First seven questions on state form for districts in deficit all deal with union contracts
When a public school district ends the year in red ink, the Michigan Department of Education sends an 18-question form as part of the mandatory deficit-elimination plan the district has to complete.
The first seven questions on the form all have to do with union contracts and the status of negotiations, and if there were any projected savings from negotiations.
The eighth question?
"What factors caused the school district's deficit?"
Perhaps it's a subtle hint from the state to try and get the school districts to see what needs to be addressed.
“It appears that the state is subtly recognizing what Mackinac Center analysts have consistently pointed out: The primary drivers of school spending are union contracts, and only until union contracts are dealt with can school districts rectify fiscal problems,” said Michael Van Beek, education policy director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Last fall, the state released a list of 48 school districts and charter schools that were in deficit during the 2010-11 school year. Jan Ellis, the spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, said the state will know which school districts are in deficit for the 2011-12 school year by around November.