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Posted on Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 9:12 a.m.

Ann Arbor, Dexter school boards to talk finances in meetings this week

By David Jesse

Once again, budget talks will dominate Washtenaw County school board meetings this week.

Starting today with the Dexter school board, elected officials will be hearing from administrators about what cuts need to be made this school year to balance their budgets.

It’s all part of the fallout from per-pupil funding cuts from the state and the failure of the countywide enhancement millage.

Dexter will meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the Creekside Media Center. Click here to see a variety of financial data, including different scenarios and some cuts that have already been put in place. The district has posted the material on its Web site.

Money talk is also expected to dominate the Ann Arbor school board this week. The board will hold two public meetings.

The first is a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the downtown library. On the agenda for the evening is the approval of the district’s annual financial audit.

In addition, Robert Allen, the district’s deputy superintendent for operations, will give a report on the first quarter financial results. He previewed that report last week for the board’s performance committee. Click here to see coverage of that meeting.

The meeting to watch will be Thursday. The Ann Arbor school board will get together with district administrators at 5:30 p.m. at the district headquarters to discuss the budget for the year, including recommendations from administrators for budget cuts.

As always, if there’s anything going on in the schools - including cool things happening in classrooms - e-mail me.



Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 3:27 p.m.

I think that many teachers are also trapped, and don't have influence on the decisions that their union leadership makes. I know that at our school, some teachers (not just parents) were also told they were not allowed to donate their time for clubs. Many teachers have worked for years building up interest and enthusiasm for these great activity clubs, and now they are just "poof". The union wouldn't allow it. Regarding layoffs, I think that if the union says they won't renegotiate, then it's pretty much a done deal. I don't think it's posturing- it's the way the game is played. A heartbreaking example of this is in Wyoming Public Schools (a suburb of Grand Rapids) where teachers are pleading publicly for others to "give back":


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 12:23 p.m.

Seeing as how I grew up in Michigan and went to a state university, here's part of the issue. I can't speak for any other jobs, but as for teachers, Michigan is a hot bed for out-of-state students to remain in Michigan after the graduate with an education degree. Why? Because they know that Michigan is one of the best paying states. I find it sad that a school district would rather hire an out-of-state graduate rather than an alumus of the district. That's why I moved out of state. I think part of it would be to readjust the pay scale and to put a freeze on raises and new hires. Oh, and by the way, do we really need secretaries for secretaries? Couldn't they just cut some of the deadwood out of the districts? I know the district in the state I'm in has like 8 assistant superintendents. Do we really need all of them? Do we really need to pay 2 people an absurd amount to come in and tell us how to teach students when they haven't been in an actual classroom teaching in 25 years? Time to cut the fat out of the budget and the only way is to start at the top. You don't see Granholm talking a pay cut.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 12:20 p.m.

Ann Arbor staff: Please check your facts before you delete people's posts for being non-factual. I do not understand why you deleted my post yesterday. I assume it was because I referred to a post by one of the millage supporters,Mr. Satchwell, who, in jest or otherwise, posted a note that demonstrated a lack of strong support for the millage when he stated, "... I'm almost to the point of believing that we deserve everything we won't get if the millage fails..." As these words are a direct quote from Mr. Satchwell, nothing I mentioned was factually incorrect. As a result, I request that you repost my message.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 10:38 a.m.

Steve, I hope you are right that the no-compromise positions we are seeing now are "posturing" and part of an ultimately productive process. I have come to doubt it. My cynical position is the result of years of first-hand experience. But maybe I'm wrong. Either way, the state is almost completely out of time to save the day. We'll know with the first school employee layoff if greed has triumphed.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 9:11 a.m.

Steve, You have a wonderful attitude. I used to feel that way, too. I sort of still do, but I think things changed. Little things happened along the way that made me realize that teachers do not, when push comes to shove, puts kids first. Like the time that our school's librarian was warned that her hours would be cut. The new principal (and once former teacher union president) tried to rally parents at a pto meeting to tell the administration that we would NOT help fill in the vacant hours (by shelving books). As if parents would rather see our children NOT have library visits than volunteer to help out... because of union solidarity? It never came to pass- the hours weren't cut back- but the impression it left on me has not gone away. This year, our school has had all club funding cut. Some parents wanted to fill the void- to volunteer to run the clubs themselves- at no expense to the schools. The administration has not allowed it (at least on school grounds), due to union pressure. How do the kids benefit from that? There are more incidents too, but in essence, I find it simply appalling that teachers want MORE money in this crisis (ie., continuing step raises, and raises), knowing full well that the kids will suffer greatly for it.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 11:41 p.m.

@A2CarGuy: I appreciate what you are saying. And I don't think most teachers want to see layoffs - it's lose-lose for them, since those with less seniority would lose jobs and those remaining would have to pick up a much bigger burden. We've got the same number of kids to educate, either way. I really don't know why the WCEA ruled out contract reopening, though I suspect it was in response to what they may have seen as a "let's cut teacher pay and call it good" attitude. We're at the beginning of a very long and difficult period, and right now there is a lot of posturing going on, from all sides. I doubt this is where things will end up, though. It's also my impression, as an outsider, that AAEA has not said "never" to contract renegotiation, but just wanted some bona-fide efforts by administration to look elsewhere first. At this point, symbolism and gestures are pretty important. @Jimmy Olsen: I feel your pain. I'm self employed, so no paid benefits, no 401k, no paid vacations, etc. Tried shopping for non-group health insurance lately? It's not pretty out there. But so far my family is OK, and that's probably as much as I can ask. But I don't begrudge my kid's teachers either their pay or their benefits. I want the best people in there with my children, so it's worth it. Do I wish I had that (somewhat) stable pay and group health plan? Sure. Actually, I think everyone who works hard (and the teachers certainly do) deserves good pay and decent health benefits. In the meantime, though, I'm not sure taking these things away from teachers helps me, my kids or my community. It's important to remember that it's not just that the economy is bad. We have set up a tax system that has resulted in a smaller and smaller percentage of our state's income being spent on public services, including K-12 education, over the last ten years. In other words, in good times and bad, the *share* of whatever we have that goes to schools has fallen. That's not a result of the recession, it's the result of a tax structure that simply does not meet our needs. And there is nothing magical or market-driven that caused this: we as citizens decided to go down this path, and we as citizens can choose to change directions. Personally, I think the time to do this came long ago.


Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 11:32 p.m.

I agree with the sentiment that quality teachers are critical to our state's future recovery. But in this economy, it seems quite unrealistic to think that we can compensate teachers what we once did, nor does it seem warranted that they be immune to the economic climate. There isn't a teacher shortage... and with all the likely layoffs, there probably won't be one anytime soon. In the end, if unions do not agree to any concessions, it will be to their own (and unfortunately our kids) detriment. Traditional public schools will become understaffed and overcrowded, and to fill the void, charters will grow... and maybe even pave the way for vouchers.


Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 10:29 p.m.

Steve, I think we agree on a lot, most of all that education is Michigan's only way out of this. I do wish the state cuts weren't as severe as they are, but like school districts the state has already been cutting for years, too. There isn't any low hanging fruit left. Teachers are members of our community and our community is suffering. The current position of the union leadership is that the teachers with the most seniority should be isolated from the community's problems, while the least senior are financially devestated. The surest way to damage our educational system is to lay off large numbers of teachers. That's the path we're on now. I think it's the worst possible one.

Jimmy Olsen

Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 10:01 p.m.

Steve, You haven't heard many calls for doctors, lawyers and similar professionals to take 10 or 20 percent pay cuts, because, I'd venture to say they ALREADY have. The dire economic conditions of this state have not spared any profession that I know of. Doctors are treating more patients with no health care, or ability to pay. I'm a technology professional - want me to list what I've lost the last two years? No raises (pay reduction this year), no longevity bonus, no 401k matching, PTO time taken away, minimal benefits which I pay a higher percentage for (10,000 total out of pocket), etc. So when I see teachers who contribute ZERO towards their health care, receive AUTOMATIC raises (step and otherwise) without much of review of their actual abilities once tenure is obtained, I wonder just what sense of entitlement they think they have. Yes, people still clamor for education, but I bet I could find qualified people who are willing (and able) to do the job. Not even opening the contracts to have a conversation is a slap in the face to every parent in the district who has taken cuts and is possibly struggling.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 6:23 p.m.

@A2CarGuy, You misunderstand me, and I do not mean to be offensive. My point is that people in the auto and manufacturing sectors have lost their jobs, and taken severe pay cuts, because there is less demand for the product of their industries. Whether their sacrifices are fair, given how management and owners have been treated, is a good question - one I am not really qualified to talk about. But what I *do* know is that the answer to our difficulties will not come from hunkering down and squeezing everyone's pay in an effort to keep things the way they were. Whether it is for people looking for jobs now, or our kids who will need good jobs in the future, education is the key. The good jobs that are available today, and will be available in the future, will demand more education, not less. Moreover, a better education leaves people with more flexibility to shift with changing times and still land on their feet. Given all this, does it really make sense to tell our kids' teachers that they are worth a lot less? Just when we need skilled teachers the most? I don't hear many calls for doctors, lawyers and similar professionals to take 10 or 20 percent pay cuts. I don't have much say over how they are compensated. But as a citizen, I *do* have some say about the priority we give to schools and the people who make them work. I choose to invest in our future by investing in education.


Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 6:08 p.m.

Steve, UAW members and other employees of auto manufacturers and auto suppliers have taken significant cuts in pay. A lot of people in the auto industry have lost their jobs, too, but those who are left have accepted significant cuts. It sounds like you are saying they are getting paid less because they don't have as much to do. That can't be what you mean, is it? If so, that really is insulting as aataxpayer suggests. The people I know who are still employed in the auto industry are working harder than ever for less money and are still wondering if they're the next one to be cut. That's life in Michigan right now. So it's in the context of this environment of hard work, financial hardship, and stress that people are not sympathetic to hearing someone else's reduced raise described as a cut, or a slightly increased workload described as a concession. And then you add that our kids could suffer to protect the salaries of the people making these arguments. And then you add that many teachers are about to lost their jobs in a state with 15% unemployment already. That really is offensive.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 3:55 p.m.

@aataxpayer, I certainly do not mean to insult anybody, but your argument still rests on a foundation of sand. School funding, and thus school employee pay, has been kept on a tight leash since 1994. AAPS's funding allowance has fallen 9% behind inflation from 94-08. Is that also true of the private sector? Before we call for school employees to make sacrifices of the same magnitude, we need to look at the history as well. Second, painful and unfair as it may be, manufacturing jobs have been hit hard in the last few years, mostly because people were not buying or not able to buy the product (cars, or whatever). In other words, there was less work to do. This is not the case for education. We have just as many kids to educate. Student numbers statewide have fallen, but not by as much as people think. AAPS is up this year, and has generally plateaued after many years of increases. Lastly, and this is difficult to say, but still true: I can live without a new car, or any car at all, but my kids and my community have a poor future if our schools decline as much as our economy has. Given a choice, I'd rather invest in the future.


Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 8:50 a.m.

There are certainly details and subtleties involved here but this is one of those cases where the problem is so big and obvious that the details tend to cloud the issue. The state funds the school districts. The state has a lot less money now. Therefore school districts will have a lot less money. The only way to reach those goals is to reduce compensation or cut people. If you are leasing a Porsche, then you lose your job, you can talk all you want about cutting back on minor expenses but that is just avoiding the obvious: you've got to give up the Porsche. Nobody WANTS layoffs but teacher unions will do it to protect their compensation. I have been there when it happened. I sat in a board meeting with teachers who were in tears as they were laid off. The union leadership made angry speeches to the board, all the while knowing that if they had just made a small sacrifice themselves those teachers would still have their jobs.


Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 6:55 a.m.

Steve, --- Are you saying that these arm-chair superintendents are oversimplifying the issue? Their calls for shared sacrifice, highlighting of teacher greed, and the blasting of the unions are all so easy for my little tiny brain to understand. Many of these posters have a background in business, so I'm sure they could tell you how to operate a school. --- Talking points are just so much more effective at solving issues. Why do you have to complicate the issue by suggesting that more is happening behind the scenes? --- Your simple friend, SpamBot1

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 12:37 a.m.

@aataxpayer (and others), I'm not representing anybody but myself, so don't read too much into my comments. But I doubt that anybody in any district wants huge layoffs. The question is more how the burden will be shared across employee groups and with administration. This is a complicated internal political issue, and will probably need some quiet diplomacy to get done. That said, I remind everyone that these visions of easy-to-cut fat are simply fantasy after a decade of budget cuts. Moreover, the fist-pounding demands by some to cut teacher pay and benefits ignores the sacrifices all school employees have already made - not to mention making a mockery of simultaneous calls for improved teaching quality. Finally, it's worth noting that AAEA is not a formal member of the WCEA (EAs from the other nine districts), and they do not necessarily move in lock-step on these issues.


Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 9:14 p.m.

Rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric,blahh, blahh blahh. Have any of you ever attended a board meeting, looked at what is posted on your districts' website (let alone other districts), maybe found contract information from websites such as MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute. If you some of you spent some time actually looking at data instead of commenting, maybe you would have noticed that the Dexter data link in this article shows that retirement contributions for schools in Michigan will go from 16.9% to almost 20% in the next three years. Were is that money going to come from? I suggest that all of you spend sometime going to board meetings, FOIA'ing and researching on the Internet. Then give some educated posts that are worth reading with facts instead of the blahh, blahh, waahh, waahh, waah from both sides of this issue. Sorry if this gets deleted cause it wasn't written "PC" enough.

Jimmy Olsen

Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 9:08 p.m.

At the Saline school board meeting last week, Mr. Heim, SEA president...stated "No new taxes on teachers". Apparently, they decided that the current 2 million dollar short fall will be solved by dividing it by the number of teachers and "taxing" SEA members 6,500 each. It is truly astounding to come to this conclusion without even TALKING to the district and refusing to open their contract to have any discussion. I guess the rank and file agree with this, since they had meetings before the board meeting last week. One would suspect they don't actually read current event articles to realize what is going on in the world around them. I'm glad this guy doesn't have any classes to teach. Expect the same response in Dexter.

David Jesse

Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 5:14 p.m.

FYI. I've been talking to teacher union presidents around the county and have also requested all the teacher union contracts from the various districts. WE've got most of the contracts back, and several union presidents have chatted with me. We'll get a story up as soon as we're able to.


Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 4:40 p.m.

The Saline teacher's union, along with all the unions in the county, decided not to re-open negotiations. They didn't say "look elsewhere first." They clearly said "no way". Note that the leaders of each union got together and decided this. The membership was never asked. Did the AAPS contract take into account conditions as bad as they are about to get and as bad as they will certainly be next year? Unlike Saline, AAPS teachers did make some concessions but I didn't think they were enough to cover the current shortfalls. Even saying "look elsewhere first" would be dishonest when they know the ONLY way to cut millions of dollars from a school budget is to renegotiate standing contracts or cut large numbers of teachers. Pay-to-play sports and even closing whole buildings isn't going to do it. If the union says "look elsewhere first" what they mean is "lay off the low-seniority teachers".

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 4:04 p.m.

Well, since AAPS and the local teacher's union just inked a contract in September, which took into account current conditions, maybe reopening the contract won't be the first thing on the agenda. I understand AAPS is doing a complete review of district spending, to try to identify $4 million in savings during the current year. Perhaps once that review has moved far enough along, the employee groups will be prepared to talk about their contracts. All the employee groups have made enough concessions in recent years that I can understand them wanting administration to look elsewhere first. I expect there will be a lot of discussion at BoE meetings in December, and now they have announced four community forums to talk about budget cuts in January.

scooter dog

Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 10:56 a.m.

I still see all the Dexter schools buildings lit up like its christmas, at night when nobody is around.I also see their white chevy pick-up truck at mugg and bopps gas station every morning stocking up on sodas and playing the lottery on schools/taxpayers dime,just a tip of the iceberg of waste in Dexter schools,and they wonder why people turned down there latest fiasco.