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Posted on Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 6:05 a.m.

Washtenaw County schools, residents continue school budget discussions

By David Jesse

The stark reality facing the Saline school district, Superintendent Scot Graden says, is the district will become insolvent by the middle of next year if cuts aren't made.

That’s a future Graden doesn’t want to see.

“The board of education and I have made it clear that this is NOT an option,” Graden wrote in a recent e-mail to district parents. “We have begun the process of assessing the ramifications of our current shortfall and exploring the options for solving (it).”

Saline isn't the only local school district facing such dire straits. The buzz over school funding is continuing strong, nearly two weeks after voters turned down a 2-mill countywide enhancement millage that would have raised $30 million for the 10 traditional school districts in Washtenaw County.

School officials and school boards are weighing massive cuts in their programs, teachers are worrying about layoffs, residents are organizing reform efforts and community meetings are being scheduled.

The schools

In school board meetings across Washtenaw County since the vote, more details about budget shortfalls are emerging.

The deficits aren’t the product of the failed millage vote. Instead, they're the outcome of nearly $300 per student cuts from each school district’s state funding over the last month. Ann Arbor has seen almost double that amount cut per student.

Per-pupil state aid is a school district’s main source of revenue.

“Based on up-to-date staffing, adjustments in special education reimbursement, declining enrollment and a $292 per-pupil reduction, we have a $2 million shortfall for the (current) 2009-2010 school year,” Graden wrote. “And based on a conservative estimates-per-pupil state funding cut of $300, an expected decline in enrollment (the size difference between the graduating class and a typical incoming kindergarten class), and increases in salaries, health care, energy, etc., we project an additional shortfall of $3.4 million next year."

That's a combined $5.4 million deficit in the next 18 months, Greden said, noting as a point of reference that the district's current fund balance is $3.4 million - 6.5 percent of its $53 million total budget. Independent auditors recommend a 10 percent to 15 percent fund balance for a district of Saline's size, Graden said.

Graden has scheduled a “Community Conversation” about finances for 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday night in the Liberty School auditorium.

Saline’s school board also voted last Tuesday to direct Graden to reopen the district’s contract with teachers.

Similar conversations will begin soon in all the area’s school districts, superintendents said.

Private citizens

Albert Berriz jokes the work of running his company, McKinley Inc., is piling up as he has meetings on school financing.

Berriz was one of the key drivers behind the millage defeat. He spent at least $75,000 of his company’s money to fund the anti-millage campaign.

And he took flack for the move from those who said he was doing so to save his real estate company a lot of money on taxes.

Not true, he said.

“I’ve never been unwilling to tax myself if there’s a good reason for the tax,” he said, pointing to his support of Ann Arbor’s greenbelt millage.

But he says school districts haven’t done enough to manage their budgets before asking people for more money in a tough economic time.

Berriz outlined several steps he believes districts should take now:

  • Look closely at consolidation to make sure buildings are running efficiently at capacity. He doesn’t see a reason buildings should be running 75 percent full. “There’s going to be survivors and losers. I do believe that the probability that this county will have 11 district overheads (including the Washtenaw Intermediate School District) is not high, but the kids don’t have to suffer in that. They can still get a good education.”
  • Competitively bid out support services and health insurance coverage. He said he pays more for health insurance for his company’s 1,200 employees than he does in property damage insurance on his properties, a main reason he bids his company’s insurance regularly. That generates savings for his company, money he think the school districts can also realize. 
  • Open up Ann Arbor as a schools of choice district, drawing in students from around the county. Thay would increase revenues in Ann Arbor and also work to further diversify schools.

Berriz also said districts should become more transparent about their finances and the moves they intend to make.

“What I’m trying to get (school officials) to understand is that when they are transparent people trust them," he said. "When they are opaque (as they are now), people’s fears that something is wrong are magnified.”

He knows his ideas are controversial. And that tough times are likely to continue.

“These topics are all about the center because they don’t affect the kids,” he said. “The likelihood that you will see a building boom in any (Washtenaw County) township is less than zero. There’s going to be no new construction. The value of the existing tax base will continue to decline. Plus, on the sales tax, there’s less disposable income now."

Berriz said he also knows there’s the potential for emotional pleas from parents to save the programs their kids are involved in.

“We don’t have to be a divided community on this topic. We can come together and move forward.”

Ann Arbor school board Treasurer Randy Friedman worries that division may already being happening.

“There were two main reasons people voted against the millage," he said. "One is they said I don’t want to raise my taxes in tough times. That’s a very honest view that I understand and I sympathize with. While it is painful to see taxes go up, it’s even more pain to see education deteriorate. (However) that’s a legitimate and fair argument (against the millage)."

The other argument, Friedman said, is the school district is being mismanaged. He said people were misled and didn't understand the district's finances.

“They said there needed to be more transparency. I’m sorry. There’s plenty of transparency and transparency doesn’t pay teachers," he said. "There have been consistent efforts in this district to pare down our administration.”

Friedman said he’s afraid the district is on the verge of a return to several years ago, where board meetings were filled with divisiveness and superintendents were regularly run out of town. But he said he hopes it will be the opposite, and the community will come together.

“In the short-term, there’s going to be cuts that need to be made and how the community responds will be the key in if we look back in three years and say we did a hell of job of solving this problem or if we look back and say we fought when we should have thought,” Friedman said.

Reform efforts

Not all the efforts are taking place at the local level.

Several parents, district employees and school board members traveled to Lansing to lobby lawmakers for restoration of funding and health care reform.

Also, one of the main anti-millage citizen groups has turned into The Coalition for Responsible Schools for All Students, a political action committee lobbying for education reform.

The group is holding its first public meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight, Nov. 15, at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main St.

On the agenda is the latest information on school funding from Lansing, a recap of election results and a discussion about the future for local schools.

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


David Briegel

Wed, Nov 25, 2009 : 8:18 p.m.

Just look at what is happening here. The have nots are attacking the haves. Is this the class warfare conservatives always lament? If our society had any resemblance to civilized and Christian there would not be such disparities to discuss. Yet that is exactly what is wrong with our society. Who would have ever thought that we would sink this low as to attack one another simply because we have not balanced the merits and rewards. The haves think they have because they are special and deserving and the have nots are lazy, incompetent and have made bad choices. The have nots think the haves are greedy, selfish and egotistical. There is an element of truth in both but that solves nothing. We really need to care about the lesser among us to minimize these disparities!


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 7:31 a.m.

aataxpayer, keep up the good work, you know your stuff and are reading my mind and saving me time by not having to respond to those who cannot do simple math and see the train wreck coming down the tracks. This is not going to be fun moving forward but we taxpayers must make it clear that cuts will and must come to union pension's and healthcare. Reasonable cuts just like all of us in the private sector have had to take over the past several years to help keep our employers alive and keep us employed. I don't like my 20% drop in pay ( including no raises in 4 years and higher healthcare costs) but I am glad I still have a good job here in Michigan!!!!

Michael K.

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 9:54 a.m.

I used your starting number for year 1, then ramped it up to your year 14 number. I adjusted so that my total contributions were the same as yours, which I believe was $129K, if memory serves. I actually found that if I used your quoted $37K+ retirement amount instead of $40K, a 7.5% net return was adequate, with no taxpayer contribution. I would immediately take that business and own that plan, given demographics (early departures without full retirement, actuarial deaths before 92, etc.) Health insurance right now costs about $12K per year on average. So a school match of around 25% - or a starting contribution of $500 per year, rising to $1,200 per year at year 14 - should be adequate as the schools total retirement contribution. Double it to 50% for safety and you are still way under most professional plans. That is, if true health care reform is passed - a big if. But health care plans have come under heavy, heavy pressure in recent years. GM just flat out cancelled health care for their white collar retirees this year. I am sure the AAPS plan will be thrifted or reduced soon. As for returns, go to and search on "minimum ROI." All large companies would rather return money to shareholders than invest if they cannot achieve a 12% Return On Investment (ROI) or IRR. They assume their shareholders can easily match that 12% Then there is this from fiduciary investor (.com): "Further, unless the market principle of mean reversion has been suspended, it is fallacious to assume that forward expected return forecasts should be lower after a market collapse. Historically, periods of heavy losses have been followed by periods with above average returns. Diamond Hill calculated that if the S&P 500 only returned to its April 2000 level in the year 2016, that appreciation, coupled with the dividend yield, would result in an annualized total return of over 12%." And: "It is a well accepted fiduciary notion that short term investment results are very noisy and carry little useful information to guide long term investment strategies. Yet, after market drops like 2008, misguided critics insist that plan sponsors should be lowering their expected return assumptions to accommodate what ever change in strategic assumption they would argue has been revealed by the market drop." Stay the course. That is the beauty of group plans, statistics, and time (vs. individual 401K's, where one person can go bust, or need to move to 80% bonds as they age and accept a 4% return..)

Michael K.

Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 10:51 p.m.

"into a pension plan that will now give him/her $36,731.70 per year in retirement pension" Look, using your numbers, stopping any increase in employee contributions at year 14 (freezing their contribution at your $4,774), and using a very conservative 8% compound interest rate over 30 years, I get an ANNUITY FOR LIFE OF $40K WITH NO CONTRIBUTION FROM THE TAXPAYER. That is, using your numbers, THE TEACHER IS FULLY FUNDING THEIR OWN PENSION, WITH NO TAXPAYER CONTRIBUTION. I used 8% as a net, after inflation average return, based on a historical return of 11.3%, less a historical 3.3% annual inflation rate. The real problem here is the same as with Social Security: The politicians in Lansing have stolen the teachers money over the years, instead of allowing it to compound. That is it. Teachers can retire after 30 years, at age 52, and live to 92 on their own funds. Can we move on from that subject now?


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 9:05 p.m.

It is my understanding that although teacher pensions are guaranteed by statute, life-time health insurance benefits are not. Perhaps that is ultimately where the ax will fall if nothing is done to reform the current pension system? Also, one option I've heard to restructure unsustainable pension costs is to offer new employees a choice between either a 401K and the traditional pension. By having some employees continue to pay into and support the traditional pension fund, it would be less costly for a transition. And, because some employees would choose the 401K for its transportability, the long-term pension burden would decline.

Jon Saalberg

Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 9:01 p.m.

So a teacher can retire as early as 52, with 30 years completed and earn $36,731.00 per year ( today's dollars) with full medical coverage for self and spouse until they die. So your point is that a teacher who works hard for 30 years doesn't deserve a good pension? Really? You really believe that? Or is it resentment that they get a good pension? I can't speak for your retirement situation, but it's absurd to say teachers don't deserve a good pension because you don't have as good a pension. That goes along with the argument that teachers should be paid less because that seems fair to anti-millage people who make less than teachers. I'm amazed at the animosity towards teachers, as if they don't deserve to be well-paid.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 8:23 p.m.

aataxpayer, You sure know your stuff and I appreciate that. So a teacher can retire as early as 52, with 30 years completed and earn $36,731.00 per year ( today's dollars) with full medical coverage for self and spouse until they die. They have paid in only around $126,000 dollars over those 30 years. So in less than 4 years they have recouped every dollar they put into their retirement and may well live another 40 years with us taxpayers having to fund their pension funds. I smell another GM and Chrysler bankrupcy coming down the pike. Let's nip this in the bud right now so the taxpayers are not the ones left with an empty tin cup!!!


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 4:21 p.m.

One of the reasons that charter schools operate with some efficiency is that they build the school from the ground up. It's new and they can staff as they wish. Regular districts are filled with programs, people, structures put in place decades ago that have become sacred cows, or for some other reason are difficult to change. AAPS needs to consider the district as though it was building something from the ground up, and really consider the goals of each program and structure in terms of the population it must serve. That means considering how to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of students. For the record, many charters are lousy schools and should be closed. Others should be replicated. The authorizing body should be accountable for providing support and expertise to the school.

Jon Saalberg

Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 4:09 p.m.

I have asked more than once, and am still waiting - Mr. Berriz's big buck campaign which claimed (as he still claims in the press) that there is a lack of transparency in the schools. Mr. Berriz please - if you would, since the anti-millage legions have not - provide proof of the profligate waste and lack of transparency you claim exists in our schools. Also, I don't think Mr. Friedman is a very credible source of discussion on this issue, since I believe it is the case that he eschews our public schools for private schools.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 3:54 p.m.

RedTruck70, Before you go too far down the road of singing the National Heritage Academy song, you should read the book What's Public About Charter Schools? It points out the real dangers that charter schools can pose, from lack of public oversight to cozy building lease arrangements. For example, NHA scores a cool $1M per year per building from each of its schools for as long as the schools operate. The charter school (which is technically a separate entity) doesn't ever get to own the building, the curriculum, the materials, nothing but the name. The charter school could replace the management company, but since the management company owns everything, it's virtually impossible for a charter school to separate from its management company. To make matters worse, the "boards" that "oversee" these schools are not elected. Instead they're filled with individuals that are hand-picked by the charter school management company. They work in the interest of the management company, not the students, their families or the taxpayers. You're never going to get real oversight with shams like that. Before you pull out the "authorizers" and the "power" they allegedly wield over their charter schools, understand that the authorizers of charter schools are also in it for the $$. Each authorizer gets $300 per student - a fee that amounts to money for nothing. There's little incentive to pull your authorization when doing so causes an immediate dent in your bottom line. Many charter schools in Michigan are authorized by institutions that don't even have schools of education. Exactly what do these authorizers bring to the table? Nothing beside their outstretched hands and empty pockets. They certainly don't bring their expertise in education... Charter schools get to keep the funding they don't spend on their students, so there's not much incentive to spend on students, buildings, and materials or to keep teacher salaries competitive. Teacher turnover at charter schools is extremely high as a result. Charter schools aren't all they're cracked up to be. They simply replace one broken system of public education with another.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 3:09 p.m.

Dagny, I see your point about the hassle of bringing someone in to a class room, in certain situations if you have somehting to offer that can be tied in with the curriculum, e.g. the MEAP, it might sellable. Maybe you could go to Big brothers and Big Sisters and try and make an impact on one kids. I do think you could show up on the weekends or afterschool is out and rake leaves or shovel shovel the sidewalks in the winter.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 2:24 p.m.

erhaps Ann Arbor should look at how charter schools are run. National Heritage Academies is a good place to start. A focus on academics, and moral values, lean administration, and buildings that are simple and functional rather than architectural masterpieces. Oh yes...and better test scores than the rest of the state with less money (70% per pupil) than others. And to the comments about paying teachers with more education (graduate level)...that is insulting to those who have committed to our children and furthered their education often while continuing to work full time. What kind of example is it to say that higher education is not important.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 1:46 p.m.

treetown: Ask teachers if they want people volunteering in classrooms and they would say no. It's more of a pain to supervise a volunteer. The best teachers don't need them, and the worst teachers certainly don't want another adult around. The district doesn't want volunteer maintenance workers. I would love to volunteer to work on the school budget, but I can't find a place to do that. Truth is, schools really don't want volunteers. If they did, they would have structures in place for this. If you have some place I can volunteer, do share.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 12:44 p.m.

Peer reviews in the school? Extra Hours to help students who are struggling? Incentive and Merit pay? Never happen? In Detroit it is part of the new teacher's contract. Maybe the rules will change. I am hopeful.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 12:19 p.m.

Thanks for the few constructive ideas here. Here are a few of mine. Have non-teacher staff fill in as substitutes, many private schools have no subs. Do not pay teachers a premium salary for advanced degrees, studies show no benefit. Many States have looked at requiring 65% of spending on classroom teaching, this would eliminate much waste. Id settle for around 60%. Teacher retirement, health, and other benefits much be reduced - this is a given. I'm saying for all not just new teachers. Get back to basics in the classroom, less sports, and less feel good political efforts. Close Community High and sell the building before they fill it with staff. Treat Skyline the same as Pioneer and Huron, their cost per pupil is excessive. Thank you Al Berriz.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 12:18 p.m.

All the time and effort put in by the writers and commentators to this issue would be better served voluntering and working in schools around the district. I thought the rally was it takes a village not a millage, now is the time to step up and be a village. Teachers at all levels would probably appreciate volunteering in all kinds of formats, from assiting kids with the school work at lets say an after school study table, to even menial things like cleaning classrooms and and arranging materials.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 12:13 p.m.

Lisa - According to:,1607,7-206-36451---,00.html This is not true. All teachers are still able to get a pension if they work for a public school.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 11:18 a.m.

aataxpayer, My understanding is that any teacher hired after 2006 is not eligible for a pension.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 10:50 a.m.

Lehigh - Thank you. In 4 weeks of posting ideas, only one has ever been commented on. I wish people would get down to facts. I wish I had more to do evaluation on. Mr Friedman? Dr Roberts? I am willing to dig in if you get me a chance, I am sure others are too.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 12:07 a.m.

Did everyone read Don Bee's post? I thank him heartily for adding substance, not air, to the discussion. I was pro-millage and I think Don was anti-millage. And while I don't agree with all of his suggestions, at least they are constructive, helpful suggestions. Thank you.

Alan Benard

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 11:57 p.m.

I am of course not going to be specific about who is lying and about what, though I have provided many, many examples of people in these comments in previous articles endlessly repeating the same unfounded conspiracy theories about waste and "hidden employees," as well as oughtright woppers. Since certain people and the advertising they might decide to buy or not buy can obtain positions of influence -- like on editorial boards -- because they control vast wealth and power, I'm not setting myself up for calling anybody a liar. Because it isn't's job to fact check any statements you read here, and that is part of their business model. Printing lies is part of the business model. Lastly, please don't shoot the messenger because you don't like the message. a) it's pointless,Oh, there's a point. One only reads a newspaper because it is deserving of trust. There are other news sources in town. Read them. b) it serves as an excuse to evade the real issue, You mean, it takes attention away from your attempts to reframe the issue as you see fit.and c) the rest of us would just like to move on as quickly as possible.Nothing to see here, move along now that we've spread our lies.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 11:18 p.m.

@sbbuilder: Not sure I'd call the CEO of one of the area's largest commercial landlords, and $100,000 in contributions declared so far, "one teensy little guy with a few bucks." Same goes for the primary owner of the company, who is Chairman of the state GOP. But, "teensy" is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. While you are correct that many people turned out to vote "no" on the millage, let's not make grandiose comparisons to November 2008. While turnout for the millage election was high as such elections go, at 22% it came nowhere near the 69% who turned out in the county for the last presidential election. Even the last even-year vote, in November 2006, got 54% turnout. So I would be cautious about interpreting the results.

Andrew Thomas

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:36 p.m.

YpsiLivin' Thanks for your factual response. My feeling about schools of choice is that, ultimately, it's a zero-sum game. Ann Arbor grabs a few students from Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti grabs a few from Willow Run or Lincoln, Lincoln grabs a few from Saline and Saline grabs a few from Ann Arbor. Nothing has been accomplished, other than shuffling around a relatively small number of students.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:52 p.m.

Well, Alan, that was really specific and informative. A great contribution. Note to all the vote 'no' conspririts: I was under the impression that AA and Washtenaw county in general was a true bastion of Democrats and liberals. (When was the last time a Republican representative was sent to Congress?) Yet here we have one teensy little guy with a few bucks who seems to have grabbed the whole county by its ear and tricked it into voting 'no'. Now how is that possible? The only true explanation, and the one you are loath to face, is that this tax was rejected by a broad group of people representing every denomination you could name. Why not compare this last millage vote to the recent Nov. '08 election. Democrats proudly claimed a landslide victory. So what happened in 12 months? Lastly, please don't shoot the messenger because you don't like the message. a) it's pointless, b) it serves as an excuse to evade the real issue, and c) the rest of us would just like to move on as quickly as possible.

Alan Benard

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:14 p.m.

"A lot of lies about the school districts were spread by folks supporting your anti-school campaign and people bought into it."'s self-serving protection from the lies it spreads -- it hides behind the law -- is appalling. Understand that when you read this Web site, journalistic ethics are out the window. is complicit in several Big Lies beings spread during this millage campaign. What other falsehoods does it permit those with vested interests and bad intentions to spread via these comments?Giving Laurel Champion and Tony Dearing page views by reading misinformation is rewarding the opposite of journalism. Under its current model, does not deserve your attention.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 8:38 p.m.

where does the pioneer high school gameday parking money go for michigan games? It has to be over a million dollars a season?

David Jesse

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 8:15 p.m.

Ypsilivin: Yes, schools of choice funding works like that, as opposed to consolidating school districts, where all students in a district would get the average of two districts. In schools of choice, not all students would get the lower amount of money, just the students who came from the outside district.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 8:04 p.m.

Andrew Thomas, It's my understanding that when a district accepts an out-of-district student in a "schools of choice" arrangement, it agrees to accept the guest student's home district per-pupil funding as payment in full for the guest student. For example, if the receiving district has a per-pupil payment of $8,000 and the sending district has a per-pupil payment of $7,500, the receiving district would agree to accept the guest student at $7,500 - a loss of $500. In Ann Arbor's case, the "hold harmless" funds (were they to be restored) would apply only to Ann Arbor's "in-district" students. The "guest" students would only receive the per-pupil allotment for their home district. Usually, school of choice districts accept a limited number of guest students to avoid diluting the "per-pupil" funding too much. The available spaces are often offered by way of a lottery. Ironically, if Ann Arbor PS were to move to a "school-of-choice" model, it would most likely prefer students from Ypsilanti and Dexter over other WashCo districts because Ypsilanti's and Dexter's per-pupil payments are the second- and third-largest in the county (respectively) behind Ann Arbor's. Accepting students from Ypsilanti and Dexter would tend to minimize Ann Arbor's per-pupil funding loss.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 6:36 p.m.

Ann Arbor Public Schools did not win a Re-imagine grant of free money (Obama Stimulus). Yes, free money that you desperately say we need and you cannot even win a competition that says you are making changes. Obviously you are not doing what it takes for reform and even the President and the State of Michigan have given you a failing grade. 1) I hope we applied for this grant or were we too busy working on the millage? 2) Why are we not one of the best school districts in the state? Oh, I know, we have to have teacher evaluations and pay for performance to receive this award and our teachers union makes sure the good teachers make the same as the bad. Language programs in elementary schools are also required. Even Ypsilanti has a language program. We are about 5 years too late in AAPS. 3) The state has spoken about AAPS--Sorry, we have failed as a school district and are not getting free Federal funds which you claim you need but are not willing to make the necessary changes to receive. BE BRAVE SCHOOL BOARD, BE BRAVE AND STOP DANCING AROUND WHERE THE TRUE CHANGES THAT NEED TO BE MADE.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 6:18 p.m.

Berriz just an MBA - willing to make other lives miserable in order to enhance his own paycheck. Very kind of him to advise the schools on how to run their affairs. That would softball an interview with him is simply pathetic. Hold him accountable for every teacher fired, every program cut, every education ruined. Our local billionaire ran this campaign in order to save himself and his company money, nothing more. When jobs are gone, confront him and his pet "grassroots" coalition. Is McKinley transparent? Has Berriz taken a pay cut as the economy goes south? Has he lowered rents to "share the sacrifice?" No - he routinely begs for handouts from the City, and is willing to throw his money around when he sees fit. And Griswold - for God's sake, at least acknowledge that you helped create this financial mess. Have you apologized to the citizens of Ann Arbor for voting for an expensive school and then cutting the funding six years later?

Andrew Thomas

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 6:18 p.m.

We not Them: Your question about the difference between "defined benefit" and "defined contribution" plans is a good one, and very relevent to the discussion. Here's a thumbnail comparison: In a "defined benefit" plan, future benefits upon retirement are calculated based on a formula which includes years of service, salary history and age of retirement. Once someone becomes vested in the plan, payment of benefits under the plan become a legal obligation of the plan sponsor. The sponsor is required to fund the plan in a manner that assures all benefits can be paid. This is determined actuarially, and makes certain assumptions regarding rate of return. From time to time, it may be necessary to increase the level of funding, due to increased life expectancy, variable rates of return on investments, etc. The main characteristic of such a plan is that the sponsor is on the hook for payment of benefits far into the future -- in many cases, 50 years or longer. That's a pretty big hook. A "defined contribution plan" means that the sponsor contributes a defined amount of money (usually some percentage of salary) into the plan each year. This money is then invested in a 401k (or 403b for non-profits). The responsibility for investment belongs to the employee, who also assumes the entire risk of variable returns. The employer is on the hook only for a certain percent of wages in any given pay period. The employer is also free to adjust the amount of contribution up or down, and to define different levels of contribution for different classes of employees (all this subject to some pretty dense IRS regulation, which I won't bore you with). Bottom line is that a "defined contribution plan" is a much less expensive option for an employer than a "defined benefit plan". It may or may not be a better option for the employees, depending on how successfully they invest. Obviously, it puts a lot more responsibility on the employees to make appropriate investment decisions, monitor their investments on a regular basis, etc. The other major point is that a "defined contribution plan" generally has survivor rights, so if you die and leave a large chunk of change in your 401k, someone (spouse, children, whoever) will inherit it. "Defined benefit plans" typically have no right of survivorship (although some include a provision for dependents). As you can see, there are a lot of advantages to an employer in converting from a "defined benefit plan" to a "defined contribution plan". The potential cost saving is gigantic. Keep in mind, however (as I and others have noted in previous posts) that this is not a decision under local control. It is determined by state law, and can only be changed through the Michigan State Legislature. Another point to consider (if you haven't nodded off to sleep yet) is that, even if we were to switch tomorrow from a "defined benefit plan" to a "defined contribution plan", the cost savings would not be immediate. We would still be on the hook for everyone vested in the "defined benefit plan" at the time of conversion, and would probably have to continue funding that plan (albeit at a gradually declining rate) for many years to come. So it's probably a good idea from a long term perspective, but it will do little if anything to alleviate our immediate budget crisis.

Andrew Thomas

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 5:50 p.m.

Dzuck: It is very unfortunate that you have decided to inject the race card. Your comments regarding are very insulting to African-Americans who live within the district (as well as to whites who value diversity in our public schools). In my mind, the real issue regarding the "school of choice" decision is, what happens with the "hold harmless" supplement. Right now, the additional millage is funded by residents of the Ann Arbor district. So far as I know, there is no "hold harmless" funding for out-of-district students who might take advantage of the "school of choice" option. This means a dilution of per-student funding for everyone within the district. So it seems like a bad idea to me. Does anyone know definitively how "hold harmless" funding applies to schools of choice?


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 5:20 p.m.

@we not them: I just spent some time looking through the data on I have no idea where they get the data, how they analyze, what the sample size is, etc. It is not reliable as far as I can see because there's no way to know. They also have some bias toward making salaries and benefits look higher, particulary in the private sector. I actually trust the datamongers in Obama's adminstration more than the profit-minded folks behind

"We" not "Them"

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 4:40 p.m.

To DagnyJ, You did indeed post information about teacher pensions being higher than those in the private sector. I thank you for citing the reference. Any hard fact is a welcome addition to this debate. My main point concerning your fact is that, while it may be true that teacher pensions arent the exact same as in the private sector, according to, the sum total of the benefits we pay to teachers are indeed in line with what is paid to the private sector. To Aataxtayer, While your argument about defined retirement contribution funding may fall into my argument above, can you explain to me what that is? Again, Im not a finance expert so your explanation would be helpful (Ill look it up on my own, but Id like to hear your two cents). I fear that some of the solutions we are pressing for are out of our local control. Union busting and completely overhauling the heath care system may sound great to some, but the best we can do on those fronts is call our legislator and exercise our vote. In the meantime I do believe we have some options that we have more local control over, such as schools of choice and similar solutions put forth. I know its nice to vent about, changing the world but we would probably be best served to focus on those items that are most actionable by those participating in this debate.

The Grinch

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 4:19 p.m.

TT: Unfortunately, you are wasting your breath. These very people know, they KNOW that teaching is the biggest sham job ever created, that anyone with little or no experience or education can do the job, and that all teachers are lazy and overpaid. As I said earlier, we are doomed as a state so long as that attitude continues. Even southern states thatare infamous for their failure to invest in education are investing more than is Michigan. Our nation has left the manufacturing era and is moving into the information/knowledge era, and Michigan's response is to disinvest in education. Yeah, that makes sense.

The Grinch

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 4:17 p.m.

Mr. Thomas: my point is that someone who apparently does not understand a basic punctuation rule learned in 5th grade likely has no clue about how to manage a multi-million dollar budget. It was not a typo--we all make those--it was an error he repeated three times in his very brief post. He clearly does not understand the possessive form, but I'm supposed to take his word that he knows how to cut a school district's budget? I don't think so. Sorry, but if someone wants to pontificate to the public on these pages, they better know what they are talking about, and they better not reveal themselves to be a functional illiterate.

The Grinch

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 4:11 p.m.

rueBlue: Unfortunately, you are wasting your breath. These very people know, they KNOW that teaching is the biggest sham job ever created, that anyone with little or no experience or education can do the job, and that all teachers are lazy and overpaid. As I said earlier, we are doomed as a state so long as that attitude continues. Even southern states thatare infamous for their failure to invest in education are investing more than is Michigan. Our nation has left the manufacturing era and is moving into the information/knowledge era, and Michigan's response is to disinvest in education. Yeah, that makes sense.

Andrew Thomas

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 4:07 p.m.

David Fitzpatrick (and others): Let's not be petty about punctuation, spelling etc. on these posts. Many of us are not particularly good typists, but that shouldn't detract from the discussion. Also, I have known Kathy Griswald for a number of years, and have always found her to be truthful and caring about our schools and our community. I happen to disagree with her on the millage issue (which is no water under the bridge anyway), but we need to find common ground, not throw hand grenades at each other. Finally, to Craig1152, Mr. Berriz and all the rest of you who know exactly how to solve the budget crisis, who think you have all the answers, and could turn things around instantly -- where were you during the last few Board of Education elections? Given your overwhelming knowledge about how to solve the problem and your peerless leadership ability, I am surprised you did not choose to run against the two unopposed candidates last May. A couple of vigorously contested school board races might have brought your proposed solutions out in the open much earlier.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 3:43 p.m.

rueBlue- I am a teacher. Most teachers are in the classroom from 8am to 4pm everyday, during the school year. Thus one would think 8 hours a day. But from my experience most teachers take home several hours of work home each night and more on the weekend. Personally, I stay at work about 4 days a week for around 12 hours and 10 hours on the 5th. So I am approximately work 60 hours or more a week. I only get paid for 6 hours a day. This isn't including all of the work that I do over the weekend at home. People forget of all of extras that are expected from teachers. With the budgets crunches more and more teachers are supplementing their classroom's with items purchased with their personal money. These are necessities such as paper, pencils and books to read. We rarely get reimbursed for these. So we can claim on our taxes, but the state only lets us claim $250, while we spend way more than that. If a teacher also includes all of the extra education that the state requires for teacher license renewal, thats thousands of dollars each year on top of all the extras we so willingly provide for our classrooms. As for summers, a lot of teachers are teaching summer school or doing professional development( required by the state). How does that constitute being off? I totally understand the need for year around school year to increase student achievement and fix the summer slide that so many students experience. How can we go to a year long school system, when we can fund the one we have now. Don't even get me started about our pension and how everyone thinks it's too good for us. How would you feel if you have a retirement account that the state government uses as its own personal free credit card that they never reimburse, even though they promise to do so. As to the person who says to tighten our belts and suck it up. We have been. No tissue. Teachers cleaning the desks daily because we are also serving breakfast in our rooms. Lights are out every night or when no one is in the room. No heat or AC when there is no students. Lack of supplies. Constant threats of layoffs. Larger class sizes. Work for free for school functions such as concerts, conferences, parties and etc. Work for free setting up and closing down classrooms. Administration still wanting more and more. The public thinking we are getting an easy ride with a huge vacation. No wonder so many teachers quit. I have enough education to be a doctor but I make the same amount of money someone gets working in a grocery store, where you need no education. I see the country does not value education, but we are really willing to fund to build more prisons. We all have our priorities messed up.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 3:34 p.m.

SOLUTION: Why not manage the money pioneer high school gets on Michigan game days to fund the 2 million shortfall? If you can get 30,000 cars out of the total 114,000 (4 people per car) and charge 40 dollars a car to park at the school, you have over 8.4 million dollars per year for our schools general fund. Where is that money going now?

The Grinch

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 3:34 p.m.

Guess and earlier post of mine was removed. Let me sum it up: Craig11152 says: "I would be happy to balance any schools budget for them free of charge. It really isn't that hard to balance a budget. Whats hard is prying ones expectations away from the status quo." Let me suggest that Craig11152 needs to learn the proper use of the apostrophe before he tackles anyone's multi-million dollar school budget.

The Grinch

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 3:30 p.m.

Let's face it, we are screwed as a state. Education is an INVESTMENT we make in our future. So long as people like Ms. Griswold and Mr. Berriz continue to lead the charge, we will be disinvesting in the only resource that might pull our state out of the economic disaster that it has become. So, the question is a simple one. Do you want to invest in the county's the region's and the state's future, or are you going to allow ignorance, pettiness, and stinginess to overwhelm common sense. 'Tis not surpising, however, that Ms. Griswold, having been voted out of office, seems bound and deterined to acheive some level of vengence.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 3:12 p.m.

jns131, Several districts run "schools-of-choice" programs quite successfully without encountering the "dilution" you seem to fear. It's a matter of the schools competing for a decreasing number of students. Whether parents choose to "consolidate" schools by moving their students, or school districts consolidate on their own, it's highly unlikely that WashCo will still have 10 school districts going forward. Don't make the assumption that all parents are dying to get their children into Ann Arbor's schools; they're not. Also, the decline of the school systems you mention probably has more to do with the serious erosion of the tax base in those areas and low-quality administration than with the caliber of students. Any student can either succeed or fail in any environment. The reality is that if Ann Arbor wants to maintain the size of its school district, those students are going to have to come from someplace, and there aren't enough families-with-children left in the AAPS district to support its current infrastructure indefinitely.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 2:55 p.m.

$76k is a lot for 9 months work. You can tell me about all the summer work teachers do but they don't work more than police officers or engineers.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 2:55 p.m.

Here's a link to a BLS report on wages and salaries comparing workers in different fields. Teachers are included. The average teacher salary in the US in 2007 was $42K. What's the average pay in Ann Arbor? I'm sure someone posted it but I can't remember.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 2:46 p.m.

@we not them: I posted several links to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the most comprehensive data on employment, salary, and benefits in the nation. Referring only to the benefits: teachers are four times as likely to have pensions as employees in the private sector, and also have much smaller premiums and copays in health insurance. See link below:

"We" not "Them"

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 1:21 p.m.

MW said, until teacher health benefits match those in the private sector, and until defined benefit pension plans are replaced by 401Ks -- which is to say, until teachers live with the same kinds of fringe benefits the rest of us have. Let's start with that and then see where we are. This accusation of teacher benefits being out of line with the private sector has been thrown around for weeks now yet my simple inquiry finds differently. I am not an expert in salaries, so I went to an independent public source, to find out what these benefits really boil down to. takes the average salary of different professions and quantifies all of their benefits into annual dollar amounts. They total it all together to get each professions total compensation worth. Here is what I found for the Ann Arbor area: Patrol Officer - $75,589 Secretary $75, 906 Public School Teacher $76,420 Electrical Engineer - $88,646 also states that 47% of teachers have masters degrees. Thats more than double any of the aforementioned professions. I apologize for not including the links, but theyre really long. For space purposes Ill include only the secretary link, I think people can navigate to the rest on (you have to click on the "benefits" tab). Some retorts to teachers having extravagant benefits have been quick to point out that teachers get benefit X that someone in the private sector doesnt. I think thats the nature of any job. Some people get stock options. Some get matching 401ks. We cant begrudge teachers for getting a unique benefit any more than we can begrudge an employee at Delta airlines for getting a $5 ticket to L.A. The fact that teachers get a different benefit than someone in the private sector is not evidence of them being over compensated. The bottom line, according to, is that teacher compensation is on par with the average white collar worker, and below those of equal education (masters degrees). If is wrong I would love to have someone give us the correct facts, but Ive found most of the commentary on these forums about teacher compensation to be very anecdotal and not factually accurate or supported. For those on the other side, please provide us more facts so we can continue this healthy debate about school finance reform. There is no question that something has to change, but if were going to have a productive debate we should have all of the facts.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 1:15 p.m.

Why should we be a school of choice when Ann Arbor is the only district where the millage passed?


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 12:32 p.m.

What is required for Ann Arbor to decided AAPS fate? We can't count on the state or the county.

Michael K.

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 12:10 p.m.

"are attacking the anti-millage campaign chairs is because it is much more preferable to do that than to face the hard truth about why the millage may have truly failed" I have **absolutely no quarrel** with the true grass-roots folks who voted against the millage. What I oppose is our own little Blumbergesque mini-titan, who can afford what most of us can't - to flood the airwaves with ads and outspend the opposition 3 or 4 to 1, to get HIS quite limited view of the "facts" out. For example, Berriz's ads talked repeatedly about this 11% increase in taxes. They never once **mentioned** the looming $600 per pupil state-level cuts that the millage would not even begin to replace in AA. Look, I grew up with a deep soak in **Republican** politics. My father was Home Secretary for a US Congressman. He later worked for several Republican Governors. My mom worked for a State Senator and was on several Governor appointed boards. (She is also a Fulbright scholar.) I have an MBA. I helped start a multi-billion dollar company in the 1990's (as a VP, the 3rd person into the new company. We grew it to 600+ people.) All I am saying is this: the election did not happen in a vacuum. These people have histories, and they need to remain accountable for their very public actions. We need to clearly keep their personal motives and actions on the table as we evaluate so-called facts (mostly wrong and biased from all sides) during this "citizens" debate. Cheers!


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 12:07 p.m.

@kludwig - Thank you for the link. We have plenty of Bain, Mckinsey, Accenture, etc. consultants in the area. I think if the schools asked, the local consultants might be willing to do some local pro-bono work. I know I would.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 11:59 a.m.

I am guessing you won't think its enough until pay is cut so much that your teachers with young children can't afford to teach. I'm thinking it won't be enough until MESSA is history, until teacher health benefits match those in the private sector, and until defined benefit pension plans are replaced by 401Ks -- which is to say, until teachers live with the same kinds of fringe benefits the rest of us have. Let's start with that and then see where we are.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 11:58 a.m.

The NYT today had this story There is no reason that all the districts in the county not follow suit. The Ross School and the Industrial and Operations Engineering Department at UM have the skills to do the analysis and provide the whole community with recommendations and with a template for true transparency in school budgets.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:59 a.m.

Below is a link to stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about employee benefits. The first is a recent comparison of job types and access and cost of health insurance. Also life insurance. You'll note that education employers have more access to and lower premiums. In otehr tables on the main site, you can see that 89 percent of teachers have defined benefit retirements plans (ie. pensions) while only 21 percent of private industry employees have them. You have to poke around the site to find the more detailed information, but it's worth doing.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:52 a.m.

Todd Roberts needs to stand tough against Berriz. He needs to show this guy what happens when you open up the flood gates of school of choice. Look what happened when Van Buren and Belleville became school of choice. It went from a great school to a detroit school. Reason? Willow Run and Ypsilanti. Both have children who are from low income I don't care families. Mine does not go to either. But we have seen the outcome of what happens when you do open up this can of worms. If Ann Arbor becomes school of choice? The ones who come to UM and its hospitals to work? Won't. Ann Arbor will become another low class school of choice and no one will want to come here to work, play or bring their children here to play. Look at what is happening at Skyline. Children fighting on school buses. Take a look at where these children are raised. Ann Arbor already has its problems, let us not make it worse. Todd Roberts? Do not give in to school choice. Otherwise I will pull mine out of your school. Period.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:46 a.m.

Teachers in Michigan are paid mostly by the state. The state now has a lot less money. That money isn't coming back. Therefore teachers will be paid less. There isn't any way around that regardless of how many other things we cut first. The only question remaining is do we want to destroy our school programs and community support first by throwing everything that isn't nailed down overboard (AP, transportation, sports, music, etc), laying off all our drivers and custodians, and cutting all our low-seniority staff, or can we accept what we have to do and do it? If the boards, superintendents, and union leadership don't act like leaders right now, you can be sure they will all be replaced in the near future with people who are determined to make cuts and may not have the teachers' best interest in mind.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:10 a.m.

Sorry, Kathy--while it's certain the vote would have been very tight, it was not unwinnable by those supporting the millage. The Berriz-funded effort swung things decisively, swamping the mailboxes and answering machines across Washtenaw County. The campaign against the millage was highly effective and virtually unopposed. Yes, the case for the millage was not made effectively, but McKinley's deep pockets guaranteed the day. A good investment for the corporation. Berriz also got a full column in Jesse's article. All glory to Big Al.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:09 a.m.

Its just business as usual with the local schools,everyone else has taken less weather we wanted to or not.People loseing jobs,houses,property values dropping 30-50 percent,yet schools are right there with their greedy hands out wanting more.I wish I were on the school board.I'd show you cuts.I see so much waste in dexter schools its pathetic.20% across the board pay cut for starters,end bussing or make em pay to ride.Pay to play sports,Turn off all the lights at night when there is nobody in the building.Times are tough folks and its going to get alot tougher so suck it up and make the cuts you need to make and get ready for more voter revolt or taxpayer backlash when you don't do what you need to do.Its called make do with what you get not spend,spend,spend.Taxpayers are fed up with building 60-80 million dollar high schools.What your seeing now is just the tip of whats to come in taxpayer backlash.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 10:06 a.m.

I suspect the reason that so many are attacking the anti-millage campaign chairs is because it is much more preferable to do that than to face the hard truth about why the millage may have truly failed. It is hard to accept the difficult economic times we live in, and the effect on our schools. People lash out.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:56 a.m.

Stephen, I support the idea of year round schools. But unless you keep the same number of hours/days, it is going to be costly. Folks outside of Ann Arbor weren't even willing to maintain current funding with a tax (even though it was still less than what they paid 20 years ago). Do you really think voters are going to vote to increase the school budget by 25% to increase the time in school by the same?

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:52 a.m.

Insidethehall, Not everyone in Michigan has lost their job or taken a pay cut. In fact, many people, Berriz included, are doing quite well. But this impression that teachers have been feeding at a fat trough is false. I have seen my teaching load increase making an effective cut in pay and our new contract had NO increases this year, step or otherwise. We've cut teaching positions, increasing the workload of those staying behind. Our supply budget has been cut meaning more comes out of our pockets. I am guessing you won't think its enough until pay is cut so much that your teachers with young children can't afford to teach. The thing is teaching itself is a sacrifice. In the private sector, I could earn 50% more or better easily. We teachers missed out on the bonuses, the fat raises and the promotions from the fat times that many in the private sector enjoyed and now you begrudge us a decent salary, job security and decent health care. I bet you are thinking well that was our choice, right? Yes, it was. It was also your choice to go into the private sector; don't punish me because your choice isn't working out so well right now.

Kathy Griswold

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:42 a.m.

Did one man really change the outcome of a countywide election with a 12% margin in less than three weeks? The election results were 56% Yes votes to 44% No votes. Most No voters I spoke to stated that they could not afford the tax increase or that the size of the increase was not reasonable. The opposition to the millage was multi-partisan from liberal Democrats to conservative Republicans, with a few Libertarians and Campaign for Liberty supporters. A very diverse group of community members agreed that the existing public school funding and spending models are not sustainable. I am not aware of any Washington. D. C. ad agency. The Two Mills is Too Much slogan is based on the old B is Bad campaign against the expansion of the Leslie Science Center. Much of the campaign was modeled after successful strategies in the Obama campaign. I expect David Jesse will report on the spending for all the groups in early December, after the final filing deadline.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:36 a.m.

I would hope that part of the dialogue is figuring out what it would take to have the K-12 Public Schools in session year-round. To me, it seems like everyone is putting band-aids on problems when the patient is dying. Why is the public education system failing the 21-23% of Americans who are not functionally literate? (see "This government study showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not 'able to locate information in text', could not 'make low-level inferences using printed materials', and were unable to 'integrate easily identifiable pieces of information.'" Even President Obama and the Secretary of Education have come out in support of eliminating the traditional summer vacation at schools (see because it is now well documented that the long summer break is detrimental to the education of our youth. Talk to any teacher and you'll find out that they generally spend the first half of each school year reviewing what the students were taught the prior year. Malcolm Gladwell's current best-seller "Outliers: The Story of Success" has a chapter devoted to some of this research - it's an excellent read and I highly recommend it! His conclusion is that 100% of the achievement gap in school based for lower and moderate income children is driven by the traditional school Summer vacation. The waste of half of each school year in review also turns off the kids who didn't need the review. So, what I'd like to know is why aren't our schools stepping up to the plate to fix the school year now that we know that it is the #1 cause that hinders childhood education? This is a huge social justice issue! We need to come up with a solid strategic plan detailing what resources it will take to fix this fundamental problem. If we can, the benefits certainly are immense. Imagine how great our schools and MEAP scores would be if we were among the first to bite the bullet and step up to fix this problem? Imagine the positive impact on attracting jobs to our community and increases in home values if we had the strongest K-12 schools in the region on top of some of the best public universities?


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:21 a.m.

I took no money, spent no money, and have spent a lot of time looking at what data is available on the local schools (not much). None of the AAPS contracts for 2009-2010 are easily available to the public. None of the budget beyond very high level numbers are available to the public (save Saline). I want to know why we were promised that only 19 new hires would be required to staff Skyline and the new hires for Skyline now exceed that number, but the school is only 1/2 full. I want to know why then did not fill it in year 1. I want to know why AAPS need 20 or 21 Principals and vice principals in the high schools In short I want the transparency that Randy Friedman says we have. As to who spent how much, the reporting is due in a couple of week and we will see who spent how much. I know what will not be reported is the time the teachers spent telling the children how bad it would be if the millage failed in their classrooms. This to me is campaigning. If you don't believe me it happened, go back and read some of the posts from students about all the music or all the art or all the...that would be cut. They were getting fed this information from somewhere. We have in AAPS the following that can be done to reduce (negate) the impact on the classroom and teachers: 1) Look at property like the Dixboro school and determine if it should be sold or if the rents are correct for the market, and the maintenance that is done by school staff is the right way to maintain the buildings. Rationalize the real estate portfolios of the school districts. There is lots of unused real estate that belongs to the districts, some of it has to stay with the districts because of the original grant, some does not. 2) Combine services that are not classroom related, like was already done with substitute teachers. Purchasing, maintenance, janitorial, food service, etc. Pick the best person in that roll in the county today and wrap the best of the rest around them. 3) AAPS already paid for a busing study, implement it. 4) Reduce the number of administrators in buildings. Most grade school principals could fill in for teachers for appointments (e.g. dental) during the day. When i was in school the principals taught a grade and were part-time principals. 5) Move the contract for teachers closer to the one for Plymouth-Canton, which makes a certain number of hours outside of class time part of the base salary. Many teachers already give this time for free, it would be a nice thing to just put it in the contract and make some tax payers feel better about how many hours the teachers are getting paid for. 6) Look at moving to a common set of course developers and curriculum advisors across the county. Also for professional development, put all the district teachers together and pay the outside firms once, or twice, not 10 times. 7) For AAPS look at moving Clemente, Stone and Community High into other facilities. Does it make budget sense to do so? Colocation of Stone and Clemente may make a lot of sense or not, but no one has shown any of the numbers. The school says closing Community is a one time value to the school system, that means no one has done the maintenance, cleaning and utilities assessment or they are not being transparent with it. I am NOT advocating closing any program or school, only that every one look at the buildings in question and be realistic about costs. 8) The state now requires at least 1 on-line course for students to graduate. It may be that the right answer for small seminars, and under filled advanced classes, that they be done on-line through the Michigan Virtual High School. One teacher with the right layout of a room could supervise many more students. It might even be that parents could do the supervision. 9) Move some sports back to club or intramural status from varsity status and limit the driving distance teams will go to play games. Do not cut games or opportunity, but cut the cost of travel, and varsity status for sports where local opponents do not exist. 10) Look at consolidation of vocational classes at WCC or a Vo-Tech high school. We lose students in high school now because they don't think they will even go to college and that school is a waste of time - many of these students would excel at auto shop or other vocational activities if there was a focus on it for them. This is NOT warehousing, but keeping students engaged. 11) Look at perks and non-standard budget items - cell phones in the classrooms, cars, team vans, and other items that are not shared by all. 12) Building rental fees - it costs money to keep a building open outside of normal school hours. Are the rental fees covering those costs completely? This is not a get rich question for the districts, but a stop the bleeding question. There are a lot of groups that rent school facilities. I think that is great, but they should not be subsidized for the out of pocket costs for the schools to stay open (lights, cleaning, security, trash, etc). The buildings belong to the community (not the school administration, or the varsity sports teams) but the individual groups should be picking up all the out of pocket costs to use the buildings. Mr Friedman - I look forward to your transparent and complete answers to these suggestions. I hope that you are providing the data that was requested by and David Jesse. I am happy to sit down with any school district and work through these kinds of issues with you. My children are in AAPS, so I know the most about AAPS.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:18 a.m.

Lisa Lisa YES! We expect teachers to take a pay and benefits cuts to balance the budget. This will come down to the unions against the students. If the unions put their head in the sand then the students will suffer with program cuts. Your reference to the private sector rings hollow. Those of us in the private sector has given back via pay cuts, pension cuts, benefit out of pocket increases, reduced work schedules, and in many cases total loss of employment. I suspect you are a teacher or work in a public sector job. Here is the bottom line. Education is the last protected bastion. Their day has now come and the MEA like the UAW need to be pragmatic OR there will several less members.

Kathy Griswold

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 9:11 a.m.

The Coalition for Responsible Schools for All Students (A2CRSS) will hold its first community forum on Sunday, November 15, from 6 - 8 PM at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main Street. (The Community Center is on the west side of the street about six blocks north of Huron Street. There is free parking to the north of the building.) More information is at All members of the community are encouraged to attend and join the Coalition in working to achieve a quality education for all students by making efficient use of public funds through innovation and collaboration. This community forum is not a duplication of future AAPS forums, but an opportunity for the community to come together and discuss current economic conditions and successful educational reform efforts. If we can agree on the facts before the AAPS forums, then we can be more effective and make data-driven recommendation that are in the best interest of our students. This will be the first of three community forums to be held prior to the AAPS forums. Our second forum will focus on the AAPS financial position and the third will explore school reform. Dates and times for our other forums will be published soon. In addition, a link to our slide show will be posted on our website and members of the Coalition are available to discuss this effort with your community group, just send a request to Agenda Topics for Nov 15 The Coalition, who we are, what we hope to accomplish The Obama administrations newly released rules for the Race to the Top program The latest information on school funding from Lansing The former state superintendent of schools, Tom Watkins recent letter to the editor and his 2004 report on sustainability A recap of the election results The local situation The future for local schools Q and A

Michael K.

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 8:41 a.m.

One man, one election! BOYCOTT MCKINLEY: BOYCOTT BERRIZ Let him continue to pay for his election for the next decade. It is akin to the Club for Growth coming in to oust Schultz a few yaers ago. We saw how long that lasted! It also worked wonders in upstate New York a week ago, getting a Democrat into a seat held by Republicans for a century. If he is so involved in the schools, why didn't he put that money toward a productive consulting study months ago to try to LEAD the district out of the problems? And Geltner? She gets fired from 2 school districts in 4 years. She was totally polarizing and incompetent to lead. So now she comes out as a voice on "The Coalition" urging a no vote. Just sour grapes, plain and simple. Also from "The Coalition", Ms Griswald voted IN FAVOR of Skyline High in 2003. Now they says the district is spending yoo much money, that we need to consiolidate schools and increase occupancy (ala Berritz above.) Hmmm... a bit of revisionist history? Here is another quote from her: "Threats from Lansing to drastically cut school funding are just that. Threats have been made in the past." Bah humbug. This punitive, slash attack, smear campaign is doing no good for AA or the county. These people don't know how to lead, just how to whine when they are out of power.


Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 7:36 a.m.

The Saline School board also has to take some responsibility on what is voted on re expenditures. Look at each item, line by line, and question each item that is being paid out. Don't just take the administrators, etc., word that they are getting the best bang for the buck. Especially when hiring teachers, i.e., you don't have to pay the top dollar, just because you want to hire someone because they happen to be related to someone in the school district. There's no reason why all new teachers can't be hired at BA Step 1. If someone else is also qualified and all thing being equal, hire the teacher at BA Step 1, not higher step. There's still savings to be made at Saline. You just have to take the responsibility and question it, even if it may not be popular.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Nov 15, 2009 : 7:36 a.m.

Mr. Berriz, The community was trying to move forward to solve this crisis by passing the millage to maintain our current level of education. You spent your company's money to stop that. A lot of lies about the school districts were spread by folks supporting your anti-school campaign and people bought into it. Congratulations. Don't expect me to believe that you really support education when you spent $75,000 saying the opposite. So you expect teachers to take salary and benefits cuts. Will you cut your rents accordingly? After all, as so many of your supporters were reminding us repeatedly, everyone has to suffer.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 8:30 a.m.

If you want to talk about transparency, look again at that $75,000 number spent by Berriz, Weiser and McKinley Properties in the anti-millage campaign. It was at least double, if not triple, that amount. And was it a local grassroots campaign? No..this $200,000+ was used to fund a Washington DC PR firm to run the campaign. And was it even about a local millage? Or was it in part about power in Republican state politics? Why wasn't this information reported? Where was Berriz' transparency -- and's?


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:58 a.m.

I'm surprised at Randy Friedman, who for awhile was a voice of reason on the board. He appears to have gone over to the dark side.


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:46 a.m.

craig11152, Ditto your comment, well said!

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 7:43 a.m.

I would be happy to balance any schools budget for them free of charge. It really isn't that hard to balance a budget. Whats hard is prying ones expectations away from the status quo.