Buena Vista School District

Students and teachers in the Buena Vista School District are back in the classroom today.

After a two-week closure of the Saginaw County district, all three schools in the district opened their doors Monday morning. To make up for lost instruction time, the school year will now end on June 21, instead of the scheduled June 13, MLive reported.

The district shut down after the state pulled some $400,000 in misappropriated funding.

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Buena Vista schools to reopen

Students in the Buena Vista school district will soon be heading back to the classroom. 

“The state Department of Education has approved the Buena Vista school district’s deficit elimination plan. The state will resume making aid payments, and school is expected to begin again next week for about 400 students,” Rick Pluta reports.

Unemployment rate falls and workforce grows

Michigan’s jobless rate continued to fall as 19,000 people found jobs last month, bringing the unemployment rate to 8.4% in April. The biggest gains were in the leisure, manufacturing, and health services industries while professional and business services declined. The size of the state’s workforce also grew by 2,000 people over the past year.

Department of Civil Rights faces budget cuts over mascot complaint

“The Michigan Department of Civil Rights could see its budget cut by $3 million over its stance on American Indian-themed school mascots. The department recently filed a complaint with the federal government over the mascots … Lawmakers in the state House have introduced a bill that would take money from the department and put it into a fund to help schools pay for any mascot changes,” Jake Neher reports.

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

A public school in Michigan closing before the year ends isn't just a state story.

The Washington Post picked up on the troubles of the Buena Vista school district in a piece by Lyndsey Layton today.

Layton looks at how often these kinds of closings happen around the country:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Students at Saginaw County's Buena Vista school district may be back in the classroom soon. The state has approved the district's plan to bring itself out of debt.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has approved the release of state aid funds to the Buena Vista school district.

The district hasn't held class since May 3 because it ran out of money to pay its teachers. Last night the Buena Vista board of education approved a deficit elimination plan.

Flanagan says he is now encouraging the local school board and administration to reopen the doors as soon as possible. The state will release state aid to Buena Vista on May 20th, allowing the district to make payroll on May 24th.

The aid will put an end to any discussion of a “Plan B” that was developed earlier this week to have Buena Vista students use federal money to attend a skills camp over the summer.

The schools will be open today for those students who qualify for free meals.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Albion School Board voted last night to close the district’s high school.

Beginning this fall, the mid-Michigan district will only serve students in grades K through eight.

Some students cried.  Others just shook their heads, after the school board voted 5 to 1, with one abstention, to close Albion High School.

School board members said repeatedly they didn’t want to close the school, but a projected million dollar budget deficit could not be ignored.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Battle Creek State Senator Mike Nofs says he doesn’t think higher than expected revenue in the school aid fund should be used to bail out struggling school districts.

Nofs says at today’s revenue estimating conference, state officials will announce the school aid fund has nearly $100 million more than predicted.

Nofs expects there will be push to use that money to help the struggling Pontiac and Buena Vista school districts. But he says that’s not a good idea.

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista School District unceremoniously shut down ten days ago, sending staff and students home for the year after the district ran out of money.

At Tuesday night’s emergency school board meeting there was almost universal confusion about what happens next. 

The school board unanimously approved a deficit elimination plan they hope will allow state aid payments to start up again so students can get back in the classroom. 

If that doesn't work, the board grudgingly approved a plan for a summer "skills building camp," in lieu of traditional classroom time.

Nobody at the meeting seemed very happy about that option.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An entire school district closing before the school year ends is a bit of a black eye for public education in Michigan.

Just on perception alone, you would think politicians and administrators would jump to fix the problem. Instead, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett pointed out, many just put up their hands.

Now, some news of movement.

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Buena Vista could hold summer camps for students

There could be a solution for the students in Saginaw County’s Buena Vista district to finish out the school year.  A plan to use federal funds to run voluntary “skills camps” that focus on reading, math, and writing will be presented this evening to the local school board.

"The Buena Vista superintendent says it’s a creative solution that would allow students to finish out the school year," Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

Man with pressure cooker arrested at Detroit Metro Airport

On Saturday Hussain al Khawahir was taken into custody at the Detroit Metro Airport. He tried to enter the US from Saudi Arabia with an altered passport, and lied to security officers about why he was carrying a pressure cooker. Al Khawahir will have a bond hearing this afternoon, reports Michigan Radio's Kate Wells.

Detroit Mayor to make announcement about future

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has scheduled an announcement for today at noon. Bing's spokesman Bob Warfield said that Bing would "make a major announcement about his political future." Today is the deadline to file for a second 4-year term as mayor, the Associated Press reports.

State officials announced over the weekend that they'll lend money to Pontiac schools to avert a pay-less payday.

But, there's no resolution in Buena Vista Township where that school system abruptly shut down after running out of money. On today's show: a temperature check on school funding across Michigan - just how many districts are close to the financial edge?

And Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr joined us today. He released a report on the city's disastrous finances. The State's Emergency Manager law requires this report to be issued  45 days after Orr's appointment.

We also talk about what Marquette, Michigan is doing right. "Placemaking" is leading to efforts to create more livable, vibrant and creative communities. We wanted to find out where "placemaking" is working and how cities across Michigan could benefit. Arnold Weinfeld, the director of Strategic Initiatives at the Michigan Municipal League, joined us to talk about this effort.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista school district will try to run summer camps to help students affected by the sudden cancelation of classes for the balance of the school year.

That's one of the decisions today from a meeting of state and local education officials.

The shut-down will not stop eligible seniors from graduating, or other students from advancing to the next grade. The district in Saginaw County will try to run four- to six-week camps over the summer break to help students make up what they missed, and prepare for the coming school year.

The money for those camps will not come from the state, but from federal funds.

The Buena Vista district abruptly ceased operations earlier this month. That was after the state cut off aid payments because of debts owed by the district.

photo of Students in class at Waterford Mott High School.
courtesy: Mott High School

With reports of Buena Vista Schools closing a month early due to a lack of funding, we talked about education in Michigan on today's show.

How did Buena Vista find itself in this position? And, could this happen to other schools soon?

As we picked apart what's going on in school districts across Michigan, we were joined by Tom Watkins, Michigan's former State Superintendent and Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

To listen to the full discussion, click the link above.

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Detroit is worse off than we thought

"Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager is painting a bleak financial picture. Kevyn Orr's first report says Detroit's net cash position was negative $162 million as of April 26 and that the projected budget deficit is expected to reach $386 million in less than two months. That's more than the city's estimate" reports the Associated Press.

Pontiac schools might be saved; no such luck for Buena Vista

The state is expected to release a payment as soon as today that will keep the Pontiac school district from declaring bankruptcy according to a letter sent to the district last week by the state Department of Education.

"There is still no plan to get 400 kids in the Buena Vista district back to school. Buena Vista closed its doors abruptly after losing a monthly payment because the district owes the state money. " Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

A new bill would reward teacher performance

"Michigan teachers' performance in the classroom would play a bigger role in the amount they get in their paychecks under a proposal being debated in the state House. Supporters argue that rewarding teachers who perform better and moving away from a system that rewards seniority will improve teachers and benefit students" reports the Associated Press.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

State officials announced over the weekend that they will lend money to Pontiac schools, and avert a payless payday there this week.

But there’s still no resolution in Buena Vista Township, where the school system abruptly shut down after running out of money a month before the end of the school year. So teachers, parents and students in the tiny school district near Saginaw are trying to figure out what to do next.      

“I hope the school district can work something out there,” Gov. Rick Snyder said late last week about a plan to educate Buena Vista’s 400 students.

State signs plan to help ailing Pontiac schools

May 11, 2013
pontiac.k12.mi.us / Pontiac School District

Michigan's top education official has signed off on a plan to help the beleaguered Pontiac School District.

www.schoolbussafety.net

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss a bill to expand Medicaid, how school districts will no longer collect union dues from teachers, and the financial trouble with Buena Vista and Pontiac schools.

Kalkaska schools

No doubt, public schools in Michigan are struggling.

Around 400 students in the Buena Vista school district in Saginaw have been shut out after the district announced they couldn't make payroll.

And it was revealed yesterday that Pontiac schools are close to running out of money and might have to close their doors early.

Each week, we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week the Buena Vista School District closed due to a lack of funds. The state took away funding because the district was taking money from the state for a program they were no longer operating.

Teachers in that district offered to work for free, but the district closed anyway. Now, the state says their hands are tied.

"Well this is a big issue. We haven't had a school district close because of lack of funding for 20 years. That was Kalkaska in 1993, which really precipitated the passage of Proposal A, school finance reform. Buena Vista is a small district...and these 400 kids have to be in the classroom. I don't think there is any question about that in anybody's mind. And, the state and local officials are going to have to figure out a way  to get these children back into a classroom immediately," said Sikkema.

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Wolf hunt approved

"There will be a wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula this fall. The state Natural Resources Commission OKed the hunt yesterday," Steve Carmody reports.

Pontiac and Buena Vista schools in financial trouble

"A Michigan report says the Pontiac School District's finances are in bleak shape and the district might not be able to make payroll soon. The district faces a  $37.7 million deficit. Meanwhile, the Buena Vista School District shut down this month after it ran out of money and couldn't pay teachers," the Associated Press reports.

Medicaid expansion proposed in House

"Republicans in the state House have introduced a bill to overhaul and expand Medicaid in Michigan. Among other things, it would limit able-bodied adults to four years in the program," Jake Neher reports.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Saginaw area school district that's closed its doors has now asked the state to review its finances.

That's the first step toward a state appointed emergency manager.

But the move does not guarantee the District's 400 students will be back in class anytime soon.

The Buena Vista school board heard from parents and students last night, angry about the abrupt and apparent early end of the school year.

“If we don’t get these kids back in school…we’re going to be the ones who destroyed their lives,” one upset father told the school board. 

Christopher Webb / Flickr

It’s day four of no school for Saginaw-based Buena Vista School District, as the district prepares to declare a financial emergency.

As Mark Brush reported on Tuesday, the school district canceled classes earlier this week after teachers were laid off. The layoffs come after the district of about 450 students learned the state was withholding funding for April, May and June.

cncphotos / flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss possible changes to the Michigan Merit Curriculum, finances and teacher layoffs at Buena Vista schools, the possibility of Michigan Representative Mike Rogers being the next FBI director, and Governor Rick Snyder's declaring that nearly a quarter of Michigan is in a state of disaster from flooding.

Teachers at Buena Vista School District have voted to work without pay for a week. 

They hope the district and the state can figure out a way to keep the doors open through the end of the school year.

The Saginaw area district lost its state aid after officials discovered the school system accepted money for a program it no longer operated.

The state is withholding the district's March, April, and May payments - leaving the already-distressed district without money for payroll.

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