You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 6:35 p.m.

Washtenaw County school enhancement millage foes lead money race

By David Jesse

Opponents of a countywide schools enhancement millage are outspending supporters of the proposal by nearly $30,000, campaign finance records released today show.

The only opposition group to file a contribution report was Citizens for Responsible Washtenaw.

The group, which lists Albert Berriz as its treasurer, has received two donations - both from McKinley, an Ann Arbor real estate company, records show. Berriz is president and CEO of McKinley. 

McKinley donated $50,000, followed by a $25,000 contribution.

“I’m very passionate,” about the issue, he said. “I am confident that this millage will not address the financial structural issues of the schools.”

In an e-mail sent Friday, he called on school leaders to improve the transparency of the schools’ finances. He also said the reality of Washtenaw County is families are struggling, and the tax is too high.

“I love Ann Arbor schools,” he said. “But it’s my obligation is to say things candidly.”

The records show Citizens for Responsible Washtenaw has spent $4,705 of that money so far.

The other main opposition group, Citizens for Responsible School Spending, filed a campaign finance report waiver saying it intended to raise and spend under $1,000.

Leading donations for the proponents came from the county’s teacher and administrator unions, led by $5,000 from the Ann Arbor Administrator Association.

In total, county teacher and administrative unions have given more than $12,000, record show.

The supporters have two groups. 

The first, Citizens Millage Committee, is based in Ann Arbor and generally has contributions from Ann Arbor residents. That group has raised $23,361, records show. After expenditures, the committee has $10,433 left to spend.

The other group, Friends of Education, is based in Dexter. It has contributions totaling $21,654 and has $9,860 left to spend.

Contributors include most area school superintendents, many area school board members, several school administrators and teachers. Donations also came from several firms that do business with area schools.

The largest donation is $2,480 from the Federation of Washtenaw Intermediate School Employees.

Steven Norton, the campaign manager for the Citizens Millage Committee, said union contributions will amount to about one-fourth of the group's total budget by the time the race is over.

“If you look at the rest of the filings, the majority of what we have has been in relatively small contributions from individuals of all stripes,” he said. “We’ve always planned to run a grassroots campaign.”

Norton said his group is planning door-to-door canvassing this weekend and other one-on-one campaigns.

Editor's note: Berriz was one of two community members on's editorial board, but resigned the position this week due to his involvement in the school enhancement millage campaign.

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


Paul Estenson

Wed, Oct 28, 2009 : 9:05 a.m.

I wanted to thank Mr. Ranzini for doing the research that reveled that $75K in antimillage money came from a company and its CEO that would save $287,000 per year if the millage fails. As a banker I am sure that Mr. Ranzini believes that economic self-interest could influence one's choices. My point above was that this financial self-interest is newsworthy and should have been addressed by the newspaper.

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 11:41 p.m.

BenWoodruff, I have no problem with teacher salaries. I do have a problem with pay step increases that are not merit based...just longevity base. A good teacher, a great teacher, and a bad teacher all get the same increase year to year regardless of their performance. Once a teacher has made it through their 'probationary period', they are with the District forever. Tenure needs to end. As for health insurance, again, I have no problem with providing realistic health insurance. I would like the Districts to competitively bid out health insurance, instead of being tied to the MEA owned MESSA.


Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 9:40 p.m.

Thank you Mckinley for all you have done for Ypsianti and the millions you have donated to non-profits to make our community a better place. A non-profit I work with receives donations from your company. I am guessing this CEO wants toreform our school funding and thank goodness someone is out there expessing this for the silent majority! I guess I would rather see this person who has little to gain express his view than people from the state labor union that make $250,000 per year (I just read this on or annarbor.politico.


Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 6:30 p.m.

What 'd like to know from those of you who believe that the Teaches "make too much" and have "gold plated benefits" is, What do you think teachers should be paid? If you were able to set the wage scale and benefit package, what would you do? Anybody?

Michael K.

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 2:42 p.m.

Wow, you really think that $500 donated 4-7 years ago can buy votes in AA? Then McKinley must **OWN** this city, if Berriz is willing to shell out $75K just for advertising. What is he passinmg behind closed doors? The disgust is with the disproprtionate impace of one wealthy individual to overly influence poublic "debate." Like this is an organization, not the creation of one outspoken individual. That is OK, maybe,, I guess. But we will not shut our eyes to who is doing it, and it **WILL** have business consequences for the long term! $500 is pretty close to what an average person might be able to afford on a subject they feel strongly about. $75K is not!

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 9:36 a.m.

There seems to be a lot of talk regarding Al Berriz's involvement supporting the NO vote. Let's look at the other side. Who's sitting at the table for the AAPS. Look at your school board. The MEA/AAEA has made PAC donations to many members over the last several years. This is a relatively new trend. It did not happen before 2000, before the sinking fund, bond, and now another tax increase with the WISD millage. So: Who's sitting at the table for AAPS? Susan Baskett: 5-09-03 $700 Laborers Local #959 6-05-03 $500 MEA Deb Mexicote: 6-04-03 $500 MEA Karen Cross: 4-26-05 $500 MEA Glenn Nelson: 6-17-02 $250 AAEA 4-26-05 $500 MEA Gates-Bryant: 4-07-02 $500 MI Laborer's Political League 4-28-03 $500 MI Laborer's Political League 6-01-03 $500 undisclosed (MEA?) 6-01-03 $500 AAEA 4-07-04 $500 MI Laborer's Political League 4-30-08 $1000 MEA all this information is available at the site. You want to know who has a vested interested in the millage passing? It's the MEA/AAEA! Don't kid yourself. This has been a well co-ordinated, well financed push by the MEA/AAEA to increase the money available to keep local school districts benefits, especially MESSA (owned & operated by the MEA). We have FOIA'ed the AAPS to get documents regarding who is paying for people's salaries regarding their millage committee, and they have sent us 'extention' notices. They won't give us the information until after the election. What do they have to hide? Where's the transperancy? So to all that are complaining about special interest groups. Let's look at the largest one involved in this debate, the MEA!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 8:45 a.m.

A commenter above asserted that McKinley might be the largest property owner in the county. Although a large taxpayer, it is far from the largest. In 2009 it was the 5th largest taxpayer in the county with $143,788,923 of SEV, or $287,577,846 in value. If the millage passes, McKinley's property taxes will increase by about $287,500. The largest taxpayers in the county in 2009 were in order: DTE Energy, Pfizer, GM, Ford, McKinley, Toyota, Briarwood Mall, Dominos Farms and Chrysler. Of course Pfizer's property is now owned by UofM and off the tax rolls, the Big Three have announced plans to scale down their investment in the county and we all pay DTE Energy's rates through our Detroit Edison and MichCon utility bills. These entities represented 7.83% of the taxable property in 2009 and McKinley had 0.94% of all taxable property in the county. In the city of Ann Arbor in 2009, McKinley was the 9th largest taxpayer with taxable SEV of $18,383,896. McKinley had 0.37% of all property in the city. In the interest of full disclosure I note that this information is ready available from the municipalities and that McKinley is not a customer of my bank. For people to opine that McKinley or its CEO is not entitled to an opinion on the millage or entitled to advocate for their position on the millage, or that their opinion is somehow tainted is laughable. McKinley has one of THE biggest stakes in the future success of this community because they have over a quarter billion of investment here. They have among the most to lose if the choice of the voters on November 3rd is wrong.

Paul Estenson

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 10:09 p.m.

Donbee, The difference is that the Promillage group's interest is completely transparent. The antimillage interest was disingenuously portrayed with an unconscionable assist from


Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 9:51 p.m.

So Paul - How do you feel about the fact that one of the pro-millage groups is heavily funded by employees of the school system who have the largest amount to gain from passing the millage? Both sides have people with financial interest in this outcome, that are reaching for their checkbooks. On one side you have a private company funding 1 of the 2 anti-millage groups (the other is mostly money from private citizens) and the other side has a group that is almost entirely funded from Union Political Action Money. I am sorry but that is the way politics is done any more in the US.

Paul Estenson

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 8:41 p.m.

I find it jarring to see that makes no effort to separate news reporting from its editorializing. While I expect to continue the News mission of keeping upper class people together with their money and showing little interest in issues of the greater good, I found this "news" article shocking. The article does not make the obvious and newsworthy observation that McKinley is, if I am not mistaken, the largest owner of taxable real estate in the county. McKinley would then be the largest beneficiary of rejecting the millage. This is obviously in Mr. Berriz's and his company's self interest. That your newspaper does not make this newsworthy connection and instead quotes Mr. Berriz suggesting that he is motivated by his love for the Ann Arbor schools ignoring the fact that his company will save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year if the millage fails makes a mockery of what a newspaper should be doing. In fact, a real newspaper would not only "follow the money" and point out the self interest of the donors to the antimillage groups, it would send a reporter to determine "at current valuations the amount of money McKinley would save if the millage is rejected".

The Grinch

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 6:36 p.m.

Donbee, Sounds to me like administrators who won't administrate. And I do not believe for one second that all in-service training is court-mandated.

Michael K.

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 5:52 p.m.

As an Ann Arbor buisness owner, I intend to BOYCOTT McKINLEY! When I took a buyout (was forced out) at Ford 3 yeras ago, I told my wife we should leave Michiogan because the quality of life was going to go to hell. She wanted to stay, so we did. I didn't care so much about job and income opportunities, etc., as lonmg as we maintained a reasonable quality of life in the community. I see now that it was a mistake to stay. With the legislature cutting school funding, local opposition to making up that money is really discouraging. Michigan already sucks - you are going to throw away the futue too by being short-sighted and penny pitching on education. Bye bye Michigan - time to go. It will be 10+ years before you come back anyway... FWIW, Saline schools use PowerSchool.


Sun, Oct 25, 2009 : 7:43 p.m.

David - I asked about in service and the answers I got were interesting... 1) I was told the training was court mandated training from one principal and that it would be a year or two before they could take up other topics 2) I was told by another that too many teachers skipped in service, so that it was not worth doing it then. I do not believe either one, but those are the answers I was given. OBTW in AAPS - the inservice this year is almost all diversity sensitive training. I still say if you are not going to get the teachers to use it, the school board should stop paying for it.

The Grinch

Sun, Oct 25, 2009 : 7:17 p.m.

Donbee, Did the principal bother telling you what they did with the mandatory days of in-service in the school schedule? You, I suspect, got half the story. My gut instinct is that the AAEA refused to permit the school district to require training outside of the days already required under the contract, and the school district would not do it within the contractual days. So, ask the question of your principal: why not train during in-service? What training has happened and is going to happen during in-service that is more important than training in this software?


Sun, Oct 25, 2009 : 9:49 a.m.

Ypsilistener - I have 3 children all in Ann Arbor Schools - NOT a single teacher they have had in the last 2 years has used PowerSchool. NOT one. I know what the other functions are - but the deal with the school board was they would pay for it - IF it was used for teacher - parent communications - NONE OF THE Teachers in the High school or the Middle school my children attend use it. The excuse from the teachers on parent teacher night was uniformly - "We have not had training on the software" - the answer to that from the Principals (yes I asked) was uniformly "The contract with the teacher's union will not allow us to make the training mandatory". I agree it does other things too - but their was perfectly good software that had ZERO cost that did that before PowerSchool. It is time to either drop the software - or get teachers to use it to communicate with Parents - that was the REASON the school board agreed to spend more than $1 million dollars buying it and more than $300,000 a year to pay the license fees and maintenance (plus staff time, servers, network bandwidth improvements, etc that are not in these numbers). Another wasted effort and wasted dollars.


Sun, Oct 25, 2009 : 4:57 a.m.

DonBee, PowerSchool has been a wonderful tool for parents in our district to use, both in receiving information about our child, and sharing it with the teacher. Every parent I know is thrilled to have it. How can you possibly know that "no one is using it" (in your district) just because your teachers may not be? Also, PowerSchool serves many functions beyond those which are obvious to parents. As I wrote earlier, this millage is not all about what goes on in Ann Arbor, and I hope readers will remember that.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 11:33 p.m.

I'm voting no, not because I don't care but because I do care. I care about my own financial responsibilities because I don't have an endless source of funding to help me pay my bills, the largest of which is my property taxes. When I have suffered pay cuts I had to adjust my standard of living. Why is living within their means such a problem in the public sector? I've suffered financial losses, adjusted my standard of living downward, and now the public sector wants me to pay more money in taxes so they don't have to reduce their standard of living. All you folks voting for this millage to reduce the hardships schools and students will have to deal with are actually creating additional hardships for others that are already hurting financially, and many of those homeowners have children. What they don't have are unions or lobbyists to make their voices heard. What they do have is thier vote and their demonized as uncaring. It is a dillema of sorts, is it not? The solution as I see it is to send a message to our public sector that we want them to live within their means. I think that's fair and am glad I have a vote on the issue and the means and ability to communicate my message. I just hope the no's outnumber the yo's.

Alan Benard

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 11:11 p.m.

"So high school classes are 32 students (per agnosticA2)? How come the "Student to Teacher" ratio is 16:1 - where are the other 50% of teachers?" Are you talking about the high schools' ratio? Does that include Clemente and Stone School? Or are you talking district-wide? Because the word "teacher" is used to mean "instructional staff" which means everyone who works with children -- librarians, para-professionals, assistants. That's how AAPS defines it. So let us not mix apples and oranges. "Some are hiding a "curriculum coordinators - positions supposedly eliminated several years ago. What is the district's motivation for lying about this? Sounds like a horrible conspiracy."Other are doing other non-teaching duties - but counted as teachers. So lets start by getting the existing teachers - all into the classrooms and out of admin.What's your source for this? Why not have Mr. Jesse expose this bombshell of malfeasance? How about the Chronicle? How about the Observer? Free Press? How about you provide a shred of evidence for this on your own private blog? "Then lets tackle the issue of Health Care - the State House tabled a bill that would have taken the 5,000+ health care plans for various government workers in Michigan and made it one pool - The Governor told them dead on arrival - it was dropped - the estimated savings per employee - with NO loss in benefits - about $750 - more than double the cuts. Moving the same MESSA policy to the Blues would save AAPS more than $500 a teacher - way more than the cut."But we cannot make this happen from within Washtenaw County. We can pass the millage. Let us focus upon what we can do."The new millage - will NOT be spread fairly - the Charter Schools in the county will get ZERO dollars from it - even though they are state funded. Is that fair."It happens to be the law that charters are not constituent school districts of the intermediate district. That's the price you pay for the greater flexibility of a charter. You can't have it both ways. There are many positions in the admin in all the school districts that could be done better and cheaper by a single team at WISD - but no school district is willing to give up the power or the authority of doing it themselves.No one stops you or anyone else from running for the school board. Maybe once you joined it, you'd see the reasons why that level of consolidation is not a good idea. Not that there has been no consolidation -- there has been." I am asking why we have a pile of administrators earning $140,000+ in each school district with two or more support staff (meaning each one eliminated would probably yield a savings of $500,000 when it was all done)."Probably for the same reason we have several school districts with several school boards -- one of the greatest assets we have in the United States is locally controlled public education. Who works in our schools and how much we spend is not controlled from Lansing, nor Washington, D.C. So we get the schools we wish to pay for staffed as we see fit. People in other countries don't have this level of control, and I bet you wouldn't like it. Your elected representatives have decided that the savings is not worth the loss of local control in some instances. That is also one of the best arguments for the millage -- exerting as much local control as we can over our education system's destiny."As to savings in Ann Arbor - if you read the fine print - the savings were against the projected budget - not actuals. So the claimed $16 million was not a savings year over year (e.g. a reduction in 2008 from the actual costs in 2007) but rather a savings based on the projected costs for 2008 before the cuts were applied."If one knew the costs would increase (inflation is not uniform -- fuel and other costs rise higher), it would make sense to apply the savings to the projection, not the previous year's actual expense. Are you accusing someone of inflating the projections? Another conspiracy.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 10:33 p.m.

So high school classes are 32 students (per agnosticA2)? How come the "Student to Teacher" ratio is 16:1 - where are the other 50% of teachers? Some are hiding a "curriculum coordinators - positions supposedly eliminated several years ago. Other are doing other non-teaching duties - but counted as teachers. So lets start by getting the existing teachers - all into the classrooms and out of admin. Then lets tackle the issue of Health Care - the State House tabled a bill that would have taken the 5,000+ health care plans for various government workers in Michigan and made it one pool - The Governor told them dead on arrival - it was dropped - the estimated savings per employee - with NO loss in benefits - about $750 - more than double the cuts. Moving the same MESSA policy to the Blues would save AAPS more than $500 a teacher - way more than the cut. Fixing the busing situation (using the study paid for by AAPS) would also fill most of the gap Now lets look at the license for PowerSchool - software bought to let teachers and parents communicate - the maintenance license is $300,000 a year - but no one uses it because the local teachers union blocked mandatory training - if you are not going to use it - don't pay for it. We were promised no more than 19 new staff members for Skyline - the rest would be transfers - they have passed that point and the school is only 1/2 full. We were promised magnet programs in Skyline - none have started yet, even though many people voted for the millage based on those focused programs. The new millage - will NOT be spread fairly - the Charter Schools in the county will get ZERO dollars from it - even though they are state funded. Is that fair. There are many positions in the admin in all the school districts that could be done better and cheaper by a single team at WISD - but no school district is willing to give up the power or the authority of doing it themselves. I do not want to see teacher pay cut. I would like to see many provisions in the teacher contracts fixed - if you look at the Plymouth-Canton contact and the AAPS contract you will find a large number of differences that will cause a double take. Like overtime, support of extra-curricular events, requirements on IEP's and other things that border of issues with state and federal laws. I have 3 kids in the school system - I am not an outsider looking in. I participated in the Skyline focus groups (OBTW-none of my comments or suggestions made it into the report - and the minutes from my table - taken by an AAPS staff member do not resemble the discussion at all for the table). I want the school board to fix the non-teaching costs first - then come and ask for more money - but lets get the easy stuff sorted. I am NOT asking for the teachers to lose benefits - only change providers. I am not asking for pay cuts - only that all the people listed as teaching staff - actually are in the class rooms. I am asking why we have a pile of administrators earning $140,000+ in each school district with two or more support staff (meaning each one eliminated would probably yield a savings of $500,000 when it was all done). I can not see voting for this millage so that some state supported schools will get money and other state supported schools will not. As to savings in Ann Arbor - if you read the fine print - the savings were against the projected budget - not actuals. So the claimed $16 million was not a savings year over year (e.g. a reduction in 2008 from the actual costs in 2007) but rather a savings based on the projected costs for 2008 before the cuts were applied. As to the 66 positions cut - if you look at total school employment over the time period it is UP not down - again the cuts are against the projected staff count not the actual staff counts. We are continuing to cut the classroom and hold the admin and executive staff harmless.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 10:07 p.m.

Mr. Jesse, The readers need to see that there is more to this millage issue than what has been going on in Ann Arbor. Could you share with us what the teacher salary ranges and averages are for each district in Washtenaw County? How about which districts use MESSA and which don't, and how those costs compare? And, what kind of cuts has each district made over the past 5 years (both in dollars and by type of cut)? Many of the people posting here seem to think that the public school districts have just been coasting along all this time, and have ignored the economic realities. That is just not the case.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 8:46 p.m.

Alan, So we should vote for the millage and then hope for reforms at the state level? It would be great if Sen Brater and Rep Warren would at least come out in favor of such reforms BEFORE the election. Unfortunately, they seem completely unwilling to address these issues. Maybe we need to vote no to get the attention of state legislators. On the other hand, I hate to make the kids pay for grown ups behaving badly.

Jimmy Olsen

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 8:38 p.m.

Alan, I think he was mistakenly including health care premiums and pension together. We all know how MEA/MESSA have extorted money for years. Take a look at how much MEA donated to our legislators for their no votes on HB 418 to force MESSA to disclose claim information for competitive bids. I'm not anti-union, but the MEA needs to inhale some oxygen and take a quick dose of reality. The UAW learned the hard way. People have been complaining about administrator salaries - the local MEA "uniserve" directors all make about $140K per year. The bottom line is you have to live within your budget, even if that budget isn't fair. I don't think its fair I just got a pay-cut (again), but I'm glad to be employed.

Alan Benard

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 7:14 p.m.

"...the grotesque premium being charged by the teachers' union for their benefits package. Why is the elimination of that premium not on the table prior to asking for a tax increase? Why is this county wide organization asking for a tax increase not looking at the consolidation opportunities in he county? Because teachers pension plans are organized by state law. Tell your state representatives you want that changed. Democrat Mich. House Speaker Andy Dillon wants that changed. But making that a precondition of raising a millage in this county is nonsensical. This isn't going to get changed before your school system is severely damaged by underfunding. People in these comments seriously advocate letting the schools be destroyed in order to do in the MEA. That's completely stupid, there's no other word for it. Why is no one discussing converting the pension from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan?"People are, but this won't happen before Nov. 3.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 6:57 p.m.

let the voters speak to teachers...STOP USING OUR KIDS AS YOUR BARGAINING CHIPS....soon they will see what we really think, cant wait.

Jon Saalberg

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 6:50 p.m.

Bravo on DF's comment about the outrageous garden, which refers to the person who also hijacked the AATA board, and in the process, managed to get rid of the director who did a good job, but whom the particular board member didn't like. As one with personal knowledge of the AATA affair, it was an even uglier affair than portrayed in the papers.

Jim Rogers

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 4:04 p.m.

Please no increase, we are not able to pay!


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 3:19 p.m.

No, Andrew Thomas, I don't have it backwards. Education is not specifically enumerated as a constitutional right. As such, it's not a right. It's mandated by law, but it isn't a constitutionally protected right. As for the parents whom you so despise for sending their children to private schools, think about this: If education were a constitutionally guaranteed right, Michigan would have to provide the foundation grant for its 100,000 students in private schools each year. That's $750,000,000 that Michigan parents relieve the State from having to provide each and every year. If a $212M cut induces this much panic, imagine what having to provide an additional $750M would do. Your children have the foundation grant they have only because I and other parents have elected to opt out of the public school system.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 2:38 p.m.

It seems absurd that I feel a need to say this up front, but I have incredible respect for teachers, love our public schools and desperately want to see Michigan's economy improve. I am going to vote no. We could debate all day whether the teachers' current salaries are appropriate and whether their benefit packages are too rich or not. They care about the students and the majority of them work hard. The problem is an inefficient overhead structure - supported by the lack of transparency in how that money is spent, and the grotesque premium being charged by the teachers' union for their benefits package. Why is the elimination of that premium not on the table prior to asking for a tax increase? Why is this county wide organization asking for a tax increase not looking at the consolidation opportunities in the county? Why is no one discussing converting the pension from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan? I believe the efficiencies exist to avoid this tax increase, but I honestly don't know because there is no transparency in the numbers and the MEA desperately doesn't want to come to the table or dip in to their rainy day fund - or based on the size of that fund, their rainy year fund. There is, however, transparency on one set of numbers that no one pushing this tax increase wants to talk about. As of June 30, 2008, MESSA had total assets of $449,434,900. Net assets available for benefits in excess of obligations stood at $364,954,643. Show transparency, get the MEA to the table, truly look at opportunities for efficiency that don't affect the quality of the education and I will not only vote yes but urge others to do the same. But when people refuse to openly discuss the issue, I have to assume there is a good reason they don't want to. Asking for more money from a lot of folks who are already hurting is the lazy way out.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 1:45 p.m.

It is true Andrew Thomas that it is a right of all children to receive a public education, but in all too many cases all this right guarantees is a right to a crappy education!! Many like myself struggled and succeeded to overcome the dysfunctional public school I was trapped in and despite the system I ended up with a good result, but what about the 21-23% of Americans who are not functionally literate that the public education system is failing every year? (see "This government study showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not 'able to locate information in text', could not 'make low-level inferences using printed materials', and were unable to 'integrate easily identifiable pieces of information.'" To me, this millage is an attempt to put band-aids on problems when the patient is dying. leaving 21-23% of kids to fend for themselves in the modern economy without functional literacy is a horrific social justice issue and ultimately the whole society pays the cost! Here is what I'd like to know. Even President Obama and the Secretary of Education have come out in support of eliminating the traditional summer vacation at schools (see because it is now well documented that the long summer break is detrimental to the education of our youth. Talk to any teacher and you'll find out that they generally spend the first half of each school year reviewing what the students were taught the prior year. Malcolm Gladwell's current best-seller "Outliers: The Story of Success" has a chapter devoted to some of this research - it's an excellent read and I highly recommend it! His conclusion is that 100% of the achievement gap in school, based on income levels, is driven by the traditional school Summer vacation. So, what I'd like to know is WHY aren't our schools stepping up to the plate to fix the school year now that we know that it is the #1 cause that hinders childhood education? Why would we add more money to the system until we come up with a solid strategic plan detailing what resources it will take to fix this fundamental problem? Imagine how great our schools and MEAP scores would be if we were among the first to bite the bullet and step up to fix this problem? Imagine the positive impact on attracting jobs to our community and increases in home values if we had the strongest K-12 schools in the region on top of some of the best public universities?

Andrew Thomas

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:48 p.m.

As an addendum to my previous comment, I agree that parents of kids who attend charter schools DO have a legitimate beef with regard to the proposed millage.

Andrew Thomas

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:46 p.m.

Ypsilivin, you have it backwards. It is a right for all children to receive an education through our public school system. It is a privilege for children (whose parents can afford it) to attend private schools. Private schools are, by nature, exclusionary, some more so than others. This applies to both admission and retention. Many private schools have admission standards and will not accept kids who do not meet them. Depending on the number of applications compared to the number of openings, they are free to pick the cream of the crop. Public schools are mandated to take anyone who resides within their district. As for retention, private schools are free to kick kids out of their programs for a variety of reasons -- academic, disciplinary, special needs, whatever they want. Guess where these kids end up? The public schools, of course! So there is no "right" to attend an exclusive, privileged private school, whereas there is a "right" to attend a public school.

David Jesse

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:02 p.m.

Just wanted to jump in. Several people have talked about the average teacher salary. It's around $70,000 for AAPS teachers according to 2007-08 numbers collected by the state of Michigan. The 2008-09 numbers aren;t out yet.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 11:52 a.m.

Don't forget, Saline voted to renew its existing extra millage (CARES). Although the overall millage was reconfigured to provide the schools with a sinking fund. Of course, how the CARES funds were spentis another story, such as the money losing Celtic Festival. Wonder why all of us are tired of the 'woe is me' routine.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 11:12 a.m.

SPJ, Allow me. You say "And newsboy, education is not only a right in this country, it is legally mandated through age 16 in this state. So exactly whose kids do you think the schools should stop educating?" The truth is that education is NOT a right in this country nor in this state. Were it a right, the state would be required to pay for schooling for all children, including those in private schools. We would have a voucher system in place so every parent could choose where their children go to school and could take their vouchers with them when they go. Such a system in Michigan would mean that the state would have to come up with additional dollars to educate the 100,000 children who currently get NOTHING from the state because their parents have chosen to send them to private schools. In reality, the State of Michigan (and just about every other state) doesn't want to pay (even partially) for students who attend private schools even though private schools are often more cost effective than public schools. The state can mandate something without classifying the mandate as a "right." A right is something granted through the Constitution. Michigan's constitution specifically bars state tuition aid to religious institutions and private schools. Until this provision is changed, education will NEVER be a right in Michigan. Other states' constitutions permit partial tuition subsidies for students in parochial schools. Michigan's did at one time too, but the hateful "Parochiaid" debacle of the 1970's ensured that Michigan's parents will not enjoy true choice in education until the state's constitution is restored. For more information, see

Jimmy Olsen

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 10:51 a.m.

David Fitzpatrick - you must've taken economics 101 at the MEA office. "Time to return to your Economics 101 classroom people, where you will learn that you will not get better teachers by paying them less and slashing their benefits." I suppose the more money and benefits you give them the better teachers/teaching you get? There is NO evidence that throwing MORE money at educators gives you better educated kids. No one doubts that MOST teachers work hard, I work hard, I'll assume you work hard. The trouble is that most of us have taken some kind of hit the last couple years and public employees are NOT IMMUNE to this. Economics 101: revenue - expenses should never be less than zero.

John Agno

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 10:34 a.m.

Good for Albert Berriz who recognizes that this WISD increased taxation is not about maintaining the quality of local K-12 education but a vote for or against the continuation of the ineffective financial administration of this countywide K-12 learning process.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 10:13 a.m.

"Why dont teachers pay into health benefits and have a pay freeze in order to help the children?" They do pay health benefits, and they did take a pay freeze, Bruno.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 10:12 a.m.

"Education is not a right in this country, its a privilege." I believe this is what they're trying right now in third-world countries.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 10:02 a.m.

"Surprise! the teachers union is spending money so they can tax and get more money." Teachers are supporting the millage out of their pockets so they can teach the kids in our community. How dare they!


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 9:57 a.m.

A one-man campaign against our schools, very nice. Our city's high property values are very dependent on the quality of our schools. Yes, our schools could be run better but to deny them this millage will only make things worse. How among you can't afford the approx $25 per month this would cost? Really, what is your cell phone bill, your cable bill? If we don't pass this millage it will hurt our children and in the end hurt our pocket book by reducing home values. Vote yes!

The Grinch

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 9:11 a.m.

bruno_uno says: "80,000 for a seasonal job?" Obviously Mr. Bruno has no idea what he is talking about. In my experience teachers, even bad ones, work 60 hour weeks and spend large portions of their summers getting ready for the next school year. On top of this, they are required routinely, on their own dime and on their own time, to go back to school. Finally, $80,000 is a fallacious figure. The average salary in the A2 school district is $55,000 + benefits. We pay only $55,000 per year to a person to whom we are entrusting our childrens' futures as well as those of our community and nation? Sounds like a bargain to me. But I do want to amend my earlier. The BEST, really THE BEST, is the homeowner whose backyard backs up onto Geddes near the tennis club and the Huron Parkway overpass, who appears to have spent a couple of million dollars over the past few years to put a Japanese rock garden in their back yard. That very same homeowner now has a yard sign on Geddes lobbying against the millage. Now, of course, that homeowner has a right to spend his money as they want, and they have a right to their opinion. But what a skewed set of priorities: millions of dollars for a Japanese rock garden, not a penny for schools. Great sense of community.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 8:50 a.m.

80,000 for a seasonal job? i think this is the most powerful union in our nation and we need to slam this millage proposal with a great turn out....Im sick of teachers using our kids as they rob us blind!!

Bob Heinold

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 8:41 a.m.

It's clear to me that the opposition, in the context of Engler's tactics, are part of a campaign to destroy the public schools so that there will always be an underclass and a privately educated elite.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

It's very obvious why Berriz is against the millage. If you're CEO and president of a real estate company that owns many properties in the Ann Arbor area, then the millage will hurt your company's profits through increased property taxes. This is simply a business play by Berriz and has nothing to do with how the schools spend their money. Good reporting by Ann Many folks are suggesting that we eliminate busing. This just doesn't make sense. Busing is essentially a massive carpool. Eliminating busing would force thousands of kids to get dropped off and picked up each day... during the work day for most people. This would require a significant amount of extra gas and would cause pollution and congestion. MjC - I will support the millage, but I like the suggestions that you're making. I would like to see some of your suggestions explored. Bruno-uno - The teachers did have a pay freeze this year and they do pay into their health benefits. My Kids Mom - I like the pay for performance idea and the opportunity to reward the best teachers. Here's where this gets hard... who decides who are the best teachers when reviewing one against another? Should we use MEAP scores, MEAP delta from year to year, parent reviews? Unfortunately, all of these aspects have significant dependence upon the students that the teacher inherits and compromises the efficacy of such evaluation techniques. Newsboy - Education IS a right in the country and is legally mandated by the State of Michigan. It's a fine notion that education is a lifelong endeavor; however, when our children are trying to become employed after graduating, I want them to have had the best education possible to enable them to succeed. Neutering their education early on is ridiculous. braggslaw - Wow. Where do you come up with the bizarre logic that you employ?

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 8:12 a.m.

Just found out from a friend that the anti-millage campaigners are doing a letter blitz because Mr. Berritz had to resign from of these posts are from a small, dedicated group of landlords, private and charter school parents and are a small minority trying to sound big.

The Grinch

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 8:06 a.m.

Let me see if I have this right: it is an article of faith among the conservative I-Hate-Teachers crowd that the quality of teaching going on in our public schools is very poor. Juudging by many of the comments here, it is also an article of faith among the conservative I-Hate-Teachers crowd that teacher pay should be cut. This is amazing. Time to return to your Economics 101 classroom people, where you will learn that you will not get better teachers by paying them less and slashing their benefits. Next, for you johnny-come-latelys to the world of school budgets, local school districts have been in a budget-cutting mode for most of the last decade. Schools have been closed, programs shut down, staff laid off. If you don't know this, you haven't been payinig attention, and your opinions not worth the electrons it took to post them on this page. As for teacher's pensions: it is a state programs. County school districts are required to pay into it, whether or not this millage passes. So not a penny of this millage will go to the state teachers' pension fund. Schools are a privilege? What is this, 18th century England? A Dickensian novel? No, wait, it is the United States in the 20th century. In THIS country and state in THIS century, school is not only a right, it is a REQUIREMENT. But the best, THE BEST, is the people who are spending more money to defeat this millage than it would cost them if it passes. Just proof that mean-spirited stinginess is more powerful than any sense of community obligation in those folks.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 7:40 a.m.

As usual it's the have's vs. the have not's in this county making policy for all. He who throws around the most money wins has been a standard in A2 for quite sometime. Do you people ever look outside your city limits? You folks probably have no clue as to what the new per pupil cuts of $300.00 will do to most districts nor do you care. Do you know what a high school classroom looks like these days? Try 32 students and out of those 32, 12 are special needs students, 2-3 are homeless, 15 to 20 come from broken homes and I can go on. Now times that by 5 every day and that is what a teachers day looks like. If teachers loose the support staff for these children, that most likely will be cut, what will that classroom look like then? That is just one place for cuts, books, paper, pencils and teachers will take a hit too. The biggest cut of all will be the children, who will be robbing your house because they too saw no value in education.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 6:23 a.m.

We need to say no to taxes. Every time budgets come up here or for the city and county we are told it will cost teachers, firefighters or snow removal. But administrative staffs are never threatened because we wouldn't care. we need to say no and DEMAND that essential services go last. IF it does get to the point where we MUST lose teachers firefighters or cops...then I would vote yes. I won't without proof that nothing else is left to cut. By the way, the Superior Township Administrator is cutting taxes because the times are hard. What a concept...focus on essential services and pay as you go! It can be done. We have to say no to the knee jerk demand for more by the people we elect.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 6:15 a.m.

Why dont teachers pay into health benefits and have a pay freeze in order to help the children?


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 6:02 a.m.

My kids mom, your numbers are way out of whack. The $80K you quote includes benefits -- the average teacher makes much closer to $55K and the teachers accepted a pay freeze this year. And newsboy, education is not only a right in this country, it is legally mandated through age 16 in this state. So exactly whose kids do you think the schools should stop educating?


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 4:58 a.m.

My Kids Mom, Perfectly said!! I am my son's dad and you have nailed it!!

My Kids Mom

Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:16 a.m.

I have children in the public schools and we cannot pay the good teacher enough money. The union only wants to pay our great teachers based on length of service and not ability--shame on them! I read that A2 teachers make on average $80K for 180 days of work and also get about $25,000 in benefits. I think that is about $131,000 per year if you looked at it on an annual bases. This is a lot of money and a good package-just ask some of the 15% unemployed in our state. I also just read that the Charter Schools would not get any of this millage if it passes (who are not MEA members). Please tell me why you think this is about the kids?


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:09 a.m.

Education is not a right in this country, its a privilege. I recommend we vote No on this millage. If you really care about our kids get involved at a federal level. Military spending, Foreign aid, Farm & corporate subsidies have gone unchecked for too long. This new economy is not going to change for Michigan or the USA in the near future. If we need to find a better way to fund education, than lets do it! But dont keep funding a system thats been broken for all too long. The only people that seem to be reactive are those with children in school. If their kids had finished their education, would they really care? Let vote NO!! Then lets put some sweat into education and healthcare on a grander scale! Remember, there is no rush when it comes to education, it is a lifelong endeavor.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 11:44 p.m.

Mr Berritz cannot raise rent if there are cheaper apartments in better condition that are empty, so it will cost him if the millage passes. There is nothing wrong with helping the school system contain costs, but this millage is to make up for money that is being cut from what is already spent for this year's education. Teachers aren't AIG execs (thought AIG has a good portion of the teachers' retirement funds), they are just folks who dedicated their careers to helping our children learn so they can go on and do well in their lives and their careers. You'd think educators were of the devil the way some of these posts sound. I'd really be interested if any of the nay-sayers have children in the public schools.

Alan Benard

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 10:14 p.m.

"Really the only major cut the proponents can point to is that the food service has been privatized."This statement is ill-informed. Can you provide more details for the bulleted items in the list of what has been done to increase efficiency and reduce costs, e.g., how were services consolidated at the County Level. A. Consolidation of services at the state and/or county level continues to be a focal point for the AAPS. Examples of services that have been consolidated are: substitute teachers, sharing of software costs, bus purchases, and bus parts purchases. The County produces a report each year on consolidated services that can be obtained through the WISD. AAPS has cut approximately $16 million over the past four years. What have the schools been doing to cut costs and do more with less?Each individual district has reduced its budget or found more efficient or cost effective ways to conduct its operations. Plus, the schools have been working together in more than 86 different areas to cooperate, share, or consolidate services and staff to cut costs. And, they are continuing to look for additional ways to save money. AAPS has achieved efficiencies and reduced costs over the past four years by: * Reduced staff by 66 positions * Self-funding of health and dental insurance benefits for some employee groups and capped district contribution employees for MESSA health insurance at 5% increase annually * Reduced property and liability insurance costs by over $500,000 * Reduced legal expenses * Restructured middle school program * Reduced contracted services costs * Consolidated services at the county level

Jon Saalberg

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:59 p.m.

I read this: which contains plenty of evidence why McKinley's hijacking of our schools must be defeated. Don't let deep-pocket, rich folks roll over us.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:57 p.m.

Whether it's a former school board member....... or a current mega rental property owner/manager....... or someone that just never liked, or cared about, kids.... They always seem to mention a "plan that's better than the one proposed"... We just never hear about it... so their self-professed wisdom and leadership are virtually worthless.... That type of negativity comes at the expense of children.. So go figure... if you can... and thank a teacher.

My Kids Mom

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:48 p.m.

I do not know that much about Mckinley other than they own several apartments in Ypsilanti. If this tax goes through, I am guessing rents will go up since the apartments have to pay the taxes. In fact all businesses will pay these taxes, so everything we purchase will go up too. So in addition to more foreclosures, more Washtenaw Farms being taxed and having to sell, now people who live in apartments will not be able to pay their rent. I am a little confused why people think those who want to fight this millage is wrong. We are talking about food and shelter these days. People are loosing their homes!


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:27 p.m.

Could we tone down the rhetoric a little? I think good schools are important--even especially important in a state like Michigan where education has traditionally not been respected. I might vote for a millage at some point. But this isn't the one. There are too many questions. A widely respected former school board member, Kathy Griswold, is urging a no vote. Really the only major cut the proponents can point to is that the food service has been privatized. Is this a good argument--that they've taken the hard times out on the blue-collar workers but haven't trimmed the lush layers of bureaucracy? Vote this one down and make them come back with a smaller, more targeted millage.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 8:50 p.m.

Let's talk about property value. Not sure what yours is worth, but the Millage will raise taxes about $200 for me. I imagine my home value will go down much more than $200 if I live in a district that has high class sizes, no athletics, art, P.E., Music, bussing, and cannot employ high quality teachers. I think it is worth the $200. I am voting YES!

Lynn Lumbard

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 8:32 p.m.

braggslaw, WHAT???? time to call it a night.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 8:06 p.m.

Surprise! the teachers union is spending money so they can tax and get more money

Alan Benard

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 7:51 p.m.

Well, we know who to not use as a realtor. This the fan club for ignorance.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 7:48 p.m.

Wait a minute.... Are you saying what I think you're saying? ---- The funds opposing the millage come from a corporation with $2.4 billion worth of real estate assets spread across the eastern half of the country!?!?!?!?! The funds supporting the millage come from local citizens such as teachers, PTO members, school board members, and "people of all stripes"?!?!?! This is too ridiculous to be real! ---- I wonder who has a vested interest and who is just trying to protect profits?!?! I LOVE our country!!!


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 7:41 p.m.

This mill will not solve the problems our schools are facing in this new technological, college-bound world that we live in. Ann Arbor has always made education a top-priority... so why can't we think futuristic. Bring on school competition by allowing families to pick which elementary/middle/high school their child will attend. Move to year long school sessions and graduate students upward as they fulfill required credits. Adjust school days from 5 to 4 days, and hours from 9am-4pm. Create opportunities to earn credit with on-line/skype classes. Run our high schools like community colleges are operated (our kids are smarter than we allow them to be). Encourage and reward parent participation and volunteer help (we have a huge senior population who would most likely lend a hand on many levels). Ann Arbor does not need four(!) high schools. Let's consolidate. Let's be different. Let's lead our children into the future without throwing money around with no purpose except to continue the same old same old system.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 7:24 p.m. takes a millage people to raise our kids...dont forget. Teachers do not need interest groups working on this funding vote, they should just show pictures of our children on bus ads? I mean its all for the children and this would be a good way to get the message out right?

Lisa Starrfield

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 7:04 p.m.

Now we get to the truth. This isn't about 'responsible spending' or 'overtaxed' individuals. It's about McKinley's profits. No company puts $75,000 into a political campaign without expecting it to payoff.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 6:54 p.m.

Berriz should never have been on's editorial board. Real estate interests are over-represented on Ann Arbor's boards and commissions, and among office-holders. The debates over the future development of the downtown and the suburbs in the surrounding townships are testing intensely competing values with regard to economic development, environmental stewardship, and social fairness. In this context,'s eagerness to align itself with one of the most powerful and influential voices in the city and region, while perhaps understandable from a business point of view, was bad for independent journalism and constituted a conflict of interest from the outset. Berriz embodies a deeply self-interested view of what the future should look like.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 6:49 p.m.

Yes, supporting the schools is such an evil thing.. Education is definitely overrated.. Jen G has it right to slash school funding. I mean, why do we even need schools in MI? The kids just leave when they're done, anyways. And, if there are no jobs, who needs education?. However, lets make darn sure that the top execs in public and private sectors still receive their giant salaries.. Their "structural issues" are non existent in the equation of the true problems we face.. So look around the world... I wonder if the Chinese have the same selfish attitude regarding education.. It's so Ann Arbor chic... live in an area supported by the business of education... have businesses that thrive in ancillary endeavors such as rental property... then despise the very activity that provides great economic activity and diversity.... The symbol for MI used to be a mitten... Hope that mitten is made of kevlar, because the pit bulls here want the hand in the mitten...

Lynn Lumbard

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 6:34 p.m.

sh1, I'm a gonna one up you, and donate $400.00 so I can save twice as much as you on my taxes!!

Jed I. Knight

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 6:31 p.m.

The push to support the millage was discussed at Carpenter too, didnt know this wasnt an OK thing to do. Information needs to get out and seemed a good place to present it...

A Voice of Reason

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 6:14 p.m.

We just cannot trace all the money the school district has spent on this millage. The school building have been used to promote the millage (illegally) it was talked about during Dickens curriculum night on private grounds and parents were told to support the millage. The PTO Council had information that it gave to PTOs that was obviously developed by some slick lawyers telling people how to promote the millage in their PTOs without crossing over the line with the IRS. Several PTOs in town have been violating this and have spent more than 5% of their time on the millage. Even Todd Roberts talked about the millage and how to vote to the teachers during their first meeting and threaten new teachers during a meeting too by passing out pink slipsduring company time. Citizens Millage Committee should have to reimburse the School district for all the space they received from the school district for free and the teachers salaries.. I am sure polling was done--who is paying for that? Who organized the extensive grassroots effort that is going on? WHO--this was not done for free? Does anyone question the government anymore? The millage effort has been very orchestrated in an underhanded. Why is this and who is coordinating this effort? It started months ago and the piece came out from the Citizens Millage Committee a week ago, and why isnt this on the books- it is maybe, but is anyone check this out? QUESTION YOUR GOVERNMENT PEOPLE!


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 6:12 p.m.

I'm gonna donate $200 to this cause so my taxes won't go up $200.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 5:54 p.m.

Mr Albert Berriz,Now thats one of the finest people I ever had the good fortune to have worked for in my working days.He's a quality guy from top to bottom.Very firm when the need arises. Yet very fair amongest his employees. I always enjoyed working for McKinley properties and wish I had stayed when I chose to move on.The world needs more people like Albert.Thanks again Mr B


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 5:41 p.m.

If I were a Superintendent the first thing I would cut would be busing. It's costly and not mandated by the State of Michigan. Then sports, music, adult ed., etc. All extras would be cut out. If you want nice things, you have to pay for them!