Illegal contract obligates district to hire ‘multi-ethnic teachers’

Robby Soave Reporter
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A Michigan school district’s contract with its teachers violates state law and the state constitution, but officials say that altering it would be too expensive.

The teachers union contract forbids district officials from establishing charter schools, and requires schools to hire multi-ethnic teachers:

The Board and Local 1 mandate that both parties implement an Affirmative Action Program in the recruitment, hiring and retention of multi-ethnic teachers. Local 1 agrees to assist in the development of viable procedures with the use of [Michigan Education Association] and [National Education Association] resources.

Hiring – It is mutually agreed that the Board vigorously will pursue a policy of recruiting and hiring minority educators for vacancies, which may occur within the bargaining unit. Local 1 agrees to assist in the development of viable recruitment procedures, including the use of MEA resources, upon request of the Board.

The affirmative action clause violates Michigan’s constitution, which prohibits the consideration of race in public contracts, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The charter school prohibition likely violates state law.

But Deb Wahlstrom, superintendent of Mount Clemens Community Schools, said it would be too expensive to drop the offending language from the contracts. If the contract is modified, the district must pay concessions to the union, she said.

“[We] can’t afford to do it,” she said in a statement.

The contract was renewed in 2011, and will expire later this year. When that happens, the illegal portions will be scrapped, said Wahlstrom.

“As you can tell by looking at our contract, there is a lot that will come out by law,” she said.

The discovery of illegal provisions in Mount Clemens’s teachers union contract came as little surprise to Audrey Spalding, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center. She recently authored a study that discovered similarly illegal clauses in 60 percent of state school district contracts.

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