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Posted on Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 6:05 a.m.

Washtenaw County school officials say state funding system for education is broken

By David Jesse

As Washtenaw County school districts struggle to balance their budgets - considering everything from layoffs to halting busing - leaders say it highlights a larger problem: state funding.

It’s an issue that can quickly rile school board members and district administrators.

The problem, they say, is they have such little control over the funding stream and must prepare their budgets not knowing how much to expect from the state.

Since 1994, school districts have seen more and more of their financial health taken out of their hands and given to the state.

The state legislature decides how much money to give to districts for their per-pupil state aid, which is now their main revenue source. The state controls one of the biggest expenses for districts - retirement costs.


First-year Allen Elementary School teacher Ryan Bruder works with students Sharif Thabata and Mary DeBona during the first day of class in the fall. (Angela Cesere | Ann

And as the school year moves along, the state often takes money back, restores it and takes it back again as state revenues ebb and flow, making managing budgets tough sledding.

That’s what happened this year. State budget cuts earlier this fall included a $127 per-pupil cut. On Thursday, Gov. Jennifer Granholm rescinded that cut, but school officials believe it will be reinstated, perhaps as early as January.

That example is indicative of the broken funding system, officials say.

But the fact that the system is broken shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, said Tom Watkins, who as the state superintendent of schools from 2001 to 2005 issued reports and papers on the problems the state was facing to fund schools.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” he said. “This should not come as any surprise to anyone. The issues began well before now. Proposal A was pretty good until 1998 or so. It, like a 1994 car, needed tune-ups along the way. Now we see the wheels coming off.”

State funding now

Prior to Proposal A becoming law in 1994, school districts had a lot more control over the revenue side of their budgets.

They could ask voters for operating millages when they needed more money.

But as part of Proposal A’s overhaul of the tax structure in Michigan, that ability was taken away. Districts now can’t ask for operating millages - although they can still seek tax increases for capital expenditures like facilities.

After Proposal A, districts became almost completely reliant on the state for the money they need to run schools. Before that, school districts were responsible for approximately 68 percent of school funding. The state is now responsible for providing approximately 80 percent of school funding.


Former state superintendent Tom Watkins

The purpose of the proposal was to reduce property taxes, reduce the need for local millages for education, increase the state share of total revenue for K-12 education, and provide a guaranteed minimum per-pupil level of funding.

“Proposal A, supported by a thriving economy in the 1990s, provided a Band Aid that temporarily stabilized school funding,” Watkins wrote in a 2004 report to the state school board. “Three straight years (2002 through 2004) of flat funding levels have stressed schools financially and academically.”

That stress has continued. Districts are now projecting a $400-plus per student cut for next year - on top of whatever gets cut this year. As of Friday, that didn’t include the $127 per-pupil cut, but did include other reductions.

Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts said he isn’t banking on getting the additional $127 per student announced by Granholm Thursday.

“It’s not going to change what we’re doing,” he said, alluding to the $8 million in cuts the district is looking to make this school year. “Unless the state finds an additional revenue source for the school aid fund, there’s still going to be a shortfall - if not this year, then next.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for toddroberts101809.jpg

Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts

The cuts often come in the middle of the school budget year, making finding areas to reduce expenses more problematic.

A school district’s fiscal year starts in July, and it has to have a balanced budget adopted before then. The state’s fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

“Frustration is probably a mild term,” Roberts said. “We’re six months into our fiscal year, and we still don’t have a total amount of money the state is giving us. It makes it really difficult to plan. Until the state addresses the structural issues, we’re going to have difficult times.”

A warning

As Watkins prepared his 2004 report on school funding, school districts saw a $74 per-pupil reduction. Districts administrators were complaining about falling revenues, and school boards were making tough cuts.

“A holistic approach is needed that recognizes the limitations of Proposal A to fund schools appropriately during economic downturns,” Watkins wrote. “Policy decisions to fund schools on a per pupil basis will continue to have significant impact on urban school districts… A new approach will require everyone to let go of deeply entrenched constraints and the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality. We are challenged to take a fresh look at how business is conducted. Inability or unwillingness to act is detrimental to Michigan, its communities, families and most importantly, its children.

“Widely recognized is the fact that an overhaul of the school finance system is meaningless if it is not accompanied by comprehensive efforts to improve efficiency, effectiveness and equity.”

That report joined a chorus of other voices that winter, including the non-partisan Citizens Research Council, in pointing out the problems with the way the state funds schools.

It followed a 2002 report that raised the same issues.

A lack of action

Nothing has been done to remedy the root problems at the state level.

“The easy thing to do is to kick the proverbial can down the road,” Watkins said. “(The governor and legislature) both keep just trying to put another bucket under another hole in the ceiling.”

Political will to make significant changes in the way Michigan funds education has been lacking, said John Austin, vice-president of the state board of education and an Ann Arbor resident.


John Austin, vice-president of the state board of education.

Roberts agrees.

“Part of it is the partisanship in Lansing,” he said. “One side is saying we have to look for additional funding. One side is not willing to look. The bottom line is there’s a serious revenue issue going on with the school aid fund. There’s no bipartisan willingness to identify the necessary revenue sources. It’s an unfortunate stalemate.”

Ann Arbor resident Eileen Weiser, a former state school board member, said politicians weren’t really pushed to make changes.

“They didn’t have to. There was plenty of money to sustain what they were doing,” she said.

In that way, the current financial problems may be good if they force the state to take action, Weiser said.

Overhaul needed

Almost everyone agrees change is needed in the way Michigan funds education.

“We are at a moment when we need to accelerate the restructuring of the school system,” Austin said. “We haven’t gotten very far yet.


Eileen Weiser, former state school board member.

“We don’t want to go back to the good old bad days (of local districts being able to ask voters for large operational millages). That just would make the rich richer.”

One of the criticisms of the old funding method was it created high property taxes and wide gaps in per-student funding between districts.

Austin said the state and school districts need to look at benefits and consolidating services - and perhaps even districts.

Weiser and Austin both point to inefficiencies in education across the state.

Watkins agrees.

“We need to ask ourselves why we have curriculum directors at every district when curriculum is driven largely now by the state,” he said.

He said the inefficiencies could hurt efforts to increase revenue through higher taxes.

“I don’t think taxpayers are ready - at the local level or at the state level - to tax themselves unless there’s more restructuring and reform,” Watkins said. “The question that needs to be asked is - if you discovered this place, and have X number of student and X number of dollars, would you have the system you have now? That’s the type of revolution you need.”

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


Rork Kuick

Wed, Dec 16, 2009 : 9:12 a.m.

2 small points: 1) Even if we had the worst teaching in the state, we'd likely still have highly-rated schools locally, just cause the kids are more privileged on average. 2) Compensation might be judged by how many teachers want a teaching job when it becomes available. My impression is that in our area, there is no lack of applicants. I expect fewer want to teach in Detroit or Seney.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 9:48 p.m.

Looking through those rankings, it is just terrible how low these scores are, in so many respects. The charter schools, generally, are performing horribly, towards the bottom of the elementary rankings. There are so many schools where 0-3% of the kids even register on the scoring. Why are the social studies, science, and writing scores so low, even at higher ranked schools? How much worse could this be? Obviously the schools are failing in Michigan. So no matter how much money is spent it goes to waste. May as well just keep the kids home, and not even go through the motions of school. What a sad state of affairs.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 9:38 p.m.

Oh and while I am at it, the average per pupil spending for the number 1 (a Gifted and Talented magnet school) and number 2 schools are $11,890 and $8,500 respectively. So all you folks who have been screaming and hollering about wanting to pay teachers based on performance, I tell you we are performing pretty darn well and are being compensated appropriately.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 9:18 p.m.

Sbbuilder, The middle school that I teach in is ranked third in the state. Five of our six middle schools are in the top 60. Our sixth middle schools is 282 out of 815. That's pretty darn good performance if you ask me.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 7:23 p.m.

Annarbor28 The school my kids go to now use many of the methods of 50 or so years ago, while also learning power point presentations etc. The results for the 8th grade Iowa Test of Basic Skills (reading, language arts, science, math, source info, and composition) had a composite score of 97. I'll take that kind of performance any day. The point is that the kids are there to learn, and the teachers deliver. Parent participation is also phenomenal. I think the last parent teacher conferences had over a 90% showing from parents. Excellent teachers, trimmed down and focused curriculum, and parental involvement have produced phenomenal results. All on about 4k/year.. I'm not about reducing teacher pay just for the sake of balancing a budget. That's not the issue. I'd happily pay more (if my kids were in public school) if the result was a highly educated 12th grade graduating class. I can't say this clearly enough: money will simply not solve the education problems we are faced with not only as a State but also as a nation.. If money was the answer, then by that logic, my kids should be in the education cellar. Instead, they are residing in the penthouse.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 5:04 p.m.

sbbuilder: If this is the approach to math that uses "manipulatives" and avoids actually just learning math, I was in the same boat and changed to private schools. My kids do better with just learning math, not monkeying around with it.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 4:41 p.m.

Hey, David Jesse! How about an article that compares how much Michigan spends on K-12 public education vs. other major state expenditures? Also, how about tracking those costs from the last couple years of pre-Proposal A through the present. A lot of the information has been put in comments to your last few articles on this subject, or at least alluded to. I know that I, for one, and I suspect a number of other folks, would appreciate some hard numbers from the new news in A2. Give us some real data to work with, please.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 4:31 p.m.

Does anyone else see the irony of a state legislature that believes it is morally acceptable to spend an average of $7,300 per pupil per annum for K-12 public education while paying paying $40,600 per prison inmate per annum? Wake up and look at the true cost of education, or the lack thereof, Michigan!


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 4:14 p.m.

The last two years, my two eldest children were in elementary school here in A2. This year, they are back in private school (I must be nuts, right?). Their reaction to math: 'Holy cow, this is so easy. Now I get it!' They can actually do long division unaided, and, as a bonus, get the right answer quickly. This was difficult, if not downright impossible with the Chicago method. Now I've a degree in engineering from the local university with a block M. I've had a fistfull of math classes. Where they are trying to go with this is beyond me. If the kids can't even master the basics, how on earth are they going to learn more advanced stuff? And also, what is wrong with rote? My understanding, and belief, is that this is good exercise for the 'little grey cells'. Putting this into perspective, this is just one example of many that I view as weak areas of our curricula.. For the record, I will not put my kids through public school again. My wife and I decided to be altruistic and give the local public school a chance. I'm very sorry that we did. The school they now attend was a big challenge initially because they were so far behind the other kids. So, it looks like we'll be part of the group of parents that pay taxes for the broken public schools, and then pay for private as well.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 1:44 p.m.

AnnArbor28, The "state aid fund" is the account the state uses to pay for K-12 education. It's also called the "school aid fund" and the "state school aid fund." Lately, it's also been called "broke."


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 10:54 a.m.

@limmy, I agree. Everyday Math and Connected Math are actually better than the rote math that was taught in my day. BUT...these programs are harder to teach because they require a deeper knowledge of mathematics than just computation. Most parents don't like them because they look different from what they learned. Teachers whose knowledge of math is weak often have trouble with these two programs. But from what I can see, AAPS has excellent scores on math at all levels in comparison to the rest of the state and nation. I know that AAPS requires a lot of inservice training in math to help teachers teach these programs. It is well worth their time because Everyday Math and Connected Math--when taught well--are great.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 10:15 a.m.

I believe the Chicago math is the Connected Math program used in AAPS middle schools. It is a very comprehensive program and I would put it up against any math program in public or private schools. The problem is that it is very difficult for anyone with any reading problems. Also very hard for parents to help -- no examples, answer key, or other support for homework. But, if a student can do it, they will be very well rounded and prepared in math. It approaches math from every possible angle and is not just calculation based.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 10:11 a.m.

To Karen F. and all the other teachers that contribute to this -- I love your posts. I don't know why so many people seem to be hostile to teachers. I don't think they have kids in school. As far as union vs. non union is concerned, I have had kids in charter and private schools -- both non union -- as well as AAPS. There are good and bad in both, but overall the AAPS teachers are much more experienced and I would say better. I do know that a lot of charter and private school teachers leave for better paying union jobs.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 10:08 a.m.

What's the state aid fund? As to giving tuition credits, there is no way that school choice would pass in Michigan. The teacher's unions are way too strong, and the Governor and most large city mayors here would panic at the idea of supporting it, as they would lose union support and campaign $$$$.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 9:58 a.m.

Bob W., Charter schools are yet another variable in the educational landscape. Charter schooling will prove to be unprofitable on a large scale. The state would like more charter schools because state law says that charter school foundation grants are capped at the state minimum. As the state reduces the per-pupil foundation grant, the charters have a more difficult time making their profits. The cost of administration AND the corporate profit have to come out of the foundation grant. The only way the charter management company can ensure that they make a profit is by taking dollars away from children in their classrooms. The system, as designed, is set up eventually to fail. If the state really wants to assist the public schools, it really needs to consider ways to remove children from the State Aid Fund altogether. Michigan has too many children in the public schools and not enough resources to cover them. If the state provided tuition tax credits to parents who were willing to move their children to a private educational setting, it could make more dollars per-pupil available for the children who remain in the system. Such a tax credit wouldn't cover the cost of tuition, but even at something like $2,500 per year, the state could make it work. The state would need to move about 60,000 students (out of about 1.75 million) out of the State Aid Fund to stabilize the Fund using this approach.

Eileen Peck

Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 9:39 a.m.

The Grinch said: "Is Chicago Math a success? A failure? Er...uh... well... the jury's still out on that. The original program was developed by the University of Chicago (hence the name) School of Education. From what I know of it, the program was developed without a lot of consultation from the local math types, who didn't/don't think much of the product. The UC School of Education (as I understand it) is now closed, so the program is somewhat of an orphan. It has a relatively wide adoption, but it has generated a lot of controversy about how effective it really is. Let's just say that parents of my particular vintage (I had old math; the schools I went to didn't believe in "New Math.") aren't uniformly impressed with the results.


Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 8:44 a.m.

There is tremendous waste and fraud in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS). This year there were warehouse discovered full of equipment such as new telephones never opened, and for some strange reason, a fleet of motorcycles owned by them. Contractors have pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars, or done substandard work. The walls in many Detroit Public Schools are falling apart, and the roofs leaking. There are school officials who also pocket the money meant for students. They are now set to get over a hundred million dollars of more nonaccountable federal funds. The students don't have books, but the funding is lost to the politicians and whomever else wants to put a hand in the pot. The good teachers of Saline and A2 are not the problems. Students in those districts are generally succeeding. It's the graft and corruption in DPS, and other similar school districts that are the real problem, sucking up the tax money. More money will not help DPS. The various governments need to stop thinking it is a money problem. It is a cultural problem, by and large, of generations of residents with little real interest in education, tied to DPS being totally baffled as to how to deal with the students and being corrupt. Charter schools are largely not accountable, financially or performance-wise, and need to be more closely scrutinized. The residents of Michigan in the more successful school districts need to fight really hard to get more funding, to pay teachers well with good benefits. My own relatives will not go into teaching due to the low pay. Demand that systems such as DPS earn the right to the money by making sure it actually goes to the schools and teachers, and students. Until then, you will be paying more taxes to support corruption and the lowest scores in the country in Detroit. The infighting above about whether Saline teachers deserve 5 or 10 or 15 days off during a school year is avoiding real issues, and discouraging the accomplished teachers who teach in the better schools in the state.

Bob W

Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 7:51 a.m.

My two cents? No one has mentioned charter schools. There are 232 charter public schools in the state of Michigan, with over 100,000 students in attendance. These were created as a "solution" to problems in our public schools. A joke! If there is something wrong with the public schools, fix it, don't create a new bandaid. These charter schools bleed money out of the system. Regardless of how many students (just like public schools) attend there is plant/equipment/maint. involved in keeping them open. And, just like our public schools, they sit idle 3 mo. out of the year. We might want to look at that one as well. If we were to revert back to pre-Proposal A days, it would just lead to a more disproportionate 'investment' in student's educations. Why is a child in Ann Arbor a more worthy recipient of educational funds than a child in say, Houghton? No source of revenue is immune from economic downturns, but property taxes is a very poor and shortsighted source of revenue.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:07 p.m.

Thanks, Eileen. I guess I still don't understand the context. Is Chicago Math a success? A failure? I remember when my parents complained about the "New Math". Is this a generational thing--that is every generation of parents complains about the way their children are taught math?

Eileen Peck

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:46 p.m.

Grinch said: "And I have no idea what you mean by "Chicago Math". Chicago Math = Everyday Math. (If it's of any consolation, most school children don't seem to understand it either.)

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:24 p.m.

sbuilder: If I misread you, I apologize, but you asked for someone to prove that more money = better education. Seeing as how no one is talking about increasing spending in education, "more money" in the current context would seem to be something that approximates current funding. It seemed logical to conclude, therefore, that you wanted to cut spending. And given (as one poster on this page noted) that 85% of school costs are teachers' salaries and benefits, I concluded that you wanted to cut teacher pay. Apparently this was bad logic? If so, what were you getting at? Curriculum? To be honest, my last child has graduated from HS so my memory of his K-6 curriculum is spotty at best. I had no beef with his 7-12 curriculum. And I have no idea what you mean by "Chicago Math". The larger problem, in my mind, lies with a too-brief school day and a too-brief school year. You may or may not agree that these are problems but, if you do, this is a good example of a problem that will cost money. But none of this addresses the really critical issue that no school reform can solve except mostly by luck, and that is the family and community environment from which the child comes.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:13 p.m.

Mr. Norton I like your post. I agree Lansing is most responsible. Poor leadership. I disagree with some of your opinions.I voted against the county wide millage increase. I tend to think spending over the years went out of control. Many years ago I read about AAPS salaries, how salaries increased with a Master or a PhD up to I believe over $80k. Ok so one has a PhD. I am not impressed that equals such high pay. Also I have no idea about benefits, if local teachers get superior benefits, what their split is, if any (employer/employee contribution %). Before I vote to support spending I want to know exactly how it is spent, especially now.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:05 p.m.

@DagnyJ, I am quite awake, thank you. AAPS and other districts are facing this crisis precisely because people locally and in the state legislature have been so focused on just patching things up and calling it good that the real problems just get "kicked down the road," as Mr. Watkins has it. I supported the Washtenaw schools millage, and worked on the campaign, precisely because I thought it was a responsible step to take to avoid some of the worst of the crisis that we face now. Just about everything that has happened with state funding since September has been predicted in detail for some time. We are in this mess because the legislature has twisted itself into a pretzel year after year with temporary "fixes" for the school aid budget. Now that they have run out of duct tape, and voters here turned down the millage, you ask me to "get real" and help bleed the lifeblood of my children's schools? If we are in a crisis now, more than half of the responsibility lies with the lawmakers of our state, and the voters who elected them, who have not wanted to face up to the long-term problems in education funding. As the article notes, people have been talking about these issues for years. Mid-year cuts in 2003 and 2004, avoided in 2007 only after some accounting tricks, avoided in 2008-9 only by using half the federal stimulus, and now the time has come to pay the piper. We have made our bed, and now all of us have to lie in it. We have few good options to cut the AAPS budget, and if you want to contribute novel ideas, I suggest you bring them to the January public forums. But unless we tackle the larger issue, this will just be one more year in a long string of years where the school budget has to be cut, again and again. Perhaps I'm not the one who has to "snap out of it."


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:05 p.m.

Mr Grinch You're a mean one, Mr Grinch if you think that I suggested that teachers be paid less, or that most of the problems in the Detroit ditrict are because of poor teachers. Certainly poor teaching is one factor.. An excellent teacher is priceless. These are the ones we fondly remember the rest of our lives. The art of teaching oozes out of every pore. They rarely have a bad day and will make do with whatever they are given. Their students universally rise to the challenges placed before them, with nary a complaint. So the question follows: why aren't these people the norm in education? Why aren't they being retained (as you point out)?. The other pillar of a sound education that I pointed out, and that you chose to look past, was curricula. I think we have burdoned our students with so much extra junk that the core classes have become marginalized. And, the ones that are core have been tampered with to such an extent (Chicago math!!), that one must return to an earlier age to find subjects taught with commen sense and application in mind.. But, back to the original point, more money does not a better education system make.. Cheers


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:45 p.m.

Excellent discussion people. My two cents: We have too much fragmentation of services.Too many police & fire departments and too many school systems. All should be consolidated. Eliminate multiple superintendents and Pub Safety chiefs. Look at the top of agencies for cuts, that's where the fat is. Note that those who are cut are those who you have more contact with. Biggest fault is at the state level-failure to act. Example: The Gov. waited until Det PS were $200 to 400 mill in debt before inserting a financial manager. Why not at 1, 10 or 50 mill? Why wait until it reaches crisis level? And she should have dismissed the school board (who is suing Mr Bob)give him the reins as he is asking now. The state should move to make all MI schools equal, funding, teachers, facilities, salary benefits so all children have equal opportunity. And as long as our incompetent federal govt is playing around with issues that will result in outrageous tax increases, how can you blame anyone from voting down local/state tax initiatives? I would prefer more of my tax $ go local, that is where your tax $ affect the most, but as long as the fed is looking at these idiotic high tax programs, I will not vote for any tax increase or continuation of millages.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:44 p.m.

Sbuilder, Your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. Good teachers are one of the keys. So do you suppose we will get better teachers than we have today by paying new teachers less? And it is worth noting that 1/3 of new teachers leave within three years and 1/2 leave within five. How will reducing teachers' pay entice these teachers to stay in school or entice better ones to take their place? Do we think they are leaving because their jobs are too easy and their pay is too much? And parents are indeed a key--the most important key. No teacher who has a high school or junior high child for one hour per day can overcome the tens of thousands of hours that child has lived before they set foot in the classroom. Yes, Detroit's test scores are terrible. But do we really think this is a problem that has been caused solely or even primarily by poor teaching? Yes, the teaching problem there must be solved, but unless the community's larger social problems are addressed, we are likely to see little improvement in the city's schools. Do you suppose those problems, both in the schools and in the larger community, can be solved by reducing spending?


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:23 p.m.

When we compare our students against those of other countries, we aren't anywhere in the same league. You can search the data for yourself, but the facts are there. There are countries represented from every continent, first-, second- and third- world. We compare ourselves because the data is valid and meaningful. Succinctly, we do very badly. How badly? Not even in the top quarter. If we were even close, then it wouldn't be so bad. It's like the current situation in Detroit. That poor school system has failed its students on a massive scale. They can't even begin to compare with successful districts throughout the rest of the nation. Likewise, I believe we can't begin to compare ourselves with the truly successful nations who have been educating their youth properly for the past several decades.. I have yet to see a cogent argument that shows that an increase in funding will improve education. Where is the data? Where are the hard facts? How would you propose a meaningful comparison for our students with the rest of the world? I would posit that better teachers and better curricula would produce a better education. That, and parent (or guardian) participation.. We have to peel back the thick filament in front of our eyes before it is too late.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:18 p.m.

Steve, snap out of it! I might agree with you 100%. And then, after we get done patting each other on the back and vowing to take our fight to Lansing, we still haven't done any work to deal with the spending crisis that is right here, right now. This is the funding system as it is today. We need to deal with it. You want to go to Lansing and hassle the legislature, be my guest. But your statistics don't help me (us) figure out how to balance the AAPS school budget right now.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:06 p.m.

@stunhsif Yes, I have been reading the other posts. And if I thought they really represented the opinions of most people in Washtenaw County, or Michigan, I'd start looking to relocate right now. But I know that's not true. I'm painfully aware of the good paying jobs this state has lost. But I'm surprised that you seem willing to curl up and "die," or at least declare defeat. Do you really think we have a future if we try to compete with the developing countries where so much manufacturing has moved? There are reasons why it is inexpensive to operate in those countries, and it is not because the working people there have a high standard of living. And they are looking for a better life, too. I would like to help build a new economy for Michigan that makes it a place where my kids would like to come back and settle. Have you looked at the stats for how unemployment rates vary according to a person's education? This is national data (can't find just for Michigan), from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Unemployment rate, age 25 and over, November 2009 Less than HS diploma: 14.4% HS graduate, no college: 9.9% Some college, no degree: 9.2% Associate's degree: 7.2% Bachelor's degree and higher: 4.6% Not only do we have less money, but we have been spending a smaller share of whatever we do have on schools. Does this make any sense, given those statistics? It does not to me.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:02 p.m.

Yes, school funding is broken and it was broken before Prop A. Yes the state is in bad shape from a tax standpoint and it will not get better for a long time. Yes we have lost population and good paying jobs and most will not ever come back. Yes many people have taken massive pay and benefit cuts to keep some of the remaining good jobs. There are lots of complex issues, from right to work (see TX and TN), to a retirement and health care system for public workers that will have to be overhauled because the under pinnings are not there. We have two parties in the state that are at each other's throat and not helping the state. We have a Governor who is angling for a National Job (just like the the last one) when her term is over. What we need is a re-do on a lot of the state laws and government rules in the state. A re-think on taxes (not many states have property, income, city income, and sales taxes). If we want to make the state work, we need to make it a place that companies want to settle and that means: 1) class action lawsuit protection 2) right to work for workers 3) capital investment credits on taxes (build a new factory - pay less taxes) 4) easy to work with state government 5) universities that are responsive to state company requests (see Stanford for a good example) 6) an environment that makes it possible to launch and success with a small company (group benefits via an insurance plan) 7) an easy way for people to get more skills (education) In addition we need to educate all of our citizens. I am ashamed of the situation in Detroit. While I understand the feeling that Ann Arbor needs more money - it is really Detroit that needs to be fixed. This one will not go over well, but I would suggest a single state contract for teachers, and that teachers could be moved district to district and school to school to help solve problems (Ducking). I only say this because until Detroit is fixed, Michigan can not be whole. If the Governor was really willing to put the state to work, she would pull rules on a number of things that would make it easier to work in Michigan and for companies to do work in Michigan and that would raise tax revenue and make more available for the schools. Until we all dig in and fix the systematic problems in the state we are all putting band-aids the Edmund Fitzgerald Picking on one set of people does not help, we need to all pull together to fix this and we will all have to give something up to do it, whether it is union protection or work rules, or tax exemptions or... we are all going to have to give up something.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 8:25 p.m.

Yes, you can have a good school without the increase, because you going to have to. Necessity is the mother of invention. There's room for improvement,there always is. Teachers have great bennies, my kid's teacher has taken off every other Friday since school started, and no let up in site. So now the challenge is for the people in the system not to cannabilize each other, but to work together.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 8:13 p.m.

layoffs, union contracts renegotiated, and then we can get on with our economic recovery, just waiting for teachers and public sector workers to give up the facade of acting dumb and let us get michigan back on the road to recovery. lets go!


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 7:52 p.m.

SteveNortonMIPFS, Though I normally don't agree with anything you say I do agree with your last sentence of your last email which is the 47th post here. I will quote you below. " So what we have just seen is a permanent reduction in what we invest in our schools, unless we all agree to do something about it". Steve, have you been reading any of the other 46 posts here my friend? Yes, you are correct. Funding for public schools will be less moving forward because the State of Michigan is "dying". There is no way you can raise taxes on anyone without killing the "beast you feed on". The only way to make public education work in the future is to reduce costs. The private sector in Michigan has been doing this since the year 2000. There have been 700,000 HIGH paying manufacturing jobs that have gone BYE BYE since 2000, you cannot put the lost tax revenue on the remaining tax payers. If you do, it will either kill them ( IE--more bankrupcies) or cause them to move out of state. As noted earlier, only Michigan and Rhode Island are the two states to have lost numbers in the past ten years. Fewer tax payers means less revenue. On top of that, Michigan's high paying job losses (union jobs's which were/are non-stainable) have been replaced with service sector jobs paying 25% of those wages and producing 25% of the taxes!!!! Get real my friend, the job you save, may be your own!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 6:49 p.m.

@DagnyJ, You're right, whining about anything won't bring change. And changing Proposal A will not happen overnight: that's why many of us who follow school funding issues have been calling urgently for change for many years. The current economic crisis has simply put a spotlight on a system to fund schools that barely worked even when the economy was healthy. The Legislature has been doing accounting acrobatics and stripping special funds for years to keep the books balanced - look back at the summer of 2007 and the debate over the FY08 budget for some deja vu. Should our schools be better? Yes. Are they as bad as many people think? No. Comparisons with other countries are shaky because we test a far larger percentage of our students than most other countries do, and we try hard to give a broad education to all our citizens (while many countries restrict access to upper levels of education to the "elite"). I think a lot of people who post comments here, and who otherwise speak loudly about how schools are wasting money, need to make a choice. Do you want schools that are cheaper, or schools that are better? To think that you can have both - and by that I mean both a lot cheaper and a lot better - is just a pipe dream. Our state government has spent a shrinking proportion of our state's income on K-12 education over the last 9 years or so. Total state and local spending on education has been declining for the last five or so years. This is as a percentage, so that even when our economy is shrinking, we are spending a smaller share of what we have on schools. Hard to figure out how schools have been overspending in that environment. Is this the way to grow our economy and our state? As someone said earlier, don't we want to be investing in our schools (and thus our children and our communities) rather than dis-investing in our state? When times get tough, do we cut our only lifeline? A dose of reality: teachers will certainly be making sacrifices, becuase there are almost no ways out of that bind. But ask yourself this: how would you feel about that if you had missed out on the boom times in the last couple of decades as well? How about the fact that school funding may stop dropping, but it won't get back to these levels anytime soon - like years? So that any concessions you make are going to be pretty much permanent? Enough of our school funding still comes from property taxes that it will be dragging for years. There is no limit on how fast taxable values can fall, but they can't rise any faster than inflation or 5%, whichever is lower. Ever. So what we have just seen is a permanent reduction in what we invest in our schools, unless we all agree to do something about it.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 6 p.m.

Whining about Prop A, while therapeutic, won't fix school spending this year.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 4:56 p.m.

Mr. Galt, Blackmail is, by its very definition, an illegal act and by implication something that is done secretly, not publicly. The only leverage any union has is to strike. A strike therefore cannot be blackmail unless it is both illegal and secret, and I'm not aware of very many strikes by public employees that happened without the public's knowledge. But I'm guessing you just used the word "blackmail" improperly and mean "leverage" instead. Yeah, man, it's a BAD thing when workers have some leverage over their employers. But, in that context, it is illegal for public school teachers (K-12) in the state of Michigan to strike. If they do they are subject to both civil and criminal penalties. Without a strike, unions have little leverage. Blackmail? Not hardly! So much for teachers being able to "blackmail" (whatever you think that term means) taxpayers. I believe it is also illegal for fire and police to strike, but I might be wrong about this. If this is true, it's not clear to me who, exactly, is "blackmailing" taxpayers. And God forbid that teachers, police, and fire personnel receive a good salary for their thankless and difficult jobs.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 4:48 p.m.

I write this with very mixed emotions. On the one hand, the students will surely suffer in the short-, and probably mid-term because their elders squandered their futures with a truly abysmal educational system. On the other hand, I think this is sincerely the best thing that could happen to our schools. We need phenomenal overhaul, not of the money stream (Good grief!), but of the results this money has profoundly not produced. More money, then more money, and then more still will not produce the desired effect. Haven't we learned this lesson already? We test our students compared with others students from the next County over, or the next State. This is analogous to grading on the curve. In fact, everybody is doing badly. How so, you may ask? Look at how we rank as a nation in math or science compared with other countries. Then weep. This is the real test. And we get an F again and again. How much money do we spend per student? We rank second in the world, behind only Switzerland. We are already outspending the rest of the world on educating our young, with a pitiful record to show for it. That is why I firmly believe this current fiscal crisis can be used for the good. Perhaps we will use this chance to seriously look at the big picture and jettison all the practices that have resulted in failure. Meantime, the students will suffer, and for that I'm profoundly sad.

John Galt

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 4:12 p.m.

I would submit that the school SPENDING system is also broken. Before they ask for more money they need to reduce the waste and above market wages and benefits that SOME in the system receive. Start by outlawing unions in government. NO WAY should public servants blackmail the taxpayer to get benefits that are superior than the average taxpayer receives. Who is the REAL servant? In many cases, the taxpayer, not the public employee.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 3:43 p.m.

Stefanie, Limiting this discussion to the narrow topic of school funding, as if there is a solution to that problem without considering the larger issues, both contemporary and historical, is exactly why the state is in the position it is today. The school funding problem will not be solved solely by either cutting funding, raising taxes, or both. There are larger reasons for the problem and history both reveals the sources of those problems as well as potential solutions. Feel free to delete posts as you like (it's your website, and I do understand that this is not a free speech issue--you can do what you like on your website), but doing so will sterlize the discussion to the point that there is no point to the disussion. You know, kinda like what's been going on in Lansing for the last twenty years or so.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 3:28 p.m.

Them, Please look at my previous post for an explanation of WHY that happened. It is the example cited in virtually every economic textbook of the virtues of Keynsian economics. But, then, believe what you like. Ignorance is bliss.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 3:19 p.m.

Mr Grinch, I don't know faux and beck??? I do know that unemployment shot up from 14% in 1937 to 19% in 1938, after 5 years of the New Deal and people giving up looking for work. You seem to make excuses for this fact and inject callousness. I trust our school board will make the right choices and not degrade the learning environment, I think they can.

Alan Benard

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 3:07 p.m.

Once again, David Jesse's balanced and well-reported work is overshadowed by ignorant and lying comments. Why does the paper permit the baseless accusations about waste and inaccurate and misleading statements about how money is spent to be attached to its journalism?


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 3 p.m.

Just make teaching like working at a fast food restaurant... no degree benefits...$8.50/hour....I am sure that will solve all the budget problems and it will really help us get and keep top notch teachers.

Eileen Peck

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 2:32 p.m.

It also seems like increasing the amount of federal aid to Michigan schools would be a worthy effort.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 2:31 p.m.

Spambot: You're welcome! Anytime I can provide this service!;-)

Eileen Peck

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 2:30 p.m.

Using 2005-06 figures compiled by the US Census Bureau, Michigan was ranked 20th in terms of per-pupil spending for elementary and secondary students. The rank comprised funding from all sources (federal, state and local). Michigan ranked 31st in terms of federal school aid received. Michigan's school revenues come primarily from state sources. Only 9 states plus the District of Columbia provide more funding per-pupil from state sources. (And no, I don't know how the Census Bureau determined "state sources" of funding for the District of Columbia.) Using figures from the same year, Michigan was ranked 21st in spending on salaries and benefits (27th on salaries only and 13th on benefits only). Michigan was ranked 28th on overall administration spending, and 15th on school administration spending. Using these figures, it seems reasonable to study spending on benefits and school administration for potential cost reduction opportunities.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 2:25 p.m.

@The Grinch --- The problem with your post is that it's too much based in fact and doesn't contain one single sound bite or slanted statistic that I could latch on to. For instance, Mr. Gross does a great job of pointing out that schools are spending 85% of their money on teachers!!!! That's shocking. Secondly, I'm surprised you would suggest that we examine issues and solutions from different perspectives. All those things I hear on Fox News are so simple for my brain to understand, and then you go muddying the issue by suggesting school funding and history are much more complicated than some may suggest. --- Seriously though, thank you for being a voice of reason and moderation in this edition of's continual rehashing of an issue, while failing to advance it with investigative reporting. ---

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 2:15 p.m.

Them, That's a nice story. Too bad it has no basis in fact. Unemployment when FDR took office was 25%. By Jan 1, 1937, it was down to rougghly 12%. In that 12% were all of the people on CCC roles, WPA roles, etc... who remained technically unemployed. Thus, in four years, the New Deal had cut the unemployment rate in half--a remarkable achievement. But unemployment shot up in 1937 (the recession of '37) because FDR tried to balance the budget, thereby cutting the programs that had put money in people's pockets that they used to buy goods that people were working to produce. You would learn this in either a good history class or in a good macro-economics class. Unemployment reached 1.2% in 1944 (an all time low) due to the government's massive intervention in the economy, an intervention justifed by WW2. You see, Americans don't mind spending money to kill other people and, if that money puts Americans back to work, that's OK, too. But God forbid we spend such sums of money solely helping out our fellow citizens. You need to take a good history class, one not taught by Glenn Beck and the demigogues on Faux News. You simply show your ignorance and embarass yourself when you throw around terms like socialism and colletivism with no apparent understanding of what you are talking about.

Trisha Paul

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 2:05 p.m.

I think that aataxpayer brought up one of the main sources of the current lack of funds in education in Michigan: Proposal A. Proposal A is the kind of bill that seemed like a great idea, something that looked good on paper but does not work as well in reality. Although it was designed to try to decrease the disparity in funding for various school districts, it has hindered the growth of school districts like AAPS. Cities like Ann Arbor that pay high taxes do not get back all the money that they pay; a lot of it goes to funding other school districts. As a result, AAPS has been unable to grow financially and keep up with the growth of its school system. I don't think that the school districts are being wasteful to the degree that it is the cause of the current financial turmoil. I think that the current economic situation will not be resolved until Proposal A is banned and we find a better way to handle the education funds in a way that will be able to sustain the long-term education in Michigan. I don't know what that is, but I do not believe that Proposal A is working out to be a successful plan for the future.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 1:52 p.m.

Mr. Grinch, Hoover made one serious mistake by signing Smoot-Hawley which destroyed the economy, FDR prolonged and aggravated the depression and human suffering for at least a decade with his Soviet style collectivism. Proposal 'A' has saved our elected officials from self destruction, and deficit state spending would be like giving an alcholic free vodka.

Doug Gross

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 1:41 p.m.

In reply to The Grinch Employee wages AND benefits are 80% of the budget. 35% of employee costs are benefits. So 28% of the budget is benefits. I suppose when the Titanic was sinking getting rid of 28% of the water might not have made much difference but if we can even cut the benefit costs in half that would improve the budgets by 14%. I think this is well in excess of the deficits and it is an every year expense, not a one time item.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 1:19 p.m.

I don't think the state funding mechanism IS broken in any meaningful way. Michigan's greatest need is economic development, and it's already a tough enough sell to convince businesses (and people) to move here or stay here without ever higher tax rates. At the same time, we also can't also can't devote an ever increasing fraction of the tax revenue we do collect to K-12 education--since the state has so many other pressing needs. The old status quo is just not an option. Michigan is no longer one of the richest states. Per-capita incomes in Michigan are now below average, and we'll be fortunate if we don't continue fall even further in the ranks. As of 2008, Michigan was down to 30th out of 50 states in median household income: But as of 2007, Michigan was still 17th out of 50 in K-12 education spending: (go to page 8) We just can't have the income of a lower middle-class state but keep spending like a wealthy state -- it won't work. And keep in mind that Michigan is one of only two states that has lost population since 2005. Our local school systems had better figure out how to adapt and thrive with the level of funding the state can afford, or Michigan's decline is going to get worse.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 1 p.m.

Mr. Gross, You are removing water from the Titanic with a teaspoon, and the ship is still sinking.

Doug Gross

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 12:23 p.m.

The Headline here is way off as is the story. The headline should read: School Staff Benefits Overhaul Needed. But this is not the headline that school officials will provide to and apparently you are not doing the research to write the story. Benefits cost at least 35% of wages so the teacher that appears reasonably paid earning $60,000 is really getting paid $81,000. This is the overhaul that needs to occur and if the general public was made aware of it I think they would be up in arms. I think we all want teachers and school employees to be paid reasonable salaries and get reasonable benefits. They provide a critical service to our society. Today I think salaries of teachers are roughly in line with other professions, benefits are however way over the top. Lets look at this a couple of different ways. On a current cost basis schools have to contribute 18% of salary each year for pension benefits. On a current cost basis this is way in excess of private business benefits. Probably 25% of all private employers provide no retirement plan. Those that do offer generally a match of 2-5% of wages at most. So the teachers benefits are 3XXX what private employers offer. A second way to look at it is what teachers end up with at retirement. If you teach 30 years, age 22 to 52 you could retire with 45% of your wages as a lifetime benefit. (Funded by the 18% of wage contribution) A typical pension is $35,000, to fund this as a one off purchase at 52 would take about $700,000. Not many workers are able to set aside $700,000 for themselves by 52, we are doing this for every teacher, it is what funds the pension and is unsustainable. In case you don't realize it pension costs and health care costs are what devestated the Big 3 Auto companies. My solution is to cap employer contributions to pensions at 5% or cap the benefit level. Then if teachers want a better pension they can take part in funding it. The second benefit item is healthcare. Costs for this are way out of line with teachers having a benefit package second to none that they make modest contributions to. There are many solutions to this but a good starting point is to have higher co pays that encourage employees to take cost into account when they seek health care.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 12:22 p.m.

Here's an even better idea: let's pay teachers like babysitters. Get rid of insurance,benefits,etc. If we pay them $5/hour per kid (which is actually under the going rate for sitters these days) but to make the math easy let's say $5/hour/kid. 30 students (I have 29 but let's round up to make the math a little easier). 30 x $5=$150. Times that by 6 hours=$900/day. Multiply that by the 180 days that teachers work and you get $162,000 give or take a few,remember we rounded a few numbers. WOW! I'll take babysitter pay any day! Babysitting is SO much easier than teaching! Plus,I'd still have my summers off. Bonus!

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:55 a.m.

stunhsif: teachers did not place a noose around your neck. Stupid legislative decisions over the past twenty years did that. Among them are: Proposal A, which made it impossible for local school districts to make their own revenue decisions, revenue decisions that through millage elections, gave people the final say about those decisions. Proposal A which promised state funding to replace the lost property tax revenue, a promise the state has failed to keep for the last decade. Term Limits, which have turned our legislature from a group of (mostly) highly experienced legislators with a view to the long term to a colleciton of highly inexperienced legislators whose vision extends only to the end of their term limit. And, in the place of experienced legislators have come lobbyists of all forms, from conservative to liberal, who have the institutional memory and experience lacking in the legislature, and who are de facto our state's lawmakers today. Our state government's complete inability to create a stable budget process. Businesses are far less concerned with tax rates, per se (ours is about 25th out of 50), than they are about their ability to predict costs, tax and otherwise, over the long term. Businesses look at the shenanigans in Lansing by both parties, they look at a revenue structure they know can't last (i.e., they know taxes must go up at some point but don't know when or how much that will be) and they see an unsable business climate into which they will not move. As for cutting workers' pay, EVEN Herbert Hoover understood that that was the road to perdition. Cutting pay means cutting demand which means cutting production which means cutting either pay and/or jobs.... and the circle goes on. Hoover plead with businesses to keep wages high as a way to spend our way out of the ever-deepening depression but he did little to help them in this regard, and business cannot pay people with money it does not have. No, it took massive federal intervention in the economy with the New Deal and (especially) with WW2, to put people to work earning more money that they could spend, thereby creating demand that put even more people to work. And therein is the greatest mistake foisted upon us by our state's politicians, this one nearly 50 years ago when the state constitution was re-drafted. The new constituion required a balanced budget--no deficits, no borrowing for future investments. Businesses do this routinely--they spend money they don't have so as to invest in the future and make even more money. The State of Michigan cannot do this. That's OK when economic times are good, as they were in the 1990s. But when they are bad, as they are now, we need to INVEST in our future, but the state constitution prevents that. Instead, people like you urge DISINVESTMENT. This doesn't work in the business world, and it is the road to ruin for our state. Yet people like you are, apparently, OK with that. Even worse, even were you to come to agree with me, the state constitution requires disinvestment. This is a perfect storm, and our state will be ruined for decades unless we act quickly on these fundamental issues. Focusing on teacher pay and benefits is the equivalent of bailing water out of the Titanic with a teaspoon. Without massive structural repair, the state is going to sink no matter what you do with teacher pay and benefits. And, BTW, I agree that much about teacher pay and benefits needs reforming (esp. MSPERS, but there are other areas). But this is, as I say, relatively small stuff. Fix that and the Titanic still will sink.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:51 a.m.

Here's an idea: do away with the MEAPS, MI Access and save time from all of the committee members who make up those ridiculous tests! The MI Access is terrible, invalid and a huge waste of the teacher's time. Let the teachers teach! Let the teachers determine who is passing/failing. Listen to the teachers- they are in those classrooms every day- and they're given more and more "no teaching work" to do in the name of "contract" or "continuing ed" time controlled by administrators. Get rid of the fluff- this is not the time to increase class size- make things REALLY great in the classroom and LET THE TEACHERS TEACH. LIsten to them. No one has mentioned this- there are too many cooks in the kitchen up in Lansing or in the committee rooms or even in the offices. I bet with a smaller classroom size the teachers can begin to get pretty creative... keep teachers, tech, art, sports, special ed, counseling, cut from the top and add administrative support rather than multiple principals. reduce class size, create schools within schools- keep education as intimate as possible- okay- that's my take-


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:49 a.m.

FYI-I am a teacher in Saline and we do NOT get $100 for sick days. Sorry,we get nothing for unused sick days however,they do roll over to the following year and as far as I know when you leave the district (if you have 200 sick days) you still get NOTHING! We do get 2 personal days and yes if you don't use those you get 100 for them but that is only 2 days not the 10 or more sick days that teachers get. Also,MOST teachers do not use their days because the work that it takes to make sub plans isn't worth it. More teachers go to school sick because it is easier than doing sub plans. I think it's very humorous that people think if teachers give up everything that it will solve all the money problems. I'm pretty sure it won't even come close,that is of course unless teachers agree to work for free.

Hot Sam

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:46 a.m.

"Hotsam, Just because there are many school districts does not mean that they are wasteful." Lisa...we have heard all about the different needs of Urban, Suburban, and Rural districts. We get it. We understand that county wide districts are not necessarily the answer. However, with 83 counties and over 570 districts, there is no question that many(most?)of them are unnecessary. If you can make a case for needing them all, I'm "all ears"


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:34 a.m.

There is a LOT of WASTE in the schools. They get supplies they don't need because if they don't use the money allotted the following year they don't get it. Then they end up throwing out supplies because they have dried up or are out of date(Milan Schools),by the case loads. Pay for doughnuts for all of the workers, feed kids breakfast etc. I could go on forever. What about pay raises when the rest of the are families in the area are struggling to make ends meet. We are on a fixed retirement income & we have to make ends meet no matter what. Take a look around @ yourselves first & examine your own conscience.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:10 a.m.

@Lisa, I think you need to get the facts straight from your father Lisa. No one in the private sector can bankroll sick days anymore and most of us don't get any sick days anymore. Being in the transporation industry which is greatly affected by this recession I am now giving 5% of my salary back to my company so we can stay afloat. Also, I have not had a raise in three years, my company dropped the $500.00 dollars they used to put into my 401K ( no pension for me). All I want from you Lisa is "shared sacrifice" and "reasonable sacrifice". I am your boss, I pay your salary through my taxes. No one should be getting 20 sick days a year, especially when they only work 3/4'ths of the year!

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:08 a.m.

Dagny, CLosing high schools would not hurt teacher pay but it would hurt the students.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:05 a.m.

Hotsam, Just because there are many school districts does not mean that they are wasteful.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:52 a.m.

stunhsif Most professionals get either PTO days or paid sick days and paid vacations days. And yes, that can be cashed in at your current wage. If you make $60.00 an hour and cash in 10 hours of sick leave, you get $600.00 before tax. If Saline is allowing them to cash in at $100 a day, that's probably saving the district a fortune as those teachers certainly earn more than $20 an hour. Teachers get no paid vacation days, just two personal days and sick time. Yes, I know we have time off due to holidays but we aren't paid for them. It's not out of line with industry. My father, who did not work in the auto industry or as part of a union, had 4 weeks of vacation time when he had 20 years in his company. At 30+ years, he has a huge supply of sick days he could cash plus 6 weeks of vacation a year. And no, he isn't college educated.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:46 a.m.

@TheGrinch, "so your complaint is that you don't have sick days and therefore want the teachers to have the same crappy deal you have. Sounds like you need union representation." I don't expect my company to provide me sick days Grinch, and I don't expect that I should have to pay a public school teacher with them being able to take 12.2% of their work time off for free. Speaking of my needing union representation, that is nonsense. I am in the trucking business and my companies biggest competitor is YRC ( YellowRoadway Corporation). They are a union company ( teamsters union). Go to Google and type in "YRC news". Their stock price is now 89 cents, down from over 30 dollars two years ago. They are just about done Grinch. In these tough economic times, they have been unable to adjust ( because of union work rules and pension costs)to the changing market conditions. Sounds kinda familiar doesn't it? Only difference here is my tax dollars support public education, YRC is at the mercy of investors who choose to fund them. You my friend, have a noose around my neck and I have no choice right now but to be nice to you.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:43 a.m.

Really? Sick days and negotiating teams are creating the financial crisis? Give me a break. FYI... Ann Arbor teachers get 10 sick days. I know VERY few teachers who abuse them. Most teachers hate to be absent. But we don't want teachers thinking they need to come in with Swine Flu either. That is socially irresponsible. Teacher sick days are not the issue. The issue is that Michigan has lost revenue. This is life. Peaks and valleys. Just don't put a patch on the issue of downsizing. Let's cut back and consolidate school districts. I know teacher unions, administrators, bus drivers, and other employees will be a PART of the solution... but not the ONLY solution. Good teachers deserve EVERY penny they make and still I think they will agree to concessions because they care about the community. The problem is the source of revenue has changed. It's our government that needs to look at the bigger picture because teacher unions don't have that kind of power. Don't think teachers need to shoulder the entire financial mess.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:29 a.m.

Lisa Starrfield: There are a number of teachers who work at AAPS who say, privately, there is waste and excess spending. They agree that cuts can be made. But they will not say so publicly for obvious reasons (union). How would closing high schools hurt teacher pay?

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 10:27 a.m.

stunhsif: So your complaint is that you don't have sick days and you therefore want teachers to have the same crappy deal you have? Sounds like you need union representation.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:57 a.m.

It is a spending problem, not a revenue problem. @Lisa "what makes you so insistent that the school districts ARE wasting money". Just one example Lisa. Saline School teachers with 21 years or more service get 20 sick days per year plus 2 personal days. That is 12.7% of their 180 day work schedule. If they don't use the 20 sick days, they can cash them in for $100 bucks a day. I get ZERO sick days as do most in the private sector, if I am sick and want to get paid, I have to use a vacation day ( 3 weeks vacation after 11 years on the job). So, let's be nice and give teachers with 21 years service one sick day for each month worked= 9 days. Take current 21 days sick minus 9= 12. So right there, you save the district 1200 bucks a years but we all know the true cost of teachers taking off their sick days is much higher than that. You have to have sub pay etc. There are so many easy ways to cut costs without affecting the students or the academic programs. This is just one example of the abuses that the union's have gotten over on the taxpayer's.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:54 a.m.

The State Funding system isn't broken - the source of funds for the state is broken: Private Sector Economy. When the State isn't getting as much money as it did in the past via taxes, there is less money to give out. It is that simple. So, to all of the people in the article, complaining about a broken system: I hope you are driving a Ford, GM, or Chrysler - The number one source of our Private Sector Jobs in this State. But, looking at the School Employee Parking lots around Ann Arbor - I'm guessing about half forgot about that. Revert to 1 through 6 in Grade Schools, close a Middle School, close a High School, and eliminate 20% of staff. Lets not be like Detroit and try to keep everything open and status quo, only to make the financial problem unmanigeable in the coming years.

Hot Sam

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:48 a.m.

"What makes you so insistent that the school districts ARE wasting money? How about starting with the fact that there are OVER FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY OF THEM!!!!?????


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:47 a.m.

Every school district in Michigan spend inordinate amounts of time negotiating their teacher contracts. This means time away from the classroom for teachers, and time away from their duties for administrators, and oftentimes, lost work time (and wages) for school board members (who, unlike school employees, are typically not paid for their time). When the state is contributing 80% of funding, and teacher compensation is roughly 80% of most schools' budgets- why not just let the State negotiate with the MEA union directly? Leave the individual schools' teacher unions and boards out of the loop- they don't have any control over the money, anyway! The current system is ridiculous. It simply creates unnecessary adversity within individual school communities, and wastes countless taxpayer dollars as union negotiation redundancy is repeated state-wide.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:41 a.m.

What makes you so insistent that the school districts ARE wasting money?


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:32 a.m.

That is right go after the employees that do the main support for the schools. Like the bus drivers, para pros.building and grounds and F&n. How about hitting the ones that make triple digit salary. Not the ones that barely make peanuts for money but they do it for the kids.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:25 a.m.

Sounds like AAPS is dealing with this and trying to figure out the best way to not let these cuts severely impact teaching and learning. Education is critical to Michigan's future.... from encouraging new professionals and businesses to move here to preparing our young citizens for a complicated future. & good education systems cost money! I am happy to see that the people who can really make a difference are looking at the source of the problem and seeing if it can be fixed. With less people in Michigan, we probably will need to consolidate school districts and close some buildings. Hard times call for tough decisions... I hope our elected officials are prepared for the job ahead.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 9:11 a.m.

I respectfully disagree. School revenue is not the problem, excess spending is. If our schools would spend 60% or more within the classroom (without fake reporting) we would vote for more tax. Ann Arbor reports that they spend only 55% in the classroom but their numbers appear to hide a greater disparity. I am also upset at the for reporting this government propaganda, why not report on some of the ways they waste money as compared to other states like Texas that does far better with less spending. Our federal government is $12 trillion dollars in debt plus many states and local governments have carelessly spend our future, this must stop - make the cost reductions now because it is going to get worse.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 8:51 a.m.

I am sympathetic. But last I looked, NO ONE has control over their "revenue stream." I sure don't. My salary can be cut, my hours cut. It's time for AAPS to deal with this. There are place to trim, expenses to be reviewed. Start by closing high schools.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 8:43 a.m.

Sounds pretty much like our Federal Government, they overspent and now they can't stop the snowball. Wait till we get the HealthCare plan.