Sunday, June 21, 2015

Grounds Crew Now; Teachers' Aides Next? School Board Meeting Wednesday

You might have noticed this MLive article from June 19, 2015:

Ann Arbor Schools May Privatize Grounds Crew

As noted in the article,

Ann Arbor Public Schools may privatize its grounds crew to save up to $300,000.
The district will have to lay off 13 employees if it hires four local companies to provide grass cutting, snow removal and athletic field care.
The Board of Education on Wednesday, June 17, reviewed a proposal to hire AM Service of Ann Arbor, Great Lakes Environmental Services of Whitmore Lake, JCC Design of Whitmore Lake and Superior Lawn Care & Snow Removal of Ypsilanti to do the work.
"We believe this model of using a number of contractors to deliver services to parts of the district will help meet real time needs and increase agility in keeping grounds in really good shape," said Superintendent Jeanice Swift. (Emphasis added.)
This item will be voted on at Wednesday's (June 24th) board meeting.

Side Note:

Another item on the June 24th agenda will be the "revised" Draft Policy 5060, which addresses parents who refuse to have their children take state tests.

Here is the amended policy--do you think it is better? It does not call out any particular students. But it still maintains that the tests are mandatory, and it says the board may take "any additional actions," which I think is pretty broad.

But back to my other point.

The rumor that I have heard floating around--I have not seen any written documentation (but also I haven't looked for any)--is that the district is looking into outsourcing all of the teachers' aides in the district. Presumably that would mean making it so that another company (possibly PESG, which does the substitute teachers) would hire all of the teachers' aides and supply them to the district.

UPDATED 6/24/2015--response to this rumor from David Comsa, Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services: "There is no chance of AAPS outsourcing teaching assistants. First, the district is actively bargaining with the Paraeducator unit, which includes teaching assistants. Second, state case law considers most teaching assistants to be protected from outsourcing."

Notice the trend? The goal is to make it so that the number of employees the district is directly responsible for is as small as possible. There is a strong financial incentive for this--for all school district employees, the district is responsible for retirement costs (I believe the costs are above 25% of payroll, and the district is unable to control the amount they are required to pay--that is set by the state). It also gives the district a lot more flexibility.

However, there is certainly also a very troubling aspect to this as well. People lose their jobs, and there is no guarantee that they will be re-hired, or that their pay rates will be similar...even if they are, they will lose the opportunity for a state pension. It also distances the district from tough personnel decisions (after the initial layoff)--the district just tells the other company to do X with Y amount of money--if that leads to difficult working conditions or less pay for certain people--it is separated from the decisions of the district itself.

I recognize that the district, per pupil, gets about the same amount of money as we got thirteen years ago--and there-in lies the conundrum. On the other hand--although theoretically the services should not change, in reality I hear people complain all the time about the decline in custodial services, the decline in food service...I don't really know if the decline is real or imagined.

Can you imagine a time where the district outsourced the teachers? (Just. Asking. I have not heard of any plans to do so--and I do not mean to start any panic about that--but that is what some charter schools do.)

If you have feelings about any of this, you should share them with the Board of Education: (note new, shorter, email address!), ideally before the school board meeting on June 24th.

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  1. Public (non-charter) schools are required by state law to employ teachers directly -- I doubt the state would change that law since it's effectively how they're dealing with the MPSERS shortfall.