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Posted on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

'Tough reductions' needed as Ann Arbor schools face projected $15 million budget deficit, officials say

By Kyle Feldscher

Ann Arbor Public Schools face a $15 million structural budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year, interim Superintendent Robert Allen said in a presentation Wednesday.

Speaking to the Ann Arbor Board of Education, Allen said the cuts to K-12 education from Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget, an increased retirement rate and contractual and legal obligations all contribute to the deficit.

The projection assumes the special education millage renewal on the ballot for May 3 passes. If voters were to reject the millage renewal, the deficit would increase to about $21 million, Allen said.

The district could expect to see cuts, Allen said.


Robert Allen

File photo

“Our deficit for next year will be approximately $15 million if we took no steps to make reductions,” he said. “The impact on our fund balance would take it from about $19.6 million to less than $5 million in one year. It’s crucial for us to make extremely tough reductions at this point in time.”

Allen will make a detailed presentation of the situation the district is facing at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Pioneer High School. The district plans to have a budget approved by early June.

In his budget proposal released in February, Snyder proposed a $300 per pupil cut to K-12 education funding, on top of the $170 per pupil cut from the previous fiscal year. Increased retirement costs of about $230 per pupil mean school districts in the state of Michigan are facing what is, in effect, a negative impact of about $700 per pupil. AAPS currently receives about $9,500 in per pupil funding.

Allen emphasized his belief that it is impossible for a school district to cut its way out of a deficit that large. He said the district has come up with a number of creative ways in the past few years to balance the budget, citing the district’s cap on health care and work with employee unions. He said the Ann Arbor Education Association agreed to give back $4.4 million to the district last year.

“You cannot cut your way out of a structural deficit. You have to change the structure,” he said. “There has to be changes on the revenue side or there has to be changes on the expenditure side. As we move forward, if there are no changes at the state level, unfortunately, the school district can’t look the same any more.”

Allen noted the district’s pension system is one reason costs were rising. He said the district has a defined benefit pension system, as opposed to the defined contribution system many private sector employers use.

He said the contribution system allows employers to control costs more readily because each employer only purchases what benefits it can afford. However, with defined benefits, the school district is forced to adjust to costs of the benefits it has already agreed to provide.

“With more and more people moving out of the state, there are less workers contributing but you still have to support the same number of people benefiting from the plan,” he said.

The discussion of K-12 funding at the state level quickly worked trustees into a fervor.

Trustee Glenn Nelson said Snyder and Republicans in Lansing have targeted education as a means to balance the state budget.


Glenn Nelson

Nelson said state government needs to cover a $1.3 billion budget shortfall and Snyder’s plan to install a flat 6 percent corporate income tax, which would amount to about $1.7 billion.

By making cuts to education, both in the School Aid Fund and to higher education, and by taxing pension funds and other personal income taxes, Snyder found the money to allow for his business tax cut, Nelson said.

“It’s finding the money in children and the elderly to finance a huge business tax cut,” Nelson said. “Speaking as one who has started taking some pension money, if it was for K-12 education, if it was for higher education, if it was for Medicaid, I would support it and support it gladly.”

Allen and trustees discussed various ways to raise revenue outside of increased state funding but came to the conclusion that nothing could truly fix the budget problem other than changes at the state level.

In his presentation, Allen suggested doing more to increase enrollment and working more with the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation to raise private donations.

He said there are 1,274 students who live within AAPS boundaries and currently do not attend AAPS schools. School board president Deb Mexicotte pointed out that even if all those students decided to come to Ann Arbor schools, it would still not cover the projected structural deficit.

Trustee Christine Stead said there is an atmosphere for private giving in Ann Arbor, because businesses have a vested interest in AAPS doing well.


Deb Mexicotte

“I believe that because the success of public schools is so important to businesses and other people in our community that they would want to see us be successful,” she said.

While Mexicotte said she agreed with Stead, she said private giving would not solve any budget issues; change has to come from Lansing.

“The structural deficit will continue to eat at any additional revenue we bring in year after year after year,” she said. “We can’t cut our way out of a structural deficit, but we can’t privately fund our way out either.”

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

macjont - Assembly workers, engineers, and most private employees saw deep cuts in pay and benefits over the last decade. As a business owner, I am sure you were immune to these changes. After all class action lawsuits are at an all time high. Lawyers are rolling in dough. Your song should include union show stewards and politicians. Both make great money in the down economy have have retirement in the bag. No issues at all.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be TEACHERS Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

And you know what folks, mamas have been doing that for some time now. If you don't believe me, go to the medical school and law school graduations this spring and check out the number of talented women in those classes. (My son's law school class of two years ago, more than 350 in number, was better than 50% female.) In the days of the "glass ceiling," those young ladies used to become teachers. (My law school class of 1975 had no more than 10 women.) So what some people seem to advocating is making teaching less attractive as a profession than it is now. With the changes some people seem to want, good luck trying to lure talented people away from law and medicine into teaching. Good luck to your children and grandchildren.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

Folks, the schools belong to the community and we have to decide what we want them to be like. Schools don't belong to the governor or the teachers or the school board, administration, union, etc. They belong to us and it is our children and grandchildren who attend them. What do we want them to be like and how are we going to pay for it? What do we want our schools to do --- offer sports? music? theater? art? buses? All of these could very realistically disappear. Other countries with outstanding schools do not have the extra curricular programs that we do. How do we want this all to work? What do we want and how will we pay for it? Outstanding teachers are not going to work for low pay. Countries with outstanding schools pay their teachers well and hold them in high esteem. Instead of fighting and criticizing each other, let's make some real constructive suggestions. Perhaps it is time to cut sports from schools and offer them through other community or private organizations. Truthfully, the vast majority of high school athletes have years of private sports participation under their belt anyway. I think it is time to rethink and reorganize the athletic programs. That is at least a place to start.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

Tony - Ann Arbor teachers in particular, and teachers in Michigan in general are not poorly compensated. They are among the very best paid teachers in this country, when the local costs of living are adjusted for. The US average total teacher compensation is also very competitive with compensation for teachers in many countries that have significantly better educational outcomes than we do. I agree that it's time to re-think extra curriculars. I would love to see varsity sports in our public schools de-funded and turned, not to a pay-to-play model, but to a fully private one. Intramural sports and a physical education program focused on activities which can be pursued during the rest of one's life should be taught in gym classes. I would also like to see the competitive-entry music performance classes in our schools be required to seek private funding and meet outside school hours, unless Ann Arbor decides they need a performing arts magnet program like the one in Livonia. These activities are not central to a good education. We should save the money.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3:09 a.m.

"While Mexicotte said she agreed with Stead, she said private giving would not solve any budget issues; change has to come from Lansing." Sorry Deb, Lansing cannot print money like Washington DC does. It is time to get the unions to the table and get rid of the pensions, healthcare for life,retirement at the age of 52 and Cadillac healthcare along with step raises and 10-12 sick days a year, and "professional days", and "personal days" and all the other little special deals that suck money out of the taxpayers pockets. Good Day


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

Get up and walk away from the computer sometime, and see what's really happening in the places where people work to serve us and our families.. while continuing to pay their taxes. It's easy to criticize and ridicule what we know little about. Ignorance is blissful for haters. If you've never lived through a fire, maybe you don't know how much it means to have well prepared and dedicated firefighters, and the right number of firefighters there to save you and those you love. It means everything! If you've never had children, maybe you don't know what it's like in today's classrooms, and how children are learning and developing skills while working with committed teachers striving for continuous improvement. It means everything to the future of Michigan and our nation! If you've never driven over the E. Stadium bridge, maybe you don't know how it feels to pray that you'll miss the potholes and make it to the other side before it collapses. If you haven't recently had to pay college tuition, maybe you don't know how steeply the price has soared and the kind of debt that is incurred on students and families in the effort of seeking to become educated to serve. All of the tax dollars that are being loaded on the backs of our public servants, our poor, and our elderly will only serve to provide massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy . This is something one would expect to read about happening in a Third World nation, not the USA! Not in Michigan! Where is the outrage?!


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3:41 a.m.

Wonderin - I would grab a mirror, your anger and "Hate" come thru clearly in your post. Compromise and calm development of solutions is the only way out. If you don't like the current PROPOSED budget, start writing real letters and posting them to the members of the House and Senate. Make each one personal, not a form letter.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

Clearly some folks don't realize that teachers are taxpayers, too. Public servants pay the taxes that pay their salaries. It's not like they are exempt from paying taxes. Stop making up "facts" and deal with the fact that the economic problems of Michigan were not caused by public servants. The new tax dollars and financial burdens that will be placed upon the poor, and the elderly, and the bus drivers, janitors, teachers, firefighters, and police officers will NOT go to support our schools. They will NOT improve our roads. They will NOT help handicapped people. They will NOT provide health care for babies. They will NOT support hospitals. They will NOT provide early childhood education. They will NOT help Michigan's young people go to college. They will NOT help senior citizens, or do anything except provide massive tax breaks for corporations. Why is this not an outrage? Why is this massive tax break for corporations a good thing for Michigan? Why would anyone want to move here or teach here or raise families in Michigan? These are the darkest days Michigan has seen in a century, and with the new actions by a well-intended, misguided governor and legislature, even worse days lie ahead. Those who are gleeful about the suffering of those in public service really make me wonder. What do they want our country, our state, our city, and our neighborhoods to be like? Would they be happiest with no public services?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:25 p.m.

I will give you (whoever you are??) the same response that i give everytime the subject of money and the "Ann Arbor Public Schools"comes up..........if you want your child to go to a "special" school, then pay the tuition. Close "Community High School" first and then start looking at "Mack" and "Bach". I put my children through the private schools.....and paid for it. I'm tired of paying the "freight" for other tax payers!

say it plain

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

I don't see "Mack" (and with "Bach", do you mean how "Bach" *used* to be the Open School in AAPS?! Now it's "Mack", so I'm not understanding what "Bach" does that counts as 'extra freight' for your taxes?) as a drain on the AAPS operating budget at all. Community, however, can be argued much more readily to be an unfair use of AAPS resources. I love the idea of alternative education completely, but I see that the way CHS is run and filled makes it something slightly different really, and it should be the case that kids who go there do *not* use the resources of the comprehensive schools, because the program at CHS *does not* really provide some sort of reciprocal value for the rest of AAPS, imho, it merely allows a lucky group of kids to use all the good stuff about CHS and all the good stuff about all the other schools in AAPS. Now, to me, *that's* some serious extra 'freight', and isn't really of value to the community at large. I'd love to see AAPS meet all the demand for alternative, progressive especially!, education, but make it count as a commitment to a style of education and stop playing games with the system as it does with CHS, letting kids shuttle to AP classes and varsity sports which is of course, very very 'mainstream' indeed! My sense is that the lottery numbers at least at CHS would be rather reduced if people couldn't send their kids to sports and orchestra and AP at the 'regular' schools, and more AAPS district families could be served with the monies we collect. Then it wouldn't be 'special' schools so much as truly alternative...


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

Sorry Smoothie. The open school is actually cheaper than the standard schools.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

Isn't it funny how a $300.00 per pupil cut turns into a $700.00 cut in this article? Also, even a $700/student cut times 14,000 students would be 9.8 million - not 15 million. Note that about $230 of the $700 is an increase in teacher retirement costs. The fact is that teacher retirement costs are extremely high (at this point over 20% of salary), not affordable and needs a serious "structural change." Using $530/student as a more reasonable figure (since $170 of the $700 figure was already gone), it looks like we need to cut an additional 7.4 million dollars in operating expenses. Additional teacher concessions are in order (note we're paying an additional 3.2 million for teacher retirement funding this year), but the entire 7.4 million (about $6,800/teacher) cannot come from AAEA concessions. Get ready for much larger classes and program cuts unless something changes.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

They worked for it!


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

Kyle, We have to stop calling a $300 cut a $700 cut. The funny math ticks people off. The real reduction in operating expenses need to be 7.4 million, not 15 million.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

Kyle - The real cut is $300. The rest is budget issues that the district faces. No one is cutting the other $400 at the state level. Your story confuses the issue and gives the wrong impression. Yes, the shortfall is $700 per student, but only $300 of that is a current year cut.

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

aataxpayer - I thought I explained this in the story, but I will try again. The proposed budget from the governor proposes a new $300 per pupil cut. That is on top of the $170 cut from the last fiscal year, which will not be restored, but was expected to be by district officials. The increased retirement rates make up the final $230, as you have noted. As for the decrease in $700 per pupil not amounting to the full structural deficit, trustee Christine Stead noted in a previous meeting that the district was facing a structural deficit of between $4 million and $6 million. Here is that story <a href=""></a>

John Spelling

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

@ grye - Regrets I wasn't more clear on the &quot;Yes, these are children&quot; comment. I agree with your comments and said that to emphasize I recognize we are dealing with children. I believe that looking at this issue from a business perspective and the issues you raise don't have to be mutually exclusive. @ghost - Looking back I should have used &quot;restructuring&quot; instead of downsizing. An objective expert would look at how to do things differently, while charged with maintaining the basic core mission. It's time to truly think/look outside the box with everything on the table. Why can't an elementary principal manage two schools? Maybe former teachers are not the best suited for that position? Note - I participated in a principal selection committee for several schools once and was stunned at the low bar necessary to become manager of a school building. And of closing one of the high schools... I didn't say it right out but will now - Community HS could closed with those kids easily integrated at Skyline, Huron and Pioneer. Many of the CHS population already attend classes at the main high schools. No more hands-off Community HS. The closing and selling of that property should be seriously considered. Regarding defined-pensions, if they are mandated at the state level as you say, then school boards should be on Snyders doorstep working to get that changed. If it's a constitutional thing, the school boards should be demanding the governor and legislature get it on the ballot for a vote of the people. No more time here so good night.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

To Mick52, who states: The unions have to go (in all public service) and poor teachers need to get the boot. We need stronger unions both in the public service AND in private industry. With the rise of unions, we saw the rise of the middle class. With their demise, the middle class is in jeopardy. If administrators do their jobs, poor teachers never obtain tenure. And even with tenure, poor teachers can be fired --- with due process being the necessary requirement. Teachers' unions, as the one entity that concerns itself with improving teacher pay, benefits, and working conditions (including class size, which inures to the benefit of the community's children), work to maintain teaching as an attractive profession. With an absolute need to attract high quality people to the teaching profession and to keep them there, any reduction in pay, benefits or working conditions, or a weakening of the unions that maintain them, will make that already difficult task far more difficult, if not impossible.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

And they protect their high seniority jobs. If you are new to the AAEA, then you are probably going to get tossed under the bus this spring by the union.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Gosh, that is a lot of money. I get somewhat irritated when someone says something like this: &quot;Trustee Glenn Nelson said Snyder and Republicans in Lansing have targeted education as a means to balance the state budget,&quot; when they don't say where else the cuts could be made. If Mr. Nelson could offer up some other area of state spending, we could go ask those guys if they mind. Or he could. I have an odd feeling all other state funded agencies are complaining about how much the schools are getting under this budget. Since, &quot;an increased retirement rate and contractual and legal obligations all contribute to the deficit,&quot; I would say those who negotiated such are responsible for this, yet they seek a bailout from the state. It is interesting the the per pupil cost increase of the retirement system is almost the same as the per pupil cuts to the school. Start stuffing those lunch boxes with memos about how important this millage is. The school needs more parents at the polls than those who think they are already overtaxed.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

RayA2 - That would leave us with the same loopholes, tax subsidies, tax abatements and other special treatment. This year the change in the business taxes cost the state about $700 million ( 1.8 billion in not taxing gross receipts of small business - 1.1 billion in closing abatements, loopholes and special treatment). Next year the closed loopholes will bring in about 1.2 billion and each year it gets better. Taxes are simpler and there are way fewer ways to cheat. The same thing is happening on the personnel side, closing special interest loopholes. The Detroit Paper had a great article in it today.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

Easy, rescind the business tax cuts.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

Perhaps we will have to think more like Europeans... They typically don't have school athletic teams, they are community based teams, same with music, same with art. Eliminate bussing except where mandated for special education. The schools are here to educate our children, well with no financial backing and without the ability of a community to ask for more money due to our current funding methods, perhaps we need to see what our schools and communities will look like if totally stripped to the bones because it looks like that is where we are headed. On the other hand, I haven't heard much at all about increasing alcohol taxes, for example MIchigan had not increased the beer tax since the 60's and have an extremely low tax rate... how about bumping that up a bit and put that toward K-12 education??


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

Many rural districts in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland in my experience do indeed have busing. Unlike here, they run 1 bus in the morning to pick up all the students and 1 in the evening to take them home. AAPS sends 7 buses by my house twice a day - about 14 more than AATA does.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

I would agree except for the busing. Europeans live in much more compressed/dense areas. There is very good public transportation for getting to and from school. We are much more spread out and the school buses are critical. But, I totally agree with the sports and music. I have been really unhappy with both programs in AAPS high schools as they absolutely cater to privately trained athletes and musicians anyway. Let's just call it what it is and make them private.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

Consolidation is needed in and around Ann Arbor. The admininstrations of the districts in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti/Saline area need to develop a program to reduce their expenses through cooperation and consolidation before it is done for them and they are all out of jobs. I've been a public school teacher in another state with a student population more than twice the size of the Ann Arbor district. I must also say there is no justification in paying a superientendent $250k a year in a district the size of Ann Arbor. Act fast before the governor appoints emergency financial managers and replaces the school boards and admininstrations.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

And if the last contract is any indicator, the salary is just a piece of the compensation. Travel, conferences, moving expenses, any loss on the cost of the house, help with a mortgage, car allowance, retirement package, health care, elder care support, etc. will all be on the table for discussion. It would not surprise me if the total compensation is in excess of $500,000 when all the benefits are included.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

Thank you for your post. I feel the same. I was amazed at the salary figures being tossed around for a new super. And of course, every few miles there is another one running another district. Perhaps someone who merits such pay is so wise that upon arrival their intellectual superiority will solve this financial issue on day one.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

I sent a note to the former superintendent and the Huron principal asking why they mailed report cards and interim notices in large costly envelopes with lots of postage vs. A regular envelope. Neither ever responded. Thousands, more than $10k would be saved. Just one example.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

Sending report cards home is no longer necessary now that we have power school. Especially interim reports. Let parents sign up if they want them sent home. Otherwise just let us print out our own via powerschool.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

Mailing the report cards is good, as it keeps them from getting &quot;lost&quot; on the way home. Wait, now that I think about it, the mailman has had trouble delivering the bad news on occasion too, Coincidentally, this seems to happen when the kids take AP Calc or something like that. Odd.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

It would be nice if we trusted kids enough to bring home their own report cards...

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

John Spelling has made a number of interesting suggrestions for AAPS to cut the budget. They are, with my comments 1. End defined benefits for all district employees. This is a given. Comment: The current retirement system is mandated by state law. There is nothing the school district can do about its cost. And any fix to the current system will cost more money than anyone wants to talk about. And, hence, no one is talking about it. 2. Require employees contribute more towards their health care. Deterimine what the average private sector employee (perhaps of similar pay scale) contributes towards health care and require the same contribution by public sectore employees. Comment: Agreed 3. End varsity sports. Replace with intermurals. Comment: Agreed. And good luck with that one 4. Close one of the four high schools and consolidate to three. Comment: Seriously? Huron and Pioneer were vastly overcrowded (dangerously so, as anyone who walked the hallways knows) before Skyline opened. Yes, enrollments have dropped a bit, but it is sheer silliness to go back to what we had before. 5. Have principals responsible for multiple buildings Comment: Show me that this is a model that is widespread in the private sector--that physical plants with (in some cases) more than a hundred employees (not to mention hundreds if not thousands of students) do not have an on-site supervisor and that that system works--before you expect schools to take on such an apparently weird structure. 6. Bring in an (business) expert in downsizing. There are plenty of companies that have downsized without compromising their product. Yes, these are children, but it is still a business. Comment: Businesses downsize when they lose business. The AAPS are not losing &quot;business&quot;. Yes, enrollments have dropped slightly over the past few years, but not substantially. So, in this context, downsize = more students per classroom. Good Night and Good Luck

Tony Livingston

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

Closing one of four high schools means closing Community High. There are a lot of people who would like to see that happen. Community is a huge perk for those with the good fortune to get in. They get the small community and personal relationships and then they head over to Pioneer for sports, music, theater. It really is very unfair.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

My bad on the link above about NJ. It should be: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

The costs of moving from DB to DC will not be &quot;short term&quot; and they will be huge. 1) What do do about people who are now retired? Current contributions to the system fund their retirements. 2) What to do about people who have been in the system for a long time but who have not yet retired (&quot;long&quot; to be determined)? For example, does someone who has been on MSPERS for 30 years simply lose that retirement? 3) For those who call this (and SS) a ponzi scheme--sorry, no. Both are insurance programs, with identifiable costs given population data and mortality tables (just as life insurance has identifiable costs). That the state's pension funds (and those of other states) are so badly underfunded speak to their mismanagement and/or to the states not making appropriate contributions (for but one example, New Jersey has been underfunding its pensions for nearly 20 years--some years not putting a penny in the pot. Source: <a href=""></a> Good Night and Good Luck


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

@Ghost We actually have some common ground! Most private sector employees pay at least 20% of health insurance chosen by their employer. It would be a great help if teachers did this. Regarding DB vs DC retirement, transition costs are high, but we need to do it with some sort of financing of the short term transition costs.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

erm; Close one of four - I think you identified the three that should remain open - per your logic the one to go should be Community. The students going to the other 3 would likely still be less than what was projected when the 3 big High Schools were built.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

Mickey, Yes, the current retirement system is the elephant in the room. My point is that there is no way to move from a DBP to a DCP without EXTREME up-front costs. No one--and I mean NO ONE--wants to address that issue. Note that the individual pricing law was prominently featured in Snyder's state-of-the-state and that the legislature quickly passed it. Wow!! That was easy. And also wildly inconsequential. Let's see 'em tackle the pension problem. I won't be holding my breath. As for HS athletics, it is a luxury we cannot afford. But not to worry. They won't be cut. And hence, one of the great problems with our society: we send some very weird messages to our children about what is important and what is not. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

Oops Here is the article: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> So four years ago this issue was critically apparent. It notes the problem could devastate schools and risk the retirements of thousands of retirees.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

Eduardo, You are correct the teacher retirement system is per state law, but there is a lot of talk about changing it, discussions that include the words &quot;time bomb&quot; and &quot;train wreck.&quot; Just finishing up my MA in Public Admin and we talked a lot about conversion of DBs to DCs. Here is an article from 2007 explaining the mess and it notes the problem was a &quot;timid legislature.&quot; That is who was not talking about it. I see no reason why it would cost more to change it. From this article, it appears the retirement system it the white elephant in the room. End varsity sports? What are we going to do on Friday night? End funding. The parents will pay for it. In some districts, coaches are already coaching unpaid.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Ran out of words on my previous, so to continue: Several have suggested administrative consolidation. DonBee suggested, for example, one athletic director for three high schools rather than one each. That is an EXCELLENT example of where there are economies to be found. But no matter how much one consolidates administrative functions, those savings will not come close to $15 million. And it is worth noting that these cuts mean that people will lose their jobs and/or will take pay cuts that, in many cases will place them and their families in financial jeopardy. Yes, that's what has been happening in the private sector for some time now. And if &quot;getting even&quot; is the goal, this will accomplish it. But it also will have tertiary economic consequences in the community at large (e.g., mortgage foreclosures leading to continued instability in property values; less business for local businesses, etc...) So I sure hope that those of you crowing about teachers getting what they have coming to them are happy with the negative economic consequences this will have for you. Talk about cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. Good Night and Good Luck

John Spelling

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:40 p.m.

Mr. Allen said - "You cannot cut your way out of a structural deficit. You have to change the structure,". Well said. Now do it. Things just arent' the same anymore and if the current school board can't grasp that they should step aside and let folks in there that do. What worked well the past 35 years is not going to work for the next 35. And quit looking to lansing. The state of Michigan is broke. Deal with it! And quit with the &quot;creative&quot; ways to balance the budget as it's more significant than that. Here are just a few things I'm hoping the school board is considering - - end defined benefits for all district employees. This is a given. - require employees contribute more towards their health care. Deterimine what the average private sector employee (perhaps of similar pay scale) contributes towards health care and require the same contribution by public sectore employees. - end varsity sports. Replace with intermurals. - close one of the four high schools and consolidate to three. - have principals responsible for multiple buildings - bring in an (business) expert in downsizing. There are plenty of companies that have downsized without compromising their product. Yes, these are children, but it is still a business. - etc.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9 p.m.

Running a school system is similar to running a business in some respects, but there are important differences. Those differences are significant enough to make it very dangerous to try to run them like a business. Point: keep the &quot;downsizing companies&quot; out of it.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

I have to agree with most of your comments but take exception to the reference of children as product. For profit businesses will toss aside product that does not meet certain standards. If students are the raw material and the finished product, students that have disabilities of some sort may not be the perfect raw material but in a for profit business, the raw material would be trashed. There are business aspects to the school system that can be compared with any for profit business but don't compare students to raw materials or finished products.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

Consolidate! We do so as families during tough economic times. Consolidate all local school districts into one Washtenaw County School District. Lots of money will be saved with the elimination of superintendents and administrative positions. Consolidate positions and services non-essential to the 4 core curriculum areas, such as office staff, sports, drama, music and art, etc. Students would improve their MEAP scores. Make non-essential subjects &quot;pay for participation.&quot; Why should our tax dollars go to supporting non-essential subject areas? Go even bigger and combine districts across counties so that we become the Washtenaw-Livingston School District.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

There is a very disturbing trend revealed here, evidenced by the discussion of whether Rick Snyder's children attend public schools in Ann Arbor. I have no first-hand knowledge on the subject. But distilling the comments and information available elsewhere, it appears that Rick has three children. The two oldest of those children went to Ann Arbor Public Schools, the youngest is going to Greehills, a rather expensive private school on the east side of Ann Arbor. What can we conclude from this? First, where Snyder's older children went to school makes sense in light of our family's experience. My sons attended Ann Arbor public schools and received a first rate education that has enabled them to move on to higher degrees and wonderful careers. The Ann Arbor schools my sons attended had an outstanding curriculum and absolutely great teachers. Of course, Rick's older children went to Ann Arbor public schools! They WERE as good as you could get. Now, we must ask, is Snyder's youngest child's decision the "canary in the coal mine?" How many of this youngest child's friends also rejected the Ann Arbor Public Schools? Do these decisions reflect a diminution of the quality of the Ann Arbor Public Schools due to the severe budget cuts of recent years? Will further budget cuts so diminish Ann Arbor Public School quality as to make those schools and, therefore, our community a less attractive place to live AND do business? Is the relentless attack on Ann Arbor Public Schools and the people who teach there really in our best interest? I believe the answers are obvious and am very glad my children have finished their educations in this community and have moved elsewhere. To the attackers, better your children and grandchildren than mine.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

Not true grye. I sent my kids to public schools (Huron) and did so knowing that it was the best education they could get in the area, if not the entire state. I want that quality educational opportunity to be maintained. Snyder threatens that opportunity.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

I've know Rick as our boys played soccer together and attend Huron HS. You make the assumption that all wealthy people send their kids to private school. Not true. And many others do without so their kids can attend private schools. Its a choice. You seem to think that it is only for the privileged and that they always take advantage of it.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

Guess I missed a &quot;?&quot;


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:22 p.m.

grye, you must be Rick Snyder to know the basis for his children's choices. You have eliminated &quot;quality of education&quot; as the criterion --- however that is defined. I also suspect that Rick's feelings played some role in the decision, as it would for most choices of this kind. In any event, I don't doubt that the AA public schools remain better than most in this state. But how many more cuts can they sustain without putting that status in jeopardy. I repeat, my children attended these schools, with fine results. I think we have an obligation to future generations to afford them the same opportunities.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:12 p.m.

Please excuse the typos.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

Rick's older children wanted to attend the public schools. His youngest wanted to attend the private school. He obviously could have afforded them all to attend private schools but let them chose. The choice was not made on assumed quality of education at one or another. Interesting fact that Bill Ford's childres also attend public school when he could easily afford private schools. Says alot about the Ann Arbor Public School system.

say it plain

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

Sooooo tone-deaf, argh!, for the AAPS Board to raise the salary of the new superintendent like they did! Let's see some contract concessions first and foremost from the rather bloated--one can't argue elsewise really!--*administration* side of the equation now. It's the *only* thing that might stop us from a nasty scene, that would be *the opposite* of what's in the best interests of our children! I am sure there will be a significant move even farther away from AAPS by those hundreds within the district boundaries that are fed up with the way schools can feel to parents and students in this town! Teachers are teachers--there are great ones and less than great ones in all schools, public and private and charter alike. But the job of administration is *always* to support teachers in their mission to educate, parents in their desires to see their children learn and develop, and students in their educational/developmental journeys. There can be a palpable disconnect between the apparent 'managerial mission' of AAPS administrators and those greater goals. Why is that?! So unfortunate! And perhaps remediable via reducing some 'structural' streamlining at the state and the county and the local level.

Christopher LeClair

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

What can the city of Ann Arbor do to raise the necessary funds? At times like these, it really becomes necessary for the city and the school district to become creative. Similar in fashion to the previous &quot;1 Million (Promises?)&quot; campaign. I know that times are dreadfully tough, but if you just ask the citizens, either through taxes or donation, they will do what is necessary. Regardless of what the government does, we have to take our children's futures into our own hands sometimes. This town is full of brilliant people, how about we not cut programs and figure out what needs to be done?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

Tax the rich?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.

Here will be the cuts: 1) Teachers 2) Teachers 3) Teachers After all this will raise the ire of the community more than anything else. Untouched: 1) Sports 2) Administrators 3) Non-Classroom teachers (e.g. advisors and teachers who have been &quot;benched&quot; for some reason) Last year the Custodians and Maintenance folks gave a gallon of blood in concessions, the militant bus driver's union ended up being outsourced and the teachers got a special deal.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

I would agree. This is likely to be the scenario we will see. We need to spin sports off to the private sector and cut back on some of the music offerings. Both sports and music have become very elitist programs that are dominated by students with years of participation in private programs. People believe that the poor kids are in sports and that is what is keeping them in school. In reality, the poor kids are unlikely to make the team as they have not been in travel soccer, hockey, baseball, softball or private tennis, golf, swim, skating programs. This is the elephant in the living room that no one is willing to talk about. Nobody gets their skills from public school anymore. That just won't cut it.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

It depends a little on what you want to learn. If you want to learn pride in your school, being part of a team or the incredible focus and long goal driven work that is part of a varsity sport, such as football or basketball, then there is no good substitute. The kids on these teams focus on thier studies more and my experiance is that my kids get better grades &quot;in season&quot; than out of season. If you want to learn how to play dodge ball, then gym class will suffice.

say it plain

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.

Oh I soooo agree with DonBee on this one! @skigrl150 points out that in europe somehow they muddle through without varsity-type sports teams and without incredible amounts of resource thrown at musical performance groups in the schools. If sports really funds itself through the pay to play scheme then it's &quot;only&quot; a matter of silly focus that we spend so much school-related time and energy on it, but if it comes down to upping class-sizes or funding varsity sports, how can one argue that we should continue spending so much money on it?! Physical fitness is a different matter altogether, but much research indicates that personal fitness and competitive sports are very different endeavors. Many kids who might need help in academics would benefit from programs focused on getting them moving and fit, and the emphasis on competitive sports probably actually takes away from that...


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3:31 a.m.

The budget for sports has not seriously declined, but the cost of the sports program has grown, hence the higher fees. This year AAPS will spend over $3 million on sports programs. That is a big part of the amount that needs to be cut. School boosters raise millions more. AAPS does not need to compete with the UofM for the number of sports played. Better to put the facilities to use getting all children in shape.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:32 p.m.

DonB; I normally agree with a lot of what you write, but you are flat out wrong on the facts here. You can predict the future any way you want, but the most recent budget cuts resulted in huge pay to play fees for all sports, as well as significant sport specific fees. It can cost over $500 for kids to play in many sports. My take on it is they may as well cut out the rest. It won't make that big a difference, then we can quit talking about it.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

Actually they added a sports fee to the varsity sports. So that is one change. As for admins and non classroom teachers? Balais is where they send the ones they have no idea what to do with and create a position for them. This is what they did for the director of transportation. Made a position for him in the custodial area. Nice huh? Job eliminated? No problem Ann Arbor will create one for you.

Arno B

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Well I suppose I need a tissue to cry. This morning I read about Pioneer about to issue a large repair package, including some money for &quot;Operating Expenses.&quot; The school systems are always crying for &quot;MORE&quot;. However, the test scores stay the same or worsen. Equally galling was the article a few days ago about the current genius who was (or is) to become the new School Superintendent at the meager sum of more than a quarter million annually!! I say &quot;Good for Snyder&quot;!


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

No Mick, with the rush now ongoing against teachers and other public employees, now is not the time to &quot;simmer down&quot; (whatever the hell that means, SA). It is time to stand up and confront the nonsense being put out there by people such as you. If you hope to confront &quot;simmered down&quot; opposition, you can spit in one hand and wish in the other, and see which one fills up first.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

Simmer down a little Mac and Dan. I know a lot about AAPS my kids went there, did great. But AAPS has long decried the issue of disparity in scores of minority students for years without finding out why. Also I too was appalled at the salary being promoted for the new super. And now after that decision we read about this fiscal crisis and a board member complaining about the state trying to fix deficits? That does not instill confidence in how they are running the district.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

Just be sure to read all my comments re this article. You will then understand my point of view.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

Thank you, Macjoint. Your comment was well thought out and informative. We need more of this out of the box thinking if we are going to fix this problem. Keep up the good work.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

A. You know nothing about the AAPS. B. You know nothing about the AAPS. C. Learn something about the AAPS and then you might be able to write something worth reading.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

Re Grant's comment about the greedy Ypsi school union, this is from an earlier article: According to information provided by the school district, the furlough days will cost a teacher who makes $70,787 annually $2,399.58 in 2010-11. Next year, a teacher making the same amount will lose about $1,618.00 during the four furlough days.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

Any attempt to address our budget problems by reducing teacher pay or benefits takes us in the wrong direction. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB</a>


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

Lisa - So well is somewhere between 1/10 and 1/2 of all students not graduating, depending on the district? Sounds good to me, let's keep throwing away children. I guess this works for you and your colleagues in AAEA. Better to take care of the senior union members and run the bus over the junior ones. Better to teach the best students and let the poor ones fail.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

DonBee, Some of America's schools are the best in the world. In fact, according to Diane Ravitch, America's schools with low poverty beat out Finland (ostensibly the top in the world). There are schools and districts that perform exceptionally. But we still castigate them because we lump them in with schools that don't. If a district is doing well, do we really need to look elsewhere or should we support them and allow them to get on doing what they obviously do well?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

Another point: in my experience Ann Arbor Public School teachers have not been failing. But most recently, we have been doing all in our power to promote their failure.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

Mick 52, the benefits are not out of line. They were negotiated because pay could not be elevated sufficiently to allow teachers to live and take care of their families like other professionals. Young people (particularly women) are flowing away from education an toward the other professions because the pay in these professions are so vastly superior to teaching. I know, as my two sons virtually laughed at my wife and me when we suggested teaching as a career. They were perfectly capable of seeing where their financial futures would be most adequately secure --- and it was not teaching. That is the thrust of the New York Times article, which I believe more accurately states the future we must pursue than anything I have read in these comments. , each of whom


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

I read it. But I do not agree with it. It notes this: &quot;According to O.E.C.D. data, the average salary of a veteran elementary teacher here was $44,172 in 2008, higher than the average of $39,426 across all O.E.C.D countries (the figures were converted to compare the purchasing power of each currency). &quot; So we are already paying them more while they are failing, while teachers in other countries with lower pay are succeeding. So pay is obviously not the issue. Also this article notes: &quot;The "five things U.S. education reformers could learn" from the high-performing countries, the report says, include adopting common academic standards — an effort well under way here, led by state governors — developing better tests for use by teachers in diagnosing students' day-to-day learning needs and training more effective school leaders.&quot; Why are they not doing this already? And why is it always blamed on the govt at the state or federal level? I can think of no reason why schools cannot do this on their own. From what I have seen after putting three kids through K-12 and college is that it is not usually the schools, it is what happens at home. I do not propose lowering teacher pay, but the benefit packages are a runaway train. The unions have to go (in all public service) and poor teachers need to get the boot.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

Did either of you read the article?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

macjoint Since we are already headed in the wrong direction, any other direction would be an improvement.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

Einstein's Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That sums up the K-12 program in the US today. They have known about issues in the way they teach for decades, and they just keep doing it. More money is not the answer. A different approach is. Try Germany's approach


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Hmm, Ann Arbor teachers gave up $4.4 million last year? If the teacher's union president at Ypsilanti School District wasn't so greedy, the district wouldn't be on the state's deficit list, with over $6 million in the hole.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

No one remembers the promise that staff would transfer to Skyline and the net increase in staff would only be 19 people. Dr. Fornero promised. that it would only be 19 people. Another blown promise by AAPS.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

The district paid a long departed superintenend $400K to leave in a coup to bring in Dr. Fornero who agreed to push for Skyline to be built and funded. The voters approved Skyline being built by a very small margin. Now those teachers are sitting pretty while the district cuts at every other building. No cuts at Skyline the teachers there say.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

Now remember this. They get it all back in 5 years if Ann Arbor has the money to pay these teachers back in 5 years. I think everyone is forgetting that the teachers pitched a fit when it came to pay cut backs. The board retracted and said you will get it all back in 5 years. Huh? Were the blank is the money going to come from if Ann Arbor is in the red? O I can't wait to see this one.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

The fallout from the millage not passing comes home to roost. So, I hope all of you out there who have kids and voted down the millage feel good about your choices? This is a calamity, with quality K-12 education things will only get bleaker.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

Could not feel better Mr. Bill, sleeping like a baby ! Good Day


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

Grant - The special education millage has not come up for a vote yet. It will in May. The enhancement millage that went down in flames, was not going to do much enhancement. Most of it was headed to pay benefit, medical and salary increases.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

You parents who voted the millage down certainly did not see the big picture. The Special Education funds would have lessened the burden on districts who must provide these services anyway. Now you have chosen to shift funds out of the general education coffers.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

First Ann Arbor privatized the food service workers to save money. That didn't work. Then they started in on the custodians. That didn't work. Then they started in on transportation and laid off everyone there last June. Slashing and hacking the custodians until there was nothing left in the process. Guess what? That didn't work either. Now it is time to slash teacher pay, slash bargaining units and get the spending under control. O wait, that won't happen either what with the new salary they just gave the new superintendent. Gee, I guess they will privatize the custodians next? Ann Arbor has no clue as to how to get their spending under control. Good luck Ann Arbor there is nothing left to burn except the teachers and the support staff.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

I have long proposed that the fat sits at the top and that is where cuts should begin. When cuts begin at the bottom, it cuts positions with low pay and people who have the most contact with the customers, here the kids.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:12 p.m.

Given the district's financial situation, where is the money supposed to come from for the added costs of the Scarlett/ Mitchell/ UM partnership? I'm especially curious how the district thinks it's going to fund the added busing, heating and cooling, staff, etc. costs associated with the year-round/ balanced calendar starting in the fall of 2012. It will be even harder to justify these costs when families flee Scarlett and Mitchell for charter and private schools, taking their per-pupil funding with them...

Dr. I. Emsayin

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

I hear teachers are fleeing Scarlett because of the year round schooling.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

Added busing? I am hearing they may privatize the buses. Surprise! WISD does not want a union and if the union gets a stronghold? Buy buy drivers and hello privatization. WISD cannot keep drivers and with their rate of pay? I won't be surprised if they do not have enough drivers come September. As for heat? By law you have to have heat. Ours takes a public bus due to the fact that some bus drivers have nasty attitudes toward the students and transportation is doing nothing about it. Good luck with added busing. If it is added? Trinity will be involved.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

TopCat, I'd prefer to think we're all in this together. We all pay taxes, and we all want the best for each other who are going through rough times.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

His kids did go to Ann Arbor Public Schools, his youngest decided to attend Greenhills, he is just being a supportive father and letting her go there. He is able to pay the tuition and if that's what makes his daughter happy then why not let her go there.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

&quot;This is another ripple effect of Snyder's Selective Sacrifice.&quot; Wow! Gov Snyder took office on January 1, 2011. Amazing how he can have a ripple effect so soon. When Granholm had 8 years with no effect!


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:48 p.m.

Calling the effects of Slick Rick's attacks on working people in this state a &quot;ripple effect&quot;, is like calling what hit Japan a ripple effect of the earthquake. Slick Rick is the fault and his changes have all the benefits if the earthquake and Tsunami.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

Snyder is proposing drastic cuts in per pupil funding despite the fact that it is projected that the school aid fund will have more money available in 2011-12 than in 2010-11. So this aspect of the budget is entirely on his watch and is his doing. He can fund public school eqqualt to or better than current levels. He is choosing not to do so. And that is how THIS problem is one that HE created. It is an artificial crisis. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

You'll see.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

Let's hear your feed back on this. The state has many counties with multiple school systems in each county. Each school system has administrative staff to set curriculum standards to comply with state regulations. Why is there not a single administrative staff at the state level to perform this function? Think of the savings state wide. If the same text books are used at all Michigan public schools, we might get price breaks. If the curriculum was well defined, we could limit the number of administrators. Teachers would still be able to use innovate and unique ways to teach the programs and overall costs to the citizens would decrease. Even if this were accomplished at the county level, we would see a significant savings.

average joe

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

Grye- Good example of trimming excess. I would guess that there are many more examples of the same throughout the public school system. With approximately 40 schools in Michigan, I wonder how many different types of text books the Heritage charter schools use in each of their core subjects?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:21 p.m.

Then how can we by region find ways to reduce costs? There needs to be some brain storming in this area. Just as we utilize supermarkets for our food instead of growing everything we need, there has to be some economies of scale by sharing the workload amongst school systems.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

No, but look at the administration costs in AAPS vs. Plymouth Canton - a slightly larger district. The difference is staggering. AAPS spends almost double in the admin category on the state standard information forms. One simple example of this? Plymouth-Canton has 1 and only 1 athletic director for 3 major high schools, Ann Arbor now has 3. Some economies of scale make sense. Some don't. The New WISD program that seems to match up with the program at what was called &quot;Stone School&quot; and Roberto Clemente is another? Should these programs be done at 2 administrative levels in the county?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

grye, The economies of scale are not that great. There is a point of diminishing returns. The right wing wants the control at the state level, but the cost to be borne by the local district. That way you can make the local administration the bad guys in all this. Your proposal is to have a one size fits all education system for the state. Are the needs of Ann Arbor different than Alpena? I think yes, the needs are far different.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

I'm thinking of ways to solve the budget problems, not just say increase taxes to cover all expenses. Everyone need to look for innovative ideas. I'm not seeing many others, just a bunch of complaining.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

I'm not saying use the products from programs that are not performing well. Why not find the best programs and text books and implement them State wide? If 2 or 3 levels are needed for underperforming schools, so be it. At least we wouldn't be purchasing 25 or 30 different text books. If the State education office is that small, increase the size while decreasing the size of the individual school administrative staff. Consolidation and economies of scale will help to control costs State wide.

Jonny Spirit

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

So what your saying you want Ann Arbor schools to select the same textbook as a lets just say a Detroit public school. Why? Ask your self why are scores higher in Washtenaw county then any county in MI. (different level textbooks) Did you know the newspaper is written at a 7th grade reading level so all people are able to read it, just FYI And to answer your question why isn't their people at the state level, well this department is now down to 6 people to run all schools in the state of MI.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

&quot;Allen noted the district's pension system is one reason costs were rising. He said the district has a defined benefit pension system, as opposed to the defined contribution system many private sector employers use.&quot; &quot;You have to change the structure," he said. "There has to be changes on the revenue side or there has to be changes on the expenditure side.&quot; Mr. Allen seems to have a good grasp on the situation. One way to change the structure is to not pay your superintendent in excess of quarter million a year. I wonder if Mr. Allen would have taken the job for a mere $180k, thereby saving at least one teacher (producers) job.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

It's true (as we've been saying) that "We can't cut our way out of a structural deficit, " but that hasn't stopped them from trying, to the detriment of workers and the local economy.

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 12:49 p.m.

It comes down to a simple question. Do public employees work for the taxpayers or do we work for them ?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

No, it does not come down to one simple (simplistic?) question. Is that as far as your analytical mind will take you? If so, Top Cat, you are one example of where our schools have failed.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Yeah, those federal employees, without a union, have really been screwed over by the taxpayers over the last 40 years.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

Can you imagine getting your pay from taxpayers? Taxpayers seem to fall for any promise of reducing taxes, regardless of the impact on themselves. If anyone needs a union, its public employees

Rork Kuick

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

I favor defined contribution plans, cause anything else is too complicated and uncertain. I favor taxing pensions. But most of all I favor higher income taxes on the wealthy (and less on the not-as-wealthy) and want increases in school spending or at least no further decrease. I feel a majority of people should want those last two things too, but they are having trouble figuring out what is in their own self interest. Having outstanding schools is critical.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:49 a.m.

With negotiated pensions being cut and taxed, class sizes sure to zoom up to unmanageable levels, salaries freezing or decreasing, and attacks from the public, I'm curious what kind of person goes to a university these days hoping to become a teacher.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

McGiver, It is true that there are some students in education schools who are not as strong as in other departments. But those individuals typically wash out by not passing their exams, or by failing student teaching, or by failing to obtain a job or by be removed or if they should get a job, quitting in their first few years. Less than half of all teachers last more than five years.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:33 p.m.

&quot;moving in the wrong direction.&quot;


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8:33 p.m.

McGiver, we can only assume that you have never taught and know next to nothing about education. Trust me, I tried. (I gave up, obtained a law degree and spent 30 years making money in a profession far less stressful, farm more lucrative, and far less difficult than teaching.) Teaching takes training, education and dedication. To attract the quality of people we need in education, more pay, greater benefits, and far more respect will be essential to that quest. We, led by people with attitudes such as yours, are moving the wrong direction. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB</a>


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 8 p.m.

What kind of person? I hope better than we have had. Statistical studies have shown that the dumbest kids (lowest grades, lowest test scores, flunk out of other programs, etc., ) go to the college of education. If you don't need even a degree to teach at a college or university by law, why is it that you need to have a teaching certificat to teach k -12? A lot of very smart people would make good teachers if we didn';t have the job protecting, bad teacher protecting, unions making the rules by which teachers get hired and keep their jobs.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

&quot;...what kind of person goes to a university these days hoping to become a teacher.&quot; Probably those hoping to become a teacher somewhere other than Michigan. One can argue that pension plans need to be modified to include more employee contribution, etc. for future retirees, but to blame the state of the economy and the budget woes on teachers and other state employees suggests they have a lot more economic power than they do. They're victims like most of the rest of us (gee, I wonder how the pension plans of those wall street bankers are doing; have you ever what a Congressperson or state legislator gets? ). Existing plans were legally negotiated under the system we have in place. Change the system, change the process, for future retirees, but don't renege after-the-fact on past agreements that didn't get the public's attention until the economy turned south. Of course, all Ann Arbor has to do is meet the criteria for implementation of the new Emergency Manager Law and a corporate management team appointed by Andy Dillon can come in, replace our elected representatives, abrogate all existing contracts (not just teachers contracts either), and run Ann Arbor for us with no accountability to local voters.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

It is too uncertain a career to enter right now unless you leave for another state. This is another ripple effect of Snyder's Selective Sacrifice. Education is at the bottom of the priority list in Lansing now.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

Well, don't count on any millage being passed for any purpose. The elderly vote. And they will not have any money left for any purpose after Snyder's tax increase on them. Not only do they have all of the regular expenses but medical insurance price hikes, Medicare price hike, elder care cost hikes, short, you can't give what you don't have. Schools need to prepare for the reality that there are a lot of ripple effects from the tax increase on the elderly and poor. Be ready.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 10:47 p.m.

Private schools that are not affiliated with a parish charge almost twice the per pupil allotment for Ann Arbor and they foist their special education costs on the district as well. They can kick out anyone they chose so they don't have behavior issues, they don't have to deal with the poor, they don't have to deal with the homeless. How are they doing better for less?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 10:45 p.m.

Private schools can do it for less money and provide a better education. And he's not taxing the poor retirees, only the rich ones who are collecting generous retirement benefits, many paid for by the taxpayers. This is money they were never taxed on when it was put into the retirement system, so like a 401k plan that most of us have to pay taxes on when we withdraw it why shouldn't former union members?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

I agree Cash, but my concern is not at the state level but at the federal level. Our tax and spend president is running wild. I really think state and local officials should be marching on the White House imploring him to stop. I prefer increasing my local and state taxes because those provided services are the ones who touch us the most, but with rampant federal spending, the pending spike in fuel prices, many people are going to reject ANY tax increases at any level.

Marshall Applewhite

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Your new avatar is priceless! I love seeing the people with entrenched union interests constantly squirming through this ordeal. Like I've said in the past, the gravy train is over!

Dr. I. Emsayin

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

Maybe if Governor Snyder's children attended AAPS or any public school, he would have more compassion for public schools. As it is, they attend a small, private school in Ann Arbor. Private school teachers get their benefits before they retire: small class size, supportive parents, the ability to ask students to leave if they don't perform well; hence: the ability to stay on the job into older age while also receiving a nice pay check and benefits. Governor Snyder believes in the competitive model of education that Bill Gates and others support. I believe there is a lot of money hidden in charter schools such as the KIPP academies, and they are funded by the likes of Gates and others with big business foundations. It's nice for communities when the school employees can afford to live in the community and be part of it; Ann Arbor does not allow for that easily. We want a certain type of quality teacher/bus driver/secretary/principal for our children with a certain type of cultural/educational sensitivity, so we need to be able to attract those people with pay and benefits. Every day I hear of young people leaving Michigan to teach/work out of state. If the Governor makes it worse for educators and educational support, the state will suffer more. I hope that millage to support special education services passes. If it goes down, the special education funding will come out of the programs that are left for general education because the state mandates we fund special education. Even the private schools get special education from the public schools from what I have heard. Interesting. Can someone confirm this about whether private schools use AAPS services for special education?


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

You'll have to ask them. Why to they play soccer instead of crew? Why do they wear black socks instead of blue? Why can't you see it is not a conspiracy and get a clue?


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3:29 a.m.

Eyeheart. Even worse. All the rich kids who are friends of Rick's third are bailing out, also. Now, why would they do that?


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3 a.m.

Macjont; Really? Either that, or the third kids friends all went to Greenhills and he wanted to hang with them. Nah, that's too easy.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 10:42 p.m.

Compassion doesn't pay the bills Doc. Real life, real problems, real bad contracts. Just keep raising taxes but don't change the way retirement and health care benefits are paid out isn't going to cut it, neither is compassion.............


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

There is a very disturbing trend revealed here, evidenced by the discussion of whether Rick Snyder's children attend public schools in Ann Arbor. I have no first-hand knowledge on the subject. But distilling the comments and information available elsewhere, it appears that Rick has three children. The two oldest of those children went to Ann Arbor Public Schools, the youngest is going to Greehills, a rather expensive private school on the east side of Ann Arbor. What can we conclude from this? First, where Snyder's older children went to school makes sense in light of our family's experience. My sons attended Ann Arbor public schools and received a first rate education that has enabled them to move on to higher degrees and wonderful careers. The Ann Arbor schools my sons attended had an outstanding curriculum and absolutely great teachers. Of course, Rick's older children went to Ann Arbor public schools! They WERE as good as you could get. Now, we must ask, is Snyder's youngest child's decision the &quot;canary in the coal mine?&quot; How many of this youngest child's friends also rejected the Ann Arbor Public Schools? Do these decisions reflect a diminution of the quality of the Ann Arbor Public Schools due to the severe budget cuts of recent years? Will further budget cuts so diminish Ann Arbor Public School quality as to make those schools and, therefore, our community a less attractive place to live AND do business? Is the relentless attack on Ann Arbor Public Schools and the people who teach there really in our best interest? I believe the answers are obvious and am very glad my children have finished their educations in this community and have moved elsewhere. To the attackers, better your children and grandchildren than mine.

Jonny Spirit

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

You are correct one child is going to a private school, so we both where wrong sorry grye


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

You guys may find it very interesting to know how many public school teachers send their kids to private schools. End of argument. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> for those who side with the Wisconsin bunch: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> For those who won't bother going to the links: Public school teachers send their kid s to private school at around twice the national average.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

You people arguing about where slick rick's kids go to school have completely missed the point. Rick is cutting funding for public schools while greedily cutting business taxes. Do you think that the added money in Rick's and his cronies' pockets from the tax cuts will trickle down to the public schools? No, it will further dumb down the population and make him even more powerful than he already is. This is not diffiucult to see. Why are so many so blind?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

And mine were on the bus with his children.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

Jonny Boy, know your fact completely. One child is attending a private school. The others attended public schools. My children attended with them.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

So, why aren't all the public school teachers flocking to the private schools if it is so much better? Possibly due to the pay scale?

Jonny Spirit

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

His kids go to A2 Greenhills (PRIVATE SCHOOL) come &quot;grye&quot; know your facts. And yes private schools can send there kids to public school for Special Ed as well as Elective classes such as band, art, technology....

average joe

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

&quot;...hence, the ability to stay on the job into older age while also receiving a nice pay check and benefits.&quot; In a public school, are the teachers being forced to retire?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

FYI, his children have attended public schools.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:34 a.m.

Is it &quot;bashing&quot; to suggest that a lack of pension reform and the most generous compensation package in the country are to blame for this funding problem. You can't spend more than your budget. For decades, the union has essentially been &quot;negotiating&quot; new contracts with itself, confident that tax increases would always cover the extra money. Those days are over.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

It does seem like the teachers turn to personal attacks when questioned. The charts are current, according to the site. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Another link, which quotes a study saying, &quot;average teacher salaries in Michigan are the highest in the nation when compared to relative state wealth,&quot; as of May of last year. If you are already a teacher here, you are among the best compensated teachers in the country. You have tenure. You have relative job security (they'll lay off the energetic, and cheaper, youngsters). You have no accountability. In short, you are royalty. Enjoy it.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 10:43 p.m.

Your link says we are currently 17th in the nation. Not even the top quartile. And if one accounts for inflation, school funding is $2000 dollars behind where it was in 1995. We've taken cut after cut, year after year. You clearly have no clue what you are talking about.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

He apparently did the research and documented his conclusion. Then he is told that an area's cost of living should not be considered when discussing compensation levels. Others either did or did not look at his support but chose to ignore it, claiming he is &quot;making stuff up&quot;. IF he left in frustration, I would not blame him.

Jonny Spirit

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Seriously Macabre Sunset you can't make up stories just to have a story. Do some research. Nicely said Johnnya2, you made it very clear. By the way I like your name :)


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

I hope the reading public cares enough to check out your clearly bogus claims.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

If you don't understand the relevance of housing costs in terms of the value of a compensation package, I can't help you. The charts very clearly show that Michigan's teachers are the most generously compensated in the country.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

Macabre, Maybe you can not read, but even your own &quot;evidence&quot; does not show Michigan number 1 or number 2. The only thing it shows is being number one to MEDIAN HOUSE PRICE. That number has zero meaning. In what crazy world should compensation be tied to housing prices? I'd also like you to point out ANY tax increase that has happened to increase teachers pay? There has been no tax increases in this state, only tax cuts. The Engler tax shift is the only thing that happened, and it included a FIFTY per cent increase in sales tax. THAT is a fact. Michigan sales tax WAS 4% and is now 6%. The income tax was lowered, and guess what. THE ECONOMY AND POPULATION SHRANK. This is not disputable.. It actually proves lower income taxes HURT the overall state and economy.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Since unions are seniority-based, compensation and quality are independent variables. Michigan has the worst economy in the country. We have double-digit unemployment. We are the only state losing population. We have a bottom-five climate for small businesses. I don't think we can afford the highest teacher compensation. Somewhere around the middle sounds about right. And that would easily balance the school budget.

Mich Res and Alum

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Why is being first in the nation for compensating teachers a bad thing? Aren't teachers important professionals? Would you rather have Michigan teachers be averagely compensated? That will lead to average teachers in Mich classrooms as the good ones move on to find a state that respects their talents. If you're ok with that, then keep giving that stat in your argument.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

This link shows it fairly clearly: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> There's not much question that when you compare salary and benefits to the cost of living, Michigan teachers are far and away the best compensated in the entire country. And even without the cost of living adjustment, Michigan is either #1 or #2. It's not bashing to say their complaints about compensation are rather ill-informed.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

&quot; the most generous compensation package in the country &quot; Where did that &quot;fact&quot; come from?


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 11:14 a.m.

Waiting, waiting... For the teachers bashers to get started. This should be a fun blog to read as people awake from their sleep and begin reading this article. The fund equity is pretty high right now, clearly AAPS will need to use some of this to help contain cost. It is nice to see AAEA gave back 4.4 million to help last year. Why hasn't AAPS looked into getting our athletic dept. funded by a private company? I had heard years ago that Nike was interested in doing it, that was while they had ties to the UofM. The point being, that has the cuts continue, they are going to affect class size and programs. As a district trying to keep kids, these things would be devastating. They need to find knew revenue to help this process, simple cuts won't continue to work.