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Union Concessions Not Enough to Save 48 Teaching Jobs

State cuts to categorical funds for at-risk programs, bilingual learning and other programs have meant a larger deficit for Dearborn Public Schools, resulting in job cuts.

Two weeks before it must submit a balanced budget to the state of Michigan, the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education voted to pink slip 48 teachers and two support personnel at its regular Monday night meeting.

The cuts were made to offset $7 million in categorical at-risk and bilingual learning losses at the district–a figure many district officials hoped would change as budget talks continued in Lansing.

District Supt. Brian Whiston said the categorical versus general fund budget numbers have caused confusion in regard to the layoffs.

“We always said that if there were cuts in categorical funding, there would be job losses,” he said.

The layoffs will come from several buildings and at all student levels, and have been organized by seniority as specified in the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers, which represents 1,200 teachers.

Heavy Hearts

Though the teacher layoffs were mentioned only a handful of times at the meeting, the fact that 50 people will lose their jobs weighed heavily on the board, said Trustee Mary Lane.

“I hate having to do it,” she said.

Chris Sipperly, the president of the Dearborn Federation of Teachers, said some cuts were expected among the teacher’s ranks.

“You can’t negotiate how many layoffs will occur," she said, "and we don’t like to see any layoffs."

Still, Sipperly said a $7 million loss in categorical funding was difficult to overcome–but some positions could be restored if the district can prove its use of “best practices” backed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

If the district can meet four of the following five requirements, it could receive $100 more in per-pupil funding, flooding an additional $2 million into district coffers. The district must prove it has:

  • Obtained competitive bidding for at least one non-instructional service
  • Established a financial report card that is available to residents
  • Shared at least one service with another district
  • Have employees contribute a certain amount toward their own health care
  • Required the district to be the policy holder of the employee insurance policy

It remains unclear if the district can meet the final two requirements because it recently for its teachers to the DFT, which will manage the policy. The new health care trust will be managed by the Michigan AFL-CIO Public Employee Trust, which will be the policy holder.

The district will save money on the plan by contributing a fixed amount of $997 per month, per employee to the plan for the life of the labor contract.

Whiston said he believes the district will meet the final two requirements in spirit, if not technically.

“We’re getting a lot of congratulations on our health care agreement, and there are a lot of people in Lansing that think we should get the additional funding,” he said.

Business Services Director Bob Cipriano said the district’s lobbyist and the DFT lobbyist are in Lansing trying to drum up support for the funds.

Even if the extra $100 per student is granted, the district will only be able to restore 18 positions–if all parties agree to re-hire teachers. Bargaining units that have agreed to contractual pay reductions could also be restored if the district receives the funding.

Big Classes a Concern

The staff cuts come at a time when class sizes are getting bigger at the schools.

At –where one teacher will be laid off–nine classrooms have tallied more than 30 students, said Kathleen McCormick, a teacher at the school.

“This is the second year that we went over the 30-student maximum,” she said.

Lane said the big classes were indicative of the fiscal environment faced by Michigan’s schools.

“I taught in a third-world county, and we had classes that had about 16 students,” she said. “I never thought I’d see class sizes this big–not in the United States.”

Whiston said that eight teachers who have not yet been assigned to a school, but have avoided layoffs, will be deployed to schools that present severe overcrowding issues.

Sipperly said she was confident that many of the teachers on the pink slip list will be called back before school begins, but Whiston holds that many of the jobs are lost for the foreseeable future.

“Seven million is a huge amount of money,” he said. “And I’d be surprised if we handle any retirements in significant numbers because of the state incentive that was offered last year. It’s hard to see how all of them could be called back–unless we get a big gift from Lansing.”

Jon Awbrey June 29, 2011 at 09:16 PM
What can you do about it? Recall — • http://www.firericksnyder.org/ • http://www.firericksnyder.org/community/all-events-list • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Recall-Governor-Rick-Snyder/113418962065885 Repeal — • http://repealpa4.org/ • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Repeal-PA4-Emergency-Managers-Washtenaw-Area/137390633002568 • http://sites.google.com/site/rejectemergencymanagers/ • http://www.facebook.com/rejectemergencymanagers
Lee Jacobsen June 30, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Now Jon, You aren't interested in reducing spending, or saving money. If you were, the sites you list would not be viable. Just from the titles of the sites, I can see why unions do not like reform. It means they don't get a free ride anymore. Did former gov Granholm establish benchmarks at the start of her term in office to show improvements? Obviously not, since she had none and could not figure out a state budget like Snyder has. Snyder has the benchmarks on line, and the numbers will tell the story. Emergency managers will only act in an emergency, which is when there is no more money to provide basic services, and we can't print it like Obama can. Did you even bother to look at the budget that Dearborn passed, and all the 'pork' that is still in it.? http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/its-time-to-privatize-unemployment-insurance/ If private insurance companies were allowed to compete, instead of govt mandated insurance plans, millions of dollars would be saved. Oh, that's right! You don't want to save money......forgot about that. You enjoy having the govt spend it for you.
Frank Lee June 30, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Posting links to the Mackinaw center is pointless because they have not printed a single study or policy pice that has been peer reviewed. Their research is entirely funded by people and corporations who want to institutionalize economic power into political capital. This is an objective fact, no serious scholar pays any more attention to the anything the Mackinaw Center publishes than the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, or any other opinion based blog. When the Mackinaw Center peer reviews their data then maybe they can be taken seriously. As for Governor Synder yes he has lowered taxes on corporations and then raised them on retirees, he has drastically cut state funding to education, so if you are sending your children to a state college, he has raised taxes on you. His funding cuts to k-12 education took an already broken system and broken it in two. As for benchmarking, big deal he simply balanced the state budget by shifting revenue shortfalls from the state to cities and counties. So he took on big problem and made 100 little ones. Raising taxes on retirees and then sticking it to school boards at the same time lowering taxes on corporations is hardly genius. Im a conserative and I believe in personal liberty and free markets, that being said as a conservative I believe in conserving resources protecting the environment and providing for the common good. The mackinaw center simply publishes trendy social darwinisim masquerading as libertarianism.
Jon Awbrey June 30, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Lee, I can see you have a lot of reading to catch up on this Summer ... First thing off, let's get you up to speed on the facts of life about the “Emergency Mangling” of Detroit Public Schools. Here's a couple of introductory articles from the Huffington Post — Detroit Announces New Authority For Failing Schools (June 20, 2011) • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/20/detroit-announces-new-authority_n_880757.html Michigan Groups Sue Governor Snyder Over Emergency Manager Law (June 22, 2011) • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/22/michigan-groups-sue-gov-s_n_882442.html And here's a couple of reports on the Broad Foundation, that we find behind the scenes of so many current raids on public education and so prominently mentioned in the Governerd's plans, not just for Detroit, but for Michigan at large — Seattle Education Blog • “The Broad Foundation” • http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/race-to-the-top/the-broad-foundation/ Seattle Education Blog • “Eli Broad’s Last Hurrah In Detroit?” • http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/eli-broad’s-last-hurrah-in-detroit/ Yes, it will all be on the test …
Allan Smith July 14, 2011 at 07:40 PM
With "heavy hearts" we say goodbye to teachers, but with "open arms" we hire more administrators. - Dearborn Public Schools new motto See link below: http://dearborn.patch.com/articles/meeting-minutes-district-appoints-staff-discontinues-tb-tests-awards-contracts

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