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Posted on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:05 p.m.

Impact of countywide school millage failure: WISD leader says cuts to school districts are coming

By David Jesse

Although the fallout of a failed schools enhancement millage has Washtenaw County superintendents considering all options, several barriers make school consolidation difficult and unappealing, says Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Bill Miller.

A lot of those obstacles are tied to money, he added.

Under state law, if two school districts consolidate, the new district gets a blended per-pupil funding amount from the state.

Each school district in the state gets the bulk of its revenue from the state in the form of a per-pupil foundation grant. Those amounts vary per district.

That means a district like Ann Arbor that gets a high per-pupil foundation grant could lose millions of dollars in revenue if it consolidated with another school district.

At the start of the year, per student funding for Ann Arbor was about $9,600 per student, while Ypsilanti received about $8,000, and the majority of other local districts got about $7,500. Those numbers are changing due to recent state cuts.

Another barrier? Voters have to agree to consolidation.

The process also includes things like debt and union contracts.

However, as the state’s financial situation for schools worsens, more and more districts - including some in Washtenaw County - are likely to talk about consolidation, Miller said.

District officials and teachers in Washtenaw County were hoping voters would approve a 2-mill countywide enhancement millage on Tuesday to give them $30 million a year countywide. But voters turned down that request by a wide margin.

Residents should expect to see reductions this year in their schools, Miller said, as administrators work to balance their budgets after receiving cuts totaling hundreds of dollars in per-pupil foundation grants.


Administrators say programs like the school band program in Ypsilanti could be in danger following the failure of the schools enhancement millage.

Angela Cesere |

Measures could come in the form of staff layoffs, cuts to services for students and requests for concessions from unions, Miller said. Busing and athletics also are being discussed, he said.

“I’m most worried about the arts, music, full-day kindergarten, foreign language, items like that,” Miler said. “I think we’re going to lose things I think are essential. I’ve already seen some erosion in the creative curriculum.”

Miller said he also expects see a big push for structural reforms in the area of health care costs and retirement costs, especially at the state level.

And Miller said a major push is under way to change the way the state funds schools.

Still, Miller said, some districts could look quite different by next year.

“Everything is on the table,” he said he’s hearing from the 10 local school districts. “It’s going to be individual districts' decisions on what to cut, but they are all going to have to make cuts."

• Related: Complete countywide schools enhancement millage covered.

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


recovering bureacrat

Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 1:08 p.m.

I'm calling for an audit of all of the districts-find fraud and service duplications, cut off excessive overtime for all employees, drop outside contractor services assigned to retired school employees. MICHIGAN IS HURTING-DON'T CONTRIBUTE THRU FAILURE TO CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESSES.


Mon, Nov 9, 2009 : 11:18 p.m.

Andrew, I am feeling really "warm and fuzzy" over the "Oklahoma" production!! How many tickets were sold for the show/show's? Perhaps the money raised from ticket sales can go to "fill the void" from the millage not passing!

Andrew Thomas

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:46 p.m.

Carla, Don't despair yet, we will find a way to preserve the quality of public education in Ann Arbor. It's going to take some doing, but if we take the time and effort to sort out the positive ideas and ignore all the ranting and posturing, we will be able to save what is great about AAPS. Note: I just got back from seeing Pioneer's production of "Oklahoma!" -- what a great show! (And no, it was not just a vehicle for a few elite performers; by my count, close to 200 students assisted with the production in one way or another.) So let's get over the negativism and come together to support our schools.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:31 p.m.

Carla -. Your $40,000 number is low, only new teachers make that kind of money. The senior teachers in the county can earn as much as $115,000 a year. For years 1 to 11 and 15 the raises are automatic (The are called steps) and for each degree you earn as a teacher there are automatic raises too. It is possible on the AAPS table to earn both a step increase and a degree increase in the same year and get an 8 to 11% raise - even if the contract is announced as having no raise - the step and degree increase are in effect - unless the union waives them (as a couple of districts in the county have done this year).. As posted elsewhere - the average teacher makes $70,000 a year in the county. Retirement adds another 16.4% and benefits are fully paid for most of the districts. Co-pays are small for many teachers. The net result is each teacher (including the employer cost of social security) costs a school district about $100,000 a year. I do NOT think teachers are overpaid, but I do think that Rep Dillion (D) had it right when he wanted to pool all the state health care for state and local employees and their families (500,000 of 10 million residents in Michigan). His estimate was that the state and local governments would save $900 million a year. More than enough to fund the school funding gap for the whole state, without laying anyone off. Our Governor took it on herself to tell the House Democrats she would not support pooling all the insurance policies. She was also the one who cut the budget that had been agreed to and passed by the House and Senate. If there is a villain in the story - the Governor fits the role.. In Ann Arbor - with roughly 1000 teachers and the estimate that opening the bidding for health care to all providers - and without changing the benefit package - the district could save about $1.5 million dollars, without a state pool.. The State House has passed a pair of bills to restore the major cuts the Governor made to school funding. The Senate is working through them. There is no promise that they will pass, but if you want them too, I would suggest you focus on the folks in the State Senate, and then on the Governor's office.. Next year will be much tougher, there will be no extra Federal Money. So the cuts could be as much as 20% of the foundation grant ($7,600 - so the cut would be $1,520 per student) this is based on the warning the Governor gave all the state departments - plan to have a budget cut of 20% next year. No one has come out and said that it will be that bad, but it could be.. We need to look at all the options and once the schools are running efficiently, then we need to look at a millage.. Our tax system is messed up in the state, we have income, property and sales taxes all at the same time. Most states get by with 1 or 2 of the three. When someone who wants a tax increase gets up to talk they normally pick a state that has only one and point to the fact that Michigan's rate for that tax is low. We need to seriously re-look at who is taxed and how. Do we continue to use an income tax that is built off the Federal Tax return? Do we go to a flat percentage of income with no deductions? Do we continue with the single business tax? Do we tax services? Do we keep property taxes? Do we keep transferring money from the states to the local and county governments?. Big sticky questions that need to be answered - but locally we need to all dig in and help the schools sort their budgets out. There are a lot of sharp people in the county, many who pack a bag every Sunday and go somewhere to consult with others and help fix their problems.. Wouldn't be wonderful if some of those top consultants offered to help the local districts sort their budgets?


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 8:22 a.m.

Carla, "Global ecosystem on the verge of collapse", give me a break. Just so you understand why it was voted down!! Most of us living in Washtenaw County that work in the private sector ( public school teachers are state employees) have taken pay cuts, are paying double for insurance what we paid two years ago, we don't have pensions we have 401k's which are now 201k's. We don't buy Starbucks, we go to the dollar movies rather than the regular movies, we drive cars with 100,000 plus miles on them. We don't have health care after we retire and until we die. We already pay HUGE property taxes ( IE: triple to quadruple what someone in Indiana pays) and our houses are worth 35% less than what they were three years ago. I personally could not afford a property tax that was going to go up by $400.00 per yeear. It is now time that we demand the public sector ( all state employees whose salaries we pay as taxpayers) feel the pain and suffering that the rest of us are feeling and have since the recession started in the year 2000. The state has lost almost one million manufacturing jobs since that time. How much money are those displaced workers making now? Certainly not enough to absorb an 11% increase in their property taxes. This is all on top of 16% of Michigan folks that DO NOT HAVE JOBS.

Carla Milarch

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 4:26 a.m.

It makes me so sad to see that negativity has truly won the day here. I am the mother of a 14 month old and I was excited about sending my child to Ann Arbor public schools, because I want him to have the best education possible, which to me means small classes, access to arts education, and lots of extracurricular options. Are we really that stingy that we can't afford two mills? For a homeowner of a $200k house, that's $400 a year. That's $1.10 a day. How many of you pay more than that to park, buy a latte, or rent a movie? Are we really saying that we can't give up so little to prevent drastic cuts in our schools? When it's tax-deductible to boot? In any community, the schools should be the pride of the city, yet we seem to be more concerned with nitpicking their spending to death, as if a single one of us knows the first thing about running a school. Do we really think that the people who are responsible for not just the education, but the actual day-to-day care and safety of our kids, deserve to be paid less than most of us are? If an average teacher's salary is around $45,000 - that's about $690 a week after taxes. Is that really too much to pay someone who can make such a difference in the future of our children? And so many statistics show that kids that are involved in the arts and extracurricular activities do better in higher education - do we not want that for our kids? I know, I know, you'll all come back at me and say that we need to cut administrative expenses. Again, I say - if you know so much, why not join the school board, help to solve the problem instead of sitting around making armchair budget cuts and scoffing about how poorly run the schools are. I'm sorry, but there is just nothing worse than nickel and diming our kids' education. We're already handing them unGodly deficits and a global ecosystem on the verge of collapse. Now, we're cutting their education too? Shame on us.

Jimmy Olsen

Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 10:30 p.m.

jns131 Are you referring to the $130 a month that AAPS School Board members receive as the place to start the budget cutting?


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 9:43 p.m.

YES,teachers make decent money and have great health care! YES they get their summers off,winter break,spring break,etc. Thank God I decided I wanted to be a teacher! You too,could have decided the same career,but you didn't-so stop complaining about teachers having so much time off,etc. Hey,those of you who aren't happy in your career,I invite you to become a teacher. The schools always need good teachers!


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 9:08 p.m.

After reading all of the comments here, here is my take on the whole thing. It is not the teachers who need to take a pay cut, it is the whole AAPS Board that is so hot right now that they are not going to get their pay raise that they are going to cut where ever they can to get their hands on more money. Killing off Community is not the answer. AND have you or do you know what Clemente and Stone School do? These are schools of last resort. Children who cannot make it anywhere else. Huron, Pioneer and now Skyline send these children there for expulsions, juvenile detention, major and minor crimes and no school wants them. But they have to go somewhere. Consolidate these two back into Pioneer or Huron or Skyline? I will take my tax credit somewheres else because I don't want my child anywhere near these juvenile deliquents. The principal at Pioneer cleaned up this school because it had such a bad rap. Now parents are singing its praises. So, before you go screaming at the teachers? Might want to take a look at what the board is doing with the money first. Just a thought and then lets ask them to take a major pay cut first. You will start seeing a savings increase.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 8:40 p.m.

Jon Saalberg, First, My sister, girlfriend and brother in law are public school teachers. I see how while I am working my as* off in the summer they are taking vacations all summer going to Florida, Nevada, Canada and spending time in their cottage up north. Also During the school year they have the most holiday, weekend off. Not to menttion spring and winter break. And they make more money then me. I have a Masters to. Once again While I slave to keep my cheap customers happy because they do not have any money to do the repairs at regular prices due to their extremely high tax and water bills. With michigans unemployment rate at 15+% AND Growing. I need to work year round to try to save enough mony to keep my taxes, mortgage, utilities paid.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:36 p.m.

@pelhaha - Please go back through the discussions over the last 2+ Weeks. i think you will find many of the "NO" voters have children in the schools and some even work for the schools. Welcome to the debate. @Guate - Thank you for joining the debate. I was outspoken at your age and took on the school board over our 103 year old high school building. I too would suggest you frame your comments in a positive fashion, please?


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:33 p.m.

I have kids in AA schools. And I know plenty of people with kids in school who voted against the millage. That's not the issue, so stop saying it is.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:01 p.m.

stunhsif - Really? TruBlue is correct? While I appreciate your admonishment, I'd like you to check the grammar/spelling in this sentence from TruBlue: "Do you know there is know merit based pay for teachers?" I'm not a teacher, but have high respect for most of them. Thanks for pointing out how "foolish" I looked by correcting me that "know" should actually be used in place of "no" in TruBlue's post.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 3:55 p.m.

It's so sad to read all the comments here. It's obvious that who has kids in the AAPS and who don't. Those who don't obviously don't care about schools and the students. Merging schools, moving CHS to Skyline, etc. are seriously affecting students there. I guess even those who can afford the tax increase but don't have kids in AAPS would also make a comment to diminish the value of AAPS. That's just pathetic.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 3:14 p.m.

@zulu...not sure why Ed didn't call out the Eastern Group in more detail, but here is a fact you should know. If you follow the link Ed supplied you will discover that Mike Martin, of First Martin is on the board of the Eastern Group. Care to guess who owns First Martin...Yep, Bill Martin. Bill Martin the same U of M athletic director that rents buildings to U of M..Bill Martin is paid more than $5MM from the U of M to rent those buildings....that is $5MM of tax payer money. Thanks to our Washtenaw County Commissioners our property taxes have gone up....the money has gone to an organization that is backed by Bill Martin.....somehow I wouldn't be shocked to find out that our increased property tax money makes it way as rent for another Bill Martin building...this property tax increase was just plain dirty politics.....


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 2:51 p.m.

I did not vote to support the school enhancement millage but it pisses me off to know that Albert Berritz who finance the opposition to the school enhancement millage is a member of the Sparks Board of Directors which will benefit from the Act 88 millage that was passed by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. The difference between these two millages is that Act 88 did not have to go before the voters for approval. The County used a 1913 law which clearly stipulates that the local board of supervisors can initiate and pass a tax which support the county's agriculture and related industries, with the emphasis placed on agriculture. If you look at the proposed allocation of the millage, the county's agriculture industry is the least to benefit from Act 88. Instead, the largest chunk of this money will go to Ann Arbor SPARKS and the Eastern Leadership Group which is an offshoot of SPARKS. The misuse of a 1913 law to justify a tax levy on taxpayers, when the taxpayers of this community has clearly stated they do not want an additional tax burden at this time is very disengenious on behalf of the our county so-called leaders. I urge all of you to contact your commissioner and voice your concerns about their recent behavior. Barbara Bergman is my commisioners and I do not plan to support her next election bid and I will not forget this.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 2:14 p.m.

Thanks "No" voters for lowering the quality of life in Washtenaw County and undermining our only hope for a strong competitive future which is to invest in our youth.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 12:54 p.m.

These teachers and school administrators should consider themselves fortunate to just have good, relatively secure jobs, in an economy that's ranked last within a struggling national economy. In the private sector, I have seen over 90% of my coworkers being walked out with boxes dating all the way back to 2001. We had 12,000 staff in 2001, and now we're down to 1,200 in 2009. We do not have a 401k match, we had a 2% pay cut this year, and may lose our retiree benefits. Performance is no longer the criteria for job retention -- it's all related to revenue. It amazes me that the public system demands more taxes from us and complains about potentially cutting 2%-5% in their spending. They would not last long if they were in the private sector.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 11:59 a.m.

2 juniors: I think it's great that you wrote here to express your side of the story. There are plenty of people in this community who support the goals of CHS, so don't make them look bad by appearing to be crass and ungrateful. Come on, give your post a rewrite. I'd love to see you do a better job of presenting your case for CHS in a respectful and thoughtful way.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 11:54 a.m.

From 2 juniors at community high school: CHS should not be cut, and to everyone who thinks so you really need to shut up. You dont know anything about what happens in our school or what its about. What the heck does "A certain type" mean? the students at CHS are no different than the students at the other schools, if nothing we are better. CHS has created a 'family' aspect between everyone including teachers, its a relaxed and safe place to come every day. Unlike the other crappy schools, where kids get into fights, are harassed for what they wear or who they hang out with-We are not like that. We accept everyone for the way they are, we never talked down to one another and are always willing to help out. To all you adults who think we are the whitest and richest or w.e, why do you feel the need to bring up color and money? no one cares, you could be purple and it wouldn't make a difference at Community High School. CHS does not kick students out because they don't want to teach them, if a student is informed they might be on the list to get kicked out they are given a time to raise up their grades in order to stay, so its up to them to make it or break it. Don't blame the school for a students lack of responsibility! The things that set our school apart and make us different are: 1: The staff go out of their way to make sure everyone understands whats being taught. 2: Everyone at Community respects each other enough to keep physical contact off school grounds, unlike the other schools were fights happen almost everyday. 3: The staff do not talk down to us like they are in charge, which creates a bond between us and them and out of respect we listen to them. The school offers Forum which is in no way like advisory or w.e the big schools have, Forum offers a safe place for students to go and talk, to make new friends and to get help if needed. Forum is in a way like a Safety Net for students, it provides everyone with a group of students who listen to one another and do things together outside of school. At community there are no cliques, unlike the other schools where you can just feel the tension. Even if you tried to make skyline like community it will not be the same. Going back to being called a "Certain Type" i will agree that we are, only in the sense that we are the type of students that stand together, and try to help out in the community.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 10:23 a.m.

yes yes its all tough but steel workers had to do it,auto workers and all connected had to deal with it.1 person doing the work of 3 now in those industries.Welcome to the new world.Quit dragging your feet and moaning and get with it

John Agno

Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 10:22 a.m.

It is interesting that WISD Supt. Miller lists four reasons (blended per-pupil funding, voter support required, accepting debt of the merged district and union contracts) why it would be difficult to merge school districts in Washtenaw County. These considerations are normal and required for any merged organization within the U.S. (if you substitute stockholders for voters in profit making companies). It is interesting that Miller does not list any significant benefits of merging struggling school districts into well-managed districts during this interview. Perhaps, the State of Michigan administration and legislature (that fund these educational institutions) need to bring about the changes necessary for merging badly managed school districts into well managed ones... There is stimulus funding from the federal government to support new approaches to better education. For example, the City of Syracuse, NY public schools is working with the federal government to implement K-12 improvements patterned after the Kalamazoo, MI community's out-of-the-box thinking. Helping local educational leaders in Michigan to allow their perceptions to evolve is necessary in order to overcome our local, statewide and national economical and educational challenges.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 10:10 a.m.

A few things: 1) One of the reasons why the US lags behind many countries in test scores is because we test EVERYONE! This include special education students no matter how long their scores are. In many countries, they have 3 tracks they can choose: college students, voc ed students, and military. The only students that are tested are the college students. Therefore, you are never comparing apples to apples. If we picked only our brightest and best to test, I can guarantee you we would be right up there with the other countries. But, thanks to our great country, we allow everyone to have an equal opporunity at an education. 2) Some schools are soliciting responses from parents and community members in regards to the budget. My children's school has a link online for parents to submit suggestions. 3) Last, please remember AAPS is not the only school district in Washtenaw County. Not all schools are using MESSA. Teachers and admins in some school districts have made changes with insurers to save a significant amount of money. Please recognize those that are doing what they can.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 9:35 a.m.

Can a dog have his or her license taken away form by the respective state board that oversees the profession of being a dog?


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 9:05 a.m.

Treetown, according to the City Charter and dog must have a license. Your point is? LAME!


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 8:55 a.m.

Teachers are professionals, who can work in the public or private sector like other professionals. They are licensed by the state, just like a doctor, lawyer, nurse, sanitarian, insurance agent, social worker etc. That comparison and argument is lame, try another approach.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

A2Reality, TruBlue is correct. It is "know", not "no" as you profess. Are you a public school teacher? If so, this might be explain your ignorance. Don't be so haughty my friend, it only made you look foolish!

Jon Saalberg

Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 7:37 a.m.

Most teachers suffer from what I call George Jetson syndrome - from the Jetson's cartoon were he kicks back relaxes most of the time but feels like he is overworked because he has to push a button twice a day. This person surely doesn't know any teachers or have any kids in public schools.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 7:17 a.m.

Southpaw -If the state is broke people need to face reality. 2 of our state's biggest employers went bankrupt. The auto industry is on life support in this state. I am all for cutting other areas of government spending and save education but those don't seem to be coming. From personal experience, I don't believe great schools mean great success in life. A2reality- Don't just attack me fear tactics and threats back it up with facts. Where is your data that salaries equal good schools. NY, OH, MA, PA all have lower teacher salaries and I know there are great schools there. Do you know there is know merit based pay for teachers? So if you are bad you still get a raise. I would gladly leave this state if my house wasn't so far underwater and the taxes are so high people don't want to touch it. Faith I have teachers in my family, I know how hard they work. 50-60 work weeks are the norm for me so I don't see your comment as anything unusual or unexpected.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 7:07 a.m.

Don Walker, why not take your millage money over the the School board this morning! Or are you not a taxpayer? I thanks God everyday we still have some people like Mr Berritz left in this country. We still have choices, the founding fathers ( remember them) did not think taxation without representation was a good idea.So as to not cause and global warming why not bicycle it over there, it is only 25 degrees (Global Warming has not hit yet). Yes, Thank you Mr Berritz for your most generous contribution.

Don Walker

Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 6:32 a.m.

Did anyone calculate how quickly the "donor" of the millage opposition campaign will receive his payback? It would only take $37.5 million of assessed value to get the payback in one year. Based upon the vast personal or business holdings he is purported to have, this is chump change and his "donation" was much more an investment than anything else. He wins and the kids lose. I am not saying that there aren't opportunities to save money in our schools because there are. However, we lost a key opportunity to prevent carnage in our schools while the districts deal with the funding loss from Lansing. It will take new funding AND better management to accomplish the task. Anyone who thinks it can all be done with cost cutting without reducing the quality of education is naive about the size of the funding gaps.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 11:58 p.m.

Teachers don't work any harder then most business people. I work 12-18 hours a day. 12 months a year. I still have to go through continuing ed that the state requires as a contractor. Most teachers suffer from what I call George Jetson syndrome - from the Jetson's cartoon were he kicks back relaxes most of the time but feels like he is overworked because he has to push a button twice a day. Most teachers are over paid considering that the US comes in 29t in international test scores. Even behind third world country's.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 11:49 p.m.

A2Girl's post about the economy is for the most part spot on. In Ypsi Township, we had two millage increases on the ballot. We are suffering from a massive drop in property values and a significant forclosure rate. People should not read too much into the "anti-millage" propaganda or McKinley's involvement. Locally, the thought of a 4 mill increase was more then most could bear. As for education, the most important factor to remember is that it begins and ends at home. As parents, we should be filling in the gaps of public education. How many kids in school today know more about High School Musical or Twilight than about world geography, or more importantly geopolitics? President Obama was right, turn off the TV, shut down the X-Box, engage your children. In the end, we as individuals are to blame if our kids can delve into the minutiae of Taylor Swift's love life but can't locate Mexico on a map. They will surely grow up to be the future morons who belive nonsense like Iraq and Saddam Hussein helped plot 9/11.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 11:49 p.m.

The biggest problem with public school system is that they are use to having it their way and conning people into giving them more money to waste. This is a good thing. What really needs to happen is they need to set up an over site committee composed of residents attorneys and accountant not associated with the school district in anyway. to look for waste and help with the budget. And they need to lay off the highest paid teachers. And tell the teacher unions where they can put it.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 11:47 p.m.

Ann A4bor Public School voters actually "voted no" on the millage. Not sure why Ann Arbor is reporting seperately other than to push an agenda. Why aren't people discussing this? Also, the S-J School districts are going to magically have their funding restored this week. Do you think your Gov. was playing a game to get us to vote for the millage. PLEASE THINK PEOPLE! THE SCHOOL DISTRICT "Played" so many smart, stay-at-home moms to work on the millage. I hope the Koolaid will wear off soon.

Jimmy Olsen

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 11:15 p.m.

faith - you just paid $15k for your masters degree. That would put you on a different pay scale, correct? So how long will it take for your increased salary to cover the $15K? Two, three years. Any intelligent person KNOWS that MOST teachers work hard. Ignore the others comments. But everyone of us works hard. More hours than we are paid for. My wife needs to have 12 credits of continuous education every year. She pays for it - doesn't get higher pay for it - in fact she will get no raise this year, just like I didn't last and again this year, plus other cuts. The teachers salaries in this county have approached the levels that the MEA/NEA have desired for years - on par with "professionals" in the private sector. Well, those of us in the private sector have been taking cuts, losing our jobs and paying more for less health care for years. Welcome to the club..we all share in good times and sacrifice in bad. This is the reality of Michigan right now.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 10:32 p.m.

TruBlue - Your comments about teachers are as ignorant as they are offensive. A good school system is one of the biggest reasons why a family would choose to move to, and stay in, a specific location. If we bring our schools and teacher compensation down to mediocrity, then our youth will flounder and our region will become more undesirable... can't wait to see how the value of your home responds to your approach. You seem ready to embrace Mississippi's economy and values; I suggest you move there. I will be happy to pay the taxes that your departure loses for Ann Arbor so that I don't have to read your comments.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 10:18 p.m.

There is this thing called carpooling. It is where folks help each other out by sharing in the responsibility of transporting themselves and others from one place to another. I'm just saying.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 10:13 p.m.

Many of our school children have one parent, sometimes without a car, sometimes working two shifts, sometimes unable to pay rent. They need school buses. Some of the people who post sound more entitled than the ones they accuse of entitlement.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 10:13 p.m.

To Dr. I Emsayin, Regarding your post about "volunteer to lessen the burden". I do that with my son's sporting events but quite frankly, I would be more inclined to do more if what you are asking from the private sector you would ask from the teachers, administrators and the unions that represent them. Don't even tell me that they already do this. The coach's make an extra 5 to 6 grand to coach their teams. I already work 50 hours a week and have taken a 10% paycut to keep my company in business. I also don't have health care benefits after I retire. It is time the teachers and unions suffer a bit and quit holding a gun to my kids heads???


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 9:51 p.m.

"It's the economy, stupid." -- James Carville, campaign strategist to Clinton. I cannot understand all of you people who think that some of us are exempt from sacrificing during the current economy. I think you are the same people who thought the millage would pass. You misjudged the mood of the voters. They don't want to pay more because they can't, they know people who can't, or they are tired of supporting a system that is not spending the money that it has on the right people -- the students! All of the crying about how this is going to hurt our kids is directed at the wrong folks. Pay cuts should start at the top. If administrators don't like it, let them leave. Some attrition would be good for the system. As a relatively new resident here, I am shocked at how many admin. positions there are in the schools. School secretaries are wonderful human beings, but do elementary schools really need two? No, they need one that might need to work harder and get more parents to volunteer in the office. Trust me, I have lived places where that is the norm. And, yes, some of you might have to drive your kid to school! (Oh, horrors! Spend more time with your child, stuck in traffic, discussing what is going on with their lives, maybe a political debate, or how their grandparents survived the great, not that!!)


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 9:50 p.m.

TruBlu - that is unbelievable to me to imagine we should think of ourselves as a 'poor state' and act like it. Does that mean just hunker down to survive, and not keep an eye on investing in the future? What would happen if poor individuals gave up and just decided they were poor and there was no use in trying to get ahead by educating themselves? Yes, they need to pay the rent and buy food, but to ensure a better future, education is always the answer. The same can be said for this county and state. If we're going to make investments, education better be one of them.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 9:49 p.m.

TruBlue - I understand how easy it is to be misinformed about teacher's salaries. It does seem like teachers only work for 9 months when you think strictly about the school year calendar. During the school year, most teachers work the entire day with their students, which does not leave a great deal of time to plan for lessons (especially for teachers who teach all subjects, every day). This leaves most evenings full of work (planning lessons, grading, contacting parents, etc). During summers, many teachers are in school working toward their Master's Degrees or keeping up on required credits...all of which are paid for out of teacher's pockets. Personally, I just paid $15,000 for my Master's Degree. I know it may only seem like 9 months of work, but I guarantee, teachers fit 12 months of work into 9 months. Teachers aren't seen as professionals in the eyes of many, and this is definitely reflected in the salary that many people think should be cut.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 9:45 p.m.

Barb, I did not describe the school. I said two things: first, that CHS's student population is wealthier and whiter than the other five high schools, which is easy to see when you look at the demographics of the schools...and second, that the buses that run between CHS and the other schools hour after hour are nearly empty. Yet we pay to run them. Why?


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 8:23 p.m.

Not to belabor the point but I have 2 kids at CHS. Your descriptions sound nothing like the school I see and hear about.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 8:19 p.m.

Like it or not these cuts need to come from salaries. There really is nothing else in the budget that would be significant and sustainable. MI teachers average $58,000/yr (source: for 9 months work. MI teachers' salaries are the 5th highest in the country. It's time people in MI wake up and realize we are a poor state. We think we are better than WV or MS but really our economy has collapsed. Sacrifices need to be made in all areas of government.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 7:08 p.m.

Sorry the importance of the first link is in the last paragraph. The rest is not related to this discussion.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 7:02 p.m.

Two stories in the FREEP - As expected the cuts will probably be reversed at the state level. But it is still time to have the deep discussions on the budget and expenses. @faith - I do spent significant time around the schools, and that is where I get my ideas for making them more efficient. I am sure you can float some ideas too. Other than administrators, I have not advocated cutting any staff or cutting salaries or benefits. Only taking efficiency measures. To date only one of the suggestions has brought any negative comment.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 6:54 p.m.

It's clear that those who voted no on this millage have not spent any substantial amount of time in a public school. These schools consist not only of teachers who care about the well being and education of their students inside and outside of school, but they also consist of custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other staff members that make up the school community and build relationships with students. Once you start cutting everything (transportation, custodial staff, and, well, teachers) what message does this give to students? Schools shouldn't be cut-throat environments...they're SCHOOLS for KIDS. Class sizes are getting larger by the minute and teachers pay a substantial portion of their own salaries to provide meaningful learning experiences for their students as it is. And guess what...they'll continue to do it because that's what's best for kids. I don't see extra money floating around our public schools anywhere, and I'm in the trenches every single day.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:59 p.m.

Then let 'em go. If Community is the only thing that keeps people in the district, we ought to find out now, and then seriously think about dismantling the other five high schools. I mean, if CHS is so great, why is it only for the select few? Why isn't it available to all kids? Or does it require dozens of extra empty bus trips per day and an expensive to maintain downtown school? If that's all it is...then...


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:50 p.m.

@TreeTown - I suggest you read the various health care bills - they do not promise free health care for people who have employment - only that people buy health care. For the school districts, the health care reform offers no relief at all, it only really helps some of the people with no health care now, not even all of them. The health care fix for the State is to pool the 5,000+ health care plans for state and local government employees (500,000 people in a state of 7 million - go figure) into a single pool. Based on the figures offered by Rep. Dillon (D) it would lower our cost for health care for state and local employees would drop by $900 million. Any school district could probably cut the benefit costs by an open bidding process for the current health care benefits. One estimate for moving from MESSA (the teacher's union owned health care administrator) is between $1,600 and 2,000 per teacher. Lets assume that the following statistics are true: -$1,500 per teacher savings for switching providers with no reduction in benefits or increase in co-pays -That the AAPS student to teacher ratio is 16:1 as reported elsewhere -That there are 16,000 students in AAPS That means that there are 1,000 teachers union members on the payroll in AAPS and that the savings for this one move would be $1.5 million dollars. All of these numbers have been presented elsewhere with links to the original data. (Ed V can you verify the numbers?) If this is true - that leaves 6.5 million in additional cuts to go.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:39 p.m.

Any potential savings from cutting CHS and other alternative programs could quickly evaporate via loss of per pupil funding as many of those students parents could choose other educational options - ie: private school/charter schools, etc.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:38 p.m.

cssoccer, there's no reason there couldn't be a community-like program at Skyline. And saying so doesn't mean I'm a hypocrite, but being told to get me kid out of the school does prevent people from speaking the truth about what they think.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:36 p.m.

What is all this talk about health care costs? Don't you know health care reform is on its way, we will all have free health care. Then the money that goes to health care now can be spread around, maybe even give those awful teachers you let your kids be around everyday a raise. Commy high is not what it once was. I say sell Ann Arbor Pioneer to U of M, they need that area to expand their athletic campus. Next, you put portables at the two high schools, retunr them to 10-12 grades, return the middle schools to 6-9 and problem solved. You could also get some land in exchange for the sale of Pioneer that can be used at a later date down the road. Now that only solves Ann Arbor's funding problems. But the other ditrixcts will benefit from Obamas free health care too.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:34 p.m.

All I am saying, DagnyJ, is that it seems hypocritical to send your kid to a school that you don't support or appreciate. Especially when there is a waiting list to get in.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:27 p.m.

Shame on you Ann Arbor News for leaving this community without any form of community news source that actually reports facts, investigates issues in depth, and values stories written by real journalists. We could have used that fact based reporting to actually educate what is obviously a highly uninformed, uneducated electorate, many of whom didn't even get out to vote. Maybe they didn't know there was an issue on the ballot worth becoming informed about and making an educated choice. Sure there is probably some waste that can be trimmed, but get real and wake up Ann Arbor. The fact is we have a $15 million dollar deficit with another $8 million to cut this year and another $15 million or more to cut next year. Changing Funding at the state level will take several years if it can be accomplished at all. The only way to make cuts of this magnitude will be to close buildings, eliminate programs and layoff members of our teaching community who have already made financial sacrifices and still do their best to teach our children. If your child has not benefited from the excellent teachers in Ann Arbor, maybe the person to blame is the one looking back at you in the mirror. I am not a teacher and my last child will be graduating next year so my family will not be directly affected by what I feel is an act of ignorance. So I say make the cuts, do it now and maybe not until we see 35+ children in classrooms across the board K-12 will we understand, you just said no to quality education to the children of this community.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:17 p.m.

I'm surprised at the strident calls for me to get my kid our of CHS. Nice. Now you know why no one dares say anything about it except that it is a great school.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:07 p.m.

For the record, I voted yes on the millage and had a sign in my yard. But what's done is done. It does not make sense to continue to support CHS with Skyline now on board. As for the savings, it's not just 600k for not running the building, there's potential revenue for selling the site, and then obviously the reduced staffing. I like CHS. I liked Drake's, too.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 5:05 p.m.

By the way, Community cannot kick students out and send them to other schools. Also, special ed students DO enter the lottery, just like everyone else, and receive outstanding services due to the small nature of the school.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 4:58 p.m.

DagnyJ - why don't you take your kid out of CHS so someone else can go there. Maybe someone who appreciates what the school offers. By the way, I don't go to school there. What make CHS the school it is is where it is. It's called Community because the students are located in the city and the students use the community as a resource. CHS doesn't cause success. It fosters it in the students that go there. Skyline is going to be too full next year to move an entire school into yet. Again, short sited comments from people who didn't see the benefit in voting yes on the millage.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 4:48 p.m.

"Miller said he also expects see a big push for structural reforms in the area of health care costs and retirement costs" This is true for almost everybody who works these days, why shouldn't the same be true for the school staff. This reduces costs without harming the quality of the schools.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 4:38 p.m.

Yes, Alan - Dr Roberts did say it was a one time $600k bump, but then his staff has admitted in other conversation that putting the property back on the tax rolls would lead to an additional taxes and admitted that the facility is one of the least energy efficient. One of the original goals of Skyline was to be able to hold self contained small learning communities. CHS fits that bill. So do Stone and Clemente. We need to at least look at what would be the long term impact of consolidation into small learning communities in the same physical facility. I do not want to see the goal of CHS or the organization of CHS done away with, but sooner or later that building will have to go - why not look at it now and put the school in a state of the art facility? Why not rationalize the way grades are put in buildings? Why not really open up to the ideas that are in the community. As to the comments by Bill Miller - they are not very helpful. I really hope this is not the only topic he covered, if it is we are sunk. We don't have to consolidate schools, but we should consolidate non-classroom services. I do not see a single comment from Bill Miller here on that topic. Did he broach it in your discussion David Jesse? If not did you ask the question? If it was not addressed, how about a follow up call on the issue? there is no vote required to consolidate many services from purchasing to IT required, only a willingness to sharpen the pencil and see what can be realistically gained. I am disappointed that no administrator to date has stepped forward and said: "Here is where we are, here are our finances, what can you do community to help us stretch our money?" I don't see any public forums scheduled to discuss the issues and look for ideas, yes the school board meetings will happen and public comment will be allowed. But no one is scheduling a public working session to really look for ideas and suggestions that go beyond "cut the pay" or "drop these programs" or "cut teachers". Come on folks - lets put the real ideas on the table. Many of you are inside the system - what do you see - outside the classroom that is not working? My ideas are posted, I am all out of fresh ideas and don't have any more data to look for new ones within.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 4:34 p.m.

Barb, I have a kid at CHS.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 4:31 p.m.

You obviously know very little about what goes on inside the school The environment is everything here. Your statement about disadvantaged kids is inaccurate and your speculation regarding "a similar group of kids at HHS and PHS, and compare the average ACT scores. CHS would be blown away," is only that. Speculation. From your biased viewpoint, I might add.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 4:11 p.m.

Barb, CHS has a student population that is overall whiter and wealthier than the other high schools. All studies of student achievement that I know of say that wealthy, white students are generally the top performers on all standardized tests. Look at the data here on the city's high schools to see the student populations: CHS also kicks out students it doesn't care to educated--behavior problems, etc. And parents of kids who need extra services--special ed or otherwise--don't enter the lottery. So what you have is an elite pool of kids. No surprise they have higher than average test scores. Select a similar group of kids at HHS and PHS, and compare the average ACT scores. CHS would be blown away.

Alan Benard

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 4:02 p.m.

Instead of listening to the ignorant spew speculation and hare-brained schemes for cutting our public schools to pieces and starting the race to the bottom, how about listening to the people who run the schools? They might know something about it. For example: Dr. Roberts said out loud, in public, several times, that the savings for closing a building is a one-time bump of $600,000. That's it. That's what you'd save in costs if you closed the physical plant of Community High School. What you'd lose is a stable program, a model of project-based education, which turns out high-achievers. Which are selected by lottery, so the classist view and racist view that the building succeeds because of either of those variables is horse manure. You may save some transportation costs if the buses which move kids from Pioneer and Huron and back to CHS were eliminated, but how much? Enough to shut down the program?80 percent of the cost of running the AAPS is the labor costs associated with instruction. State law requires a huge payment to the pension plan -- not the dedicated individual teachers so many goons here wish to cast out in favor of... what? George Bush's friends' software packages? Arne Duncan's latest bad idea for some kid of quasi-governmental academy? The things that really need fixing are not decided in Balas or in any of the administration buildings of the Washtenaw school districts. You keyboard kowboys need to stop spamming these comments and ask your representatives when they are going to fix our state budget, including education. That will actually make a difference, while your conspiracy theories about waste and corruption, selfish libertarian screeds and whining will not.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:53 p.m.

Once again, no real solutions, and apparently not even an effort to come up with resonable compromises/propositions. How about modest(10%) pay cuts for administrators? How about privitization of non-educational servcies, such as janitorial/maintenance? There are viable solutions, but those in charge don't seem to want to explore them. It's all doom and gloom from them. It's time to make business decisions. Protect what needs to be protected, and streamline what needs to be streamlined.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:53 p.m.

"But to say CHS *causes* the students' success is dubious..." can you tell me what you base that statement on?


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:41 p.m.

I have the solution right here: 10% pay cut across the board for all school employees. $200 "administrative fee" for each student enrolled in class. Budget solved.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:39 p.m.

In the article Bill Miller indicates that per pupil funding blending is an obstacle for district consolidation. This only appears to be the case for AAPS. Seems like we should be going after the low-hanging fruit here. Lincoln/Milan and Manchester/Saline seem like the most logical combinations based upon geographical proximity, per pupil funding, and relative size.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:38 p.m.

I'm actually glad the same folks keep commenting over and over, at least there are fewer negato-everything-izers out there than it sounds. Carry on!


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:31 p.m.

$9,600 per student, we are talking about a 2% (218 a student) cut in funding. Is the budget stretched that thin.........


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:26 p.m.

Community High is a success because it attracts above average students with highly committed parents. That's great. But to say CHS *causes* the students' success is dubious -- because only students of a certain type go there in the first place! Wouldn't other high schools be better off without those 'special' students segregated from them?


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:24 p.m.

Here is the contact info for your county commissioners, if you feel like calling to tell them not to raise taxes without taxpayer approval. Does anyone know the lowdown on the 4H and SPARK taxes -- whose pet projects were these, why did the rest of them go along with it, who owed whom what, etc.? This tax increase just seems so ludicrous there must be a good story behind it...


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:23 p.m.

Glimmertwin, do you live within a mile of an elementary school? They already are heavily used community assets. Lots of things going on there every evening, including rentals of gym facilities to people to play sports. Community High should be cut and the site sold; with Skyline on board the school no longer makes sense. Apologies to all CHS students, staff, and alumni. Teacher pensions also need to go away, replaced by 40x retirement plans.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:22 p.m.

Amen, Barry. All incredibly good points. Cut CHS? Do you guys even know anything about this school? Yeah, let's cut something that actually works around here. Great thought.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:13 p.m.

Going back over a decade, it's been pretty much the same group of people who got us to where we are today. I know this sounds a bit insensitive, but maybe it's time to clean house all the way from the County Commissioners, City Councils, Administrators, etc., by electing people who are less worried in maintaining their six figure incomes, than they are about being servants of the public interest. Many of us are struggling to make ends meet. Many out there, I believe, would be shocked to learn what many of our County, City, School Administrators actually are earning, with a cushy benefits and retirement package to boot. Enough is enough already!!!! It's time to go back to the drawing board, and that starts with cleaning house.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:08 p.m.

I have no idea what they were thinking, maybe political suicide. I could see the purpose behind the school millage more than I can any of these other pet projects.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:05 p.m.

OK - who the heck gave out the talking points that the anti-millage people are using? Cut busing? Wonderful, you've just created a logistical nightmare for the whole city - and you've passed the transportation burden for children from the community on to parents, reversing, well, decades of policy so you can save a few bucks. Kill Community? OK, I guess you didn't get to go to Community. Let's see - the building's paid for, you have happy students who may well leave the school system without the Community alternative, and the students are actually doing well. Sure, let's kill it so we can move those kids to our new music and sports free schools. HS Pay-to-Play: Oh, awesome. Let's just kill off all extracurriculars while we're at it. Because, well, we don't want kids to exercise, learn about art, or do anything either than prepare themselves to pout in a corner about how high their taxes are. Consolidate elementary schools: Sure thing. Let's put kids on buses and take them to bigger schools, oh wait, we don't want buses... Hey, let's have all mothers quit working so that they can drive their kids back and forth to school! Yay! We'll return America to the days when things were great! Why do I keep having the feeling that the anti-millage cadre is comprised in large part by people who simply did miserably in school and now are happily extending their own misery? Congratulations on sinking our county into mediocrity.

Thick Candy Shell

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:05 p.m.

Funny how the state gov. is now voting to give extra money to the schools!


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 3:02 p.m.

The days of schools being shut down for months is probably going to end. These facilities should be used for other things. Why have a fitness club when a high school has a pool, gym, weight room etc.? Community Recreation Center... why? Couldn't an existing structure do the trick? Library, not, put the library in the school facilities. Lot's of ways to turn schools into 24x7 community assets. Lots of issues, but it's time to think out of the box.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:59 p.m.

treetown, I love that we agree on the county commissioners. What are they thinking? And if you like Prater, that's OK too.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:58 p.m.

No, CSH scores well because it has the richest, whitest population of students in AAPS. If you compared the same population of students from HHS, the would score much higher than CHS. I mean to say earlier, read this post about the county commissioners raising taxes a day after the millage was defeated.

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:58 p.m. high school is best, get in line. everybody thinks their hs is is the best, therefore, don't cut it. scare tactics, that's all this is. why can't everybody take a pay cut like the involuntary one i did? at least i still have a job, many don't. yet, the wisd is trying to get more? can't get blood out of a turnip.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:57 p.m.

Dagny, I agree with your thoughts on this one, but my commish, Prater, did not. Keep him off the list. He will get my vote again.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:49 p.m.

Cutting Community high should not be an option. It is the best school in the district at producing capable students that go on to do great things after high school. Community consistently scores the highest in the district (second in the state) on standardized tests. Why? Because it is a small school with staff that care about their students. More schools could have become like CHS if the millage had passed.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:40 p.m.

This isn't fodder for armchair politics, folks. Everyone, whether you have kids in school or not, can volunteer to lessen the burden. Districts need good math substitutes, you can even make some money, those of you who know so much about numbers. Kids need tutoring after school, please volunteer at any grade level. Come volunteer to work sporting events, that will save some money. Custodians only clean rooms every other day at most, so you are welcome to come help clean schools. How about volunteering at lunch in the cafeteria? It's a good experience to be in a middle or high school cafeteria at lunch time. Would you like to mentor high school students? See if your business can partner with a school. Does your organization need to rent a room? Use the public schools. There are so many ways community members can help their schools save money; consider what you might do. It'll make you feel good and you may get some more investment in your public institutions.


Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 2:15 p.m.

Cut CHS, cut busing, increase HS pay to play, consolidate elementary schools, all in AAPS. Meanwhile, let's recall all the county commissioners. The day after we voted down the school millage, they add a ne