not the choice for Ann Arbor Public Schools in any department! Not only will this affect your children and Bus drivers it affects the bus drivers families too.

The Grinch

Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 7:32 p.m.

67wolverine: Don't know what the school district's RFP asks. You say they want "efficient and cost effective" services and you treat that requirement (I'm sure there are others) as if that is the ultimate measure of success for any contractor. And so I say again, slavery was efficient and cost effective... and VERY profitable. So I am suggesting that there are factors other than efficiency and cost effectiveness that ought be weighed, especially given that it is my tax money that, if this happens, will be transferred to corporations (a process otherwise known as corporate welfare).


Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 3:27 p.m.

@67 wolverine-For the first thing the bid is for 138 custodians. The union did not set up how many workers are in the buildings. Management sets that up. It is set up for how many rooms, buildings,etc. Not how lazy are people.


Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 2:43 p.m. you ever made the leap to slavery from something being "cost effective" is beyond me...besides it was the AAPS' term that they used in their RFP...and no one ever said or implied it was the only measure. Owlnight...I am aware that most companies now require employees to contribute to their plans however, it was the AAPS RFP that stated it was requiring the successful bidder to maintain the current pay and benefit structure. Also, regarding the cleaning of hospitals and schools being apples and oranges, I guess we will agree to disagree. Although the schools may require the cleaning of more dirty areas, the sanitation and sterilization requirements of a hospital and specically surgical areas is second to none. Ghostwriter...perhaps you should read the RFP the district sent to bidders. The performance requirements of the bidders are specifically listed in detail. If the services you are currently providing to the district are so good..."efficient and cost effective"...using thier terms...then why are they looking for someone else to replace you? What makes you think that another group of 100 people couldn't do the same job as the 137 currently employed and reduce the cost to the district? Real businesses have to deal with similar issues everyday and are not dependant on taxpayer support but on the quailty of the product or service they provide. Competition requires them to be efficient or they lose's the way the real world works...unfortunately most of Ann Arbor doesn't get it.

The Grinch

Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 8:59 a.m.

owlnight: to answer your question, they don't mind taxpayer dollars going to corporate robber barons (otherwise known as corporate welfare), whether in state or out of state. They just don't want it going to anyone who belongs to a union. I mean, COME ON!!! Don't you know that you're supposed to appreciate the fact that you have a job and, in return for it, make a miserly wage with few if any health care benefits? It really is that simple. And I really think you ought to take Stunshif up on his offer. He says he'd like a job as a school custodian. I think, perhaps, if he understood what you and others do, he'd change his mind. Naaaaah. Who am I kidding? Ignorance is bliss.

Lisa Starrfield

Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 8:34 a.m.

Stunshlf You are being unnecessarily rude. Our custodians do so much for our schools and our students; they are deserving of your respect even if you disagree with them.


Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 12:36 a.m.

Just in case you don't know, midwest,gca,and aramark companies are in IL. Do you really want to send the money out of the state???


Sat, Feb 20, 2010 : 12:01 a.m.

Owlnight, I get it. I know you want to keep your jobs. A lot of other folks feel the same way. Someone has to be first in the casualty department. I hate to be brutally honest but if you're low man on the totem pole that's how it works. It's how it works in the union too. There is an economic crisis---no money to support all of the current school employees. The teachers are a more important part of the education of the kids. How can you even compare the two job functions. I do feel for you but as a taxpayer I can't adopt you out of charity. Is that what you want? Where's the money for your services going to come from? Stand by, the teachers may be next. Taxpayers aren't happy with their costs either. I fully expect concessions to be made by their union. Nobody wants to be the first on the chopping block. It's humiliating to have to be fired and reinterviewed for a position you've been doing for years only to be hired at a lower wage. Welcome to reality. I was there in 1991. I am not an elitist. I am a hardworking taxpayer that has taken my knocks. I survived and made the best of it. It will be a change, I can assure you. It builds character though. There's no way to sugarcoat it so I'm not even going to try. We need to move forward and get costs under control, not discuss them forever. That doesn't work.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 11:52 p.m.

ghostwriter, "our custodians currently change lights within the district" Wow, are you kidding me? That is mind boggling, I must say. Gee, here in my own home, I find it near impossible to clean a toilet, wash the floors, change my kids puke bucket and then have to go change a light bulb. I fully agree with you that if we privatize janatorial services for the Ann Arbor School District they will " have to purchase these serices ala carte", quoting you. Give me a break, what absolute nonsense. The only thing they won't have to pay is 55k a year to have someone clean. I know, the 55k includes your pay and benefits/healthcare. Based on that kind of pay, can you get me a job doing what you do? I could really use a pension since I don't have one!


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 11:14 p.m.

67wolverine may mean well, but his comments are off base and reflect the opinions of some who think they are informed and believe so. It is not an implication that services provided by local 1182 are superior; they are the best comparison and managed by the AAPS management team. Unfortunately, Labor gets a lot of criticism even when management makes mistakes. Hang on to your hats if the privatization occurs or should I say your wallets. The Local 1182 is not just custodians (138 FTE). It also has carpenters, grounds persons, repair depot, plumbers and electricians. These are the jobs at stake and these people are cross trained in any or all of these jobs. They provide real value that can be measured. The years of service and loyalty is what make this group competitive with any that is out there. You wont find that with an outside company that will drive down wages and benefits to secure profits. Hey thats good business! The intrinsic cost of this institutional knowledge will go away. The employees are local to this area. We buy our groceries and do our banking here. Some of our children attend this district because it has been extended as a courtesy to those who work here. What will happen when those kids get kicked out because their parent is no longer an employee of the district? At the $9700 dollar price, what will be the impact to the district and their families? There are approximately 67 kids within the custodial unit alone. How about the bus drivers? The management team in house has been there for a brief period. They have not even surveyed their labor group to see where peoples talents are. This is especially apparent when the district has recently hired an electrician to repair low voltage systems. In other words, let that person change light bulbs at a leased school building. This is a job a custodian can do for less than the prevailing rate of an outside electrician. Well that cant happen at that building, because they hired a cleaning service (a janitor) that doesnt change light bulbs. This is a joke. Our custodians currently change lights within the district. This service will be purchased a la carte if privatization occurs. The problems with the numbers proposed compared with the district charges are that they are misleading at least. The local has FOIA'ed the district to examine the numbers would like to take out the cost of contractors whose charges might have been included within the cost of the local. Hey how about a fair shake for the working men and women and the families they support. The local beat privatization last time because we mirrored the proposals and provided a better service.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10:55 p.m.

@ snapshot- As usually you don't see the whole thing, the teachers got raises ect. If our union is so strong how can we be privatized. It have nothing to do with the noise about the union, we just want to keep a job like the rest of the people in the Ann Arbor Schools,if we work for another company is not the same.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10:19 p.m.

I rest my case for my comment that unions don't "get it". They complain that they haven't had a raise in three years when "normal" non tax supported folks have lost much or all their wealth, pensions, salaries, benefits, or jobs entirely. Unions just don't get it. You guys live in this little protected shell protected by this invisible sheild of entitlement that you still want those folks to pay for. When you lose your pension, benefits, and job. Come see me I might feel sorry for you. What you're "doing" to me is wanting to keep taking money out of my pocket and putting into yours. Not going to happen if I have anything to say about it.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

Many thanks to DonBee for helping with inputs. AAPS budget data, while (intentionally?) incomplete, provide enough information to calculate the average total annual compensation for two sets of employees: teachers only get $101,227.92, and all employees, who get $95,732.76, total average annual compensation. As stated earlier, the BLS data shows: All state and local government workers average $82,846.40 total compensation; All civilian workers average: $57,179.20 total compensation. So how do AAPS employees compare with national averages? 95,732.76 / 82,846.40 = 1.155 = 115.5% 95,732.76 / 57,179.20 = 1.674 = 167% 101,227.92 / 82,846.40 = 1.221 = 122% 101,227.92 / 57,179.20 = 1.770 = 177% The average AAPS employee earns 15.5% more than their government peers, and they earn 67% more than the civilian population. AAPS teachers earn 22% above their government peers, and 77% more than civilians. AAPS compensation is potentially problematic for revenue enhancements.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 9:05 p.m.

Thank you very much DonBee. Great work. One question before posting some numbers: are the various AAPS contracts public documents?

The Grinch

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 7:55 p.m.

In other words, DonBee, you think everyone else ought pay for this because you're special. Unfortunately, there are 300 million other Americans who think they're special, too, and that the burden ought be borne by someone else.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 7:51 p.m.

@snapshot-What did i do to you. We have not had a raise in 3 years, but have not yelled,or scream, or stomp. Mr. Allen has not even offer to set up a meeting to try to fix the problem.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 7:35 p.m.

@TheGrinch - I declined to file for a medical retirement pension when I was given a medical discharge, after 17 years service for a service connected injury. So I have given up more than my 15 percent. I gave up 40 percent of my pay this year to keep from having people laid off. That is all I will say on the subject. @AlphaAlpha - If I take the user friendly budget and go building by building - I get a total number of employees in the buildings (this does not include maintenance staff, central office, bus drivers, etc) of 1,288 people of which 899 are teachers. I get a total compensation (benefits, retirement, salary etc) of $89,996,679 for the teachers and for all employees in the buildings - $123,275,073. That means the average teacher for total cost to the district (salary, benefits, retirement, etc) is $101,227.92 For all building employees the average is $95,732.76 As noted above the Custodians make in total compensation $55,084 which brings the average down for all employees. I wish I could get to the Ann Arbor Administrator Association contract. So I could get the real cost of the principals. Again this is an approximation, the numbers are not really available to do a good job on true salaries, but it is the best i can do with the published numbers. The full building by building spreadsheet is published an in another thread.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 7:06 p.m.

Allow me to add that a standard negotiating tactic for someone who opposes a specific cost reduction strategy is to make it larger than what it is, point fingers reflecting "you go first", or "why me", and in general make it confusing and unmanageable to reduce its chance of implementation. Management, as they have in the past, will usually cave in to this union gauntlet. I urge all administrators to stand their ground because you've got to start somewhere. None of this is pleasent but then most historical events were not of a pleasant nature, but a necessary nature. This economic crisis is a historical event. Act accordingly.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 6:07 p.m.

It amazes me that union supporters are so sheltered or brainwashed that they consider themselves superior to non union labor. That union members are more dedicated, concientious, competent, concerned, stable, etc. etc. How does that make all you non union working class folks feel? Unions did serve a purpose at one time but I think they've gotten a little out of hand with their entitlements that cost the consumer and taxpayer far more than the services they provide are worth. This outsourcing for competitive bid proves that. If the union wants to competitively bid for the contract then by all means I think they should have the opportunity. That's what fair competition is. And that's what I keep hearing from the unions is their interest in fairness. The times have changed and now I think there has to be some consideration for the taxpayer and consumers that pay premium prices for union labor. Management was always so willing to give in to union whims in the past. This economy has made that impossible but the unions don't get it yet. Taxpayers deserve a fair shake too. Now we may not be quite as good as you union guys but then we're making an effort to try harder. Are you?


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

Thank you DonBee. Since accurate pay data is (intentionally?) unavailable, I suggest we begin with total annual compensation for all employees, divided by total number of employees. This will tell us the average total yearly compensation. From your earlier work, I imagine you have these numbers close at hand. Could you please share them? Obviously it's only an average, but it's a good start. That average AAPS value can be then compared to the BLS data for average total compensation (data as of Sept. 2009) shown at : All government workers average: $82,846.40 All civilian workers average: $57,179.20 Thank you very much.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 2:07 p.m.

@67wolverine-one other thing hospitals are ornges schools are apples. I've known people that have worked at either place the schools are a LOT harder to clean.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 1:49 p.m.

@ Grinch: I believe that you missed my point, I am not against reviewing the "money in" calculus. That has to be done. What is plain is that can not be done to address present and immediate budget deficits. I certianly do agree with you in that we also need to look at all public service areas to correct overspending in our federal government budget (and understand it may apply to me). To some great degree we have already looked at the "money in" aspect through the publics refusal to enact increased millages, resentment against increased/new taxes, etc. This doesn't mean a be all/end all for "money in", just that it will take significant time and effort to develope a new source or system to generate revenue (that should also be addressed immediately). But, Grinch, Lisa, Steve, and others, instead of posturing,arguing,etc., I am still waiting to hear your plans on what you would do NOW (knowing there is no additional revenue) to balance our budget.

The Grinch

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 1:39 p.m.

Just to be clear, braggslaw: You are including active duty and retired military, right?


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

I completely agree with the Grinch all state and federal employees should have their pay and benefits cut by 15%. I am glad we agree on something, let's make it happen.

The Grinch

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

So let's make certain I understand you stunshif: You, who have never served in the military even a day, want to cut benefits for active duty military and for military retirees? And what about 15% bothers you? There is no civilian comparable, and 15% won't begin to put a dent in the $1.5 Trillion deficit. So why hedge on 15%? Why not 20%? Or 25%? Or 50%. Surely in these economically troubled times we can find volunteers who are unemployed and who will work for half of what is current pay. I mean, what the hell, just like "anyone can teach", we all know that anyone can be a soldier. And we wouldn't want those folks to have any gold-plated pay and benefits at YOUR expense, given all the economic trouble YOU personally have had and about which you have made such public knowledge in discussions over the past few weeks. And retirees? Screw 'em. They were dumb enough to take the promise made to them by the people (us) that their pensions would be there when they retired. If we can just slice away teachers' pensions because we want to break the promise made to them why not do it to WW2 vets, to Vietnam vets, to PG War vets, and to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or do you keep some promises but not others? Oh, yeah, promises made to evil unions can be broken. So youre with me? Let's do to the military and to its retirees what you want to do to teachers! DonBee: you are, of course, correct, that new members of the armed forces moved to a different system than that which you and I enjoy today. But the system did not change for people who were then-retired nor did it change for those who were anywhere near retirement. It changed only for very recent accessions (officer and enlisted) and for all future accessions. But the discussion in Michigan is about changing the pension system for all public employeesthose who have already retired as well as for those who have been in the system for many years. So, whatever your son has compared to what you and I have is beside the point. Are you willing to join me and to advocate that all military, active duty and retired, under the old system (a guaranteed benefit system that roughly equals 2.5% base pay at time of retirement times the number of years served) be required to take a 15% or more cut in their retirement pay? I mean, really, what a gold-plated system. Work 20 years and then get 50% pay for doing nothing for the rest of your life!! I'll bet those lazy teachers are jealous.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.

@TheGrinch, Heh, you might be coming around finally? I would agree that we need to cut all Federal and State pay/benefits, not sure 15% is the number, perhaps 10% would work in some states and in others maybe it would have to go as high as 15%, perhaps even higher. We do know that virtually every city in every state, and every state in the union is facing "massive underfunding in their pensions". They make Social Security's stability look good. Of course public school teachers are state employees. As a taxpayer I wish we could hold a vote tommorrow because this would get voted in lickety split. Benefits for any government worker whether city, state or federal should be no better than the 50% percentile in the private sector. From that point on, if a city, state or federal employee wanted better benefits, they would have to pay extra for that. You ask why? Because we pay the taxes that fund these employees wages and benefits.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

@67wolverine-The custodian maintenances health benefit is not free we have to pay part of it.

The Grinch

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 11:08 a.m.

As ususal, Donbee, you miss the point. You and others insist that "money in" must eqaul "money out" and are unwilling to consider changing the "money in" calculus but instead insist on cutting "money out" by drastically reducing public servants' pay and benefits. Fine. That's an arguable stance. So let's apply it to all public servants. The federal government is projected to run a $1.5 Trillion deficit this year. No one wants to change the "money in" side of the equation, so we must deal with the "money out" side. Fine. So let's cut the pay and benefits of all federal employees, military and civilian, retirees included, by 15% this year. You with me on this? I'm prepared to give up 15% of my retiree pay to help put my nation for which I've already sacrificed on a sound fiscal footing. How about you? If not, your outrage about budget deficits and expensive government employees is both self-serving and selective.

The Grinch

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

Slavery was cost effective. Is this the only measure of how we want our tax money used?


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

@TheGrinch - When you and I signed up (Yes I server honorably - but in the Navy - maybe that is our issue) you could retire at 20 years. Now, according the enlistment paperwork I am looking at for my son - the minimum retirement for enlisting today is 25 years, if there are no special circumstances (and yes there is a whole web page of special circumstances). The retirement is 2.5 percent of the high 36 months of pay (averaged) times the number of years of service. It is based on base pay only, none of the allowances. The retirement table you are sighting is for people who retired under our deal, not the people who will retire under the new deal. The new deal calculator can be found here: Our retirement is simple - they publish a table for us. The new guys will need a computer program to figure it out as they retire. We had a different deal. As to the 401k like account, it too is listed in the enlistment paper work and on the Army website as an additional incentive. I do not and have not begrudged anyone their pay (go back and look at my posts). I have tried to figure out where the money is going. As to the military, I spend a time at the VFW volunteering with new vets on pay and disability issues. None of it is simple.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

There are several points that need to be addressed regarding the article and some of the comments. Mr. Wilson may mean well but his comments are off base and reflect the opinion of most who are uninformed. Some of the bidders for the AAPS custodial services are currently servicing local hospitals and have been for a number of years. To imply that the current school custodial care is somehow superior to services provided to local medical facilities makes me question the actual services provided to the schools and those who over see them. The bid proposal distributed by the school district stated that they were seeking a provider who could be "efficient and cost effective", yet requiring the provider to maintain the current staffing levels, salaries, and benefits. If the district is in financial troubles perhaps they should look at their own efficiencies. If a provider can provide the same, if not superior services, to the district with fewer qualified employees and at a more reasonable price, why shouldn't the provider be considered? The providers also have employees with families to support. If the current custodial workers are offered the first opportunity to remain employed by the new provider, if they are qualified, isn't that "fair"? It is the business of the schools to educate our children...all other costs are secondary...any support services the schools have to pay for takes form the resources used for education. The support services should be monitored to be "efficient and cost affective" and acted upon if they are not.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10:31 a.m.

DonBee (and other number people) look over the last 30 years how much custodian, maintenances get raised compare teachers, yet we are the ones on the "head block".Just in case people forget we did not have anything to do with the retire mess.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10:14 a.m.

Lisa, Steve, Grinch: I have no issue with decent pay, insurance, retirement, etc. I also have the utmost respect for all services provided by teachers, bus drivers, custodians, and others who contribute directly to the education of our children; and indirectly to the quality of life of our community. Unfortunately we do not have the money to pay for what has been present or what is anticipated in the future relative to AAPS (the state is not going to bail AAPS out and the millage has been defeated). It is essential to look at ways to change the funding of education but that will take an extensive period of time and is not what the issue is now. The issue now is that we have (x) money and (x+y) expense; how do we eliminate (y) to bring the budget back in to balance. You need to become part of the solution rather than continuing to criticize and lecture anyone who looks at some form of "change" to balance the budget. Please, simply provide your recommendations on what items of the AAPS budget can be reduced to bring it back into balance.

The Grinch

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

DonBee: like most of your posts regarding school financials, you are wildly misinformed. In fact, military can retire at 18 years and, briefly in the Clinton administration, it was possible to retire at the 15-year mark. And the question is not what you WERE paid; it is current pay. A O-4 (Major or Lt. Cdr)with 12 years' service today earns $78,000 per year base pay. This does not include non-taxable COLA, BAS, or BAQ. It does not include retirement or health care. An E-5 with 6 years' service $34,000 per year before COLA, BAS, and BAQ. Doubt this? Go to: Let me make clear: I do not begrudge them one penny of this. My point is that whatever logic you apply to public sector jobs and their costs holds toward our military. And thank-you for proving my point: we as Americans have a strange affinity for funding programs that kill people but are extremely niggardly when it comes to funding those that help out people. (and, no Stunshif, that's not a racist word--look it up). Stunshif: My career: 1978-1981 1st Bn, 82nd FA, Ft. Hood, TX 1981-1982 1st Bn, 38th FA, 2nd Infantry Division, ROK 1982-1983 Student, FAS, Ft. Sill, OK 1983-1986 1st Bn, 27th FA and 1st Bn, 29th FA, Ft. Carson, CO 1986-1991 S&F, United States Military Academy 1991-1995 ODCSOPS, HQ USAREUR 1995-1999 Various staff positions, 1st Cav. Div, Ft. Hood, TX 1999-2003 S&F, USMA So I guess you believe in the tooth fairy. And, yes, I served 25 years so people like you could say ignorant and insulting things. Makes me wonder if my sacrifice and that of my family was worth it.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

Retired military with 25 years, yeah, and I still believe in the tooth fairy. Military retirees do get medical after 20 years but they also put their life on the line, there is no comparing the two. The military keeps us free and safe, so many of us can spout off and make foolish statements. For some it all comes down to name calling, calling those that disagree, "union haters". It has nothing to do with hating unions, it has to do with living within our means. Nothing more, nothing less. When the bank account runs dry, you buckle down, you quit going to the movies, you quit eating out, you don't buy new cars and you eat hamburger helper. The unions still want to eat "Filet Mignon".


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

The Grinch - If you join the military today, you can not get out at 20 years with a retirement, unless it is a medical retirement. The folks enlisting since 1986 have a 25 year minimum with a 40 percent pay retirement. Enlistment prior to 1986 allows for 20 and out. I note that the military has started the transition to a 401k type retirement. Right now it is an add on to the retirement offered, but it looks like (based on committee reports) that it will replace the standard military retirement for new military folk by 2012. So even the military will move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan in the future. I too am a veteran and spent many years in the military. My pay came no where near matching the civilian pay of people who had similar education and my time away from home was much greater than any of my peers. Your comment about military retirement and changing it is coming true.

The Grinch

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 7:39 a.m.

aataxpayer says: "There should not be a simple 30 and out mentality that makes taxpayers finance retirements starting as early as age 52 or lifetime health care after only 10 years of service." This describes almost EXACTLY the benefits given to military retirees. Well, not exactly. There one gets to retire after 20 years (roughly age 42) with full medical benefits. So do you support doing to them what you are asking school employees to do (and, for the record, I am a military retiree--25 years in service)? Oh, and the logic goes further. Given that the federal gov't will be running Trillion dollar deficits for the next ten years at least, it seems we ought be hearing the same call for pay and benefit cuts for active duty military that we are for teachers and other public employees. Same situation, same logic. And, hey, they're not even unionized, so it would be easy to do. So why not the hue and cry about military benefits from the teacher bashers and the union haters? And don't even start with the "we need them" argument. First, we need teachers and other public employess, too. Second, we spend double the amount on defense as the next ten largest nations combined. We don't mind spending money like a drunken sailor when it comes to weapons and organizations that kill people. We just don't much like spending money on organizations that makes people's lives better.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 1:09 a.m.

As a parent with kids in the AAPS and a classmate of Trustee Baskett, I would be concerned with who those private companies hire. Though its mentioned that the same people will hold these jobs, but really, how long would that last. Would these companies be required to do criminal background checks? Those who are union bashing, please note. At Markley dormitory on UM's campus, there's a norovirus/gastrovirus going around. These viruses are causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. A lot of these students aren't making it to restrooms and are having to "release" in hallways, rooms and other areas. So to those who are bashing the custodial unions, just try for a day to do what they do and see if you're paid enough. Why is it always the elitist who always favor the lower wage employees be cut first, but would never in their above the clouds mentality would ever do their jobs?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 12:42 a.m.

DonBee (and anyone else with data questions), If you want to know more about AAPS finances, I suggest you direct your inquiries to Robert Allen, Deputy Superintendent for Operations for AAPS. He's part of the Superintendent's "Cabinet" that you referred to - though I'm not sure how to cut 50%, since it's a pretty small group and they are each in charge of major divisions of the organization. Mr. Allen has always been very helpful in figuring out the details of the district's finances, and he is extremely knowledgeable. I'm not sure why the "ball is in [my] court," since I have no interest in playing a one-on-one game of data tennis. There is too much at stake. But I will say that my figures differ from yours: overall spending on K-12 education from state and local sources has fallen as a percent of total Michigan personal income since 2004. Most districts have seen their per pupil allowances fall behind inflation since 2001; AAPS has fallen behind inflation nearly every year since 1994. Even before this year's cuts, AAPS's per pupil allocation had declined a total of 9% from FY94-09 after accounting for inflation. I don't include federal funds, because all of that is strictly earmarked and often designed to pay for federal mandates. Most analyses of school funding focus on funds from state and local sources. I also don't include capital spending, since it's illegal to use that for operations. To all: I agree, MPSERS is in trouble. But there is no magic wand to make things better; there is no way to switch to a defined contribution plan without finding the funds to cover the overhang while current retirees are still receiving benefits. Sure, some private firms walked away from their pension obligations, and dumped the responsibility on the federal government. (And I will not go into how years of underfunding pensions to report higher profits may have contributed to this.) Is this a model we wish to emulate? Is it fair, or right, for us as voters to choose to do this to some of our fellow citizens - especially those we have asked to care for our children? Yes, I pay for my own health care because I'm self-employed, and the premiums on our non-group policy jumped 28% last October. I also only have whatever retirement funds I've been able to sock away. But why in God's name would I wish this on other people? As a self-employed person, part of my job is to tend to my own business (and my compensation, such as it is). But I want my children to be in the hands of people who are focusing entirely on them, and not worrying about their health care or retirement instead. And yes, I'm willing to pay for that. But apparently I'm not allowed to.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 11:21 p.m.

Lisa, I am sorry we never will agree. Your arguments revolve around entitlement to xxx. good luck


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:47 p.m.

AlphaAlpha - Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately the answer is no. AAPS in its wisdom mixed Principals and Custodians in the same line for salary and mixed them again for benefits. Is it impossible to truly untangle them. I have an idea, since they finally provided the salary cost for this article. I am going to try it, but I am not sure that it will yield a valid number. According the AAPS easy access budget the total number of custodians is 127 (based on the building by building count) According to this article the total current cost of Custodians is $6,995,697 for salary, benefits and retirement. According to the user friendly budget the Salary of all the custodians, maintenance folks and others is about $6.44 million and benefits are about 3.83 million - so salary is about 62 percent of the total employee cost. Given that - with 127 employees and 6.955 million total cost per employee is $55,084 (average) and that means salary is about $34,152. State mandated retirement is about $6830 per employee paid by the school. That would make the benefits about $14,100 per year per employee paid by the school. There are lots of flaws in this process - is 127 the right number of people? Is the $6,955697 all the money including overtime? Is there extra money for HR buried in the number? I can not give you a correct answer because AAPS, unlike other local districts does not provide that level of detail. All - I do however arrive at an interesting fact - the cost of Building Administration (subtracting the Custodian number is not the 12.3 million they claim but rather it is closer to $26 million ( the total salary and benefits for Custodians, Principals, Secretaries is $33 million if you take the building by building and add it up for all buildings and if you subtract the 6.9 million for Custodians from that you get the $26 million) - If there are other people in that number (Steve ball is in your court) I don't see it in the write ups. The table includes Technical Assistance, Other Support Services - Regular Education and Other Support Services - Special Education in this category, but when totaled across the buildings they account for less than 40 people out of a total of more than 170 (49 Principals, 76 office professionals). I don't see how the 40 people can account for more than $14 million in difference between page 21 "School Administration" and the total across buildings minus the now public Custodian figures. Also for those of you who call outsourcing a slippery slope - I will point you to pages 34 to 36 in the user friendly budget where AAPS lists the same set of outsourcing decisions for 2009-2010 that were in the 2002 budget. So AAPS has not changed much in the way of outsourcing since 2002. I note that Food Service is not in either the 2002 or the 2009 table.

Lisa Starrfield

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:21 p.m.

Braggslaw, There is nothing wrong with making a profit nor is there anything wrong with earning a decent paycheck, having health care and a pension. Why do you support one and not the other? Those folks with the pensions will be your neighbors, the people buying things in our stores, the parents of our students. Their pensions will benefit our communities eventually. On the other hand, if you privatize, the people making the profit are somewhere else, sitting on their behinds doing nothing but praising themselves for their brilliance of taking money from the working man. This is no different than outsourcing. It is simply a transfer of wealth from many working class people to a very few wealthy. This country was founded on profit, absolutely. But it was founded, not as a free nation but as colonies to make a profit for England, or at least the Crown and its chosen few. The sweat of those colonialists made a meager living for themselves and a huge source of profit for their taskmasters.

The Grinch

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

"There is nothing wrong with making a profit, that is what this country was founded on" Yes, I'm certain that the Declaration of Independence specifically recognizes the need for corporate profit: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the creation of profits for corporate robber barons. Yeah--I knew it was in there somewhere.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

Lisa, I don't know if you live in Cuba or North Korea. Capitalism, Markets etc. create the wealth that is taxed. In most cases (not all) private companies are more efficient than public union driven enterprises. As a taxpayer I want the most bang for the buck. The right to choose bidders will empower the administrators to pick the highest quality services rather than being bound to a union contract. There is nothing wrong with making a profit, that is what this country was founded on.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

DonBee - You have generously run many many numbers with respect to school finances. Do you know what the total average annual compensation is for some of the job categories discussed here? It would be good to have some numbers for reality checking. Thank you.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:18 p.m.

@Lisa, I am reminded of a broken 78 rpm record that just repeats itself time after time after time. Profits are what every private and public company must achieve to stay in business. You make it seem that profits are a bad thing. You are 100% beholden to these companies, for without them there would be no public schools and you would not have a job. Regarding the bidding process. Most bids ( where busing,landscaping or food service) are for 2 to 3 years and are locked in on price. These companies cannot raise the prices they charge after just one year. Then after their contract runs its course, the school district would rebid the business all over again. Vitually 100% of the time the new contracts come in lower or no higher than the previous contract because those locked out the last go around are hungry to secure the business. I know this is a foreign concept to you folks in the public sector but that is the way it is. It works well for containing costs and bringing value to those purchasing the product or products. In this case, the buyers are the taxpayers!!!

Lisa Starrfield

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:55 p.m.

Privatization is a mistake. No matter what the initial bid, these companies are in it to make money and will increase their profits as soon as they are able. Why is it acceptable for someone in a corporate office to make a fortunate off school districts and tax payer dollars but its not okay for a bus driver or janitor to have a pension? The school district privatized the cafeteria a few years ago. The quality of the food has gone down significantly while the price has gone up. It's a damn shame what they did to our cafeteria workers and some have left. Our head custodian at Clague does a fine job just like all of his peers I have had the pleasure of working with. He works hard, interacts with the kids, and does his best to take care of the staff. He cleans up after lunch, three times a day, and breakfast too. He clears off the sidewalks when it snows and dries the floors at the entrance when they are slick with snow or rain from kids shoes. He moves furniture bringing extra desks when the new student enrolls. He cleans up your kid's vomit. He has had to clean up the feces left in inappropriate places. Yet god forbid he get a pension.

Alan Benard

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:54 p.m.

Do not privatize. Reform school financing first. Repeal Prop. A first. Change the retirement and healthcare plans first. What is good for communities, education and children is stability. I want my children to know the bus driver's name and the custodian's name.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:52 p.m.

Angela Smith - All employees and subcontracted (e.g. outsourced employees) who come in contact with children have to have background checks. Seems to me there was an article a year or two ago that said AAPS had missed some background checks (David Jessie - Can you confirm this please?). State law has a set of rules for what a Bus Driver has to know to drive a bus, they are on the state website. I did not go digging in (the last time I did I got hammered for misreading part of what was there), but it should only take you a couple of minutes to find it if you are interested. If the EpiPen is not there, then you can ask Liz Brater to make it part of a law. @Katie - Enron was a criminal enterprise, most companies are not. If you put all the companies in the world in the Enron box, then nothing would work at all and everything would be too expensive to buy. There are 3 or 4 good books on how evil Enron was - not just to employees. Steve Norton, MIPFS - We do not know what the state is going to do with the pension system for state employees. It may be that people who can not buy enough years to vest are going to lose it all anyway. No one knows what the Governor will get for her efforts yet. Don't bet that not privatizing will save anyone's pension. Given the NPR story today, I don't think Michigan has much of a choice. alarictoo - If we had kept the prior funding plans for schools, AAPS would be better off, but the rest of the county and much of the state would be worse off. Would it be good to have the only school in the county that was in good shape? Would that attract jobs and home buyers? Think carefully on this. The state has seen revenue fall 43% but the cut in the AAPS budget is less then 4 percent of the total budget for 2009-2010. If we look at the decline in property values in the district, and we were purely property tax funded the schools would have had more revenue in the last 3 to 4 years, and been used to spending more, meaning that the drop in revenue from property tax would have lead to the same kinds of issues we have now - only maybe from a higher threshold, but it still would have hurt. The state has done better at holding the line on K-12 schools than any other part of the state budget. Sorry, but total funding in the state for schools (all revenue sources) has truly exceeded inflation every year but 2009-2010. If you don't believe me, then please post some numbers (which Steve still owes me from the earlier post). All - As to privatization - if I have to choose from the options on the table, the more we can focus money on the classrooms and teaching students the better. That means cuts need to come from elsewhere. I notice that the one area that seems the most out of whack with surrounding districts (and I can not prove it because of the way the building budgets were done) is the cost of building administration and district administration. Want to save a million dollars and have little impact on students - cut each high school to 1 principal and hire one counselor to work the discipline issues. Much more cost effective and we would let a dozen administrators go to other districts that need principals. Then we can go after the cabinet for the Superintendent - I suspect we could reduce that by 30 to 50 percent too. Again my supposition, I can not back this with facts, even though I have tried.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:21 p.m.

What Ann Arbor fails to realize is this. If we privatize? Transportation will loose nearly half of its most experienced drivers to early retirement already being offered to them. The ones really care about these chldren. Most of the drivers currently have 20 plus years of experience and most are eligible to retire. If this happens? The privatized company is going to have to hire enough drivers to complete all the runs. But I hate to say it, with fights that occur on the bus, back talk and a lot of other fun things that happen? I really don't see a private driver willing to put up with the guff that goes on here. Pelzer put it bluntly, fly by nite private drivers only out for a buck. Plus what about holding children responsible? Drivers drive and keep the peace. We write up children who violate the rules. Will the private company help out the driver who is having troubles? Or throw them under the bus to be replaced by another driver who is only there for the pay? As for the learning epi pens? I highly doubt the private driver is going to put up with that. So think before you get nasty about unions. I work hard for what I do. If Ann Arbor privatizes? I too will be gone once our daughter leaves the AAPS system. Too bad AAPS is throwing good drivers under the proverbial bus.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 6:47 p.m.

Are not a few of these arguments similar to what we heard on previous issues: "Think of the children...." Yet when it came to teacher negotiations it turns out their pay was the big "issue". Now I hear "quality and safety of the children" again a major argument. Do we screen these employees here any more than a private company does? They do have reputations to maintain. Current AAPS employees involved in this issue have Cadillac health plans and Rolls Royce retirement plans (private pension contributions as high as one writer quoted???). With health care skyrocketing, guaranteed private pensions almost non-existent and replaced with 401K's in the real world...why are we paying taxes and taxes and more taxes and will be paying even more if we do not halt some costs where that can be done. Privatization will not harm the children, it will help AAPS "live within their means", or should that be "within our taxes". I do believe when food services was privatized, the same cafeteria employees were still covered with private pensions (state?) and the same health benefits. Many employees in other businesses are lucky to even have a 401K (especially in small business), and those with any employer contributions even a bigger luxury. Health care? Whoa! Now that would be a luxury. What percentage of their health care premiums are actually paid by these employees? Even every federal employee contributes 1/4 to 1/3 of their health care premium costs and have copays at every turn as I understand it. $20 to $40 on up co-pays for prescriptions, a percentage of the cost of a doctor's vist, etc. in most plans. How much of the premium do our AAPS employees pay toward their heath coverage?? How much of their pay do they contribute for/to this guaranteed retirement? I'd like to know this, and similarly for county and state employees. UofM has budget problems, but they are dependent on state taxes. We pay state taxes too and yet the University contributes 15% of most salaries to their 401K and the employee 10%. Wow - 25%! Still a super-duper retirement program. I for one am tired of more property taxes at every turn (where even a city income tax might bring some relief). We support these schools - not unions. I get no such luxuries working for a small business, but lucky me, I get to contribute to these benefits for those I "pay for". Amen!

Andrew Thomas

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 6:47 p.m.

A few odds and ends... It is my understanding that the RFP stated that background checks are required, and this will be spelled out in any contract that is signed. Same with safety training. So I don't think these are issues. The District plans to retain ownership of the buses for the very reasons many have stated -- if the buses are sold, the vendor would really have us over a barrel. The cost savings being cited in the article are ONLY those associated with privatization. So no, gas costs are not included. The District is also exploring some efficiency issues through realligning routes, etc. This is one reason the savings from privatization are lower than those originally shown -- privatization is only PART of the anticipated saving on transportation. Another advantage of privatization (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) is that the District will be able to ask the vendor for a different worker if there are problems or complaints regarding a particular worker. This avoids the whole process of progressive discipline, hearings, grievances, etc.

Lynn Lumbard

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 6:22 p.m.

I have read the article, but not all the comments, so this has probably already been pointed out. The lowest bidder, Durham, can save the district $840,00, but that bid doesn't include a route supervisor or the COST OF FUEL!!!! I would think the cost of fuel would be a large part of the transportation budget.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 6:18 p.m.

It sounds as if the people who want to privatize are very angry. But it's not fair to blame unions for the state of the economy. I've been a union worker for 35 years in Ann Arbor, and a homeowner who always votes for millage hikes to support the schools. I happily raise my own taxes, even though I don't have kids, because I know how important a good school system is. As others have mentioned, the financial benefit will be short-lived, private companies raise their rates dramatically once they're the only game in town. That is, once the school buses are sold. Bus drivers and custodians have families to support, if their benefits are cut they may leave Ann Arbor to find somewhere cheaper to live. Not great for our real estate market, but more importantly, not great for our neighbors and friends who are loyal workers.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

The OMA lets them go closed door because of the legal issue and the possibility of negotiating a labor contract. That is the prudent thing to do and the right thing. i don't think the person, or organization, who will be on the other side of the courtoroom should be able to sit in on these discussions.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 3:35 p.m.

It'd not a Union issue...60% of property taxes goto AAPS, property taxes have gone way down, they get less money.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

If the pay and health benefits are the same for employees transferring over than where are these companies saving money that the present administration can't save to. It becomes apparent that it's not the union that's causing the problem based on the article and bids provided. These other companies are bidding less but keeping the present employess at present pay.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

One of the points that came up in our area meeting was the fact that custodians and bus drivers are also parents. If they cannot afford to live in Ann Arbor, they will take their children elsewhere. As a property manager in one of Ann Arbor's lower income neighborhoods, I would agree with this. Working and poor people come to Ann Arbor to have their kids in the schools. That is the number one reason people move into this working/poor neighborhood.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 1:55 p.m.

@ Deb Mexicotte Why are the discussion needs to take place in a session closed to the pubic????


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 1:43 p.m.

It should be noted that Susan Basket has been well funded by Union money in her run for her Board of Education position, as noted in other news articles and pertinent to this particular decision.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

1. Robert Allen says if we take the lowest bid custodion would save 1,000,000 the lowest bid maintenance would save 500,000. When this started in Dec. they expected to save 2.500,000 what happened? 2.The custodians and maintenances not all, but a lot of workers do extra, we have pride working for the school. If we are privatived we will not feel like doing the extra. why should we do it.

John Q

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

"What's wrong with people making a decent wage with benefits." There's nothing wrong with it. But there's a lot of angry right-wingers who hate unions, blue collar workers and anyone they see as below them who are getting pay and benefits they don't believe those people are entitled to get. There's a few phony liberals who secretly hold the same view. With the bad economy, they see this as a golden opportunity to kick these people down into place and they are gleefully kicking away.

Patti Smith

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

Why are people so angry at unions? Why aren't people angry at the folks at the "top" of the pay scale (CEOs, etc...yes, I know there aren't CEOs in schools but still) where corruption is rampant? I've noticed that people often seem to be angry at the wrong things and this is no exception. Personally, the only time I was anti-union was when I wasn't in one and was jealous of those who were. Thanks to unions (UAW, specifically), my dad made a great living, I got to go to college/grad school and he has a great retirement. Thanks to my union (American Federation of Teachers), I know that I have a job even when my principal is in a crappy mood. I worked in the private, non-union sector of law and it was protection, no security and you literally could be fired for anything. Of course I was jealous of those who were in a union! And I'm sure I sounded like some of the anti-union folks on here. And thanks to the folks who are shining the light on for-profit charter schools. I've said it before and I'll say it again--go see their rosters on Count Day and then go look the day will find special needs kids, "behavior problems" and the like have been shown the door. Disgusting. *That's* what I'm angry about...not the unions. PS: And before anyone starts...I'm on Winter Break this week so I'm not slacking at my union job;)


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

While I think unions can still serve a purpose, It is actions like theis that really hurt their credibility.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

save the $!!! Privatize.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

Aren't school districts only required to transport special education students?? Why don't we just make parents responsible for transporting their students to and from school everyday?? That would surely save a lot of money!! Do that on a county wide basis and see how fast a millage will pass. In Japan, school students stay after school for an hour every day to clean their own schools, maybe we should consider this too.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

The building I work in is the size of a high school and we have a private cleaning crew and about only 10% speak english, they have a big turnover because their employer treats them like dirt and the building suffers.....wish we had in house employees here!!


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

I was a "union" worker for 20+ years and I hated the sense of entitlement and lazyness it created in the minds of my " union brothers and sisters, yeah right". Wake up people the union experiment didn't work.

Chris Blackstone

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:41 a.m.

Although this is obvious, it's worth stating because some of the commenters seem to believe the opposite. Hiring staff from a private company does not mean staff will be untrained and incompetent. A private employer can just as easily hire and retain qualified personnel as can a public employer. In fact, one could argue that a private employer can more easily hire and retain qualified personnel. People have to understand that cutting $14-$18 million from the budget is no trivial endeavor. There will be some hard and painful cuts. Hopefully this will provide AAPS an opportunity to explore new ideas, like a Language Immersion school which I can just about guarantee will draw in new students. I worked for a public school district in Virginia that had 2 Spanish Immersion Schools that consistently had to turn away students.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

When the company signs the contract what they pay now may "be the same now" but could start going down, ask the lunch workers. One other thing, a lot of the custodian, maintenance, bus drivers stay here until we retire. We learn to deal with different things that happen. Will private workers do this?

Steve Borgsdorf

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:35 a.m.

I do not support privitization of bus drivers. AAPS busing is an area of quality and competence, and the drivers are folks who are in contact with the students daily. Privatization yields $800,000 in lower upfront costs, but what did we lose by buying the discount service? I think AAPS becomes more likely to have a major catastrophe with "privatized" bus drivers, and a lawsuit over a crash or assault on a student would likely cost more than $800,000 to resolve. Penny wise, pound foolish.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:31 a.m.

In privatizing you lose, straight and clear! I speak from experience! I watched and was involved in such a process on numerous levels, and it just does not work! First; you lose control at all levels of operation, cost rise after the initial Honeymoon Period after the new contractors have shown they are indeed doing the work for less! Also, as I read the comments from the union president Mr. Darryl Wilson, for the maintenance and custodial workers in one of the readers comments, I think I understand his statement concerning what you lose. Typically/initially, the present worker is held only for the period it takes the privatization company to honor the contract between the issuing companies, in this case the Ann Arbor school system and privatization company. The current employees are soon replaced by the privatizing companys workers. The new employees are unknown to the system and also have little to no training in the area, and more so no experience, they are just someone that works for and is known by the contractor, in most cases, personally with no ties to the community. Presently; there are contractor(s) that are currently (Limited), in the Ann Arbor School system with contacts and even relational ties to the bidding process. You notice the lack of professionalism, pride, quality of workmanship, knowledge and most of all the concern for the people and property from these people! There is more to this bidding process than just saving money for the district! Board member; please, I urge you to look pass the numbers and limited gains, please ask the questions! From experience, these quick gains will not last!


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

What's wrong with people making a decent wage, with benefits. A strong middle class is the sign of a healthy society. Just curious where all this anger over unions and teacher pay is coming from. The unions and the public schools created many of the privledges we enjoy in this country. Personally I think I get a very good value for my taxes, it's a great country. Charter schools are just a canard for a way of selecting certain students and getting rid of those that may have special needs.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:20 a.m.

A couple of things to keep in mind... When AAPS first threw the idea of privatizing transportation and custodial/maintenance services into the mix they presented the cost savings as being in the area of 4 to 4.5 million dollars. Now, the lowest bidders are showing us slightly more than half of that (minus any hidden costs that come back to bite us in the...). In the words of Cuba Gooding, Jr.: "Show me the money!" Secondly, with all of the "sound and fury" being posted here, we are still not addressing the root issue. The process, legislation, and legislature which is supposed to be providing for the education of our students, and building Michigan's future just is not cutting it! Steve Norton posted an excellent rundown on how Proposal A is not working for us back on January 14. With props to Steve, here it is: "Just a note on the share of taxes that stay in AAPS: Of the 6 mill State Education Property Tax on all property, which goes to Lansing, we get back about 38% of what we pay. The 18 mills on commercial property, and the 4+ mills on homestead (the "hold harmless" millage), stay local. But they are the expected local contribution to our funding. The state assumes we raise that much, and pays for the difference up to our foundation allowance. Right now, we get about half of our foundation allowance from the state, with half covered by local taxes. Not counted in all this, and very difficult to track, is the huge amount that we pay in to the state School Aid Fund in the form of most of the sales tax, more than a third of the income tax, the real estate transfer tax, and so on. We probably get at best 38% of this back. Why? Because the rest of the money goes to equalize funding to districts across the state, and to pay for charters. Michigan voters chose this system in a statewide referendum in 1994 (Proposal A) and much of it was enshrined in the state constitution. (The proposal included constitutional amendments.) Changing the system will not only take action in Lansing, but will require another state-wide referendum to amend the constitution. People voted for Prop A because it promised to cut property taxes (it did) and to equalize school spending (it has, somewhat - mostly by holding down funding for districts like Ann Arbor). People also thought that this would mean more money would be available for schools overall. That has NOT happened, at least not enough to keep up with costs. So districts across Michigan are fighting over a shrinking pie, the size of the pie being determined by tax policy set in 1994. Just another example of the old saw: be careful what you wish for, because you might get it." Does anyone else believe that there is a critical problem when the state pays 6 times more (on average) to house a prisoner than it does to educate one of our children? So, now the real question for us is: How many of us are spending as much time writing and/or calling our state and local representatives to raise hell about this situation as we are posting here on


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

The first year or two of savings will be great. Then when the contracts expire those employees that were transfered and hired by the winning bidder will be forced to take a pay cut or find a new job. What will the private company then charge the school system to continue the services they provide after expiration of the contract? Will the school system sell the buses to the private company as part of the bid to privatize? Should they do that the school system will be at the total mercy of any private company, forced to pay thier price or start all over again. What guarantee do the parents have that a private company will run background checks on the employees they hire. After all background checks are expensive and time consumming and these are for profit companies. Be an easy to avoid it and save time and money. For all of you involved in union bashing remember it takes two sides to agree to a contract and if the administration agrees to pay employees more and give the employees better benefits it is only to justify why the adminstrators need more money and better bebnfits.

Angela Smith

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 10:07 a.m.

As a parent, I ask: Will background checks be performed on all of these employees? Will the bus drivers be trained in emergency matters, like use of Epipens for severely allergic children?

DaLast word

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

DO IT! Then move on to the teachers!!!


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

If the private companies don't have to pay into the state retirement system, does that mean that the employees would no longer be covered by any kind of retirement plan? I know when they privatized substitute teachers they were no longer a part of the state retirement system - teaching days as a sub no longer counted toward the years of teaching needed to earn retirement. So the districts saved money, but screwed the subs. Will that be happening to bus drivers and custodians also?


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

with bussing,you might save for a couple of years and then your trapped. if the district wants to do it's own bussing again there will be worn out or no busses or staff. what would the start up costs be?


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

Ardis, You may ask. My answer is "what the market will bear" My employer does not employ me out of the goodness of his/its hear, my employer employs me because he needs me and he can find no better skill set for the price.

Susie Q

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

Public school employee groups will find it difficult to agree to concessions now because they are waiting to see what concessions will be imposed on them by the state. There are proposals in Lansing now that would cut pay by 5% and require a 20% co-pay of insurance premiums. These two items would result in probably a wage cut of at least 7-8%. Once the folks in Lansing get their chopping down, then it will be time for the local districts to make their decisions. Also, the AAEA DOES NOT represent any administrators or principals. The principals and some administrators are represented by AAAA (Ann Arbor Administraor's Association).


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Ardis, What is a member of the working class? I grew up in a 700 square foot home, paid for my college, paid for my grad school etc. I lived in a shoebox while in school and ate rice and potatos with an occasional pound of ground turkey. My friends in highschool got bad grades, partied, got drunkr, didn't goto college and then when to work in factories, as janitors etc. all unionized. So you tell me who the working class really is.

Diego Amor

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

Privatization doesn't have to mean union busting--there's no reason employees can't organize within the private sector. In fact, some labor actions such as strikes can be easier if the employer is private. The key question there is providing a legal framework in which unions and employers have equal ability to persuade workers as to what is in their best interests. In reading over the comments so far, I am struck by the extent to which many of the arguments would be muted by either universal health insurance or a better national pension system (or both). Many of the industrialized nations have reduced or eliminated this type of problem by ensuring that their citizens will be able to obtain health care and will have access to a dignified retirement.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

Let us do the same with the Educators themselves. Charter schools is the way, cut the benefits this is the time for education to win, no Unions are necessary!


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.

To compare private and charter schools to a public school is plain stupid. Private and charter schools pick and choose who they accept. Those that are special needs, or can;t get a ride because their parents work odd hours, or kids who are not your typical suburban child will always make their numbers higher. The real testis when you have to educate EVERYBODY. If any of these services are privatized who do you think has final say on hiring, and firing? If the custodians unionized and went on strike, the private company brings in outside people to do the job. If the private company hires somebody that is inappropriate who do you turn to for relief? There is also the fact that when you privatize something,t he private company is PURELY profit driven. If after the contract expires and they do not make enough money, what happens when they decide, we won't bid on future contracts with these mandatory wages and benefits.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

Did you say a savings of 2.4 Million? We knew this years ago. But of course the School Board would rather bilk more money from the taxpayers. If the School Board doesn't do something this sensible and are so beholden to the unions rather than the taxpayers, then they should all be recalled. By the way, also privatize the cafeteria responsibilities. I don't think a private company wants to poison our kids.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:10 a.m.

Not quite spelled out in the story is the fact that, while the base bids were required to offer current employees the same pay and "comparable" medical benefits, the district has not completed a review to see if the health benefits are truly "comparable." The presentation on custodial and maintenance privatization made it clear that bidders were including benefits packages that had a huge range of costs - these can't all be comparable. The bidders' costs minus benefits were quite similar. Unfortunately, the current AAPS costs were not broken out into benefits vs. other costs, so it was hard to compare the bids to our current costs. I, too, hear a lot of anger at unions - and also some unfortunate disdain for custodians and bus drivers, the blue collar workers in our district. Remember that our kids are not encapsulated in classrooms, and that the educational experience has to be put together by a large team, which is not limited to teachers. Moreover, unions are not the main problem here. Nearly all the savings in the base bids comes from moving these employees out of the state retirement system (MPSERS). Mandatory contributions to that system currently stand at 17%, and are set to climb. These are the district's costs; employees must also contribute. MPSERS is administered by the state under rules set by the state legislature. It is not subject to bargaining in union contracts. Moreover, the contributions are not being saved in private accounts - that's the amount needed to keep the system solvent. Employees who are not close enough to "buy" enough years to vest in the system will lose everything if privatized. MPSERS benefits are not portable if you leave public school employment. Of course, MPSERS is in serious trouble, and if I were an employee covered by it right now, I would be very worried about whether it would be solvent when it came time for me to retire. The contributions the district has been making are not saved for when employees retire; they are going out the back door to pay for current benefits for retirees and to shore up the assets of the system which have been hammered by turmoil in the markets. But as the governor's proposal shows, any attempt to switch to a defined contribution system requires yet more money, because you have to keep covering current retirees while allowing current employees to keep their money in individual accounts. Where will this money come from?


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:59 a.m.

In privatization, someone needs to maximize profit. We will add another layer to the system this way. The private sector has big business hiring cheaply and training poorly. Just look at the Walmarts or Home Depots that have put the local hardware stores out of business in small towns across America. Do you get better quality there? Can you go in to those stores with a plumbing part and have someone you know advise you on how to fix your faucet and get the right part for you? With our kids, we don't want the cheapest service so someone can maximize profits. Do you want a high turnover in your bus drivers? Then the company responsible bears the liability if there's a tragedy. It's likely built in to their "cost of doing business." Schools are not businesses. That doesn't mean they can't be efficient. Businesses are efficient for one purpose, to make a profit for the stockholders. I don't want people making a profit on my tax dollars. I want good services. I knew a teacher who tried to work in a for-profit school. It was a joke. A very sick joke because of the conditions of the kids and the teachers. Is this another attack on people's pensions? First the businesses like Enron cheated people out of their pensions. Now it's the greedy businesses that don't want people in the public sector to have them. Certain lawmakers have been after the teacher's unions for a long time both at the state and national levels. This is just another attack on these unions.

Sandy Castle

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

@Andrew Thomas - Thanks for actually reading the article. You are right on on this issue. Some people posting are either not reading the article or misstating what it says to benefit their position against privatization. When it comes down to cutting programs for children or privatizing I believe you'll find most people will vote to privatize. Same workers, same pay and benefits, sounds like a win-win situation to me. Who cares whether they are union or not? If you do your job well, you'll be fine regardless and if you don't...hit the road, Jack.

Delete Please

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

Mugsy: my intuition tells me that many of these commenters are neither members of the working class, nor parents with children in schools. Interestingly, many blue collar individuals aren't able to be in front of a computer screen all day, checking online news sites and blogs. I miss their points of view in these discussions.

Andrew Thomas

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

@ aataxpayer: I don't understand why you think there will be a dramatic increase in turnover as a result of privatization, given that current AAPS employees will be offered jobs at the same pay and similar health benefits. The only thing they would be giving up would be a fully-funded pension plan -- which many people believe they should not have in the first place. Michigan's unemployment rate is around 15%. There simply are not many jobs out there for drivers, custodians and maintenance workers, certainly not with fully-paid pension plans. So I don't see excessive turnover as much of an issue. When the district privatized food services a few years ago, there was very little turnover among the lunch supervisors.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

Wow. Do you union-haters realize all of the things that unions have done for you as citizens? Like provided you the 40-hour work week, health insurance, ended child labor, established fair pay, provided just cause to workers and more? Unions didn't cause the mess we're in and privatization is only going to save money the first year. Bus drivers, custodians and other support staff often live in the community where they work - which means their money is spent in our local community. Think about the devastating effect it will have on our local economy if we put people out of work in order to get cheaper labor. Why are we WalMarting our schools? Wake up and realize that you get what you pay for. I'd much rather have my kids with current support staff than strangers. The idea that they will keep all the same employees is a myth. Privatization = union-busting. That's all this is about.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

Will these new companys cover the bus Monitors also or is that something else not covered? Ma bear


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

I am a member of the "working class" and I think unions need to disappear just like the coal fired steam engines. Unions protect lazy workers, them dumb down "independant thinking" and "hard work" because there is no incentive to work harder or do better because you are not rewarded for doing such. But I am off topic, this is about saving money and any privatization that can save a significant amount of money should be implemented. I couldn't care less if a bus driver or custodian works for a private company, actually it is better because if the worker is substandard, they are easier to fire and replace. If the unions don't want to get replaced then they need to take cuts to all pay and benies that equals the amount saved by privatizing.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:26 a.m.

Ardis....I agree that it is the government. At all levels. but public schools ARE the government. My property is taxed to provide school service. All I ask is that the money is spent to give the best possible service for the money I contribute. It is interesting that the assumption that these will not be government jobs equals the assumption that they will be non-union. Unions have shrunk as a part of the private sector while growing in the public sector. The essential struggles of the Union to protect workers from predatory practices by employers has been largely won and structured into the law. AAtaxpayers comments reflect this. Professionals were never treated to these predatory practices. But in Government service they are Unionized to provide shelter from competition. The City of Ann Arbor has Teamster SUPERVISORS! The bosses have a Union. The Police Department has a Union for the Comman officers (Middle management)and Union Deputy Chiefs (Upper management) and the Teachers Union also represents Principals and other Administrators. These should be competitive, performance based positions.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

No, no, and no to privatizing any aspect of school employees. The bus drivers and custodians play an extremely important role in the lives of the children. Will all of those who presently work with the systems be rehired, that is not always the case. And to contract out these positions, how much money does it cost? This companies are not doing it for just the love of it.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

Why aren't we looking at the contracts of Para Pro & other support staff to our district if we are looking @ all the rest of this staffing issue. I do not believe any of these companys will hire all of our present staff and if they do I think those folks would begin at entery level pay rather than their experience level pay.I am especially concerned about the drivers they would hire to take our Special Needs kids back and forth. What would their training levels be for those jobs? Think before we jump into a snake pit. Ma Bear


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:13 a.m.

My instant concern as a parent is: are these privatized workers going to meet the same standards that are placed on Ann Arbor public school employees? Will these individuals be good to our children?

Delete Please

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:09 a.m.

Awakened, and others: something that feels to me to be a common thread here and elsewhere, when we talk about jobs, children, unions, is frustration, sometimes anger, which I appreciate, as a worker with children. May I suggest, respectfully, we remember that it's our government who is responsible for these crises in economy and education. I understand that unions, at this late point in the trauma, are the focus of many citizens' ire. I believe it is even more crucial that now we reflect on what has got our economies on their knees, and take our anger to our legislators, rather than vent it against our workers.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:57 a.m.

Private schools and charter schools have a record of providing excellent education at a reasonable cost. When Public Schools do this I'll be willing to buy the Union arguement in this case. And I have been a Union worker all my life. But failure is not something you reinforce. I had to train a Pioneer Graduate a few years ago. We had to let him go. He could not write a sentence properly and could barely read the manuals. He had been passed from grade to grade without being held to any standard. He went to WCC to take english classes and in a couple of years he was able to get a great job with another firm. We lost a wonderful young man to low expectations. Yes. He was one of the African-American kids in AAPS's chronic gap. This whole system of funding and bureaucracy has to change.

Delete Please

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

But how will the kids be doing when their schools are cleaned by persons with no job security, their buses are driven by someone employed by a low-paying corporation in Ohio, and their classes taught by teachers who are forced to perform and compete and show numbers in an environment that is more marketplace than refuge of learning?


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

AAPS Board has a fudiciary responsibility to tell the union to meet it or beat it. The gap is significant and must be closed. Transporatation and custodial services is not core to AAPS or any school district. REMEMBER: It's about the kids NOT union sweet heart contracts!


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:43 a.m.

Bids should also be solicited for privatization of teachers. Same arguments for outsourcing of custodians and bus drivers should apply. Instead of attempting to simply maintain status quo perhaps sufficient savings could be acheived so as to lower class sizes?

Delete Please

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.

Braggslaw: "I am not willing to pay taxes for cradle to grave benefits for bus drivers and janitors." May I ask why not, when janitors are cleaning the buildings your children are in all day, and bus drivers are safely conveying them to and from school? Unions were meant to protect workers. Can you imagine our working class without them? If you can, I reckon you are not a member of the working class.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:18 a.m.

Public schools were not created to provide jobs for unions. Public schools were created to educate kids, let's not forget that. I am not willing to pay taxes for cradle to grave benefits for bus drivers and janitors. The budget needs to be cut and this would seem one of the most promising areas to cut.

Delete Please

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:06 a.m.

School board members: I passionately urge you [i]not[/i]to privatize any aspect of your public education system. Look for ways to save and streamline and be more efficient, yes. But once started, history shows, privatization will spread like kudzu. Working class families are the very ones all of us Michiganders should be fighting to protect at this moment in time. If you do vote to privatize custodial, maintenance, and buses, will you one day consider privatizing teachers? Heaven forbid. Although this is precisely the unstated intention of the for-profit charter movement. Let's let our leaders know that it's not the military industrial complex that needs our billions, it's our public school systems.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 7:03 a.m.

The story represents another excellent example of why we need more truth and clarity when discussing compensation levels. Total compensation is the true cost of an employee, and is the only significant metric we should use in these discussions. Simply quoting salary or base pay is misleading. Total compensation = total cost.