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Posted on Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:06 a.m.

Washtenaw County teachers won't re-open contracts or take pay cuts, at least for now

By David Jesse

Teachers in Washtenaw County school districts won’t be taking a pay cut or making other concessions - at least for now, they say.

Unions representing teachers say they’re declining to reopen their contracts as the local districts struggle to balance their budgets following state aid cuts and a failed countywide schools enhancement millage.

Recently, the Washtenaw County Education Association - made up of unions from Chelsea, Dexter, Lincoln, Manchester, Saline, Whitmore Lake, Willow Run and Ypsilanti - voted not to accept concessions or reopen labor contracts.

Teachers union contracts

Ann Arbor Teachers Union Contract

Chelsea Teachers Union Contract

Dexter Teachers Union Contract

Lincoln Teachers Union Contract

Manchester Teachers Union Contract

Milan Teachers Union Contract

Saline Teachers Union Contract

Whitmore Lake Teachers Union Contract

Willow Run Teachers Union Contract

Ypsilanti Teachers Union Contract

That stance isn’t permanent, union officials say. Rather, it’s a chance for districts and their communities to have discussions about what they want local education to look like in the coming years.

“We understand why they came to us immediately and asked for concessions,” said Ann Arbor teachers union President Brit Satchwell. “There’s a lot of things that have to happen first.

“We’re talking (with the district) to solve the problem. The wolf has been in the kitchen and is now headed to the bedrooms. The public has to show up and participate in public education.

“After the process is worked, then we’re willing to talk about concessions.”

Asking the unions

After county voters turned down the millage request and the state announced several per-pupil aid cuts, Chelsea Superintendent Dave Killips asked his entire staff to take a 1.25 percent pay cut for the year. That’s half the 2.5 percent raise they received at the beginning of the year.

He also asked employees to begin paying $1,000 for their insurance if they have others on their plan or $500 for a single subscriber.

If accepted, those measures would generate $430,000 in savings this year for the district.


Chelsea Superintendent Dave Killips

The Chelsea teachers union tabled the request, Killips said. The school board imposed the wage and benefit change on non-union employees.

Chelsea administrators previously agreed to pay more for insurance and are accepting the same wage reductions. The bus drivers and monitors, as a union, will soon vote on concessions.

Killips said getting concessions from teachers would help the district handle the shortfall. "If we were all willing to give a little, we would be in a better financial situation this year,” he said. “By being in a better financial situation this year, it will allow us to better handle the projected shortfalls in the future."

Chelsea isn’t the only local district that’s gone to its unions, either formally or informally, to ask for concessions.

Most administrators and union officials refuse to talk about the requests publicly, saying the discussion belongs in negotiations.

Many local districts, including Ann Arbor, are expected to start formal negotiations in the coming months to set salaries for the 2010-11 school year.

In Ann Arbor, for example, the teachers union has a contract through the 2010-11 school year. However, that contract - which currently has a wage freeze - has a clause allowing the district and union to negotiate the salaries for the 2010-11 school year. Those negotiations are likely to begin in January.

The union response

In Saline, the school board directed Superintendent Scot Graden to reopen contracts with all the district’s unions after the millage failure and state cuts.

Thumbnail image for Scot_Graden.JPG

Saline Superintendent Scot Graden

The educational support personnel and the managers association agreed to look at cost-savings related to health care benefits, officials said. The administrators union agreed in principal to wage and benefit concessions in both the current year and the 2010-11 school year.

The district’s teachers union is the one holdout.

“Could we still give concessions? Traditionally, we have,” Saline teachers union President Tim Heim said, pointing out teachers have saved the district thousands of dollars in health care costs.

Heim said he doesn’t think teachers should bear the brunt of balancing the budget, especially after voters declined to hurt their financial picture through taxes.

“So now, we should tax the teachers?” he said.

The bigger picture

Union presidents from around the county say they realize times are tough financially. They know their members are likely to be impacted, whether through layoffs, changes in benefits or reduced pay.

But they say before that happens, each community needs to talk about the future of education and what it should include. They also emphasize the problems affecting districts are coming from state-level decisions.

Thumbnail image for BrittainSatchwell-1a.jpg

Ann Arbor teachers union President Brit Satchwell

Lincoln teachers union President Jackie Shock said members of her union are already engaged in such discussion with district officials. She said the key is making sure the connection is strong between the schools and community.

Above all, Satchwell said, it’s time for communities to have tough conversations about education.

“The teachers will not be the easy button (to temporarily solve the problems),” he said. “(The residents) have to decide what they want and what they have money for. Then it will be the time to sit down (and work on modifying the contract).”

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



Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 10:09 p.m.

If I remember correctly (I know I'll be corrected by someone if I'm wrong) but I seem to remember a letter posted by Mr. Berritz (sp?) offering his service and the services of several community members to sit down with the District and to try to help find a solution. To my knowledge he was never responded to. Mr. Jesse, can you confirm this info?


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 11:29 a.m.

David Jesse, You were asked by a person commenting here if you would research how much property Mckinley owns in Washtenaw County and how much the Millage increase would have cost Al Berritz and McKinley. Do you plan on doing a little expose here? I mean Berritz donated 99.9% of the money to defeat the millage, Why won't anyone expose the real reason he did this. You can buy elections, that is fact, when one donor donates 99.9% of the campaign money that is a red flag. Suddenly Al is concerned on how the school districts spend there money. If he were concerned about this where are his actions previous, like maybe donating his financial management team and business acumen to tutor the school districts? Maybe if he did this they could lower taxes. David please don't keep your head in the sand and ignore this massive confict. You can't be scared of this financial giant are you? Expose the REAL REASON this millage was defeated...Al Berritz and McKinley, I feel bad for the kids....Al says Merry Christmas Kids, say goodbye to your sports teams, music programs and extra cirricular stuff that feeds your dreams. HappyNew Year, Al just saved hiself millions at the expense of the dreams of 20,000 kids. jeez how rich do you need to be?


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:56 p.m.

While the Saline area school's support staff have worked with the school board during these tough economic times, our teachers have helped themselves to another wonderful contract. The teachers refuse to take pay freezes as their collegues are doing across the state. Their ability to negotiate a contract that includes a 2.5 percent pay increase for the next three years is pretty remarkable considering the lousy economy. Many older teachers are enjoying six figure salaries with stipends and excellent health coverage. That's not bad for only being required to work seven hours a day and getting their summers off. Meanwhile the Saline support staff was recognized by the school board for their scrifices they have made. Some of the support staff have taken pay cuts of 25 percent along with many other concessions. This has been tough on their families and many are facing financial ruin. So who is really there for the children anymore? Would it be the support staff member still trying to smile and do their job, or a teacher laughing all the way to the bank? It appears that the teachers are immune to the real world where people are facing pay cuts, lay offs, and the stress of keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. Outside of the glass bubble Saline teachers have created for themselves, people are struggling financially. The message should have been received loud and clear by the way the tax payers in the community voted on the county-wide school millage increase. Greed has rared it's ugly head in Saline, and unless teachers make some concessions that reflect what is going on in the real world, our school district will face financial crisis for years to come. With all the fluff in the teachers' contract, they could make little concessions that would mean big savings for the school district. There was a time when a teacher did not need a stipend to be a class advisor, or stand in the cafeteria during the childrens' lunch period. If the Saline teachers ever decide to re-open their contract, it will be to eat their young. What this means is that the current teachers will keep what they have or receive buyouts while new teachers will hire in with lower starting salaries and benefits. Once again it is all about greed. I hope the teachers enjoy their pay increases while other school employees including administrators are forced to take pay freezes or pay cuts. At least it will be a Merry Christmas for the select few. Dark Star


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 7:31 p.m.

Lisa Starrfield: I'll assume you can't answer any of my questions. For the record, thought you might have some good points, but now all I'm left to assume is you have nothing to provide in the way of solutions.

Lisa Starrfield

Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 5:08 p.m.

1Block, I saw that you refused to respond to my last post to you because there was not a point by point refutation. Your choice.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 5:01 p.m.

I thought teachers were supposed to teach kids, not fund public education... This problem cannot be fixed by taking money and resources away from teachers. I was a substitute teacher for 2 years. Those folks earn every penny of what they make. This problem needs to be fixed at the state/national level. Tell our State Senators to stop saying "NO"!


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 8:20 a.m.

Saline School teacher's contract is 74 pages long! What an absolute JOKE. A teacher with 21 plus years gets 20 sick day's a year. They also get 2 personal days. So let's see here. They work 180 days a year and get 22 days off if so desired ( cough!!! cough!!!! I have a cold ). 22 divided by 180= 12.2% So a Saline teacher can if so desired take off 12.2 % of their days and still get paid. I only scanned the 74 page contract for a few minutes, what else did I miss? This is scandalous folks. I don't get one sick day a year and I work 49 weeks ( 3 weeks vacation after 10 years). Why does a teacher need 20 sick days when they only work 180 days? Don't give me any noise about the work load. We all work after we get home from our jobs. We have emails, phone calls etc so we put in extra hours just like the teachers do.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 9:37 p.m.

Lisa Starrfield: Are my posts invisible to you? I took the time to reply to each of your points and was looking forward to your comments....


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 6:27 p.m.

As I have been reading this thread I have seen a lot of good discussion of ideas and viewpoints. However, I've seen factions develop. The intriguing thing is that these differing factions have an odd commonality running throughout, although from disparate viewpoints. That commonality is the idea of having everything be "fair". I find this ironic because everyone's view of what is fair is different. Some people think that everyone getting pay cuts and/or losing benefits is the fair thing. Others think that since they have accepted what they consider lower wages for job security and/or better benefits that there current compensation is fair. Others want to arbitrate an arrangement that everyone will agree is fair. One says that teachers are being paid fairly because it's an "easy" job. Another says that another profession even after cuts is likely making more than a tenured teacher. Some Democrats say that those who earn more should carry a larger tax burden. Some Republicans say that why should those who achieve more be punished and have to carry the burden of those who achieve less. Etc., etc., etc.... ad nauseum How many of us teach our children that life is always going to be fair? Or that everyone is always going to be treated the same as everyone else? If we are honest, we teach them that life is not always fair, everyone is not always treated the same, everyone is not always going to like you, and sometimes the bad guys win. Does that mean that we should not teach them to try to always treat others fairly? Or show respect to people of differing viewpoints? Or treat others as they would like to be treated? Of course not. It simply means don't expect everything to be exactly what you consider to be "fair" or "equitable". If you are assuming I am a teacher, then you are dead wrong. But, think about this... As taxpayers you are in a position where you do have some control over teachers' compensation, how would you feel if they, or other taxpayers,etc., had the same control over your compensation? How would you feel if people were calling for your pay to be cut because it's only fair that everyone be hurt by the economic problems. How about your friends and neighbors who are out there working for companies that are prospering even now, and not cutting salaries or benefits? Are you going to tell them that they should get a pay cut just because you feel it's fair? Let's cut the rhetoric and find real solutions. If you are as interested in solving these issues as you are on posting your opinions, here is the information on the upcoming budget discussion meetings that Ann Arbor Public Schools is having, hope to see you there: Ann Arbor school officials will host information sessions in January, where proposed budget cuts will be discussed and suggestions from the public will be encouraged.Meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be at the following dates and locations: Thursday, Jan. 7 at Huron High School, 2727 Fuller Road. Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Skyline High School, 2552 N. Maple Road. Thursday, Jan. 14 at Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine. Tuesday, Jan. 19 at Pioneer High School, 601 W. Stadium Blvd.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 5:13 p.m.

true blue - I'm not sure it's so easy to compare different jobs. Good teachers, good engineers, I'm sure they all have a case. I believe health care and eduction are two of the most important areas in this country and we treat both as second class citizens. It's a shame. I don't have an answer, but I know it shouldn't be the financial mess that it is. Nobody forced me into education; I chose it to make a difference. I hope you are as happy in your career as I am.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 5:05 p.m.

-peachy When and where do you want we to teach your class? I have worked with my aunt who was a sub for 30 years. It's an easy job compared to many others. Don't be so full of yourself many other people have to buy work supplies and take work home. Tell me how many days you have had to work 16 hours/day for a month? How many times have you had to be away from your family for a month? On the other side of the world for work? As an engineer, I have done all of this. I have yet to see any teachers propose a meaningful alternative.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 11:19 a.m.

Here is a somewhat counter-intuitive truth to consider... If you cut teachers' salaries and benefits, the hardest hit will be your teachers without tenure. These are your younger teachers who, while lacking in experience, frequently have the most enthusiasm and desire to draw your children into the learning process. These are the teachers are the lowest on the totem-pole and the lowest on the pay scale. They are also the ones trying to pay off their student loans and get a start in life. In reality the ones most able to absorb the pay cuts and reductions in benefits are the tenured teachers, who have been with the district for awhile. They are also the most likely to be the "whiner babies" with an "entitlement attitude" that many of you are complaining about. They are people who are more involved and rooted in the community, and for whom leaving would likely be more painful than staying. They are also the people who have been educating your children for the long-term, and, in many cases, educated you when you were passing through the school system. However, those you would lose would be the younger and more motivated (generally speaking) teachers. They don't, in most cases, have the same roots in the community, nor do they have the capacity to absorb a significant reduction in pay and/or benefits. They have bills to pay, and careers and families to build. Ironically, they are the same ones whose backs will be to the wall when layoffs occur. A lot of tough decisions to be made here.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 11:04 a.m.

Moonmaiden- thank you for explaining.

Lisa Starrfield

Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 8:30 a.m.

Engineer, I doubt you pay $4000 a month for health/vision so I am assuming that is $4000 per year. I just looked at my pay stub to be sure I am accurate with my numbers. I paid $102 in this last paycheck for my health care. So my premiums for the year will be over $2600. Given that you are an engineer, I am pretty certain that I don't make as much money as you do... even if I adjusted for the fact that I work 10 months a year. Even if you were a starting engineer, I suspect you make more money that I do. Teachers go into education knowing that we are trading good pay for good benefits but if you change the social contract, you will lose good teachers.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 6:28 a.m.

aaparent - Steps are built into the salary schedule and go into effect automatically even before a new wage is negotiated. Typically, a raise of X% is applied at each step. In a year where the wage is not negotiated when school starts, the teachers at the top get no pay increase, but the teachers on the steps get the increase to the next step(and will get retro pay if their step is increased as a result of negotiations. A salary freeze usually means that there is no increase on any of the steps, but, in the past, teachers have still moved along the steps. I suppose it could be negotiated that everyone is frozen on whatever step they are on, but I don't think that has happened yet. Does that help?


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 9:47 p.m.

Could we still give concessions? Traditionally, we have, Saline teachers union President Tim Heim said, pointing out teachers have saved the district thousands of dollars in health care costs." Just think about how much more the SEA could save the district if they didn't need such generous benefits. Think about how much could've been saved over the years with bidding outside of MESSA. Think about how much a $250 deductible reduces premium. Think about how top heavy the Saline health care costs are, since most spouse plans pale in comparison and the district pays for more family plans. Think about how much could be saved if the premium costs are capped by the district and they had health plan choices. If you want the best - you pay your fair share. Heim said he doesnt think teachers should bear the brunt of balancing the budget, especially after voters declined to hurt their financial picture through taxes. I guess since we voters have taken a multitude of wage and benefit cuts over the last couple of years, I guess we voters think there should be some shared sacrifice. So now, we should tax the teachers? he said. I'm so glad Mr. Heim has little or no student contact - he truly does not "get it".


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 9:11 p.m.

$1000 for a families health care seemed pretty reasonable. I am going to be paying $3800 plus vision plus dental for a total of over $4000. $1000 seems pretty good for 2010. Perhaps it is time for teachers to step into reality and pick up a share of their health care cost like everybody else. I understand Washtenaw county workers are pay even more. At least the non union employees. The level paid for health care should be the same for represented as well as non represented. This feeling of entitlement is crazy and unfair to the working families of this county. Teachers step up to the plate. None of us like it however we all are paying our share, you need to also.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 9:09 p.m.

I have to say it is somewhat heartening to see the concern here no matter which side of the fence you are on. I usually only see this kind of passion on the sports pages!


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 9:06 p.m.

WLParent You stated that "Teachers do not get paid for the 2 1/2 months that they are off of work." Is this supposed to make me feel better knowing they get paid a decent salary for 9 1/2 months work? It is not that I object to what teachers make, it is that they seem to feel they should be the only untouchables during hard times while others sacrifice.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 8:04 p.m.

moonmaiden- I didn't mean return the money but I assume the step increases started on Aug. 1 for a new fiscal year. Maybe the teachers who got the automatic step increase could return/bounce back to their prior rate of pay for the next fiscal year. Did the district agree to the step increases on the assumption that the millage would pass? My question is how much money would be saved if that pay raise was rescinded for the upcoming fiscal year? Is the total amount significant? It's hard to justify raises when the board is also looking at cutting teaching positions.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 7:19 p.m.

I am truly surprised to see such a negative backlash against our counties teachers! Most other parents I know are very satisfied with their schools and the teacher's role in their child's education. Have you forgotten the importance of these people in the lives of our children (should I say future?) How can we ask them to take cuts when we still want them to invest so much of their time and energy in in our children? Remember, most of these people have master's degrees and all the expenses that go with that! Do we really want to reduce the "attractiveness" (I wish I could find a better word...)of this profession which is going to impact students for years? What could be more important than investing in our children? I hope the unions take a stand and help people see the shortsightedness of some of these cuts.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 5:49 p.m.

Apparent - Are you actually suggesting we RETURN money? I certainly understand cutbacks, but not giving back what already earned.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 5:06 p.m.

David -- Is there a figure Liz Margolis can provide regarding the step increases that were given this year? If all the teachers given a step increase of x% were to return 50% of that increase how much money would that be?


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 2:48 p.m.

My biggest complaint is not that the county teachers don't want to take a pay cut (who does?), but that they won't even discuss it. I teach in Ypsi and our union leadership never asked for my opinion or that of the rest of the teachers. I believe it is the leadership's responsibility to ask - they may recommend we not consider it, but they need to bring it to us. Our secretaries, maintenance, custodians, bus drivers, parapros, etc. were all cut 15 minutes a day which equates to about 3%. Our central administrators, non-union secretaries and all contracted administrators all took a 3% pay cut effective July 1. I am not the only teacher willing to do the same - but no one is asking.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 2:04 p.m.

@A2reality - The contract has nothing in it preventing the step increases or the pay going with it. There is no amendment to the contact that is available that says the steps or the pay increases will not be paid. The budget for 2009-2010 shows almost $2 million for step increases and the latest update did not remove it. So if the step increases are not being paid, the public information from AAPS is wrong and the budget inaccurate. I do not want to see the step increase recinded, but I do want the discussion to be based on facts. Please see my prior posts for things I think the AAPS should look at in detail for cuts.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 1:53 p.m.

toomuchtodo - My information comes directly from two staff members at the administration for the AAPS. For what it is worth, they still believe that the information being reported is inaccurate. I'm not sure of why there are differing opinions at that level.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 1:46 p.m.

@a2reality: I truly have no venom intended. That being said, I do wonder "who" your source of information was regarding teacher step raises. You first alleged that (a) step raises weren't being given (and that I should stop spreading misinformation), and then when Mr. Jesse verified that steps were still in the contract, you continued that (b) steps were being given, but there was not any money associated with them. I don't think you are "intentionally" trying to confuse people, but that is, unfortunately, the result. I am sincerely glad you are relying on Mr. Jesse for accurate information!


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 1:34 p.m.

toomuchtodo - Thank you for your elegant post. It is rare that I can receive such venom from asking for clarification on a topic about which hundreds of posts have been made. I'm glad that you are able to hand down such judgment on the message boards.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:49 p.m.

Lisa Starrfield: Did you see all of my points? Long post, wanted to make sure... you're replying to everyone except mine...


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:44 p.m.

@A2Reality- I'm glad that you are now relying on better sources of information. Hopefully you will now have fewer incidences of chastising others for propagating misinformation when, in fact, it was you who were misinformed. I also appreciate ANNARBOR.COM's David Jesse for taking the time to step in with facts on this issue, as well as clarifying facts on several other posts.

Sandy Castle

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:20 p.m.

Annarborite, open your eyes and look around you. The teachers are being asked to reopen contracts for the same reason the county requested the unions representing county employees reopen their contracts and take pay cuts. Th City of Ann Arbor is requesting their unions reopen their contracts or 14 firefighters will be laid off. These are the same reasons Pfizer closed up and left the City, and Ford plants are closing around the county. The economy is bad and nobody has the money to give right now. The schools are not the first to be affected by this, and they won't be the last. Perhaps you haven't been affected by the econony, but you really can't be so naive as to think that people don't want to support a good school system?


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:10 p.m.

Ms Starrfield, and a few others: There are two outstanding reasons why I and perhaps a number of others believe we are justified in our outspoken criticism of teacher compensation: 1: I pay property tax in Ann Arbor and 2: I vote. The first point gives me the right to have a say in how public funds are distributed. Your pay comes from taxpayers, period. Like it or not, if you feed from the public trough, and the trough is shrinking, something has to give. The second point gives me the right to post on boards such as this and to voice my opinion in general. I have a customer based business. My customers pay me to do a service for them. Therefore, I am completely tuned into their wishes and desires. I must also be competitive, or my business won't survive. Who is your competition?


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:03 p.m.

The people who opposed the millage did so because they didn't want to spend extra money to support the public schools. They claim that more money is not needed to keep our schools great. Why is it then, that they insist that teachers' pay and benefits be cut, essentially making the teachers pay for the schools out of their own pockets? Remember, if the millage had passed, EVERYONE would have been footing the bill (teachers pay taxes in Ann Arbor, too). Instead, you're expecting teachers to pay for the public schools, but no one else. Why not just go all the way and drop school funding from the public's tax bills and just subtract that amount from the teachers' paychecks?


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 11:38 a.m.

Thank you for checking that David. toomuchtodo - While I appreciate what you stated, I prefer to get information directly from the source to which David is speaking. Getting information from a poster on an internet message board named "DonBee"... "toomuchtodo"... or "A2Reality"... should not be viewed at as explicitly factual.

Sandy Castle

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 11:16 a.m.

Lisa, It's sad, but true. It doesn't change the fact that we just don't have the money to pay you what you deserve at this time. I hope things turn around for all of us soon. But right now, we need to all do our part to make it through. From your posts it appears you are against every other alternative except me paying more in taxes to make sure YOU don't make less. What do you think can be done to come up with the money to cover the budget problems?


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 11:10 a.m.

OK Lisa Starrfield: what should be cut? Administrators have taken a 4% paycut. Besides, that's a tiny cut. So what should we cut, change, that would result in the millions of dollars we need? Don Bee has been specific. How about you offer your suggestions in detail?

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:50 a.m.

Sandy, Teachers live in these communities too. You cut our pay, you are hurting your business. We will have less to spend in our communities.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:44 a.m.

The public has shown "up and participated in public education"-unfortunately in the form of a No vote on the millage proposal. When the biggest expense is salaries and benefits-you can't remain one else has.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:43 a.m.

@A2Reality- The AAPS 2009-10 Budget shows nearly a 2 million dollar expense for step raises increases (and the associated costs, like increased FICA and retirement contributions) for this year, and for the next 2 years. I don't think they would have this in the budget if it weren't actually a 'real' expense.

David Jesse

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:38 a.m.

Liz Margolis tells me that if teachers were due a step increase this school year, then they got it - including the actual increase in pay that went along with it.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:35 a.m.

@aataxpayer, OK, I see your argument, but it still requires cutting the district's contribution and asking teachers to pay more for heath care regardless of what plan they are on. You can argue the pros and cons of that. What I had been responding to was the argument some people were advancing that if AAPS switched from MESSA to BCBS, you could save the district money without affecting teacher's out-of-pocket costs. Someone described it as "painless." But given the steps the district has already taken, that simply won't work.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:30 a.m.

AAPS has a document that shows all the efforts at cost-sharing and coordination going on within the WISD area, but I can't find a version of it on the web. Perhaps someone can help point it out? I did find a useful document prepared by WISD that outlines what they do, for those who have been wondering. You can find it here: Please note, the file appears to be in reverse order, so that the last page in the PDF is really the first page of the document. (I was puzzled for a bit until I figured this out.) I hope this helps shine a light on things.

Sandy Castle

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:27 a.m.

I think teachers should make more money than they do. They profice the valuable service of educating the future of this country. That said, I am self-employed and have seen my business load drop by about 20% from last year. My husband works for the county and his union agreed to reopen their contract and he has taken a pay cut. It seems callous and arrogant to me that the teachers want to fight tooth and nail to keep what they have, even to ask for more money in a millage, when everyone around them is losing business, or taking paycuts, in this economy. Hopefully for all of us this won't last long and we will once again be able to bargain for more. The way it stands in this state right now, you either take cuts or jobs will be lost.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:14 a.m.

@WLParent - You are correct for certain items (mostly classroom), but much of what is purchased for maintenance and other uses is not. Large ticket items are almost all purchased by the individual district (e.g. buses, trucks, etc).


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 9:55 a.m.

David Jesse - I didn't get a response from this previous request. Please follow-up again to clarify regarding step increases. My understanding is that if a teacher qualified for a step increase this year, then they received it. HOWEVER, there was NO MONETARY INCREASE associated with the step increase as the contract would normal dictate. In other words, if a first year teacher qualified to go from Step 1 to Step 2, then that teacher was given the Step 2 "rating." Despite receiving that rating, the teacher was not given any additional money that was reflected in their paycheck in association with that "rating" increase. This is akin to you being given a promotion to Sr. Staff, but not receiving any pay raise for it. Please confirm this and report back. Thanks in advance. NOTE: I did receive a response from DonBee, but I would prefer to get a response from you and your source at the AAPS.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 9:52 a.m.

It's truly amazing how circular and idiotic the arguments are from those who want the teachers to take pay cuts. The premise seems to be: 1) You knew what you were choosing when you choose your profession... that it would be lower pay than the private sector; that there would be no bonuses, or company cars, or stock options... HOWEVER, the proponents of this argument are quiet when it is pointed out that when choosing their profession, it was also recognized that they would have more time off during the calendar year and have great benefits. Proponents of this argument can't have it both ways and are defeating themselves. 2) I'm suffering so you should be too... these same voices will be NO WHERE to be found when times are better for them. Were they voting for greater raises or some bonuses for teachers when times where flush a couple years back and they were well compensated at their jobs? Absolutely not. Here's some simple logic: If we pay a salary and benefit package to our teachers that is viewed at as poor within the profession, then the better teachers will migrate to where they can make more money with better benefits. Consequently, the cumulative quality of our teachers will erode. The education that our students receive will decrease. The appeal of living in Ann Arbor because of the quality of the schools will decrease. Consequently, the value of our homes will decrease. There are so many valid reasons to avoid cutting teachers salaries and benefits. Work needs to be done to balance the budget, but the reconciliation should be sought without affecting the teachers. Lastly, please refrain from proposing a "Pay for Performance" plan for teachers unless you actually have a proposal to share that would work. Such programs aren't in place because of the large and obvious challenges associated with fairly evaluating teachers. I can just as easily suggest that we fix our budget shortfalls by capturing all of the snow we accumulate this winter and selling it to Arizona where water is desired.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 9:32 a.m.

David Jesse - I'd like to see the value of the properties owned by McKinley / Beritz within the WISD. Using this figure, the assessed value can easily be obtained or roughly calculated. We can then quickly estimate the PAYBACK for Beritz's campaign donations. This would be valuable information to have in front of as these arguments persist. It would have been more timely to have reported it before the election. Thanks in advance.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 6:57 a.m.

burkat, I agree that what the district did to our techs, secretaries and other employee's health care was shameful.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 6:49 a.m.

aataxpayer, I DO pay extra for my MESSA insurance already. I pay a premium every month, a copay for every visit and prescription. No different than any other employee. While I cannot compare what I pay to every employer, what I do pay is comparable to at least 3 employers in this region and my benefits are not out of line.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 2:04 a.m.

RE teachers health benefits: At least teachers have choices in their coverage. Ask the other bargaining units in AAPS what the district did to them. They were forced to change their health benefits. They were told they had no choice. Their coverage decreased and their co-pays were increased, they didn't have a choice. Also, teachers are allowed to have coordination of benefits with their spouses and other units are not. This is just one example of the unfair discrepancies in benefits between teachers and other AAPS employees.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:48 a.m.

Teachers do not get paid for the 2 1/2 months that they are off of work. Some opt to have a reduced pay check during the school year so they can receive some of the money during the summer, but it isn't money they are getting paid during the summer, but rather money they have already earned. Also, from all of the teachers I have known, no one has 2 1/2 months off! First, they stay longer than the students and are back in 2 weeks before. Second, many of them are working on new lessons, aligning curriculums to new standards, or taking classes that are mandated by the state (with their own money) throughout the summer. Teachers are not complaining that they have to work too hard - or at least the ones I know do not. They are merely stating the facts because their pay is always called into question. I don't believe they want to make it seem as though their jobs are harder than yours; they just want to receive some recognition that they work hard and earn every cent they are paid - especially when you consider the amount of education most of them have and are required to continue! If your job was continually called into question, I am sure you would be stating the facts as well. Last, why is it that other professions are not called into question for his/her pay? We have judges who make well over 100,000; professors at the U making over 100,000; etc., etc., why is it that public school teachers are the target of so many people's anger? Why is it that someone with a Master's Degree is not allowed to make over 50,000 without anger in the community? How about checking some local corporations and finding out how much they would pay an employee who has 30 years of experience with a Master's Degree. I bet it is at least twice what we are paying our teachers. Who decided not to open contracts? Was it just the WCEA board? Once again, the teacher I talked to said there has been no such discussion in her local union, and as a matter of fact, are discussing how much they can give back. It would be nice for people to know that many of the teachers are willing to do what they can, but unfortunately, have no control what a small group of people decide on their behalf. Hopefully, enough will speak up and do something about this board!


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:33 a.m.

DonBee: You suggested that all schools should pool purchasing to get a better rate. I asked a local teacher about this, and she said that they already do. All schools order through REMC. By ordering through here, schools are able to order supplies at reduced rates because of the volume done by all districts. Just thought I would let you know that schools are doing this.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:32 a.m.

peachy I'll do your job for a day if you will do what I did for 30 years. Work outside in the snow when it is 5 degrees. Work in mud so deep it wants to pull your boots off. I have never said that your job is easy. But I was only paid for the hours I worked not vacation days and sick days and 2 1/2 months off with pay. Don't cry to me about how hard you work there are not many easy jobs out there. Try waiting tables for tips or selling a car. I doubt that there are many teachers losing their homes to foreclosure!


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:51 p.m.

AllergictoBS said: What the multitude of the illeterati fail to recognize is that the stronger the school district the better the resale property values are. If you go to sell your home and the school district is percieved to be bad then you get a lower price. Albert Berriz is castigated for working to defeat the millage to protect his property values at the expense of people who are voting for higher taxes to protect their property values! I'm glad we all agree now that the millage wasn't about the schools; it's about preserving one's own self interests. In a recession like this, nothing... no lowly school millage, nor even the mighty Greenbelt... is going to prevent property values from sliding. Sorry AllergictoBS, taxing your way to prosperity is like borrowing to get out of debt. You're unlikely to succeed with either approach.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:45 p.m.

@aataxpayer, I'm afraid I don't see your argument. My point is that AAPS pays the same dollar amount for every teacher's health benefits - whether they choose one of the MESSA plans, or one of the HMOs. (Not percentage, but dollar amount.) The only way the *district* can save money is to cut their contribution, which they must do across the board (not favor or disadvantage any plan). Right now, AAPS's contribution is about the same as the cost of the HMO plans, so any teachers who choose MESSA (and many do) have to pony up quite a bit. Changing MESSA into BCBS might change out-of-pocket for teachers, and also change the benefits they have the freedom to pay for, but it won't change the district's costs. Again, the only way to lower the district's health costs is to lower their contribution, effectively giving every teacher a pay cut in addition to whatever salary concessions they may accept.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:39 p.m.

To all of you complaining about how teachers teach, our salaries, vacations, insurance, etc. I challenge you to come in to any classroom and do our job. Not only are we teachers, but nurses, moms, dads, grandmas,and social workers,just to name a few of our other job descriptions. Most of us bring home work at night, over the weekend and on vacations. I spend a great deal of time planning for the next year during the summer. I also spend approximately $2500 out of my own pocket for school supplies for my class. Please, before you continue to bash teachers, come in for a day, try it.....I dare you....then tell me we make too much money.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:02 p.m.

This isn't the most important note, but it really bothers me. PERCENTAGES DON'T ADD AND SUBTRACT! The article quotes: "After county voters turned down the millage request and the state announced several per-pupil aid cuts, Chelsea Superintendent Dave Killips asked his entire staff to take a 1.25 percent pay cut for the year. Thats half the 2.5 percent raise they received at the beginning of the year." (emphasis added) Take someone making $50,000, their raise amount would have been $1,250 (2.5%). Now they make 51,250. They are asked to give up 1.25% of their salary, which would be about $640.63. So they actually are asked to give up 51.2% of their raise, not half. A simple correction of "about half" would suffice here.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11 p.m.

Oh, those bad, BAD teachers -- not willing to lay prostrate and take a sharp stick up the [derriere] without at least having some discussion about what people really want from the public schools. (And considering that about 78% of eligible voters couldn't even be bothered to exercise their franchise, that could be a bit difficult to determine. So, it would seem that there shouldn't be any big rush to start agreeing to concessions) jcj -- you opined that workers should not be paid sick time, vacation time, or holidays. And you worked for 30 years under such conditions. So what you seem to be saying is, just because you were apparently willing to work under what appears to resemble indentured servitude, everyone else should be, too. What century was that in, anyway? Concerning pay based on years of service: just exactly how is it that occupations that use this method are "bound to go down hill?" Before I retired about a year ago, I was a pilot for a major airline. And we were paid according to contractually-determined rates based upon years of service, as have been unionized transportation workers for many years. Unions, and not only those in transportation, realized a long time ago that paying for "performance" is really favoring those who are the biggest [derriere]-kissers and management toadys. There is a lot of subjectivity involved in evaluating someone's job performance -- teacher, pilot, anyone. Longevity-based pay is by far the most fair. (And yes, unionized workers, including tenured teachers, CAN be fired. But there is this pesky thing -- called due process -- that must be followed.) Ms. Starrfield, you -- and a few others -- are to be commended for valiantly attempting to inject logic and facts into the discussion.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:40 p.m.

Stunstif, "Unlike me"?? I am an independent contractor and pay $934.00 per month for my BCBS coverage. No one pays a dime towards my health care so please do not act like you know me. What the multitude of the illeterati fail to recognize is that the stronger the school district the better the resale property values are. If you go to sell your home and the school district is percieved to be bad then you get a lower price. I am not arguing that the millage was right or wrong I am simply pointing out the HUGE conflict of interests with the major force that had the millage voted down. If you want help with your medical payments go see Al. He is filthy rich and tighter than two coats of paint. He could care less about the fiscal state of the school districts. His care is 100% for the bottom line of McKinley! PERIOD You were fooled just like everbody else.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:37 p.m.

First and foremost, I keep hearing about Community, Roberto Clemente and Stone School. Number 1, Community can do what Ann Arbor Open Mack did, become a charter type school to save expenses. Roberto Clemente and Stone School exist because they house these children the regular hi school tossed out because they can't handle a regular hi school, a criminal record or something worse. I for one do not want a criminal inside AAPS. Period. I am glad there is a place for these children. The principal of Pioneer High School when he stepped in cleaned up and cleared out the riff raff. Amen for him. Next on the agenda? WISD. Privatize them. OR get rid of them all together. All they do is over site the special needs. If AAPS releases them, consolidates them then there in lies a huge savings to all the districts. Remove WISD or privatize them. Save money. Next, there is talk of privatizing the buses. Not a good idea. There is no one to hold accountable the supervisors, drivers and et all. AAPS Transportation is holding a union meeting in the coming weeks with a guest speaker from U of M to tell why it is not a great idea to privatize transportation and why it will jeopardize the children more so then closing the community jails called Clemente and Stone School. Parents will understand that drivers will stay protected under union guidelines then privatize guidelines. Union holds everyone accountable, teachers, administrators and bus drivers. So, here is the bottom line. Privatize WISD or better? Cut them off from having a hold over all the districts and let them fend for themselves. If you take a look at the proposed cuts? I think by far eliminating 6 vacancies is more productive then closing a hi school or something worse. Think before you leap and then really take a look at the bleeding. WISD. Nuff said.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:30 p.m.

@allergictobs, "beritz is a fraud" Berritz is a genius, he helped save me $300.00 this year that I will spend on prescription copay's or doctor's copay's because unlike you, I don't have "fatcat gold plated" health and pension benefits!


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:11 p.m.

Hotsam, I don't think I ruled out anyone voting their conscience. My comment is that 99% of the oposition money raised was from 1 individual. 1 individual paid for ALL of the yard signs, All of the advertising and if you don't think m oney can't buy elections then you have been asleep for the last 60 years. Congrats to you to excersing your freedom to vote as you wish. Al Berits is in the media and on Ann Arbor Sunday News crowing about how much more fiscally responsible the school districts should be. Maybe so but don't think for one minute the holier than thou attitude and public stance is going to fly when you have a SERIOUS conflict of interests. He should be embarrassed, I can't believe no one has pointed this out yet. beritz is a fraud. Shame on him.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:57 p.m.

Act, They have been consolidating and cutting student services at the ISD (High Point) for at least the last 10 years. The building is mostly leased out to privately run programs (Honey Creek Charter School, Ann Arbor Preschool until just recently, Gretchen's House, etc). Students don't receive additional services (speech, occupational, physical) in their home school districts (even if they have an IEP calling for it). At least that's the way it is in the district where I live. Even High Point has been cutting services. My sister was lucky enough to attend High Point when it was working at full capacity. She aged out last year. I agree with you 100% that most of what is left there are administrators with jobs that I can't figure out the descriptions for. Special education students have always been the first to feel the pinch when money is tight. Cutting a few of the duplicitious positions would be a great benefit to all the students who aren't being served correctly.

Hot Sam

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:46 p.m.

allergictobs I have a news flash for ya. Myself and everyone I know, had no idea of Mr Berriz, or his contribution before we voted. It was the wrong tax, at the wrong time, for the wrong's as simple as that...


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:42 p.m.

I still think we need to build another new high school in SE Ann Arbor (now that Skyline High is up and running)... Come on folks, what's another Millage or two...It's only a few more bucks a day...Just skip that latte...and bagel & cream cheese...and broadband cable...and...

David Jesse

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:39 p.m.

Dexter teacher union President Joe Romeo sends in the following: "The contract between the DEA and the Dexter Board of Education is being negotiated this school year. In bargaining, the Board and the Association spend a great deal of time looking at a wide variety of provisions many of which might affect district expenses. We work cooperatively for several months discussing a great many topics and frequently develop innovative approaches to difficult problems. In Dexter we are all educators: teachers, administration, the Board of Education, parents, the business community. We believe the collaborative nature of the relationships we have fostered over the years will allow us to maintain our essential school programs and a positive school climate. We are not yet ready to concede that losses to our school program or climate are necessary."


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:31 p.m.

Lets take a minute to discuss the Moral High Ground Mr. Al Beritz, of McKinley Properties, has taken in regards to personally defeating the millage. He states that the school districts need to get their financial houses in order before balancing their budgets on the backs of the beleagured home owners. On the surface this sounds noble. But for those with 1/2 a brain lets take moment to peel back the onion here. The opponents to the millage raised $101,000 to defeat the millage. The rank and file citizens raised $56,000 to support the millage. Out of the $101,000 raised by the opponents $100,000 of that was donated by Al Beritz and McKinley. So the othe $1,000 came from multitude that supported Al. Why would Al donate so much? Is it because he is so worried about the fiscal sanity of the school districts OR is it because McKinley is the LARGEST PROPERTY OWNER IN WASHTENAW COUNTY AND IF THE MILLAGE PASSED IT WOULD COST MCKINLEY MANY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN ADDITIONAL TAXES!!!!!. The reality is that McKinley and Al Beritz have gotten staggeringly rich on the backs of renters for decades in the county, the very people who cannot afford a home. Lets see documentation of how much money Al has donated to the various schools, how many scholarships do they fund. Here is the reality, ONE MAN AND ONE COMPANY DEFEATED THE MILLAGE, AL BERITZ BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE TO PAY LOTS MORE IN TAXES....IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH CHALLENGING THE SCHOOLS TO DO BETTER. IT HAD EVERYTHING TO DO WITH GREED!!! MCKINLEY GREED. GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF THE SAND AND CALL IT LIKE IT IS!!!!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:29 p.m.

I also feel obligated to point out that the November 3rd election date was not a "special election" but is considered a normal election date for many municipalities and under state law. Ann Arbor had city council races and two city charter questions on the ballot; other races and ballot questions were on other local ballots. That's why the millage was proposal "I" (letter i), because there were eight other proposals on the ballot somewhere in the county.

Hot Sam

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:28 p.m.

Ypsi Livin Writes "Steve Norton said: "Finally, several people have commented on the number of districts Michigan has. You have to remember that each charter school is counted as its own school district under Michigan law. The number of "traditional" school districts is something like 280. " Sorry Steve. By my count, using information from the 2006 Michigan Education Directory, there were 552 traditional school districts, 57 ISDs and 247 charter schools in the State of Michigan. Current numbers will vary slightly due to charter closures, and openings. If you want to count each charter school as a school district (as the state does), Michigan has nearly 800 school districts. (blink....blink...blink ) 800!" Thanx Ypsi for the clarification...however as you can see, other than a small handful of us, this question is completely ignored...I am amazed at how this obvious source of blatant excess is treated...

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:11 p.m.

@dakabk: Regarding results of the millage in AAPS, we've been over this in other comment threads. The millage won by 56% in the city of Ann Arbor, and by 52% in AAPS, when you include those township precincts where a majority of voters live in AAPS. Kathy Griswold, of the opposition A2CRSS, came up with the same numbers. That's the best we will get, because divided precincts did not keep track of which voters lived in which district. @aataxpayer: sound-bites like "Cadillac" coverage aside, the district's cost will remain the same unless they cut their contribution across the board. Replacing MESSA with BCBS may, or may not, allow teachers who choose that plan to keep out-of-pocket the same, but it will definitely increase the costs of teachers who have chosen the non-MESSA plans. And I appreciate that you acknowledge that MESSA offers some benefits that BCBS would not, even though you discount their value. But right now, if teachers choose to pay for those extras, as consumers, why should we take that choice away? The real question is about how much the district contributes, and whether it is fair to push most of the burden of absurd increases in health costs (from any provider) onto the teachers.

David Jesse

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:08 p.m.

Ypsilanti schools spokeswoman Emma Jackson lets me know that YPS central administrators and secretaries,plus contracted employees and directors all have taken 3% pay cuts this year.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 8:46 p.m.

I have never understood the bitterness towards teachers and their right to earn an appropriate salary. But 'appropriate salary' is not determined by who is 'deserving', it is (or should be) based on market rates, on supply and demand. So the question is -- if AAPS teacher and administrator compensation (salaries, benefits, or some combinations) were cut by 10%, would we have trouble attracting and retaining good people, given the other attractions of positions? I think the answer to that question is clearly NO, but I'm open to being persuaded otherwise. The high level of job security, the 'Cadillac' health benefits, the defined-benefit pension plan, the early retirement possibilities, the summers off, even the psychic rewards of the job (working with young people rather than being a cubicle rat) mean that these are very attractive jobs, and would be even if compensation were lower (especially in this Michigan economy). That being the case, I believe the quality of AAPS education would be much better protected if the budget were balanced with an across-the-board pay (or benefits) reduction than it would with extensive layoffs, program cuts, school consolidation, etc. And that's especially true in the long term. Michigan is not the rich state it once was. It's now average, and continuing to fall in the ranks, and there's just no prospect of a quick turnaround. The sooner we get our government spending in line with the new economic realities, the better off we'll be. On the other hand, if we preserve public employee salaries and benefits at the cost of the quality of our programs, look out. It's one thing to move to Ann Arbor and pay high taxes for excellent schools. It's quite another to move here and pay high taxes for schools with mediocre programs (but high salaries).

News Watcher

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 8:07 p.m.

Ann Arbor's reaction doesn't surprise me at all. Why should the teachers, with their cushy benefits & high salaries, want to help benefit the entire school district at their expense? If the teachers won't even consider re-opening contract negotiations, then Todd Roberts needs to take a stand for the better of AAPS. The student count is down throughout the district. It's time to lay off teachers and put their salaries back into the operating funds pool. Cutting one teacher can potentially save AAPS $70,000 or more, once health benefits and salary steps are factored in. And if the teachers get up in arms about the cut, Roberts can turn right around and remind them that they refused to discuss -- not agree to, but simply discuss -- salary cuts that could have assisted the entire district. It's time that AAPS teachers give back to the school district, just as other AAPS union groups such as tech support and custodial have done.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 6:30 p.m.

If the 4% pay cut by AA administrators is no big deal, then let's have the teachers and other employees take a similar cut. After all, it's so small it's a joke, says DwightSchrute

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 6:26 p.m.

@YpsiLivin (some time ago), Yes, serves me right for trying to go by memory. According to Michigan Dept of Ed data, there were 551 "Local Educational Authorities" (traditional school districts) in 2008-9, down from 579 in 1977-78. There were 233 charters in 2008-9. One thing we must weigh is the pros and cons of having smaller districts that presumably have more overlap versus larger districts which are less responsive to local communities. Larger organizations are not necessarily more efficient, either. Some have suggested county districts; my impression is that in some parts of the state, that would make districts smaller, not larger. I don't think counting the charters individually makes for any waste; it just means that the state cuts them checks individually. One interesting point: MDE data show that in 2008-9, the state is down from its recent high pupil count: there were 1.63 million pupils in 2008-9 versus 1.75 million in 2002-3. But we are currently at the same levels seen in the early '90s: there were 1.64 million pupils in 1989-90. The biggest loss of pupils came in the late '70s and the early '80s.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 6:03 p.m.

Lisa Starrfield - "However, Ann Arbor voters supported the millage; it was those outside the district that did not." Actually Lisa, that is completely false. While voters within the City of Ann Arbor did support the millage, your Ann Arbor School District encompasses many of the surrounding townships of Salem, Ann Arbor, Scio, Pittsfield and Superior where the millage was soundly defeated. Factor in the results that accurately reflect your School District's constituency and you'll get a different picture. I know its tough to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Nice try.

I'm Ron Burgandy

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 6 p.m.

The same teachers/sympathizers were telling us a month ago that we needed to pass the millage "for the children". Now that it's about their pay, they get all defensive. Lot's of government agencies are taking cuts (DPS and Washtenaw County Government unions to name a couple). Go ahead and keep your feeling of entitlement while the district gets deeper into debt and the teachers around you get laid off.

Hot Sam

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 5:48 p.m.

Lisa Asks... "Hot Sam, Given that Ann Arbor passed the millage and no one else in the county did, why don't the rest of the districts merge and leave Ann Arbor alone? " That would be a good start...


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 5:37 p.m.

Lisa Starfield: I'll wait to address your new questions until you completely answer each point.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 5:36 p.m.

In regards to AMOC... I completely disagree with the point of your argument. A good fried of mine works in nursing. They work 3 12's a week. They do have continuing ed, but college courses are not required. The continuing ed is not very time intensive at the minimum level. In order for teachers to get more money, they MUST take college classes (CEU credits do not qualify for pay increases). The highest earning potential means you must have masters + in terms of educational attainment. Also, teaching is low paid as a starting salary in comparison to most professions. My first year I made high 20's. I believe the starting pay is now low to mid 30's. Is this considered a high starting salary, and if so, in regards to what profession? The irony of your argument involves the nursing aspect. Nurses typically will make on average 10K per year in this area to start over a teacher. With no further education (but yes they need CEU credits) their pay will go up reasonably each performance evaluation, assuming competency. With a bachelors degree only, I believe it would not be unreasonable for them to make 60K or more at the highest level of experience/pay. The nurse anesthetist is an even greater example. With a masters degree, a nurse anesthetist will surpass well over 120K (I believe at UM it's closer to 150K) a year starting out. This is not 10 years later, but the first year as a nurse anesthetist. A teacher with only a masters (a like comparison in educational attainment), their first year pay would be only mid 40's. After many years of experience, they could likely be in the 70's at their peak earning power. Nurse anesthetist can earn over 150K per year. Your comparison is clearly flawed. As far other occupations go, there are many other careers that do not necessarily work 60+ hours per year. Some do and some don't. One of my friends works that many hours (60+), but his salary is in the high 100's. As far as workload goes, I don't see how someone could work less than 45 hours per week teaching? I teach, and on most days when I leave, it's already at 8 hours per day. I still have planning to do and papers to grade. I rarely am able to grade any papers during the hours that I am teaching, because I "teach." The 8 hours per day average before I leave also does not account for our weekly meetings. I appreciate DonBee (thank you) and some others that post respectful and informed comments. But some posts on this blog are ignorant and misleading. In regards to performance evaluation and merit pay, I would be open to it if it seemed equitable. What would not be equitable if you are judged solely on your students' performance. This is very difficult to do, because some teachers have the higher achieving students while other teachers' classes have many students not invested in education. You give the best teachers a classroom of 32 students, all with lower grade point averages, statistically they will perform worse than the teacher that has a room filled with college-bound AP students. Test scores are not always a good indicator of teacher performance. If you truly have teacher friends, I am sure they would entirely agree. We cannot compare apples to oranges and expect the system to be equitable.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 4:42 p.m.

I have never understood the bitterness towards teachers and their right to earn an appropriate salary. I truly believe that as a society, most people believe that every profession deserves to earn a salary that is aligned with their education, skills and years of service. However, everytime there is a budget problem the salary of teachers (many who are your neighbors/friends) are always discussed as the first option to balance a budget. Here's the bitter truth...The funding of education is the fault and problem of the State of Michigan. The funding of 57 ISD's (with their multiple superintendents & staff), 247 charter school and 552 traditional school districts is a huge amount of waste. Here's thinking outside the box towards a better educational system for everyone! Instead of demonizing teachers and administrators in our local areas, why not go to the people in charge at the state level first and demand an end to the waste and demand that they 1. Eliminate all ISD's 2. Eliminate the low-performing & extremely small charter schools 3. Eliminate the low-performing & extremely small traditional schools 4. Consolidate all schools into a county system or have 2 school districts per county 5. Stop funding all these so-call university/colleges 6. Have 1 or 2 community colleges per county which emphasizes technical training. These are only suggestions but should be considered first before the old 'let's cut everyone's salary' trick is pulled out. It is correct to look at salary, but as a person who have lived in multiple states, taught at both the college level and school level the suggestions above should be considered first. To all the haters of teachers, public education or to rational discussions, your words only divide us and don't solve the real problems of educating all children and their families who have a right to quality education at both the elementary, secondary, college or technical level. Your words and vitriol towards educators are mere distractions for the politicians in this state not to do anything. Go after them and the financial waste they have supported for many years. They have the power to turn all of this funding issue around by next school year if they have the guts to make real change for the state and it's people. marge


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 4:33 p.m.

A2Reality, thanks for (re)posting -- I'm glad at least a couple people read it! @ David Jesse: Can you compare Ann Arbor to similar-sized school districts in the state, and tally the figures you mentioned (including building costs, etc.)? Also, it would be nice to see a administration costs per student figure and/or administration salaries vs. teacher salaries for the comparable districts.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 4:07 p.m.

@ Dr..Imsayin - You said "I live near teachers, they don't drive fancy cars, they can't afford big houses, they work hard on weekends planning lessons and the state requires they upgrade their education at their own expense either in the evenings or during the summer. It is a full time job, year round, from what I see." I also live near (and with) teachers. Some drive very fancy cars, some drive clunkers. Most of them put in non-school-day time to plan lessons and grade papers; a few some seem to get everything they need to do done during their at-school prep time. In no cases do *any* of the teachers I know put in more than 45 hours / week on average, which is the absolute minimum expected of most professional jobs these days, with 60 hours / week being common in many fields. Teachers with spouses who are also professionals (including other teachers) can indeed afford fancy houses and luxury cars if they have few or no children to support and chose to send their money that way. In many other state-licensed professions, such as law, medicine, or nursing, workers are required to upgrade their skills / continue their education at their own expense. People in industries of all sorts regularly pursue additional training, and advanced degrees in order to stay competitive. Even auto mechanics and hairdressers must re-test and renew their licenses periodically to demonstrate familiarity with new developments in their fields. None of the people in *those* professions get automatic pay raises with seniority or additional education while in the same job. For example, an RN may take training to become a nurse-anesthetist, but does not get a raise unless or until such a position is available. Why should teachers be unique among professions in having both very low mandatory time-on-task and guaranteed raises for seniority and education? Michigan in general and Washtenaw County in particular compensates teachers very well when compared to other professions requiring a Bachelor's degree for entry. We also compensate teachers very well when compared to other states and to other areas within Michigan. Many professionals have seen significant pay cuts in the extremely poor local economy. Again, why should teachers (and university professors) be different from accountants? From physical therapists? From psychologists? From engineers? From adjunct instructors?


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 3:47 p.m.

As I read through all the various comments and opinions concerning this very sensitive subject, all I can do is offer my perspective and humble suggestion. I know that growing up, I was the bain of all my teachers existance. Both good and bad teachers basically were trying to a desk that held up a warm body. I am not blameing my parents for my failure as a student, but as a parent myself I knew from my own experience that no child will succeed in school or in life for that matter unless the parent(s) take an interest in their lives. I have been blessed with three children whao have all succeeded in their education. All have graduated college and one currently teaches in a Washtenaw county school district at the same school with her husband. For the most part, parents and families are far more involved with their children in Washtenaw county. But, I also see the other side of the equation as my wife teaches high school in Detroit. She teaches at an alternative school where students with emotional and behavioural issues are sent. She and most all the other teachers in DPS get no support from parents they are on their own. Now as in any school system accross the nation their are good teachers and bad ones. But as in any other profession that has a union, it is most difficult to discharge that teacher for their position. So I take exception with the reader who commented that it was somehow the unions fault that poor teaching exists. Once again, I ask you to look ate the DPS situation. As I am sure most of you have followed the seemingly endless litany of news reports coming out of Mr. Robbs office describing the depth and width of corruption and just plain irresponsible oversight by the previous boards and administrators. So far, not one of these damageing incidents can be traced to the teachers union! Yet, the administration, after recently getting voter approval to renew the existing bonds that, will insure them millions in stimulus money as well, are asking the teachers, good and bad to loan them money and help them out of a condition they were in no way responsible for. This on top of being given only a 1% raise to be given out in the third and final year of the contract if approved and drastic duts and overhaul of their health plans. You add to that, decrepid, decaying buildings, my wife taught high school up until last year, in an old kindrgarten room built in the 20's. She, like many other teachers in detroit buy out of their own pocket supplies for their students as well as supplies for their rooms. They do not get re-imbursed. Many of these teachers, my wife included, good and bad, could go just about anywhere else to teach if the opening exisited. But they don't because they know that they are needed here, in Detroit, because they know if they leave, these kids in most cases would not have anyone in their corner. They would have no one who cares. Those of you in Washtenaw county are blessed with top notch facilities, and state of the art equipment and rescources, and good and bad teachers. But the time of just throwing money at a problem and showing up to take a bow is over. The community needs to get involved in person and pitch in to offset where ever they can by sweat equity or human investment. Show your children and your teachers and your administrators that you are behind them no matte what the situation. Show your children, just how important and valuable their education is. So much so, that you are willing to get physically involved. Talk is cheap, money is scarce, but your involvement and presence is priceless.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 3:35 p.m.

1 Block Radius, Let me get this straight. You insist that I cannot complain about my compensation because I knew what I was getting into. Yes, I did. Part of what I was getting into was excellent benefits. Now you are demanding that I give up my benefits. You are insisting that I change my contract, change "what I knew I was getting into".. the social contract of public sector work and you think I have no right to be angry about this? My salary is compensation is fine as it is; I have no complaints there. My complaint is that people like you seem to think its outrageous and that it should be taken apart. For ten years I have traded high pay, bonuses, promotions, a career ladder, comfortable working conditions and perks that many other professionals have for job security, good health care, and a reduced schedule. Yes, that was my choice but you are trying to change the social contract and you have no right to expect me to support that.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 3:26 p.m.

Dr. I. Emsayin is correct in his statement. A pair of my best friends are teachers in Grand Rapids, and it is nearly impossible to track them down during the school year because of their jobs and the extracurricular activities they are expected to head up. Their summers are nowhere as long as students' summers either. That being said, 4 percent paycuts for top admins in AAPS is, excuse me, a joke. they sure could get by just as well with 8-10 percent cuts.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 3:23 p.m.

Basic Bob, I am very aware of the state law. However, Ann Arbor voters supported the millage; it was those outside the district that did not. To complain, as you do, that Ann Arbor cannot balance its budget is ludicrous. Ann Arbor's budget was cut mid-year by the state again; how does one balance one's budget when it is a constantly moving target? Furthermore, it is unreasonable that the same people who were so strongly against the millage are now asking Ann Arbor to spread its extra funding (provided by its past willingness to tax itself) by consolidating with the rest of the county.j


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 3:17 p.m.

Even in boom years schools and municipalities spent more money than they received in tx revenues. Many made straght line projections of increasing property taxes to build any and everything, and, to improve employee benefits. They assumed annual gains in income, sales, capital gains, and corporate taxes. State treasurers,school-district principals, and pension-fund consultants showed parellel,rising lines of expenses and tax collectionsfor years to come. (This was especially necessary for pension fund consultants who suggested increases in union retirement benefits. It was common during the borrowing and spending years to extrapolate the upward trend forever. I know teachers work hard...but so do many other workers and they do it with 2 weeks vacation per year. Years ago teachers and municipal workers were lower paid because they had good security. They complained and now they receive 43% more in pay and benefits than the average private-sector employees. Many have now lost their private pensions, health benefits, and often their jobs and are not pleased when teachers won't even take only half of their raise instead of all of it. (

Basic Bob

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 3:16 p.m.

@Brit Satchwell, I agree that only 22% of the voters cared to vote. That being said, the 12% NO votes still outnumbered the 10% YES votes. You can't count the abstentions in either column. WISD chose to hold a special election, guaranteeing that the voter turnout would be lower. I'm sure there are many areas that the schools can cut costs without reducing individual teacher wages. There seems to be little willingness with the administration and school board to look at sensible changes like closing unneeded buildings. They would rather threaten the students and parents with classroom cuts.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 3:12 p.m.

@Twill68 --- You said that your problem "is that Superintendants and administrative big shots are never the ones asked or voluntarily taking pay cuts but they want everyone else in the system to". Superintendent Todd Roberts in Ann Arbor cut his own pay by 8%, and those of his "cabinet" (the next level down) by 4% as of last week. Saline and Chelsea administrators have also accepted pay cuts and insurance cost increases. I think you didn't read the article carefully. County-wide, the only group who declined to even discuss pay cuts / insurance increases were teachers.

Brit Satchwell

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:47 p.m.

I returned to these comments with fear and loathing, afraid that the simplistic comments that plagued these edu-funding blogs prior to November 3rd would continue. However, I'm pleasantly surprised that the conversation now seems to be generally headed towards a broader spectrum of connected dots. I hope this comment encourages rational dialogue rather than bring The Invectives back to their keyboards. If we use our real names, that will help. David Jesse asked me before going to press if the comments he attributed to me are accurate. I was late in meeting his deadline, so I'll say here that they were, and I thank him for his professional diligence and courtesy. But I said much more than he could cover in the space allotted to him. The "wolf" I referred to is our state's chronic structural inability to adequately fund essential social services. We gather revenue where our economy was 20 years ago. Michigan has morphed significantly from a smokestack industrial economy to a service and information-based economy... an obvious fact. (I have hopes for more "green" manufacturing for Michigan.) Yet our legislature tweaks expenses in order to avoid revenue as if not much has changed, rushing about like the Dutch boy applying band aids to stanch the growing leaks in the dike. Even if you factor the recession into account, edu-funding has fallen year after year relative to inflation. Lansing's cuts force districts to tweak in turn, cut here and there at an increasing rate, in an attempt to cope until next year. Annual cuts deja vu. This practice of tweaking in a downward spiral occurs for several reasons: 1) Our legislature has been unwilling to revise our revenue structure for fear that taxing where the money went would be reflexively painted as "tax increase" heresy rather than the tax shift(!) it needs to be to keep pace with obvious realities. They would rather bemoan the lack of new blood from the same old regressive and discarded turnip than harvest where the new crops are growing, all the while pleading helplessness in the face of "political realities" that they, as our political leaders, refuse to exorcise. Ostrichism at its worst. The losers: schools. The lack the political cover that they won't act without because of politically lethal knee-jerk mindsets that have persisted since the 80's have paralyzed them. That paralysis has led us right here, right now. I fault them collectively for their past (and continuing) lack of political courage, although some legislators have expressed courageous foresight by virtue of unblinkered hindsight. The legislature will not collectively lead until our collective hue and cry force them to. 2) The educational community that could and should have spoken out more assertively to educate the public about the core problems in Lansing did not. We, too, declared ourselves to be helpless. Administrators, teachers, parents, PTSOs; enough blame to go around. Our edu-culture and its resulting "comfort levels" got in our way. Two subjects are bedrock anathema to educators: religion and politics. Our edu-culture, as deeply embedded as DNA, is to be non-committal, Swissly-neutral-at-all-costs. We, with a few very notable exceptions, also too often declared ourselves to be helpless when it came to politics in Lansing, even though we are the community's educational spokespersons. (I advocate for continuing neutrality on religion). That swooshing noise you hear is the sound of previous comfort levels going out the window. We the legislature, educational community and broader public - have run out of enough time, tweaks and self-imposed helplessness to excuse ourselves any further from the unprecedented work that now must be done. The necessary hue and cry is about to be heard because of the magnitude of the cuts ahead. I don't speak for the surrounding districts; their comments in this article reflect their situations. Each community has its own history and needs, and will define its own priorities. But this much can said because it is obvious: Every superintendent in the state has already approached her/his staff, either implicitly or explicitly, regarding possible staff concessions. And because "teacher" and "program" are as inseparable just as "gas" and "gas tank" are, every teacher in the state is now worried about her/his mission of providing the best education possible to students... we aren't in the business for personal riches or fame. Nor do we claim exclusive rights to the "what's best for kids" moral high ground; we are of like mind with administrators and families when it comes to education. Anyone who claims that exclusive moral standing implies that everybody else is not in favor of "what's best for kids". To expand my "wolf" analogy: the cuts that have taken place for years were the wolf eating the food in the kitchen cupboards while the children were spared. In some, but not all, districts, previous cuts were kept from touching the classroom significantly. Every district has done its level best. Ann Arbor has fared better than most. I attribute this to our relative affluence, thoughtful coping strategies by administration, and to teachers who stepped up time and again to bear most of the effective burden of those cuts. But the wolf will now head to the bedrooms where the kids are sleeping; every district in the state is about to look a lot different than it has in the past, whether their instruction and personnel have already been devastated or not. You can assign blame for this where you will; you have my core reasons above. So where do we go from here? We have no choice but to attack this problem on two levels: locally (limit the wolf's damage as best we can) and at the state level (kill the wolf). Every district will cope locally in emergency mode. Let's not be coy... compensation concessions will be discussed sooner or later... education is a people-intensive endeavor. But it is vitally important here to note the difference between discussion and agreement!! Discussion, by definition, must go before agreement. No conclusions came out of the millage other than non-participation that limits our coping options until Lansing acts decisively. Currently, Lansing is avoiding the revenue issue by diverting the publics attention instead on symptomatic arbitrary reform (translation: expense) issues ostrichism dj vu. In Lansings absence, the millage was our local attempt to provide our own local band aid to help get us through the next five years as only three other ISDs in Michgian have been able to: Monroe, Kalamazoo, and Midland. Here in Washtenaw, we had our chance and essentially chose not to make a choice. 78% of the public did not vote at all. As a result of the now-proven absence of our own vast majority, a very well funded yet wafer-thin slice of the public - 57% of 22% voted no,12.5% of all registered voters - won the day. Of THAT wafer-thin 12.5%, one must assume that some were simply voting their personal recessionary hardship rather than the ideological views about "greedy" teacher unions and "negligent, non-transparent" administrators that were so easily typed from the safety of anonymous keyboards and purchased from just a very few deep pockets for full-page ads. Yet the sheer deep-pockets volume of that undefined slice of the thinly defined 12.5% slice would now have us assume that they represent some sort of pre-determined solution or mandate and would steer the discussion accordingly. They are easy to spot, and I urge open minds to approach them with extreme caution. Example: their appearance at the last BoE meeting with a forensic accountant in tow in an open-minded offer to help AAPS get its books and operations in order. Dont the forensic folks come in only after a crime or fraud has been committed? Do they confuse AAPS with Enron or Bernie Madoff? Is that the premise upon which open discussions that embrace the huge scale of our task should begin? Such unabated volume from so very few threatens to derail the process at its outset. Until the process of well-attended public forums unfolds, nobody should volunteer or expect others to be the easy button that excuses anybody from the difficult decisions ahead. I will tell you that teachers should not be expected to be the easy button before the public weighs in on public education. Ill also tell you that neither should any other narrow contingent art, transportation, AP classes, theater, sports, music, etc. The public has to decide what they want their public schools to look like and what they can afford. The process, including bargaining, that has allowed us to cope up to now will serve us well in the months ahead. Every districts contract has been signed not only by the teachers representatives, but also by the publics representatives as well. They are not teacher contracts; they are the districts contracts. Had schools been public roads, the public would have seen the deterioration and the many asphalt patches years ago, and we would now be years further along in this process. Maybe the millage debate seemed like nothing more than the normal civic background noise that gets a bit louder in hard times... let those in charge figure it out, somehow things will get better. That was then, this is now. A large and important educational process is now underway. All need to attend. No small contingent should be allowed to steer the discussion. The scale of the choices before us are such that no effective solutions will be found until everybody is at the table and the table is set with all of the options for all to see. If everything is to be on the table for nourishment of the greater group, then everybody needs to bring something to pass. No single group should be asked or expected to sustain the entire table before the process begins.

David Jesse

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:47 p.m.

If you have specific areas of the budget or district you want us to look into, please let me know by e-mailing me at davidjesse@annarbor. We are conducting research, asking the district for information and conducting interviews on the following information: - student count demographics - building capacity - building by building budget - issues related to the cost of athletics


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:35 p.m.

Thank you Don Bee. An excellent list of suggestions. Let's keep in mind too that the purpose of schools is to educate children to have the necessary knowledge to be functioning adults who can be functioning citizens. That means supporting themselves in our complex economy, which requires basic knowledge (reading, mathematics) and perhaps more complex knowledge (history, electronics, technical writing, eg.). That's it. We need to find a way to achieve those goals within our means. It means the adults need to change the way we work to make sure we provide opportunity for student learning. It's nice to think that we could look to parents to change the way they relate to their children, or propose that we have some big group session over what the community's goals are. But in fact, this is a dollars-and-cents problem about how are schools are organized in relation to delivering on the primary purpose of education. Lisa Starrfield, lots of people have said that we respect teachers and their work. But you have yet to say you respect the taxpayers and their struggles. Nor have you offered any solution beyond saying we all should pay more. That ship has sailed. Move on.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:21 p.m.

There really needs to be some discussion on many issues about education, and until there is a serious look at all issues, and not just saving money, nothing will get done. People want good quality education but don't always want to pay for it. That is not only in money but also in parental support, estblishment and enforcement of standards, and a definistion of those issues schools are accountable for and what they are not--


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:18 p.m.

Lets talk about things other than teachers - 1) from the audit report Rec&Ed plus Daycare (reported in one line item sorry) do not break even - there is a need to raise the costs to make these two items break even 2) Ann Arbor Public Schools rents out space in several buildings (the old grade school in Dixboro being one of them) - market test the rates and bring them up to market if needed. 3) AAPS (according to the audit report) has unused land and buildings - what is the long term value of these buildings and land to the district? If there is little or none - they should be disposed of. 4) The bond office (the guys managing the Skyline money) is still fully staffed, it is time to cut this office to 1 or 2 people and wrap it up. 5) Based on the audit report and still incomplete research (I will post the research when complete) AAPS is over staffed on Principals (at least that budget line is out of whack for a district this size). 6) Implement the busing study, the money was already spent for experts to figure out how to save money here - use the study. 7) Look at the Athletic Director positions - why with 3 major high schools can Plymouth Canton do with 1 and AAPS needs 3? The student populations are about the same and the teams have about the same amount of success. 8) Like they have done with substitute teachers - consolidate all non-classroom services (e.g. purchasing, textbooks, lawn mowing, etc) with the WISD and stop having supervisors and staff in each district. It would cut overhead without having to consolidate districts. There are some fine people in those roles in the county, let them do it for all the schools - instead of just one and get the volumes up on purchasing to get better discounts. 9) Going forward look at the merit pay provisions in Detroit and determine if they will work for Washtenaw County. 10) Look at a real set of magnet programs in the various districts to draw people back into the public schools - vocational education has stopped being a priority in the county but not everyone is cut out to go to college. 11) Rationalize the number of team sports that are varsity/require travel. Physical education and intramural sports will bring better overall fitness to a larger percentage of the school population. 12) Move small classes to the Michigan Virtual High School, let students take the on-line classes for subjects not otherwise available. Instead of cutting opportunities you will expend them with less staff cost. 13) Look at going back to K-6 7-9 and 10-12 as grades in buildings, that will remove the overcrowding. At least two old grade schools still belong to AAPS and they are cheaper to run (based on the budget report) than middle or high schools per student. 14) consolidate Community High into the Magnet program space at Skyline - that will remove buses for Community. Also you can move Clemente and Stone there as well and put them into magnet spaces, since the likelihood that the magnets will even get started is small now (and the proposed magnets were never very strong anyway). 15) Make a long-term plan for the schools and the staffing for the county. Should we have 10 different teacher/administrator/Janitor contracts or should we do that county wide as well? Should we have country wide magnet schools? Should we merger 2 or 3 of the smaller districts in the county? What should we be doing? 16) Bring together the top consultants that live in the county to review and suggest what might change for the better. We have people who advise the Department of Education in Washington, People who advise the banking community, people who know how to revive companies from bankruptcy. They have not been invited to put their considerable knowledge to work. We even have people who are experts in energy efficiency and open market energy contracts (an area that AAPS completely overran the budget on in 2008-2009). How about we debate these points and when we get them figured out, then we go after salaries if we still need to. I doubt we would. More radically - how about putting students in ability groups be subject in the grade schools so that the ones that need the most help will get it (more focused attention) while the ones that can excel are offered enough guidance to do so, instead of sitting bored all day or leaving for other schools?


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:16 p.m.

Lisa Starrfield: I'll address your questions/points in order Lisa Starrfield's Comment: No teacher in my school sent home information about the millage; it came from the district. Reply: I don't know who you are or where you teach so I certainly wasn't talking about your classroom. I happen to personally know teachers who did send e-mails to parents. I know the teachers that did it and talking with people at work, there were other teachers that did it that I don't personally know. I also know of teachers who went door to door trying to explain to people why they should vote for the millage. I was merely pointing out it's a bit ironic many teachers think the public should pay, but once that option gets voted down they don't want to pay for part of it themselves. If that's not ironic, an explanation why is needed because I sure think it is.. Lisa Starrfield's Comment: And yes, I think it ironic and disturbing that the same people who couldn't find $16/month for the millage are demanding that I take a 10-20% paycut plus a loss of benefits. Reply: Again, I don't know who you are. All I was suggesting is that in the real world (non-government jobs) people are taking MAJOR pay cuts. That goes for people who own businesses, work for big business, retail jobs where hours are cut, etc. etc. Non-substitute teachers are isolated from the downturn in the economy. I understand that's part of the deal w/ taking a government job,(recession proof) but when you ask all of the people who just took huge hits on their income to help chip in to protect yours from any decreases (let alone LESS increases, which happened in some cases) you have to understand the frustration. If you don't, maybe you need another Masters or Doctorate degree. To address your $16/month comment I don't know how you came up with that number, it'd be a lot more than that for me. Also, it doesn't matter what the # is or whether I could afford it or not, it's the principal of it, but maybe you don't get that.. Lisa Starrfield's Comment: My benefits may be 40% above the national average but they are not out of line with people with my education and experience. I'ld really love to see your source. I will say this. My husband has worked for three different employers since I joined AAPS and has had comparable or better than my own at a higher salary. Reply: When you graduated high school and entered college you chose your profession. I know that when I was trying to decide what to be I looked at the upper and lower limits of each profession. I understood what I was getting into and honestly, I had to work quite a bit harder to get my degree than some of the other ones. I'm not suggesting teaching degrees are easy, but did I complain? Absolutely not, because I chose to get that degree. To complain about compensation for a profession you knew was low to begin with doesn't make sense to me. Markets should set pay. The easier a degree is to get, typically the lower the pay.... the easier something is to learn or do, typically the lower the pay... that's just the way the world works. To me it makes sense as well.... Am I missing your point?. Lisa Starrfield's Comment: Stop spreading this mythology that we are over compensated. Reply: When did I say teachers are over compensated? I think you'd be surprised if you knew my background and the people I know and have in my life. Don't want to give up too much, but trust me, I appreciate the hard work teachers do and realize that many of them are GREAT people that do VERY good work. That brings me to one thing I'd like your opinion on.... Why can't teachers come up with a pay system that is performance based? Yes, I've heard the arguments performance is difficult because the students are a reflection onto the teacher, but to me that's just an excuse. Every single job in the real world, bosses find a way to evaluate performance and compensate based on that. Why can't it be that way for teachers? You are some of the most educated people in the world (as far as # of degrees go).... why can't you come up with a system to compensate based on performance? Please understand that until you do many of the public will not get your point of view. I just know too many cases of bad teachers w/ tenure who wait out retirement..... most schools have AT LEAST a couple of them!


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:14 p.m.

This source which is more updated than my 2006 figures, says Michigan has 807 school districts. Sorry all, but that represents a MASSIVE waste of resources.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 2:08 p.m.

Steve Norton said: "Finally, several people have commented on the number of districts Michigan has. You have to remember that each charter school is counted as its own school district under Michigan law. The number of "traditional" school districts is something like 280. " Sorry Steve. By my count, using information from the 2006 Michigan Education Directory, there were 552 traditional school districts, 57 ISDs and 247 charter schools in the State of Michigan. Current numbers will vary slightly due to charter closures, and openings. If you want to count each charter school as a school district (as the state does), Michigan has nearly 800 school districts. (blink....blink...blink ) 800!

David Jesse

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 1:39 p.m.

To those asking about administrator cuts: In Ann Arbor, Superintendent Todd Roberts announced on Thursday that he will be taking a voluntary 8% pay cut and his cabinet (the top administrators in the district) will be taking 4% cuts.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 1:35 p.m.

Are the Administrators also asked to take cuts. Superintendents need to lead by example. I have always been taught don't ask someone else to do what you are not willing to do.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:40 p.m.

Ann Arbor wants to have its cake and eat it too. If the community values educators as their neighbors, they need to realize that they need to be able to afford to live in Ann Arbor. One thing the breakdown mentioned earlier missed is the cost of living in Ann Arbor. I live near teachers, they don't drive fancy cars, they can't afford big houses, they work hard on weekends planning lessons and the state requires they upgrade their education at their own expense either in the evenings or during the summer. It is a full time job, year round, from what I see. Meanwhile, the multimillionaires don't want to help out. Ann Arbor will be sad when there are no teachers who live in their community and understand their children from the insiders point of view.

Basic Bob

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:26 p.m.

@Lisa Starrfield, Ann Arbor can't raise a millage for operating costs. That is state law. The rest of the county has nothing to do with the struggles of the Ann Arbor schools to balance a budget, so you need to quite blaming them. Cost cutting should be much, much easier in Ann Arbor than Willow Run or Ypsilanti.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:15 p.m.

Dennis, There are a lot of teachers, myself included, who will not be able to AFFORD to work if our benefits and pay are cut.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:12 p.m.

Dennis, What obstinance of the AAEA? In our contract, we agreed to renegotiate salaries for the next school year. How is that obstinance?


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:10 p.m.

While salaries and benefits take up 80-85% of a schoool budget, there is only so much you can do with the remaining 15-20%. The only place significant monies can be found are in employee costs. If the other unions can realize this why can't the teachers? Consolidation can have benefits. With over 550 districts in the state of Michigan, some of which are still K-6 or K-8, consolidation should be considered. Maybe there should be minimum size for a district factoring both student count and square miles in the district. How about straightening out district lines to eliminate overlaping bus routes? As to the ISD'S; they serve many purposes, some are needed more than others. Before mainstreaming of special eduation children many ISD's ran significant sized center programs. That is no longer the case in Washtenaw Co. Much of the High Point building is leased out to private school. Washtenaw ISD does not run a Voc-Ed program as others do. WISD provides in-service training for all staffs and acts as the local monitoring arm for state reporting. Maybe ISD should be consolidated as they are most likely to directly impact the fewest students. BTW, are you ware the state has increased the size and number of lottery pay-offs thus reducing the revenue for schools?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:04 p.m.

And a note to Ann editors (or whatever titles are used these days): I am very disappointed at the wording choice in the headline of today's print edition of this story: "Teachers unions reject schools' request to open labor contracts." That's a world of difference from the headline on this online article: "Washtenaw County teachers won't re-open contracts or take pay cuts, at least for now." I understand the need for brevity in print, but the online headline matches with the content of the story; the print version does not.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:03 p.m.

Bridget Bly says: "Why should teachers pay to balance the budget when we ourselves (with our vastly greater numbers and generally higher incomes) were not willing to do it?" I understand your point--after all it is simply a display of self-interest on the part of all sides. However, I really have to question your assumption of "generally higher incomes". I believe that's highly speculative and most teachers here get a very generous income. We are not talking minimum wage nor the types of salaries common in the 1950s when most teachers were young ladies, spouses relying on their husband's incomes or nuns. If you look about you, and if you recall that we are in the worst recession since the Great Depression and unemployment is at its highest in decades, I don't know how you can assume that the WISD millage represented an equal call of sacrifice. Right now, people are struggling to stay in their homes. That's a far cry from a call to renegotiate a collective bargaining agreement that may actually save jobs. I'm no fan of administrative costs in schools and believe they need to be on the table. But, it is also important that unions look into new benefit systems, merit raises, etc. The voters said it simply that--until the administrators, school boards and teachers unions--revamp funding in the districts, then don't come back to us. When they do, then we will listen--we are not the solution of first resort, we are the solution of last resort.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:03 p.m.

Re. the proposal not to compensate teachers for higher degrees: teachers are required by the state to get these degrees in order to keep their certificates. These degrees often benefit our children as teachers become specialists in reading, math, special education, etc.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:02 p.m.

I wonder if the AA school board will be as vocal about the obstinacy of the unions as it was in ranting about Mr. Berriz's opposition to the WISD millage. The entire county was being asked to make a sacrifice most could not afford. But, the unions won't even consider discussing contract renegotiating. Will Mr. Friedman give a similar speech blaming the unions for the "troubles we are in" as he did to Mr. Berriz and others? My guess is he will not because he considers them to be on the same "team" dedicated to look to taxpayers as a first solution to budget woes coming from years of overspending and lax accountability instead of the solution of last resort.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 12:01 p.m.

Hot Sam, Given that Ann Arbor passed the millage and no one else in the county did, why don't the rest of the districts merge and leave Ann Arbor alone?

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:57 a.m.

Zulu, It's pretty narrow minded to assume that the only real 'thinking outside the box' is cutting salaries.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:57 a.m.

@aataxpayer: People like to beat on MESSA, but, at least in Ann Arbor, that has nothing to do with it. AAPS teachers choose from among four health plans, two MESSA and two not. The district's contribution is the same, regardless. Teachers pay the difference, which can be a lot for the more expensive plans. Yes, the more expensive plans are MESSA, but they are also PPO and traditional fee-for-service plans, which would be more expensive in any case. The other plans are HMOs, which are always cheaper. So the district contributes the same regardless, and the amount that can go up each year is capped - regardless of what happens to premiums. In addition, MESSA plans do offer at least two things BCBS does not: layoff protection and private case management. I suspect there are other differences. You can argue about whether they are worth paying for, but you can't say that the plans are identical. I am willing to bet a lot that districts that switched to other plans did not truly keep the same coverage. Finally, several people have commented on the number of districts Michigan has. You have to remember that each charter school is counted as its own school district under Michigan law. The number of "traditional" school districts is something like 280. As to consolidation, the current funding differences - which stem from what each community was able and willing to give to schools before 1994 - would be a real problem. As would the fact of control: would, for example, Saline residents be happy with their school board essentially determined by how Ann Arbor votes?


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:55 a.m.

It is disheartening to not have unions working for the best of the district, I would expect to hear more frustration from school boards/superintendents...maybe there are more and more teachers frustrated with the union, but what are their options? They can leave the union, but dues are still taken out for local scholarships. Education uses longevity as its sole metric to evaluate teachers, it is a flawed system. If we truly want to have the best opportunities for students things need to change. How should teachers be evaluated? Something that incorporates student evaluations, administrative evaluations and professional development, 'value added' to the district (dept. head, etc)? I've had administrators I wouldn't want to solely evaluate me, they didn't know what they were doing. But the protection of mediocrity is unacceptable, there needs to be a better way of attracting good, young teachers. All the smart ones know, in this climate, you are suicidal to stay in Michigan and try to find work...only the old timers are benefiting. A lot of them are great at what they do, but there are some who need to be let go, everyone knows who they are in each district, the parents, students, administrators... I would love to have teachers tired of the union (and I'm one of them) try the free agent approach, to see if there are ways to evaluate effectiveness without the union stepping in (for example, student evaluations, like they do at universities...the union would never allow that). The school boards hire us, we work for them. Would they be open to having a more hands-on approach to what is happening in the classroom? How can we try new things with the union stepping in the way? Want drop-in evaluations (not the dog and pony shows we have now)? Want student/parent input on effectiveness/accessibility/curriculum adherence? Then ask the School Boards for it. The one thing I've learned in this mess is that parents and students need to be vocal- vocal for those who are doing a good job, giving the students the opportunity to learn...and being vocal when those needs aren't met. You deserve better, in this day and age we should be setting the bar for educational opportunity...hopefully that will come from this current low point in local education. Where are the UM/EMU educational professors? Why are they quiet in this pivotal issue of educational reform? They have 100s of prospective teachers entering a profession that is crumbling in this state I'm surprised to not hear more from them. And I agree completely, unions aren't for kids, they are for teachers. They are woefully naive if they think otherwise...I worry for my own kids as well as my students, educational reform needs all parties now, not just the same old groups making decisions.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:55 a.m.

Stunhalf, You don't want to pay for teacher benefits? So who precisely do you think is going to be in the classroom if you get rid of them? EVERY professional I know has access to good health care through their employer. You remove that from teachers and I, among others, will leave the profession or leave the state. Who will be left to fill the void? I can tell you they won't be anywhere like the current quality of teachers you have in Ann Arbor.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:51 a.m.

Oh and JCJ, I am not aware of any standardized test that has been unchanged during the last 50 years. Are you? If not, no comparisons would be valid. However, while I cannot speak for all subject areas, I can tell you that the difficulty of the math and science content HAS increased significantly compared to what they were doing 50 years ago.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

JCJ, I personally know of 4 teachers who have been removed from their classroom in just the 5 years I have been with the district. There is a process for removing the few bad teachers but it has to be followed.

Former Ann Arborite

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

The situation is unfortunate. But at this point, if God (or your own believed supreme being) came down and handed y'all a map and said, "This is the answer. Do this.", there would be so many people thinking they knew better or there was a better solution that ultimately nothing would change. So what's the point? The unions have largely crippled the auto-industry already, why shouldn't they bring down education in the once-beloved state of Michigan? The spiral is perpetuating itself in frightening ways. Soon there will be little left. Remember that steroids make you look great, but they also shrink your testicles. We've all had too many steroids for our own good at this point.

Bridget Bly

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:38 a.m.

Why should teachers pay to balance the budget when we ourselves (with our vastly greater numbers and generally higher incomes) were not willing to do it? Teachers get paid a fair wage, negotiated and legally contracted for. If they do choose to help us out here and contribute to health care or take a pay cut, bless them. It's a gift they and their families will feel, so we should thank them. And if they choose not to, well we can understand that, right? because we made the same decision a month ago...

Hot Sam

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:37 a.m.

Lisa Says, "Chris, Let me tell you how consolidation doesn't work. I previously taught in NC. Most of the school districts became county wide districts; there were 106 school districts for 100 counties. " I can understand that some areas have different needs...urban, rural, etc. However, we have 83 counties and over FIVE HUNDRED SEVENTY districts...I think we could by on say....oh a couple hundred????


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:26 a.m.

Apparently no one cares about the children. In the end its the same old story. Rather than shared sacrifice, the union would rather cut the younger members to save the tenured.

Rod in Chelsea

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:17 a.m.

Grinch: I think that maybe you are the one that was ill-served in your school? And now ill-informed?? Or uneducated about the school districts mismanagement? No one said that the teachers were lazy and incompetent. Those were your words..............not everyone else.

Patti Smith

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:08 a.m.

Cash, thanks for the link re: Detroit Public School teachers (I am one but live in A2; no, it's not a long drive). I would just like to add that we make way less money than most teachers in the area & are now being asked to float the district a "loan" to help stave off bankruptcy. Personally--and I am in the minority here--I would rather make a "loan" than lose my job because I love my job and I love my kids (uh, most of the time :)).


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:07 a.m.

My problem with this is that Superintendants and administrative big shots are never the ones asked or voluntarily taking pay cuts but they want everyone else in the system to. I support teachers and support staff during this period. Administrative employees in my opinion are furthest from education, they never see students on a daily basis. In the district where I live I have very rarely seen or heard of the superintendant stepping foot in the buildings, let alone the Human Resource director, finance director. Do any of you even know who these people are if you do not work in the System.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:06 a.m.

Grinch: I haven't read all of the comments that you're probably referring to so I'm not sure where the "all teachers are lazy and incompetent" comes from, but the fact is that there are some incompetent teachers and it's practically impossible to fire them. Unions are a big part of the problem. The inability to fire incompetent teachers means that the teaching profession has a higher percentage of incompetents compared to other professions. Gee, I wonder why teachers might get a reputation for incompetence? If you'd like to do something to help the perception of the teaching profession, do something to make it easier to fire incompetent teachers.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:55 a.m.

Lisa Starrfield When was the last time a teacher was let go because they did not do their job? Ask yourself the same about almost any other occupation. When any profession or occupation pays people based solely on years of experience and not performance that occupation is bound to go down hill. Where does Ann Arbor rank in pupil testing compared to where it was 50 years ago. Call me old fashion but I think if everyone was paid for time ON THE JOB. We would be better off. But everyone wants something for nothing! Wages could be higher if everyone did not get paid vacation days, sick days, paid holidays. There would be more incentive to go to work when you had a " you know what cross ways". Productivity would be much better! For over 30 years I got paid for the time I was on the job. Nothing more nothing less.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:42 a.m.

I find it interesting (though completely predictable) that the folks who, in comments made on other articles, have made it clear that they think most teachers to be lazy and incompetent, thesesame geniuses apparently think that the way to fix this problem is to cut teacher pay and benefits. The only thing such thinking proves is that you folks were indeed ill-served by whatever schools you attended.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:40 a.m.

A2Reality, Great information, thanks for taking the time to do this research and share it with us. If you could could somehow include the cost of the "gold plated benefits" in the data, it would make a huge difference. Thought I had read somewhere that it costs Ann Arbor taxpayers about 18 grand for every teacher's bennies? Does anyone have "hard data" on the benefit costs? Lisa, Quoting you, "stop spreading the myth that we are overcompensated". I have no problem with your paycheck. I do have a problem with what I have to pay to fund your benefits. Change is coming for the MEA and the unions because all we have left as taxpayers is " change in our pockets". The Jingle Jingle isn't Santa in his sleigh, it is the three pennies bouncing around in my pocket.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:34 a.m.

So now, we should tax the teachers? To respond the same way that teachers and others responded to the whole millage issue: Think of the kids!!! Don't you value education? We have to think of the children!!! If you don't take a pay cut then you're not thinking of the poor little children! Strange how the union hasn't come out with a statement about how they need to think of the children....


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:33 a.m.

Chris, you know the phrase, "thinking outside the box.' Professional administrators like to use this phrase when they are trying to impress or show how progressive they are. Well, consolidation is the type of concept that truly lends itself to thinking outside the box but I bet you would not find one school administrator, teacher, or union personnel suggesting this one item be placed on the table for serious consideration. To be perfectly honest with you when the Ann Arbor school administration can take an administrator earning a hundred grand a year and place that person in a make shift position and keep them there, what makes one think that this administration is even capable of thinking outside the box. Their concept of thinking outside the box is to scare our community that the quality of education is will go down if a new taxes doesn't pass. It's about time that we hold both the school administrators and school board members more accountable for how our tax dollars are spent. I have nothing against these indvidividuals, but I know several in the district that if you were to eliminate their position, the district would save close to a half million dollars and the quality of education for our students would not suffer at all. Until that type for thinking takes place in the district, I don't want to here them complaining about voters not supporting education.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:20 a.m.

I always wonder about the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Each local district has its own governing board, so why do we need the ISD? That has never been clear to me. When they actually had a large reduced to fraction of what it was, and they had multiple TCs and speech therapists going out to locals to support special education it made sense. But now it seems to be primarily administration. The locals have administration. In these times, is there some way to reorganize and either reduce or eliminate the ISD, or reduce or eliminate the local's administering staff, and have the ISD administer the whole thing? Seems like there is alot of money being waste on duplication of services.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:12 a.m.

The headline in the print edition is completely misleading, as is this morning's lead-in on WUOM. The union position is that talks should be convened only after the district has a plan and ideas to discuss.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:05 a.m.

1 Block, No teacher in my school sent home information about the millage; it came from the district. And yes, I think it ironic and disturbing that the same people who couldn't find $16/month for the millage are demanding that I take a 10-20% paycut plus a loss of benefits. My benefits may be 40% above the national average but they are not out of line with people with my education and experience. I'ld really love to see your source. I will say this. My husband has worked for three different employers since I joined AAPS and has had comparable or better than my own at a higher salary. Stop spreading this mythology that we are over compensated.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 10:02 a.m.

Oops, I'm pretty much saying the same thing "Them" said in his post earlier (which I had not read)...


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:57 a.m.

A2Reality: Thanks for the analysis. The answer is simple. One has to only look at the average COST PER STUDENT, and compare this to other school districts. Ann Arbor's is clearly on the high side. Something must cost a lot in the Ann Arbor school system. Figure out what, and cut where necessary to bring the cost per student back in line. PS: It's not just pay, it's also benefits. PPS: Also keep in mind that Michigan is ranked LAST in the country in terms of unemployment/economy.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:40 a.m.

Chris, Let me tell you how consolidation doesn't work. I previously taught in NC. Most of the school districts became county wide districts; there were 106 school districts for 100 counties. I taught in one of the few city schools districts, Chapel Hill-Carrboo. We were under a lot of pressure to consolidate with the schools in our county, Orange County. There was a large discrepency in the amount of funding that folks in my district were willing to pay for schools and what the rest of the county was willing to pay. There were a lot of well of people in the county with very nice homes but they simply didn't make the schools a priority and it showed. The two high schools in my district (there may be three by now) were the top in the state and consistently in the top 100 in the country. Yes, we had a large professional population but the schools were well funded. If we merged, the folks in the county would still refuse to support the schools but would bleed funds from those of us who did. In the neighboring county, they did merge. The county schools were better funded and better performing. The city schools were a mess financially and academically. Things have gotten much worse for the county schools since the merge; they have bled money to those unwilling to support the schools. If we were to merge, do you honestly think the rest of the county would bring their taxes up to Ann Arbor's level? And if not, do you think Ann Arbor would be allowed to drp its taxes down to their level? No. All that would happen is that we would bleed money to the other districts. Ann Arbor passed the millage despite knowing some of that money would leave the district. Why should we merge with those communities unwilling to support their schools?


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:39 a.m.

Interestingly, the Detroit Public school teachers have been more than willing to improve the status of the district AND the education of the students.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:37 a.m.

Ann Arbor spends about $3,000 more per pupil than other local districts therefore we do not have a revenue problem, we spend too much. Opportunities; 1, Close community high and stone 2, Open the teacher contract 3, Implement the actions suggested by Al Beritz 4, Require that 60% of all spending be directly within the classroom. Our teachers are great but the benefits they receive are not affordable, health insurance must be reduced, eliminate the salary increase for extra degrees (no student benefit), let the union decide the details the bottom line dollar amount is what counts.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:31 a.m.

It's interesting that links to the contracts were provided. I find it particularly worth noting that almost all contracts, except Ann Arbor's, were done in under 100 pages and many from about 50-80. I haven't read them yet, but I will just to see what's so important in AA that needs so much verbage to protect. Along with the contracts, it would be helpful to have included links to the various district's budgets. I'm sure it would be eye opening as to how much is labor and how much of labor ir teachers. They are the biggest target and for them to say look elsewhere, doesn't get the amount of financial relief districts are looking for.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:28 a.m.

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


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:19 a.m.

If the teachers don't want their salaries touched, I hope we don't hear a single peep out of them when positions get cut.

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:16 a.m.

Can the teachers or citizens fire the MEA? Can the teachers and staff vote them out? They want the ship to sink and have a lot of teacher (strong armed union dues) and taxpayer (Messa) money to keep the status quo. Think the UAW would be better for our teachers; at least they are progressive.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:15 a.m.

I think we should build another new high school in SE Ann Arbor...

Hot Sam

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:14 a.m.

Mr Blackstone is on target...I have asked numerous times why a state with 83 counties needs over 570 school districts. I have yet to hear a good reason. The silence is deafening.

Rod in Chelsea

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:06 a.m.

I think that the schools should learn to handle what they have now. What I find ironic is that they have LESS students now than when I went to school yet they get MUCH more money. And for Chelsea especially, they just keep coming and coming for more and more money. They can't seem to handle what they now have properly. And now the teachers want to hold the students hostage once more?? Do they have NO MORALS at all?? They are VVERY well paid and as far as I am concerned, overpaid. I feel that they need to look in their own backyards before they start to condemn the taxpayers for no support. They should be thankful that they have jobs when people all over Michigan are losing their jobs and they want us all to pay more and more so they don't have to take any concessions of any type. Chelsea has always supported the schools and the instant that they do not, they are threatened with cut after cut. Dave Killips came out public the very next day after the defeat with his list of threats. I have had it with these schools. It is to the point that if my parents were gone, I would move from this state.

Art Vandelay

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:04 a.m.

The teachers always claim to care about the kids but when it comes to cuts, it's in everything except their pay. When something like 80% of the budget goes to salaries, mostly to teachers, then the cuts have to include the teachers. We've been cutting the other parts of the budget for years to continue funding the MEA. Enough!


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9 a.m.

The head of the WCEA made the decision not to reopen contracts in schools within Washtenaw county. This conversation was never brought to the teachers of the districts to vote upon. What we basically have is 9 people, supposably leaders, who decided that districts just weren't going to open up contracts, period. So don't blame teachers necessarily for this part of the financial crisis. I firmly believe that teachers would rework contracts if it meant saving jobs and money. In the mean time, teachers are made out to look bad because they supposably said no to re-negotiations.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 8:45 a.m.

C Blackstone, thank you for the in depth information. Much appreciated! As a retiree of a local university I would say the same should be considered for higher education. Why do we have 2 major universities eight miles apart, a community college in between...all with "business-type" enterprises with hundreds of employees, offices, etc? Why not consolidate these departments? Instead of competing for students in the admission process, our higher education as well as K-12 should be complimenting each other and working together to make the education of our children better. Education should be viewed as a process....from K-post-graduate studies, and lifelong learning. This has been done in other states. If any state is PRIME for innovative change, it's Michigan.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

Pretty ironic that a majority of the teachers wanted citizens of Washtenaw county to dig into their pockets and pay for a multi-million dollar millage to fund the schools a couple weeks ago. Remember that many teachers were sending notes home with kids, e-mailing parents or posting up on how important voting yes on the millage was. Some even suggested community members didn't care about the kids if we were to vote no on the millage. Washtenaw county residents said NO to throwing anymore money at the problem and now it's the teacher's turn to decide if they want to throw some of their own money at it. Pretty ironic that the teachers are saying, "well... lets try to look at ALL areas before we start talking about reducing our pay, we want to see a plan first and explore ALL options". I laughed when I saw the headline to this article. Ironic to say the least....


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 8:18 a.m.

Tim Heim says he doesnt think teachers should bear the brunt of balancing the budget. What he doesn't want you to know is that the teachers he represents enjoy benefits that are 40% above the national average. It takes $1600 per year per student just to pay for teachers benefits. This needs to be brought under control in this economy.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 7:40 a.m.

Interesting comments, Chris Blackstone. Thanks for taking the time to share some data and offer creative solutions to a very serious problem. I bet there would be a reluctance due to per pupil funding equations that almost pits district vs. district and makes residents feel territorial---SAD! It would be great to white-board all solutions and this one is a great start (in my opinion)!

Chris Blackstone

Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 6:49 a.m.

*** My original post was hard to read. This fixes it *** Why does the discussion of funding for education never discuss the consolidation of school districts? It's completely unnecessary that Washtenaw County, with 347,376 residents and 48,000 students, needs 10 school districts. The consolidation of the districts would save administrative costs because the number of senior level staff could be reduced. Additionally, each school district would have access to a greater number of specialized curricular resources because each district would no longer need to employ administrative curricular staff for particular subject areas. For an example of how this works very effectively, check out Virginia. I worked for the Arlington, VA Public Schools for 7 years. The county's population is 209,969. Arlington is somewhat similar to Ann Arbor and both are part of the Minority Student Achievement Network. Last year, in Newsweek Magazine's rankings of the Top Public High Schools in the United States, all four Arlington high schools ranked in the top 130 high schools in the country. Compare that with the entire state of Michigan, which had one high school at 22 and the next at 444. Please note also that Arlington is one of the most diverse school districts in the country, with students from 127 countries and 105 different languages spoken. If you counter that Arlington is smaller than Washtenaw County, then look at Fairfax County, population 1,015,302. There are 173,573 students in the Fairfax County Public Schools. There are at least 15 Fairfax County high schools in the top 444 of high schools in the nation according to Newsweek. For schools in Michigan to truly succeed in the midst of a changing economy, real substantial change will be required. Simply taking money from staff is short-term and short-sighted. Jobs will be lost because of the changes that need to be made to make education financially sustainable in the state of Michigan, there's no way around that. It's up to educational leaders in this city, county, and state to determine if what's more important is the future success of their district, which may not need them, or their own individual employment.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 6:38 a.m.

Hopefully this is just the start of some in-depth analysis of these important issues. It's clear that not all districts are in the same bargaining position and different unions have different positions on the currently looming financial disaster. Ann Arbor actually has contractual language allowing them to reopen. So Brit Satchwell's statement indicating that Ann Arbor teachers could be part of a solution down the road ring true. The quote from Tim Heim of Saline, however, should probably be considered in the context of his union's recent negotiations strategy and the contracts they have been given with little or no negotiation. There's a lot of raw data here. I hope someone somewhere is doing some analysis of all this data in comparison to the current labor climate in Michigan overall.