Buena Vista School District

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Saginaw school board is expected to vote tonight on a deficit elimination plan.

The plan calls for major changes to the district, which is facing a multimillion dollar deficit.

The state education department is threatening to withhold the district’s February state aid payment unless a new deficit elimination plan is submitted by Monday.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s the first day for school for tens of thousands of Michigan students.

The drumbeat of a new school year literally began bright and early this morning in Marshall, as hundreds of students packed the school’s gymnasium.

Among them were about 140 students from Albion.   Albion school officials decided to close that district’s high school last spring to save money.

Dan Luciani is Marshall’s high school principal.  He says the transition has been going well today despite some crowded classrooms.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the school year for tens of thousands of Michigan school children.

For many kids, the year is starting in a different school district then they attended last year.

About a thousand Inkster children will be attending classes this fall in four different Wayne County school districts. The state dissolved the Inkster public school district over the summer because of the district’s chronic financial problems.

The same thing happened to the Buena Vista school district. The bulk of its students will take classes in Saginaw classrooms.

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Buena Vista school district has been dissolved

The Saginaw Intermediate School District board voted to close the Buena Vista School District yesterday. The nearly 400 students will be split up it among the Saginaw, Bridgeport-Spaulding and Frankenmuth districts. According to MLive,  261 students attend the part of the Buena Vista district that the Saginaw schools are absorbing and 135 the Bridgeport-Spaulding schools' section; there are no students in the rural area that Frankenmuth is taking.

Willow Run could still be saved

The deadline to present funds for the preservation of a portion of the former Willow Run bomber plant was originally tomorrow, August 1. However, the trust set up to oversee properties owned by a pre-bankruptcy General Motors announced yesterday that it's extending the deadline until October 1, the Detroit Free Press reports. The Save the Bomber Plant campaign has raised $4.5 million toward the $8 million cost of preserving 175,000 square feet of the plant and turning it in to the new home of the Yankee Air Museum.

Detroit streetcar line has chosen construction manager

Developers of a $140 million streetcar line planned for a 3.3-mile course through the heart of Detroit have selected Stacy and Witbeck Inc. to serve as construction manager and general contractor, according to the Detroit News. Groundbreaking on the project could take place in the fall. The streetcar line is scheduled to start running in late 2015. Officials have said they don't believe that Detroit's bankruptcy case will affect the privately managed streetcar line.

Wayne RESA

Updated, 9:40 p.m.  The Board of the Saginaw Intermediate School District has voted to dissolve Buena Vista Public Schools, and redraw nearby district boundaries to absorb its students.  Students will be accepted by the Frankenmuth, Saginaw and Bridgeport-Spaulding districts. 

Inkster Public Schools no longer exists - and Buena Vista School District will soon join its fate.

A state law aimed at swiftly addressing the two districts' financial problems required their immediate dissolution.

Wayne County RESA Superintendent Chris Wygant says he disagrees with the state legislature's decision to draft the law in such a way that it included Inkster.  He says an emergency manager appointment would have sufficed.

"But now we're trying to shift our thinking from all that adult stuff into what's really best for these children."

Wygant's agency dissolved the Inkster district last week, and redrew the boundaries of surrounding districts in order to absorb its roughly 1700 students, who will attend either Westwood, Wayne-Westland,  Romulus or Taylor school districts.

The Saginaw Intermediate School District will vote to eliminate the Buena Vista School District on Tuesday. 

"Transportation is a major issue, as we try to equalize as best we can," says Saginaw ISD Superintendent Richard Syrek. 

He says two of the biggest districts that will likely absorb many of Buena Vista's students are a long bus ride away.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Buena Vista schools will become the second district to be permanently dissolved under a new state law this week.

After Buena Vista shut down without warning in May, state legislators decided they needed an additional tool to deal with fiscal emergencies besides the emergency manager law.

The new law requires financially troubled districts to prove they have enough money to make it through an entire school year. If not, they can be dissolved. That happened to Inkster's school district last week.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the legality of Detroit's filing for bankruptcy, Judge Steven Rhodes and the first federal bankruptcy hearing today, and the fate of Buena Vista and Inkster school districts.

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Buena Vista and Inkster school districts to be dissolved

The state is moving ahead to dissolve the Inkster and Buena Vista school districts. Both districts failed to meet a deadline yesterday to prove they could keep their doors open next school year. Now state officials say it could be a matter of days before the districts are dissolved, Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Protesters arrested at pipeline worksite

Enbridge energy is building a 285 mile pipeline across Michigan that will carry tar sands oil. The pipeline will replace the one that ruptured three years ago. Yesterday, protesters chained themselves to heavy equipment at a worksite southeast of Lansing. They say the new pipeline will present an environmental threat. Twelve people were arrested at a protest yesterday, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports.

Will Detroit retirees see pension cuts?

A federal bankruptcy court will now be the scene for some huge decisions about the future of Detroit which filed for Chapter Nine protection last week. One of the key issues is whether retirees will see their benefits cut. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett has more.

Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

The Buena Vista and Inkster Public School districts will be dissolved. Both districts missed a 5pm deadline today to prove they had enough money to keep doors open next school year.

Richard Syrek is superintendent of the Saginaw Intermediate School District, which will be responsible for dissolving Buena Vista schools. He says the ISD plans to hold a community meeting Wednesday evening.

“So they can give us some idea of where they would like to go to school next year. Because we have a short period of time at this time to make a decision on what the boundaries are going to be. So we’d like their input.”

Syrek says a number of surrounding school districts say they can accommodate students from Buena Vista in the fall.

Officials with Inkster Public Schools said Comerica Bank was willing to extend a loan to the district. But they say it fell through because state officials would not approve Inkster’s deficit elimination plan first.

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Detroit files for bankruptcy

Governor Rick Snyder has approved Detroit’s bankruptcy filing.  It is now the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. History.  Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta reports that “the governor says bankruptcy will ultimately offer creditors some assurances on how much they will be paid. A federal judge still has to approve the request.”

University of Michigan grants in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants

Yesterday, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved the provision of in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.  Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports that “undocumented students will have to show they attended middle school and high school in Michigan to get the lower tuition rate.”  This comes after two years of lobbying from activists and undocumented students.

Last chance for Inkster and Buena Vista school districts

The Inkster and Buena Vista school districts have until Monday evening to prove that they can finance the 2013-2014 school year.  If funds cannot be found, the districts will then be closed.  Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta reports that “if Inkster and Buena Vista are shut down, their students would go to other schools in the intermediate school district.”

Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

The financially troubled Michigan school districts of Inkster and Buena Vista have until 5 p.m. Monday, July 22 to prove they have the money to run their school districts and that they have plans to eliminate their deficits.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon and Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan informed the districts of that deadline today.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

One hundred years ago, the state of Michigan had more than 7,000 local school districts.

There are slightly more than 800 school districts today, and many of them are struggling with their finances.

Today, State Superintendent Michael Flanagan outlined a plan he says would save money.

He wants more school services consolidated at the county level.

Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

Small school districts with big money troubles could be broken up by the state under a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday.

Saginaw County’s Buena Vista and metro Detroit’s Inkster could be the first districts dissolved and folded into their neighbors under the new law, MPRN's Rick Pluta reports.

Governor Snyder says that the review of the districts is proceeding quickly, so students and their families will know where they’re attending classes in the fall.

“We’re talking days, not months,” Snyder said.

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This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss Governor Snyder and Randy Richardville's final efforts to expand Medicaid, a bill recently signed to dissolve financially struggling school districts in Michigan, and another ballot initiative to ban wolf hunting.

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Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law which would allow the state to consolidate small, financially struggling school districts with neighboring districts. Inskter in metro Detroit and Buena Vista in Saginaw County would be the first districts affected. Snyder also announced that a work group would be trying to develop a better system for fixing schools with looming financial problems.

"There is a new petition drive to put a referendum on a wolf-hunting law on the November 2014 ballot. If it’s successful, this would be the second ballot challenge to a Michigan wolf hunt. This drive takes aim at the new hunting law adopted after a previous ballot campaign turned in enough petitions to suspend the earlier wolf-hunting law," Rick Pluta reports.

The Detroit City Council is holding off on replacing its leadership over lingering legal questions. The Council will vote next week on who will replace Charles Pugh as Council President. Pugh has been missing for several weeks, and he has been stripped of his pay and responsibilities. The Council will also select a President Pro-Tem, its second-highest leadership position.

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

Last night, Buena Vista School District held meetings to discuss two important issues.

Overall, while the board made decisions for the 2013-2014 school year assuming the school district would open this coming fall, the future of the district depends on whether or not higher ups decide to dissolve the struggling school system.

First, the board made decisions on the school district’s budget and layoffs.

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Michigan doesn't need to clear new election laws with the federal government

"The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a key part of a voting rights law means the state of Michigan will no longer have to clear new election laws with the federal government," Rick Pluta reports.

Two counties, Buena Vista in Saginaw County and Clyde in Allegan county, were covered by the federal Voting Rights Act after failing to provide adequate help to Spanish-speaking voters in the 1970s.

Kevyn Orr denies medical leave for City Council president

Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr has denied City Council President Charles Pugh's request for medical leave. Pugh has been absent from Council meetings for a few days, and he has not returned phone calls. Orr says Pugh must report to work by 5:00 pm on Wednesday, or be stripped of his salary and responsibilities.

Buena Vista School District lays off most teachers and staff

The Board of Education for the Buena Vista School District near Saginaw approved layoffs for nearly all of its teachers and staff on Tuesday.

"School officials the district will have about $2,000 as of July 5. Board President Randy L. Jackson says the district still is making plans for fall classes. The board approved an application to request a $2.5 million loan from the state to help keep running," according to the Associated Press.

Check back later for more coverage on Michigan's six ballot proposals.
Flickr

As Rick Pluta reported earlier, two Michigan townships could be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act announced today.

The Voting Rights Act requires that the federal government approve any changes to voting procedures in areas with a history of discrimination.

In Michigan, Buena Vista Township and Clyde Township were both required to submit any proposed changes to their voting rules to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Voting Rights Act covered areas where more than 5% of the population spoke a language other than English. In these areas, bilingual ballots were required. Both Buena Vista Townships and Clyde Townships had Hispanic populations above 5%.

An English-only ballot in these places was considered to be a discriminatory 'device', according to the The New York Times.

Zane McMillin of MLive reports on some of the requirements Clyde Township had to follow:

Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

The Michigan House has given final approval to bills that will allow the state to dissolve small, struggling school districts.

The legislation now goes to Governor Rick Snyder.

The first two districts affected would be Inkster and Buena Vista.

They’re small, losing students, and don’t have enough money to open in the fall. Republicans say the legislation will ensure students have a place to go when classes begin. They also hope it will encourage struggling districts to consolidate.

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Medicaid vote delayed

Governor Rick Snyder called out Republican state Senators for taking their summer recess before voting on Medicaid expansion.  He is requesting that lawmakers return to vote on the legislation.  Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher quotes Governor Snyder as saying “Please come do your job.  Please come take a vote.  Please come vote ‘yes.’”

School budget bill in Governor's hands

Bills allowing the state to dissolve debt-ridden school districts heads to Governor Snyder’s desk today.  They were approved yesterday by the state House, with votes following party lines.  Rick Pluta reports that this may enable the state to quickly shut down the Buena Vista and Inkster school districts. 

Bridges in need of repair

1300 bridges in Michigan have been judged unsafe in a new study from Transportation for America.  Jeff Cranson with the Michigan Department of Transportation believes that Governor Snyder’s 1.2 billion-dollar road investment bill will help fix the problem.

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Governor cuts trip short

Governor Rick Snyder will return early from his trip to Israel today in order to lobby for Medicaid expansion. Snyder will encourage fellow Republicans to pass the legislation. “Today is the last day for lawmakers to pass Medicaid expansion before their two-month summer break,” reports Jake Neher.

Teachers protest education legislation

Michigan teachers rallied in Lansing yesterday to protest legislation that would allow state officials to close struggling school districts.  According to the Associated Press, “the legislation lets the state superintendent and treasurer dissolve a district with 300 to 2,400 students if certain criteria are met.”

General Motors receives high ratings

For the first time ever, General Motors topped the Initial Quality Survey released by automotive tracking firm J.D. Power.  Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports that GM received a better score than any other corporation in the study.  She says "people are reporting very few mechanical problems.  Most automakers have drummed out serious engine and transmission defects from their cars."

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

To add to the woes of public education in Michigan, six new school districts are running deficits.

Forty-nine was the record, now make it 55 school districts – from the Traverse Bay Area to Wayne County – with deficits.

More from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says declining enrollment is the most-common issue in the deficit districts. That’s led to a loss of state funding.

Flanagan says schools do need more resources, but most are keeping their budgets balanced. The ones that don’t, he says, are a rarity.

Chart by Lucy Perkins, and Mark Brush.
Lucy Perkins, Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are working on legislation they hope will prevent another crisis like the one in the Buena Vista school district. Students there sat at home while school was closed for two weeks last month because the district couldn’t afford to pay its teachers. Buena Vista is not alone; a number of districts have had problems keeping their doors open because of financial problems this year.

Twenty seven seniors from Buena Vista High School graduated yesterday. After the school district's difficult year and budget crisis, the graduation was a happy event for the school and community. The future of the school district remains uncertain.

It was a payless payday after all, for teachers in the Buena Vista School District on Friday.

After a two-week shutdown of the district, teachers returned to the job on Monday.

State officials had said they would oversee how the troubled district spent its state aid.

David Crim is with the Michigan Education Association.

Ann Arbor Public Schools / http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/academics/files/pre3.jpg

In case you've been living under a rock the last couple of months, many Michigan schools are in financial crisis.

It's not just separate outbreaks. It's an epidemic. Buena Vista had to shut down for two weeks when they ran out of money to pay staff. Albion is closing its high school.

About 50 districts are on the state's financial watch list (as in, watch-out-these-guys-could-go-under).

Now, Ann Arbor, the artsy cosmopolitan Disney Land of public school systems, is feeling woozy.

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista School District reopened on Monday after closing for two weeks due to a financial crisis. 

Of the 400 students that attended the school district before the closure, 77.5 percent have returned, according to Lindsay Knake at MLive:

Superintendent Deborah Hunter-Harvill said the there are 339 students back in school this week, including 151 students at Doerr Child Development Center, 97 students at Phoenix Science & Technology Center and 91 students at the high school.

"We have to keep working to receive high school students back," she said. 

The high school had about 160 students prior to the school closings, and is missing 40 to 50 students including the 25 graduating seniors, Hunter-Harvill said. There are 29 students missing at Doerr and 10 missing at Phoenix.

"Come back to us," Hunter-Harvill asked students at a community meeting on Tuesday, May 21. "Believe in us."

Knake also reports that five employees who were laid off were recalled:

For the first time in two weeks, teachers are back in the business of teaching and students are back in the business of learning in the Buena Vista school district near Saginaw.

That's after the district had to close school doors because it couldn't meet payroll. On today's show: just how bad are finances for school districts across the state? Could your district be next?

Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing, and Eric Scorsone, an economist at Michigan State University, talked with us about Michigan school finances and whether consolidation is a viable solution.

And, Buena Vista’s high school men’s basketball coach spoke about how the school is doing now that it has reopened.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan schools have been in headlines for a while now: For many, the mention of Buena Vista schools instantly calls up an image of a closed public school.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Eric Scoresone, an economist at Michigan State University, and Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing.

One of the biggest problems for schools is receiving funding based on a per student basis, Richard said.

"There were 1,000 students at Buena Vista in 2009-2010, and now there are only 400. You can only cut so quickly and if you don't have kids in seats then you are forced to make challenging decisions."

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In the Buena Vista school district, teachers are back in the business of teaching and students are back in the business of learning for the first time in two weeks.

It has been two weeks since the Buena Vista school board laid off all but three staff members and closed down the schools, because there was just no money to keep things running.

It took a new deficit-elimination plan and the state releasing three months of state aid that had been withheld to recoup funding for a program for incarcerated youth. The district had stopped running the program, but had not notified Lansing.

It's convoluted and confusing, but in all of these news stories and headlines there is one crystal-clear reality: students are suffering.

So are their teachers, who actually offered to work without pay.

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