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Posted on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor school board ratifies contracts with 3 unions that will save district $3.4M

By Danielle Arndt

Previous coverage:

The Ann Arbor Board of Education ratified contract agreements with three collective bargaining units Wednesday that will bring a total savings of $3.4 million to the district next fall.

The agreements with the Ann Arbor Education Association, the AAEA Paraeducators and the AAEA Office Professionals were negotiated throughout the past several weeks, as district officials look for ways to cut $17 million to $20 million from the budget for the 2013-14 academic year.

The unions and the school board approved the agreements ahead of Michigan's new right-to-work law that takes effect Thursday. The law says unions cannot mandate dues from employees they represent; however, contracts ratified before March 28 may still include language that requires workers to pay fees for the duration of the contract.

Board members around the table at Wednesday's regular meeting expressed their appreciation for these bargaining units' willingness to step up to the plate and help out.

"The units spoken of tonight … have shown the great love and respect that they have not only for this district, but for the students under their charge," said school board President Deb Mexicotte. "They have recognized that we share ownership of these students and of our successes, and that we share ownership of our challenges. They have ratified tentative agreements that have brought them additional sacrifice in terms of salary, in terms of furlough days and in terms of other adjustments they've made to their compensation and to their workloads…

Patricia Green.JPG

Ann Arbor Superintendent Patricia Green

"As we move forward trying to work with a $17-million to $20-million budget deficit this year, I cannot underestimate the value that this brings to our district and the honor that it brings to our employees, to our staff and to our community."

Superintendent Patricia Green also expressed her gratitude, acknowledging these concessions are not easy and can be painful and emotional. She saluted all of the union leaders for "stepping it up and going out to their rank and file and saying, 'We all need to be in this together.'"

"All of these discussions are not things that, under normal circumstances, anyone would be asking anyone to do," Green said. "… The fact that people are willing to recognize a need and say, 'How can I help? How can we do this?' is truly one of the most remarkable things about Ann Arbor."

District officials have said they are looking at pay cuts across the board this year to help balance the budget and are in the process of negotiating with the remaining district unions.

The agreement or memorandum of understanding for the teachers union contract includes the following:

  • A 3-percent salary reduction for all teachers for the 2013-14 academic year. All teachers will continue to move up the salary scale on schedule.
  • New MESSA insurance options for teachers that will coexist with the current health care offerings at no additional cost to the district. MESSA is a Michigan Education Association insurance provider.
  • A slightly revised district calendar for 2013-14.
  • Amendments to language in the "association rights" and "association security" sections of the union's master agreement that affirms the union has the right to collect membership dues and protects it from right-to-work legislation. This language is effective immediately, according to the agreement, and continues through June 30, 2016.
  • The reinstatement of a curriculum council with teacher involvement. An administrative curriculum council was created this school year, but the memorandum states the parties agree, "Duplication of effort is counter-productive."
  • The development of a science teacher and administration problem-solving group to address science class size issues and overfilled science labs.

In lieu of deciding to cut salaries by a certain percentage, the AAEA Office Professionals and Paraeducators unions agreed to take four and six additional furlough days without pay, respectively, for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.

Both of these unions also bargained for new MESSA insurance options and added additional language pertaining to association rights and security, which, like the AAEA, is effective immediately and continues through June 30, 2016, as well.

The AAEA Elections Committee reported 91 percent of the teachers union's membership participated in the voting process last week. Union leaders decided not to publicly divulge the margin of votes, explaining to AAEA members in an email Wednesday, "These are challenging times."


AAEA President Linda Carter

"Please understand this approach is being taken to protect the confidentiality of our organization and the integrity of the bargaining process," the AAEA bargaining team said in its email, which was obtained by

Union President Linda Carter thanked all of her teachers during Wednesday’s board meeting for the support and concern they showed for the district. She said in her 25 years in union leadership, she cannot recall there ever being such a high voter turnout.

"The overwhelming numbers of members that participated in voting for the tentative agreement is evidence that Ann Arbor teachers care about the future of Ann Arbor Public Schools' community. Teachers want to have their voices heard and teachers want to be part of determining what is best for the students they teacher," Carter said in a statement to the board, prior to trustees ratifying the agreements.

"… Spring is the time of awakening. Let's come back after spring break stronger than ever and ready to battle and overcome the challenges that are ahead. Together we can do this!"

Carter declined Wednesday to answer questions from members of the media. She did say that although the union had an ongoing contract and right-to-work rules are not supposed to affect existing contracts until after they expire, the union leadership did not want to "take the risk" and decided to bargain additional language ahead of the new law anyway.

The memorandum ratified by the school board Wednesday does not supersede or replace the agreement between the AAEA and AAPS dated June 14, 2010, in which AAPS is obligated to pay back $4.5 million owed to the teachers union for money the union saved the district in the 2010 budget cycle. This contract only can expire once the $4.5 million debt is repaid.

According to the agreement, if there is a decrease in the district's total general fund revenue from one year to the next, the pay scale for teachers remains the same. If there is an increase in revenue however, and the district's fund balance increases to at least 10 percent of the district's expenditures, then 75 percent of the general fund revenue increase must be allotted to employees in the form of health benefits or salary scale increases.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


A Voice of Reason

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

A friend went to the budget forum and someone brought up the teacher's pension and benefits and a union "plant" got up and stormed off. Ha ha ha! The union think they can intimidate people by these 1920's games. Hang tough citizens. Our teachers deserve better than be represented by thugs. The school board just shafted the teachers in this community. Nice work.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Who certifies these votes? Is there reason to believe that the teachers may not have approved these packages? This is a weird case where it's actually in a union's best interest not to negotiate the best contract for its members. I'd imagine opposition amongst the teachers would be high.


Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

A lot of teachers voted to approve these cuts because of the uncertainty of how the right to work laws would effect their paychecks. It was a lesser of two evils situation.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

I'm saying it's a weird situation, brought about by many layers of corruption. Not an accusation, just saying I wouldn't put it past them.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

You don't like the way they voted so you automatically accuse them of fraud?

Jack Panitch

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

So that folks don't misunderstand my point, the legislative "folly" I refer to is not the Right to Work bill itself. Although I don't like it, I wouldn't call it "folly." The folly is to fail to give the bill immediate effect, thereby inviting everyone to engage in very legal avoidance behavior; and then to take retaliatory action when they do. That's just goofy, wasteful governance.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

DonBee: Forgive me for missing your point, but the legal reason for the delay is the legislative "decision" not to give the bill immediate effect. It could have been given immediate effect but it wasn't.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Jack - You are a lawyer, you understand (I would hope) why the bill has a phase in time under state law. There are legal reasons. This go back and punish people for doing what was legal under the laws is not a folly but a travesty that I hope backfires on the people pushing it. If it is legal, even if I don't like it, I have to live with it, unless I want to work to change the laws. And as you know as a lawyer - ex post facto is difficult to enforce. All I can say to the politicians in Lansing is "get over it".

Dog Guy

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Balas Hall (a $4.5M double shuffle) In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast; In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest; In the Spring AAPS plots confiscatory pillage; In the Spring beneficiaries pass another millage.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

Well it sounds like the school board at least 'tried' to have meaningful bargaining- unlike the county board who basically had the union write the contract. It should be noted that unions are only telling the % of turn-out and not the numbers of yea & nays. I'm told those numbers are very close 51% vs. 48% . I'm sure there is no reason for employees to be skeptical of the union leadership rigging the vote that keeps the employee money coming in


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

sh1- yes anyone can including the union, I'm just saying this is not a win for employees. you can draw your own conclusions


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

Re. "I'm told those numbers are very close to 51% vs. 48%," anyone can put any numbers out there that they want to on this discussion board.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

The AAEA Elections Committee reported 91 percent of the teachers union's membership participated in the voting process last week. Union leaders decided not to publicly divulge the margin of votes, explaining to AAEA members in an email Wednesday, "These are challenging times." We need transparency as the people who pay the bills..................

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Danielle- Do you know if campaign contributions were made by these unions to the BOE?

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

Thank you DonBee.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

You can go to the county clerk's office online and look at the giving by the various unions and officials (and members) to various school related elections. From that you can draw your own conclusions. The information is readily available on line.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

Has our fearless leader, Ms Green, stepped up yet with her pay cut? Hmmmm


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

Has your fearless leader, Linda Green, stepped up yet with her pay cut?


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

Tried watching it on goodness no wonder they want time restrictions. It felt like it took some gentleman 10 minutes to introduce 2 people! I'm confused about one thing with all these different unions (paraeducators, office professionals, etc). I believe someone in another article mentioned that the Balas administrators are not part of the principals union, so which union are they a part of and have they offered any salary reductions?


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

Schools do not exist to employ teachers. They are for the benefit of the kids and taxpayers. There is a $17 million problem, and a $3.4 million reduction in payroll, when it accounts for %75 of the budget, will not be enough. So would a board agree to it and lock in finding $14 million under a rock. This will resulting a substantial reduction in services for kids ans their parents. Plus... "75 percent of the general fund revenue increase must be allotted to employees in the form of health benefits or salary scale increases." Excuse me? How about the revenue increase go back to all of the cut services, or back into a rainy day fund. This is not fixing anything, and puts the painful cuts on the students.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

New MESSA insurance options for teachers that will coexist with the current health care offerings at no additional cost to the district. MESSA is a Michigan Education Association insurance provider. A slightly revised district calendar for 2013-14. Since MESSA has the highest administration costs compared to any other I can just imagine how much more in tax money will help support this monopoly, no added costs to the District, really then how do they keep those costs down when in fact medical premiums will increase substantially over the next few years? Nice to know that we have administrators that have a crystal ball at the expense of the taxpayer.

Liz Margolis

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

AAPS capped it's contribution to MESSA coverage many years ago.

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

It is times like these when I realize just how much Ann Arbor and Taylor have in common.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

Heading to the budget forum tonight--oh, wait...they just decided that 60% of the budget is going to take a 3% decrease. So the other 40% of the budget needs to come up with the 7%--that means good by arts!

A Voice of Reason

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 2:56 a.m.



Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.

I think Mike Madison said it best, "Are we a school district or a district of schools?" We MUST look at the entire school DISTRICT and not give to special groups that have been enjoying the ride. TImes are tough. We are like a family. Families make difficult decisions. Yes, there are certain things that are nice to have, but let's go back to our elementary social studies lesson on needs and wants. We can't have everything we want!


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 4:22 a.m.

He also agrees that we need to stop trimming what makes the wheel go and start looking at the overall picture. He is a bull dog and gets what he wants when the time is right.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

Mr. Madison did not say "enjoy the ride." I put this in my comment as my opinion. He said something about supporting the three things that make this district great- Academics, Athletics, and the Arts. Let's face the facts people. There are going to have to be cuts that small groups do not like. We are financially in crisis. I want to thank the teachers for giving 3% of their salary to help out. Let's see who's next!


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

Which special groups is Mike Madison referring to as far as "enjoying the ride"? I agree with him, but just wondering if he was referring to specific special interests?


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

Not give to special groups...? You mean like teachers? They seem to me to be a fairly important piece of your DISTRICT.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

Two things: First, what is the $3.4M "savings" based off of? Are we going to be spending $3.4M less than we did last year, or are we going to be spending $3.4M less than we planned on spending (yet still spending more)? There's a difference. Second, I couldn't help but notice the free option described in the final paragraph of the article: "According to the agreement, if there is a decrease in the district's total general fund revenue from one year to the next, the pay scale for teachers remains the same. If there is an increase in revenue however, and the district's fund balance increases to at least 10 percent of the district's expenditures, then 75 percent of the general fund revenue increase must be allotted to employees in the form of health benefits or salary scale increases." Wow, talk about heads we win, tails you lose. If, for some reason, fund revenues decrease, then it's no skin off of employees backs. On the other hand, should the balance increase, then that money has to be allocated to the employees. I'm shocked to learn that they only wanted 75% - in the 2012 budget, 86.5% was the amount of the general fund taken up by personnel compensation costs.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

DonBee: I'm pretty sure that the language of the 2010 contract modification would cover any dispute over the trigger mechanism in the same contract. Your generalized definition of total revenue would be meaningless. My original point was that the teachers made a very creative sacrifice in the 2010 contract modification. That trigger involves general fund revenue minus employer pension contribution increases. Your "buckets" are empty camouflage for the fact that teachers are not likely to recover anything under the contract, at least as long as we continue to defund public education with budgetary sleight of hand.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:12 p.m.

Mr Panitch - My total is what is reported in the Audit report when all of the "buckets" are added together, that is TOTAL revenue. It is the money that the school has for all of its operations. From title 1 and 2 money to Prop A money to the WISD Special education funds to medicaid reimbursements to sinking fund to other sources of income. It is all money that if it was missing would mean deeper cuts to the budget. Any other definition is playing games. Like it or not it all counts to turning on the lights and keeping the doors open.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

DonBee: Define "TOTAL revenue," (hint: it would be helpful if your definition tracks the 2010 contractual definition.) Thank you.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Mr Panitch - I looked at your URLs and I can't find a contradiction to what I wrote. The TOTAL revenue for AAPS will rise again this year over last. Maybe not as much as you and others wish it would, but it will. The county has in their meetings indicated that property tax revenue is up from projections, so that also is based in stated fact by county officials. My comments were directed at AAPS. The state as a whole still has issues that need to be dealt with.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

You have to scrutinize the details of Governor Snyder's proposed K-12 budget "increase" to determine what it means for school districts like Ann Arbor: another decrease in most analyst's views. And then there's the part about looking at County property values as a proxy for the entire state. I stand by my earlier observations, which, like it or not, have a reasonable basis in fact. Teachers, lead at that time by Brit Satchwell, made a creative, very selfless sacrifice in 2010. If DonBee's conclusions have any factual support, I can't find them. Here are some links to analysis of the Governonr's K-12 budget proposal:


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

The later, $3.4 less than planned. The total revenue is going up this year over last year, based on the budget from the state of Michigan and the County's property tax assessment. The County already saw a surplus based on more property taxes than they expected, so will the school district.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

You have to go back and read David Jesse's article covering the 2010 negotiations to know the history, but a more accurate characterization would be "not-gonna-happen-in-our-lifetime heads we gain back some of what we sacrificed for the unconditional good of the students of this district, tails everyone, especially the students of this District, loses."


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:10 a.m.

Now that all the employee's in the district have given, it is now time for Balas to pony up and be examples as well. The BOE should have demanded it last night at the meeting. BOE, you aren't have the hook either. It is time for you to step up and make those tough choices. Don't bail due to special interest groups, do what is in the best interest of ALL students in Ann Arbor, not just those whose parents come out to express their displeasures.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 4:19 a.m.

Palace Balas will never give up its life of ease while watching Rome burn. Everyone I have talked to has said Balas needs to downsize by half. There is too much one hand stroking the other scenario. Balas? I hope you are listening because it is time to downsize, considerably. BOE? You need to stop hacking away at the spokes. It is time to trim the hub.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 10:24 a.m.

I do wish there was some mention about when teachers reach the top of the salary scale. I believe after 12-14 years of service teachers are at the top. Our most seasoned teachers will take the largest pay cut and haven't seen any increases, only decreases, for the past 6-8 years. What percent of our teachers are at the top scale? No mention from Dr. Greene about her showing her love for students through her own wallet? How big is your love?


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

local - I believe you mean "pocket" not "packet" Lets look at what the pay table says about moving out I will use step 6 the middle of the table: BA - 52,910 BA+30 - 58,340 - an increase of more than $7,000 for 30 additional credits (Eastern is $500 a credit hour) - payback is roughly 3 years. MA - 61,873 - an increase of $2,500 for a Masters, many Masters programs are 30 credits so there may not be a difference, depending on the program between the hour requirements for BA+30 and an MA - some masters programs can be 60 hours requiring an additional 30 credit hours. BA+60/MA+30 - 63,476 - an additional roughly $2,000 for 30 more hours (payback in 7 years at Eastern) BA+90 - 66,511 - an additional roughly $3,000 for 30 more hours (payback in 4 years) PhD - 68,310 - an additional $2,000 - typically if you have done the work right, the BA+90 should be all the course work you need for a PhD, then you have the dissertation to do to support it. Overall getting 90 hours of additional education gives an increase of $14,000 a year - for a cost of (At Eastern) $45,000 - or about a 4 year payback on the tuition. Obviously there are books, fees, travel and time involved. But on the flip side the Defined Benefit that is paid on retirement increases as well, so you have the rest of your life to get a payback. At step 12 (12 years on the job) the difference is not $14K but $19,000 a year, so the payback is even faster if you have 90 hours. You and the other teachers have to decide what your time and energy are worth, but it seems like a pretty reasonable payback on your investment to me.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

true DonBee, but if a teacher goes back to further their own education it comes out their own packets and the pay off on the pay scale doesn't offset the cost of the program. So yes, a teacher can earn more by furthering their education, but in the long run I'm not sure it pays off.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

Take a good look at that table - it moves in two directions - down and out. Down is based on the number years of service, there are the traditional steps that are annual and two additional steps, that most districts don't have (L1 and L2). If you just keep teaching longer, you get these steps. Then there is the out dimension - when you add another college degree, you get more money. Add a masters, a second masters, a PhD, etc you get more money. So there are two ways to get more money from the contract in the step table. Then there is the points system that also offers ways to get more money. There are also leadership roles that offer a bonus. So to say at year "X" there is no way to get a raise, is not quite true. Of course retirement payments are based on your high three years of pay, so a little planning can get you a lot more money, for your retirement.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

A teacher who has reached that level of employment has earned far more than a salary. S/he has earned ironclad tenure, which essentially guarantees them a job for life. They are far beyond the "last in, first out" order of firing, further insulating them from layoffs. Finally, they have earned what is likely to be a lifetime of pension and healthcare benefit payments which are likely to exceed - by a wide margin - the total compensation they've earned working on behalf of the school district. We should be so lucky as to be in the position of a teacher who has reached the 12-14 year mark.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

14 years is the top of pay scale. A 14 year teacher makes the same as a 25 year teacher at this point. No raises occur unless it is negotiated. Unfortunately, all recent activity has been pay cuts!!


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 10:23 a.m.

I hope the Michigan Attorney General examines the legality of all these organizations circumventing the intent of this law. I find it outrageous, a clear attempt by union leadership to pad their financials. In most cases union membership had no part in the discussions.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

The democratic party demanded that democrat controlled public boards renegotiate with unions to protect them from right to work. (protect that campaign money) This "re-negotiation" is only happening in democrat controlled communities. I find it ironic that unions claim to represent workers yet, who protects the workers from the unions?

Jack Panitch

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Fordie's comment is a bull's-eye. All I would add is that Mr. Schuette might want to demand an increase in his budget to cover the additional cost of defending the legislature's folly. Newspaper reports suggest that this type of activity is widespread among political subdivisions and their bargaining units, which means that the retaliatory action the legislature is taking will be challenged in Courts all over Michigan. If this forces the Department of Attorney General to litigate these cases defensively everywhere at once, the Department may need more resources. There are a lot of scary-bright, resourceful public servants in the AG's office who will figure out how to best economize the Department's resources, but it should be interesting to see how all this plays out. The winners? That would be all the attorneys paid to litigate these actions. The losers? You guessed it: that would be we, the people. But, as Fordie points out, the legislature is the culprit in all this.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

"The AAEA Elections Committee reported 91 percent of the teachers union's membership participated in the voting process last week." "She said in her 25 years in union leadership, she cannot recall there ever being such a high voter turnout." I hope the AG does explore the legality of this, because everything that they did was perfectly legal. The law went into effect today. If the GOP wanted it to be effective immediately, they should have made it effective immediately.