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Posted on Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 10:20 p.m.

Bigger cuts on horizon for Ann Arbor school district

By David Jesse

The proposed budget cuts announced by Ann Arbor school Superintendent Todd Roberts Thursday night aren’t likely to cause angry hordes of students and parents to react.

That’s because - while there’s pain involved for many individuals in the $2.6 million in cuts - programs aren't being eliminated from this year's budget. Roberts also will be feeling the pain himself in the form of an 8 percent pay cut.

But the cost-saving measures do mean changes:

  • Less busing for athletics.
  • Less overtime for district staff.
  • Colder buildings.
  • Fewer supplies being bought for schools.
  • No more retirement dinner for district staff.

Still, school board members know those changes won’t drastically alter the way the district provides education to its students.

That will come a little later.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for toddroberts101809.jpg

Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts

Ann Arbor needs to fill an $8.5 million budget hole this school year, thanks to a series of cuts in the per-pupil funding the district gets from the state.

After that, projections show the district could be short again next year - meaning it will likely need to cut a total of $20 million or so between this year and next, depending on how the state deals with its own budget shortfalls, said Robert Allen, the district’s deputy superintendent for operations.

And those losses won't be absorbed as easily - they have the potential to drastically alter the Ann Arbor district.

Board President Deb Mexicotte said it would be a “dismantling” of the district’s educational program.

Board members spent more time Thursday night talking about how those cuts are expected to happen than the reductions proposed by Roberts for this school year. That first round of cuts likely will go into effect at the start of the second semester at the end of January.

Board members and some in the audience - slightly more than a dozen community members, prospective board members and district employees - talked about how to raise money from the community to help offset those cuts. They called on the community to share in the sacrifice that needs to be made.

Board member Randy Friedman drew a flow chart on a large sheet of paper, showing how information should be gathered from as many places as possible in the community, sorted and analyzed.

District administrators discussed community meetings they'll hold in January.

And both administrators and board members talked about how they've been cutting money from the budget for several years in an effort to keep rapidly increasing expenses in line with shrinking revenues.

“We’re at an unprecedented time for the loss of funding in schools,” Roberts said.

The loss is especially hard in the middle of a school year, he added.

That’s why Roberts is leaning toward taking the bulk of this year’s shortfall from the district’s $27 million fund balance account. The district had already planned to take almost $3 million from that account to balance this year’s budget before the state aid cuts hit.

If the administration’s plans are approved, the fund balance would drop to $17 million at the end of the school year. The district is projecting to have general fund revenues of $183 million this year.

“There’s no single way of approaching this budget situation,” Roberts said as he began his presentation. “It will take looking at thing differently.”

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



Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 5:47 p.m.

Overtime? Who even gets paid for overtime anymore. Most employees now days work twice as hard for the same or less pay. I think they could easily go without the retirement dinner until things improve. Everyone needs to make sacrifices


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:25 a.m.

@Steve Norton, I think you are referring to a different line item in the budget-- the State Retirement Rate increase (which was an increase of $470,000 for 2009/10). This is a completely separate budget item than the nearly 2 million dollar yearly increase due to step raises and their add'l retirement/FICA costs. See, page 7... From the budget: State Retirement Rate Increase: This rate is projected based on information available at the time the budget is being prepared. The rate is set effective with the state fiscal year (October - September), while the school budget is adopted based on a July-June fiscal year. For FY 2010 a rate of 16.94% will go into effect October 1, 2009. The 08/09 rate of 16.54% will continue through September 30, 2009. A 1.5 % increase over the 09/10 rate is projected for FY 2011 and 2012.

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 5, 2009 : 10:22 p.m.

Closing Community should decrease transportation costs, since these students already arrive at the other high schools and take a different bus to CHS. Each hour there are buses transferring students between the high schools. If a student chooses to attend a school outside of the street attendance area, the parents are responsible for transportation. It would not suck for CHS students to attend Huron, Pioneer, or Skyline, as many already take classes there. They would spend more time in the classroom and less time riding around town on the special bus.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, Dec 5, 2009 : 3:11 p.m.

@toomuchtodo, That line item is not just the extra costs of step raises; the MPSERS retirement rate changes each year in addition to changes in the covered payroll. It has been flat because the legislature "revalued" the investment pool in 2007. Now that last year's stock market crash must be included in the rolling average, officials expect the rate to go from 17% of payroll to 20% in the next year or two. This would further increase our costs even if total payroll did not increase one penny. MPSERS rates have been on a general climb over the last decade or more. This is not because benefits have been increasing, but the cost of the same benefits has risen dramatically. @AMOC, AAPS's foundation allowance is higher than other districts because our community had agreed to support our schools with more dollars than other communities did, before Proposal A. (We also benefited from higher property values, which made this easier.) However, that gap has been closing each year since 1994, and the "hold harmless" portion of $1234 is collected locally and has not changed one penny since 1994, so it is worth much less today than it was 15 years ago. I have no desire to criticize our neighboring districts, but do you really believe that MEAP scores tell you everything about the quality of education in a district? Or the options and innovative programs available? It's also true that several districts in the region had until recently benefited from large increases in student population, which boosted their budgets quickly. As we have seen, student count increases help increase revenues faster than marginal costs go up, just as losses of students cut revenues faster than marginal costs go down (see the example of Willow Run). AAPS has mostly been in a holding pattern, making medium-sized cuts each year for more than a decade. Do you expect a district that has to do that not to lose some ground?


Sat, Dec 5, 2009 : 10:08 a.m.

@Ric the Ruler --- You said "I am not sure how much, but doesn't AAPS "share" funds with those other districts? Maybe that's some of difference in spending." Not so. The "hold harmless" districts throughout Michigan did not share that extra revenue they were getting from the State of Michigan with other local school districts. Until very recently, when Gov. Granholm cut all those funds state-wide, Ann Arbor Public Schools has been collecting (and spending) almost $3,000 per pupil more than the rest of the schools in the county. Yet the MEAP scores, scholarships won, etc. in Ann Arbor have been very much in line with student achievement in Chelsea, Dexter, etc. Yes, the AA averages have been much better than in Ypsilanti or Lincoln Consolidated, where there are many more students with low SES families and other problems. But in AA (and state-wide) taxpayers have not been getting much "bang" for all those extra bucks. Finding out how and why this has occurred might let AAPS continue to do a good job of educating students even while they have significantly less money to spend. Re. other calls to close Community High School. Supposedly Skyline was designed to house up to 4 "magnet programs". Moving Community, or Community and Stone School students, teachers and one program administrator apiece into Skyline might allow the district to close 2 old buildings, but will require significant increases in transportation costs. It would mean that overall HS administration costs should go down, not up, as would otherwise happen. Which is a good thing if you ask me. A principal plus 4 assistants and an athletic director is too many administrators! This plan will also use the space for those proposed (but not yet implemented) magnets. Which may mean that those plans for magnet programs, which were part of the 5 year strategic plan and a significant part of the justification for building Skyline in the first place, won't ever be implemented. Since there are many more kids who want to get into CHS than space, replicating some aspects of that program in more spacious surroundings might keep more kids in AAPS.


Sat, Dec 5, 2009 : 9:31 a.m.

Wow after all these people talking in ann arbor about how things need to change only only about a dozen people show up to the board meeting? Way to step up to the plate people and offer up suggestions that will help the district. Posting comments up on the web is going to really change how districts fix their budget issues.


Sat, Dec 5, 2009 : 9:09 a.m.

Basic Bob kids are too soft these days they have to be nice and comfey,can't expose them to the realities of real life anymore

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 5, 2009 : 6:09 a.m.

Regarding "Reduced heating and cooling costs": I was in school in 1973 during the first energy crisis. Thermostats in our schools were set to 65 degrees. We wore sweaters every day in the winter, and windows in the classrooms were covered in plastic for additional insulation. Lights were turned off when not in use. The least efficient buildings were closed. Bus stops were consolidated so the buses could make fewer stops, and stops less than 1-1/2 miles from school were eliminated. At the time these were radical ideas. This kind of discipline is also a good idea for the present, and it teaches a valuable lesson to the kids in how to live efficiently. "Back in the day" we did not have double-paned windows in the schools, so the plastic made a big difference. Today we are already much more energy efficient, but certainly there are savings to be found. Glad to see the administration identified this area. The area they did not look at is the excess number of school buildings. Now that Skyline is open and half empty, Community High School should be closed at the end of this school year. At the minimum, this would eliminate the need to hire a new principal next year for Skyline, and run the hourly buses between Community and the other high schools.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 11:22 p.m.

@Steve: The yearly increase in expenses resulting from step raises is nearly 2 million dollars. Does it really matter that a portion of it is due to add'l retirement costs and social security payments? If there were no step raises, there would not be these added costs, and there would be an extra $2 million in the budget that could be used towards blunting current cutbacks. I'm not saying that a wage freeze is a great idea for the long-term, but we are living in unusual times (which is not a good thing!). When revenues are decreasing, I don't think that paying more $ each year for the same exact program is going to be in the best interest of kids. The damage resulting from mass layoffs would cause much more devastation than freezing the salaries of newer teachers. I wonder how many of these newer teachers would prefer the continuation of step raises if it meant a greater probability of getting laid off in the next 3 years. School districts can't control health care cost increases (although they can negotiate greater % employee contribution), and they can't control how much they have to pay in retirement costs. Salaries are really the only way they can try to control costs. It's the harsh reality. I think that the AAPS has done a very good job with their proposed budget in keeping the cuts away from kids. The Supt. maybe could have went a little higher (10%?) in cutting his own salary, but 8% is very significant and is definitely commendable.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 10:27 p.m.

@A2Reality - The contract as signed indicates that the teachers who qualify for the step increase would recieve the step increase AND THE PAY that goes with it. There is nothing in the amendments that indicate that the step would not be paid. What was in the contract was an agreement that the value of the steps would remain the same as they were in 2008-9. So there was no general raise for teachers, but the teachers who qualified by increasing their education or longevity are receiving the pay increase. Unless someone can point to a document that amends the contract - that is not in the included amendments at signing, the teachers who qualify, did get their raises. So teachers had anniversaries 2 thru 11 and 14 got raises and those who added an education step (e.g. masters degree or PhD) got a raise and people who did both could move both up and out on the table this year. There is nothing wrong with this, teachers deserve to get paid well, they have a hard job.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:39 p.m.

David Jesse - Perhaps you should follow-up again to clarify regarding step increases. My understanding is that if a teacher qualified for a step increase this year, then they received it. HOWEVER, there was NO MONETARY INCREASE associated with the step increase as the contract would normal dictate. In other words, if a first year teacher qualified to go from Step 1 to Step 2, then that teacher was given the Step 2 "rating." Despite receiving that rating, the teacher was not given any additional money that was reflected in their paycheck in association with that "rating" increase. This is akin to you being given a promotion to Sr. Staff, but not receiving any pay raise for it. Please confirm this and report back. Thanks in advance. Lehigh - That was an excellent analysis. Thank you for sharing it with us. Another way to challenge that metric, it to take the average teacher's (or administrator's) salary and normalize it by dividing it by the cost of living of the region. I'm not trying to make work for you, but I think that this would be a more valid assessment than comparing it to low wage jobs since teaching isn't a profession that would be considered low wage and on par with the examples that you provided (my opinion). 1BlockRadius - Please describe a "Pay for Performance" system that would work. There are many problems in the world, such as world hunger for example, that don't seem terrifically difficult to solve on the surface (just grow more corn), but which are much more complex when you delve into them. I think that you're belittling the challenge of creating a pay for performance system that would work effectively.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 8:23 p.m.

@toomuchtodo, Well, part of the answer is in the text. I don't have numbers to hand, but a major component of that increase is the expected increase in the state-mandated contributions to the MPSERS retirement system. These contributions are not going to benefit future retirees as much as they are going to cover the increasing health costs of current beneficiaries. MPSERS contributions excepted, most teachers will have a real wage freeze, since their pay won't change and neither will FICA, etc. And personally, I think making it harder for young teachers to make ends meet is the opposite of what we should be doing right now. That said, I don't think that adjustments in the contracts won't be part of the mix at the end of the day. These cuts are, I believe, part of the administration's efforts at a good-faith gesture at not going first to the contracts but instead looking at a multi-pronged solution to the problem. I also agree that Dr. Roberts' 8% pay cut, and the 4% cut for all "cabinet-level" administrators, is significant and a good sign that they are serious about leading by example and not just looking for others to bear the brunt.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 6:14 p.m.

From the Ann Arbor Public School's 2009-10 Budget ------------------ Incremental Budget Increase: These are expenditures which increase annually according to contractual agreements. A "step" (built into the salary schedule) is an automatic salary increase given to eligible employees. This is in addition to any negotiated salary increase. Many employees qualify for "step increases". These increases are paid every year until the eligible employee reaches the highest step on the salary scale for that bargaining unit. Along with the step increases, the district must provide for the matching social security (FICA) and state retirement costs.. ----------------------- What does this mean? It is projected that AAPS costs increase due to "Step, FICA, Retirement" by $1,900,000 in 2009/10, another $1,920,000 in 2010/11, and yet another $1,950,000 in 2011/12. With step raise expenses going up nearly 2 million/year, and revenues going sharply down, it means that deeper reductions will need to be taken each year from other areas. Regardless of the number of teachers who may benefit, this is a significant expense to make up on a year-to-year basis. I guess I don't understand why there is such umbrage over the prospect of a *true* wage freeze in these very difficult economic times. Particularly if, as some claim, a majority of teachers don't benefit from steps anyway. The argument that we need to retain and attract people to teaching because half of all teachers "quit" before 5 years... Well guess what? Unless concessions are made, they won't even make it that long because they'll be laid off first! It seems that unions would rather face layoffs than any concessions at all. Which is sad, and at the same time, outrageous.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 2:24 p.m.

I remembered that Mr. Jesse had posted a copy of the current step table in an earlier article; I found it here: It shows that new teachers get step raises for their 2nd through 11th years in the district, and one last one at 14 years in the district. Other than that, there are increases for education at 30 hours of graduate credit, MA degree, MA + 30, and so on. The main point is that teachers with more than 10 years of service are very unlikely to be getting any step raises. From what I remember both AAPS and AAEA officials saying, this is the case for the majority of our district's teachers.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 2:11 p.m.

Just to add to what Liz Margolis said on the step increases: teachers do not quality for them every year; you have to cross a threshold (in years served, or more educational credit) to move into the next column or row. I don't have it on paper, but I recall Dr. Roberts saying that the majority, and perhaps as many as 70%, of teachers would not receive any step increase because their status had not changed. A significant number have effectively "maxed out" in any case. Also, AAPS did a buy-out of teachers near retirement just a couple of years ago. In the process, they ended up eliminating some 20-25 positions by not replacing the retirees.

David Jesse

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 1:50 p.m.

Actually Kathy Griswold was in attendance at the meeting and asked several questions of the board and administration.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 1:48 p.m.

"Board members and some in the audience - slightly more than a dozen community members, prospective board members and district employees - talked about how to raise money from the community to help offset those cuts." Where were Al Berriz and Kathy Griswold? The real estate tycoon, who was the sole funding source for opposition to the WISD Educational Enhancement Millage, and the disgruntled former school board member, with the UM MBA, weren't at this meeting. They couldn't find time in their busy schedules to give some of their self-proclaimed expertise to this community forum on school spending. They spent thousands of dollars and dozens of hours of their time time fighting against funding our schools, but when its time to do something constructive, they're nowhere to be found. So much for their concern to improve the public schools. Were Beverly Geltner, Wyckham Seelig or Niki Wardner there? They were all very vocal to undermine the WISD Educational Enhancement Millage. I wonder if they could find time to help cure the problems they spoke of. Where were any of the members of the Coalition for Responsible School Spending? Now that the WISD milage is defeated, they have gone silent. Their guerrila warfare style of leadership is sad commentary on the members of this community.

Ric the Ruler

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 1:19 p.m.

leaguebus--I am not sure how much, but doesn't AAPS "share" funds with those other districts? Maybe that's some of difference in spending.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 1:08 p.m.

Why do we have 6 high schools in this town? Sell Community High School and surrounding land for a lot of money to U of M. Make a 'wing' in Skyline for an alternative school like Community, since Skyline is the most cost efficient school. Merge Clemente and Stone School and, as enrollment drops, close Pioneer, the oldest and most expensive school to run (again, Sell it to the U or the highest bidder) THEN we can bring back the retirement dinner :):)


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 12:51 p.m.

What's happened to automotive salaries can't be compared to teacher salaries. Big 3 salaries -- both union and white collar -- have been out of whack for a long time. My company routinely screened out applicants from the Big 3 because their salary expectations were so high. I think an 8% cut for Roberts' salary is significant, and if it were cut 20%+ then we should be ready for a Roberts to leave and a less competent superintendent to move in.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 12:50 p.m.

Can someone tell me if this would be a good idea or not: Offer incentive for the old teachers to retire. If they offer incentive to get at least 30+ teachers with over 20yrs. experience to retire you're saving a lot of money, give more money if 40+ teachers retire. This will get the teachers talking and hopefully all of the de-motivated people out of there. Especially considering many of those oldys are pulling in $100k/each, that could be huge savings. Take that savings and pass it on to new, younger teachers who will take $35k to work. You're cutting your salaries by ~60%. Sure you have to pay retirement and the younger people will eventually make more, but for RIGHT NOW, it saves a lot of money, right?. Sounds too easy, so I'm interested to see what the replies will be. Am I way off? Would that not work? Let me know (with data or examples)


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 12:38 p.m.

David Jesse: Thanks a lot for following up with facts on some of the arguments. It makes these discussions actually worth taking part in. Barry: I'll reply to each question as you asked 1. By your logic, should teachers receive raises when your company does? No. Teacher pay should not be related to the company I work for. My point was that the economy took a major hit these past 2 years and teachers have been insulated from that. Every single other company that I've heard of in the entire state has handed out cuts... 2. Should a teacher receive the same bonus as you do? Teachers get bonuses? Anyway, you're missing the point. They didn't get reductions the past 2 years, are still seeing increases and there is no performance based evaluation, just if you are there and have a certain education you get paid a certain amount more. 3. And since you want to ruin the livelihood of thousands of people in Washtenaw county - where do you work? Why are you assuming I want to ruin the livlihood of thousands of people in Washtenaw county? Please use data or examples to back your opinion. My opinion is that I want what is fair. I don't believe it's fair to ask for more money from tax payers until all options are exhausted. Until I see 20%+ pay deductions for the fat cats it is my opinion they are not doing everything they can. I took a 27% pay cut this year and last and I'm by FAR not a fat cat.... but you know what? I managed through it, shed a lot of fat around me and I'm doing alright. I just think the hard choices won't be made by these people unless they're forced into it. Giving more money doesn't solve anything. The reasons our economy has "recessions" is to shed the things that don't work. Companies or people who make it through just come out that much leaner and efficient. Kind of a rant, but I think you get my point. 4. Do you have a masters degree? No, I don't have a masters. How is this relevant? Would I be smarter or do a better job at work if I had another degree? Just wondering your opinion on that since you asked... 5. Does your job decide the market rate for teachers in the county, or the whole state? No. The market decides what I'm paid, but for teachers that isn't the case. It's a grid with # of years served and education level and whatever box you're in... that's what you get paid. I know because I've seen the matrix. 6. So the anti-Millage folks make things clear - the whole goal wasn't transparency in the school system's finances, as that already existed (read the budget, it's public). What they want is to see other people suffer because their salary was cut. Is that it? Revenge? Reply: Actually, what I want is for people to think and make tough, hard decisions to improve the efficiency of the Ann Arbor school systems. Shoveling more money at the problem will fix it, but I don't believe it's the smartest method. Look, absolutely I can understand why these guys don't want to vote to reduce their salaries, but that just means there's a flaw in the system. Bring in someone like that Bob Bob character and start cracking the whip. Everyone is friends around the district and no one wants to be the guy to cut their friend's salary. Point is, there are plenty of us who took cuts, are glad to have jobs that don't understand why other organizations don't do the same. Until they do I won't be trying to help them out because it just doesn't make sense to me. I have a question for you Barry: Why can't the most educated people in the country come up with a pay system that involves judging performance rather than attendance for teachers? As you pointed out, everyone has the Masters and Doctor degrees in education (not so they can get more pay, just to be more educated, right?) so they should be pretty smart, right? If these bright administrators can't come up with something then you will be beating your heads against the wall trying to convince joe-public into throwing more money at the problem. Pay cuts across the board or a new system for judging performance, that's my point.

David Jesse

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 11:59 a.m.

Re: Step increases for teachers. I just heard, via e-mail from AAPS spokeswoman Liz Margolis. I had asked her if it was true that teachers had not gotten any step increases this school year. Here's her e-mail: "While they accepted no increase in their base pay step increases did take place. Some teachers at the top of the scale did not receive any increases."


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 11:56 a.m.

The contract had no raise in the size of the step increases or any other number in the pay table, but if you moved either over or up in the table you got a raise (e.g. finished a degree or stayed a year that qualified). Steps are being honored in the current contract. The value did not change from last year though. So a good share of the teachers did get raises either through longevity or through more college training. For the first time in several years they had to make due with the same size of steps as they did a year ago. Teachers and teacher pay should not be the issue here. Administrators and non-teaching teachers (e.g. instructional improvement roles) should be. We were told that the instructional improvement staff had "gone away" at one budget meeting, but I see it is still a significant number in the audit report. I do not begrudge teachers getting better in the classroom - in fact I think they should, but why do we have loads of principals and then an instructional improvement staff too? I would like the school board/school administration to annotate/narrate the audit report and the budget. The numbers may be transparent, but their meaning is not.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 11:51 a.m.

as far as teachers pay reflecting students performance how can they be responisable when they have a student for 6hrs a day ( or whatever it is )and some parents do nothing ie...parenting for the other 18?


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 11:27 a.m.

@A2Realilty and Barry: No step raises? Is this article from September in totally inaccurate? "The contract is the first in district's history to not include a pay raise. However, many teachers will still be paid more this year than last year due to step increases tied to education and years of service." For the record, I am just trying to "figure things out" here... it's hard to know what's going on when so many organizations claim they are taking a pay freeze but neglect to mention the typical 5% step raise that a large part of their membership receive every year.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 11:16 a.m.

On salaries Ill repeat/refine parts of a post from another thread. The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces an Occupational Employee Statistics data base -- basically, tracking salaries for numerous job classifications across all major metropolitan areas (including Ann Arbor). The most recent data is 2008 estimates, so it does not reflect the recent economic downturn. Also, this data is metropolitan area-based not school-district based. Most metropolitan areas include multiple school districts. So when we see Ann Arbor below, it includes more than the Ann Arbor school district. Also, this information includes only salaries health and retirement benefits are not included in the salary information. Finally, Im not going to argue about whether teaching is a full-time job like a lawyer or a factory worker thats why everything here is presented as ranks vs. other communities. I downloaded the with the hypothesis that Ann Arbor teachers were overpaid relative to their peers. There are 363 U.S. metropolitan areas that have teacher salary information available. The teacher salary information is broken down by elementary, middle school, and secondary. Both average and median salary information is available; I used median salary information to avoid any skewness caused by outsized or undersized salaries. For simplicity, I took a straight average of the median elementary, middle, and secondary salaries (this is definitely quick n dirty analysis). Out of the 363 U.S. metropolitan areas, Ann Arbor teachers rank 46th in median salary in the top 15% of all U.S. metropolitan areas. For some comparison with other Michigan metro areas, Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills ranks 16th, Flint 53rd, Lansing-East Lansing 64th, Monroe 65th, Holland-Grand Haven 111th, Grand Rapids-Wyoming 133rd, and Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn 173rd. With the exception of Detroit, theres evidence that the more conservative western part of the state has lower teacher salaries. And the first blush indicates that Ann Arbor teachers are compensated fairly well. We looked at teachers. What about administrators? If we look at the median education administration salaries, Ann Arbor ranks 24th out of 363 -- highest in the state. Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills is 29th, Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn is 61st, Flint is 73rd, Holland-Grand Haven is 111th, Monroe 124th, Lansing-East Lansing 134th, and Grand Rapids-Wyoming 143rd. Thats the first WOW finding. Yes, Ann Arbor teachers draw a fairly high salary relative to the 363 metropolitan areas. But the Ann Arbor education administrators are faring even better. Ann Arbor has the highest paid education administrators in the state, according to the OES data. While some metro areas smaller than Ann Arbor rank higher in educational administration pay, all those smaller metro areas are relatively wealthy (e.g. Danbury CT or Napa, CA). But median salaries of the positions are only part of the story. Its not so much how much teachers or administrators are paid, but how much are they paid relative to the rest of the community. A teacher making $20,000 a year in a community where everyone makes $10,000 might be considered overpaid (or not), while a teacher making $30,000 a year in a community where everyone makes $60,000 might be considered underpaid (or not). The OES data handily includes a classification that includes All Occupations. If we compare the median teacher salary to the median salary of all occupations, Ann Arbor ranks 232nd out of 363 U.S. metropolitan areas in the *bottom half* of all metro areas. This is because while Ann Arbor ranks high on teacher pay, it ranks even higher on pay for other occupations. Bay City (20th) has the highest ratio of teacher pay to all occupation pay in the state of Michigan; relative to people in other jobs, Bay City teachers are the best-paid teachers in the state. Flint is 48th, Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills is 68th, Monroe 71st, Holland-Grand Haven 124th, Grand Rapids-Wyoming 190th, Lansing-East Lansing 206th. The pattern for education administrators is similar; for Ann Arbor, the ratio of education administrator pay to the pay for all occupations ranks 174th out of 363. Administrators still make out better than teachers, but Ann Arbor is not where administrators do best relative to all other workers (move to El Centro, CA if you are an administrator and want to make more than any other job in the area). But, you may argue, Ann Arbor is a highly professional, highly educated town, and we shouldnt use all occupations as our gauge to see how well teachers are paid relative to other jobs. What if we compare teacher salaries to those for low-end jobs? Three low-end jobs with a high number of employees are cashiers, food service, and personal care/service. I took the straight average of those median salaries, and compared them to teacher salaries for the 363 U.S. metropolitan areas. On this ratio of teacher salary to low-end job salary, Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills ranks 6th out of 363 U.S. metro areas meaning that only five other U.S. metropolitan areas have teachers with higher salaries relative to the pay for low-end jobs like cashiers and food service. Flint is 19th, Monroe 32nd, Lansing-East Lansing 40th, and Ann Arbor is 71st. Holland-Grand Haven is 136th, Grand Rapids-Wyoming is 146th. By this metric, Ann Arbor teacher pay is in the top 20% of all metro areas, but by far not top in the state. What about for administrators? If we look at the ratio of median education administrator salary to low-end job pay, Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills is 21st, Flint 23rd, Ann Arbor 32nd, Monroe 91st, Lansing-East Lansing 111th, Holland-Grand Haven 134th, and Grand Rapids-Wyoming 167th. Once again we see Ann Arbors education administrators making out better than the teachers. To repeat the caveats: this analysis is based on 2008 BLS estimates, prior to the economic downturn. Salary data does not include health and retirement benefits. This study is agnostic about whether teaching is as full-time a job as other jobs. The metro areas do not correspond to specific school districts. Because of many of these caveats, Im focusing on relative rankings of the areas rather than absolute salary levels. To sum up: - Based on raw data, Ann Arbor teachers are paid fairly well relative to teachers in other communities (45th out of 363 U.S. metro areas) - If we compare teacher pay to pay for all jobs in a community, however, Ann Arbor teachers are below average (232nd out of 363 metropolitan areas in the OES data) - If we compare teacher pay to pay for low-end jobs in a community, Ann Arbor is in the top 20%, at 71st out of 363. - Ann Arbors education administrators fare much better. Relative to administrators in other communities, Ann Arbor administrators rank 24th in pay, about average in pay relative to all occupations (174th out of 363), and in the top 10% in pay relative to low-end jobs (32nd out of 363). So, if compare teachers to other jobs, Ann Arbor teachers arent paid quite as well as we would think if we just look at their average salary. And depending on what metric is used, one could argue that teachers in Ann Arbor are underpaid. Im not saying that teachers shouldnt have to open up their contracts and make concessions; I think they should. But I certainly believe, based on this data, that the pay for Ann Arbor's education administrators deserves more scrutiny. Another number I'd like to see comparative data on, but don't know how, is ratio of total administration pay to whole budget and number of students, and ratio of total administration pay to total teacher pay, across all Michigan school districts or all nationwide school districts or some such metric. That would give us a sense if not just salaries for admin folks but also the sheer number of admin folks is out of whack.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 11:07 a.m.

I have spent many years volunteering in the AA Schools from the Haisley SIT to the district Technology Committee. What I found out was that, in general, our teachers are hard working and deserve every cent they receive. The first thing I would look at is the cost of bussing the kids. When I was in Elementary School, I walked about a mile to my school, same in High School. Maybe we should take another stab at redistricting with respect to reducing bussing costs? I would spend some money on consultants looking to find out how the extra ~$3000 per student that we spend enhances our kids' education in respect to the other districts around us. We need to find out how these outlying districts spend much less than we do and get essentially the same MEAP test results. Is it that our teacher costs are so much higher that the other districts? I am a booster of the district, my three sons got great educations here in Ann Arbor, which has allowed them to compete successfully in higher education and their other life endeavors. I would like to see this our students successes continue into the future, even in the face of shrinking budgets..


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 10:32 a.m.

RonAnnArbor, Since you asked, "busing" is defined by Merriam-Webster as: : the act of transporting by bus; specifically : the transporting of children to a school outside their residential area as a means of achieving racial balance in that school" "Bussing" is recognized as an alternative spelling for the transportation of children by bus, however "bussing" means kissing. "Bussing" is also the correct spelling of the word that describes the act of clearing dirty dishes from a table.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 10:17 a.m.

toomuchtodo: As Barry mentioned, there were no step increases in Ann Arbor this year. Please don't post things that you've simply read or heard someplace and don't know to be fact. Your comment is 100% untrue. dakabk - "Pay for Performance" for teachers is tremendously difficult. How would performance be judged? Each classroom is unique with vastly different student skill sets and challenges (learning disabilities, behavioral issues, allergies, etc.). Class size plays a role. Amount of help received or not received from parents plays a role. Inherited student aptitude from previous teachers is a factor. It's just not that simple. Please explain your "Pay for Performance" vision so that we can all see how it would work. Also, The "REAL MARKET FORCES" that the private sector has been dealing with are SPECIFIC to the market in which you've chosen to seek employment: the auto industry. The auto industry is the poster child for overpaid union wages, unsustainable health and retirement benefits, and sadly, poor product quality over the last 15 years. Please don't try to make everyone in the private and public sector pay for the auto industry's largely self-induced problems.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 10:03 a.m.

alan - Please note that I started my post, with the acknowledgement of the contributions of the many fine teachers in our district. This is not a blanket statement criticizing the performance of all teachers, but intended to acknowledge that there is room for improvements and cuts within our district. The comment was not posted to gang up on the teachers, to slander, to demoralize them in any way. My point was that there is room for improvement and cuts...based on what we we are paying..our students deserve the best and should not be the focus of the cuts! The facts are true and posted "anonymously" to protect the students from unnecessary criticsim. Many Ann Arbor residents do no have students in the schools and do not hear the information that parents hear on a daily basis about what is happening in our schools. Students have even welcomed the ideas of cameras in the classroom not only to monitor for safety concerns, but to improve the performance of some of their teachers.

Bridget Bly

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 10:02 a.m.

The problem with basing teacher salaries on performance is that the kids themselves are the biggest part of the equation of how well they do. Which teachers will want to teach the poorest, most damaged kids with the least likelihood of learning successfully? It's already hard to find teachers to teach in the schools with high crime, low income, low parent education (the predictors of long-term low school performance). Teacher pay linked to performance is a disaster for public education.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:59 a.m.

toomuchtodo: There were no step raises this year. At least try to figure out what's actually occurring.

Theresa Bassett

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:47 a.m.

Definitely base teachers salary on student performance. And lets pay our dentists based on number of cavities their clients get!

Jimmy Olsen

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:37 a.m.

Alan, Please explain how YOU know that a2schoolparents comments are "unfounded, hearsay slander"?


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:24 a.m.

"by your logic, should teachers receive raises when your company does? Should a teacher receive the same bonus as you do? And since you want to ruin the livelihood of thousands of people in Washtenaw county - where do you work? Do you have a masters degree? Does your job decide the market rate for teachers in the county, or the whole state? So the anti-Millage folks make things clear - the whole goal wasn't transparency in the school system's finances, as that already existed (read the budget, it's public). What they want is to see other people suffer because their salary was cut. Is that it? Revenge?" Barry - I'll try to respond to everything, hopefully I don't miss anything. Teacher contracts should be re-written so that compensation is based upon performance - period. No seniority based step increases (code words for pay raises) and no tenure protection. That system seems to work fairly well in nearly every other occupation, doesn't it. And where to I work - for a domestic auto manufacturer. And, yes, I do have a Masters degree. And in the past 7 years, I've had 1 salary increase (and no step increases either!). Am I happy about it - no. But I've watched nearly 50% of my former colleagues lose their jobs involuntarily so I'm happy to have a job. The teaching profession in this state has been completely insulated from the real market forces that the private sector has been dealing with. That has now come to an end. Do I want revenge - absolutely not. But its lunacy to think that the current teacher compensation system can stay in place.

Bridget Bly

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:15 a.m.

There are going to be meetings in January for the public to make suggestions about cuts. The huge cuts that have to be made will not be made by lowering thermostats and nudging a teacher or two into retirement. The cuts will be ones that will "continue giving" -- cutting teachers for sure, maybe pay-to-play high school athletics, maybe busing, maybe even redistricting. The board has to plan for many lean years to come. That's why there are references to "dismantling".


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:08 a.m.

1BlockRadius - by your logic, should teachers receive raises when your company does? Should a teacher receive the same bonus as you do? And since you want to ruin the livelihood of thousands of people in Washtenaw county - where do you work? Do you have a masters degree? Does your job decide the market rate for teachers in the county, or the whole state? So the anti-Millage folks make things clear - the whole goal wasn't transparency in the school system's finances, as that already existed (read the budget, it's public). What they want is to see other people suffer because their salary was cut. Is that it? Revenge?

Alan Benard

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:07 a.m.

An example of unfounded, hearsay slander: "A long time teacher told her students that she no longer has it in her to teach daily - she's too old for that and doesn't have what it takes to motivate students daily; "that's why I always have a student teacher"."Folks, post lots more of this. Gang up on the teachers, after all, the only have to teach and care for our children every day. Demoralizing them and spreading unfounded, anonymous attacks on them through is the best way to keep them sharp and motivated.Stay classy,


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 8:52 a.m.

sh1: Most Ann Arbor teachers are still getting more money this year than last (ie., a RAISE) due to annual step raise increases! Let's try to call it what it is.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 8:29 a.m.

Let me start by saying that AAPS has some amazing staff members that do an incredible job with our students and may even deserve more than what they are earning. However, there is still room in the budget to cut wages/benefits and supplies for the staff rather than supplies for the students (in addition to the many other opportunities for cost savings). There is lots of opportunity to identify savings...maybe the administration should start by asking the students for ideas. Here's an idea recently reported to me by current a2 school students.... "Senior" teachers that no longer teach daily in the classroom, but we are still paying significant salaries/benefits for. A long time teacher told her students that she no longer has it in her to teach daily - she's too old for that and doesn't have what it takes to motivate students daily; "that's why I always have a student teacher". Meanwhile, she sits in the class daily, not observing the class or the student teacher, but playing games on the new apple computer that we purchased for her use! And the district line items textbook replacement for budget cuts! Oh, I'm sorry, they also cut the retirement dinner. This teacher needs to retire - with or without a retirement dinner! WAKE UP ANN ARBOR -- Talk to your kids and their friends, it's time for change....and it's up to us as citizens and parents to get involved! The first message was sent by not approving the millage! Now we need to get involved to improve the level of educational services to our students while effectively managing the cost of doing so!

Jimmy Olsen

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 8:03 a.m.

Here is the real issue "slightly more than a dozen community members". Where is the vested interest? No wonder Ann Arborites voted YES on the millage - they don't care how their money is spent.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 7:23 a.m.

In response to "I remember reading that AAPS teacher have up to 20 days off a year, and if they don't take it during the year, they lose it, so they can't bank it. Paying someone double over 10% of the time has got to add up..." you must have read that in a supermarket tabloid. Teachers get ten sick days a year during their first ten years of teaching. Unused days are banked for the next year. And subs (bless them) do not get teacher pay so it's not "double" pay. Josber, teachers did not get a raise this year to give back.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 7:16 a.m.

I'm really distressed that this Board of Ed is so lame. It's time to do the real work, and that is going to mean goring a few sacred cows. Close some schools, reopen contracts. Look to Saline for guidance. They are doing to the hard work there.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 7:06 a.m.

Can someone explain the paycut thing to me? At my company all executives took a 30% paycut across the board last year and have dealt with that for the last full calendar year. Every single employee took a 20-35% cut, but the numbers depend what kind of hours you were working, performance from last year and salary grade. My company also said no raises, no promotions, no overtime, no bonuses, no nothing for the "forseeable future". I know of other companies that did the same a year ago. What I don't understand is what salary cuts have happened at AA public schools; can someone explain? I know several teachers and they are ALL ok with pay cuts. Maybe I'm being a bit greedy, but 8% cut for the fat cats is weak. I would have booed at this guy if he tried acting noble with his puny 8%. In my mind all of those principles making over $100,000 to manage an elementary school should be cut by AT LEAST 20%. Also... What about teacher raises? Have those been suspended?

David Jesse

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 6:27 a.m.

Superintendent Todd Roberts described the discretionary fund as money that's spent on supplies, school improvement and the like.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 6:25 a.m.

My kid's teacher takes many days off. I remember reading that AAPS teacher have up to 20 days off a year, and if they don't take it during the year, they lose it, so they can't bank it. Paying someone double over 10% of the time has got to add up...


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 5:44 a.m.

what is a discretionary fund? the others seem pretty clear.This is not an attack or anything I'm just curious


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 11:59 p.m.

@Rumsey - In talking to several 4 day a week schools in the state (mostly in the UP). They did save some money initially, but over time the number of students declined by more than surrounding schools and so the net result was to accelerate the decline of the schools. While I agree it looks good, Ann Arbor already has plenty of competition for students in the district. Adding to the cost of parents for day care 1 day a week, will only accelerate the move to charters. As to busing, the buses being cut are athletic buses, e.g. the buses that make a late run to take students who play sports home after practice. Many of them run very lightly loaded because of the long routes they have to run to get everyone home. They made the right decision to stay out of the classrooms, I agree next year will be harder. I hope the school board is looking at how they will handle contract negotiations for next year. I would not be surprised if several contracts are not signed when school starts next fall. I wish Dr Roberts the best in getting to the number for next year. I suspect the state cuts will be even deeper than people are currently planning for. I suspect that a number of families will leave the district for other states (looking for jobs) and that property values will continue to decline. Additionally the charter and private schools will be competing harder for students. It will take all the smart people that are willing to help to make things better. Several Oxen will be gored in the next 9 months. We need to put the real facts on the table and help everyone understand what is going on. Finding 2.6 million without touching employees had to be very hard. If the audit diagram is right over 90 percent of the budget is tied up in salaries. That means that if the budget is 188 million, then there is only about 18 million in non-salary costs for school operations. Taking 8 plus million from that number is going to be very very difficult. I would like to see a couple of volunteers that know organizational efficiency benchmark AAPS against Plymouth-Canton and a couple of other local districts of about the same size. We might learn something. Since the UofM does not materially contribute to the cost of running the schools (at least I can not find it in the audit report) I would suggest they be the focal point for doing the benchmark.

Theresa Bassett

Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 11:28 p.m.

Really....the retirement dinner? OK. What about busing? So many parents drive their kids to school and don't even take advantage of the buses. What about school 4 days/week but until 5pm every day? Then heat, food service, janitorial services would be cut by 20%. What are 'extras' that can be cut? I hope they get input from kids, parents, teachers and the community.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 10:50 p.m.

A tough job. I do not envy what they have to do.