Education
11:14 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Michigan school district out of money, closes doors today

The financial storm has been brewing at the Buena Vista School District outside of Saginaw for some time, but it came to a head today.

The Buena Vista School District announced that the school is closed today and that teachers will be laid off.

A community meeting is expected to be held at 6 p.m tonight.

The District has faced declining enrollment at a time when public education funds are being cut in the state.

MLive's Lindsay Knake reports that this year's enrollment is less than 450 students.  In 1998, there were 1,745 students in the Buena Vista School District.

From a letter to the community on the District's website:

As you may know, the Buena Vista School District has been struggling with declining enrollment and decreased state and other funding for the past several years. During this time, the Board of Education has done its best to provide a quality education for all students.

Unfortunately, the cost of providing a quality educational program has increased, while we have seen a significant decrease in our revenues. Thus, the District has run a deficit.

The closing comes after school district officials said they discovered last week that they wouldn't be receiving any state aid for the months of April, May and June. The district was receiving money from the state for a teacher training program the district did not participate in. According to MLive's Knake, the state stopped state aid in an effort to recoup more than $400,000 in overpayment. From MLive: 

Now, administrators are meeting with teachers to figure out a plan for the year, he said. The district cancelled classes for Tuesday because teachers didn't want to come to work after being laid off, he said. Jackson said the Board of Education members made the decision to lay off teachers to they could start to receive unemployment.

The Michigan Education Association, the state's teacher's union, said the school board voted at an emergency meeting last night to lay off teachers despite an offer from teachers to continue to work without a guarantee of pay. 

In the statement, MEA President Steve Cook called out the school board and the state of Michigan:

“Faced with a selfless offer of help from their employees to continue working, without the guarantee of a paycheck next payday, Buena Vista’s school board and administration gave up on their students and employees and laid everyone off.  

“Aside from the time to come up with a solution with the state, the Buena Vista Education Association and the MEA offered our professional assistance in coming up with a plan that would help lead the district out of deficit.  Tonight’s clear response?  

“Thanks, but no thanks."

The school district says it's taking the initial steps to confirm a "financial emergency" in the district. That would trigger state action under the new emergency manager law.