Highland Park schools

Update 3:59 p.m.

The governor will ask the Legislature to pass emergency measures by the end of the week to allow Highland Park students and state aid payments to switch to another district or a charter school.

The governor challenged the Highland Park school board to offer its own solution or ask for a hearing this week that could wind up with the governor re-appointing an emergency manager.

3:44 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder says Highland Park schools emergency manager is being "de-activated" to comply with a court ruling.

A judge ruled last week that a state review team that recommended a takeover violated Michigan's open meetings law.

Snyder says the review will start over with an open meeting and a chance for the public to comment. The governor will announce an interim plan for the district this afternoon.

The governor says the Highland Park school board is now back in charge, but out of money. He says schools could close as soon as Monday without an emergency solution.

US Dept. Ed

Update 4:44 p.m.

From Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta

A judge has ruled that state-appointed review teams looking into the finances of the city if Detroit and the Highland Park school district broke Michigan’s open meetings law. The judge says review teams that can recommend state takeovers of local governments and school districts are public bodies that must operate in the public eye.

The ruling by Judge William Collette says the state needs to re-launch its review of the Highland Park school district, and do so in public. But there are no immediate plans to remove the state-appointed emergency manager who was placed in charge of the district two and a half weeks ago. The ruling also says future meetings of the Detroit review team – which has yet to make a recommendation -- must take place in public.

The lawsuit was filed by Highland Park school board member Robert Davis.

“This is a monumental victory for democracy,” Davis said.

It’s not clear what affect the ruling might have on the emergency managers already running four cities and the Detroit Public Schools. The state could appeal the ruling.

The emergency manager law is also facing a separate court challenge as well as a petition drive that seeks to put a referendum on the November ballot.

12:10 p.m.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An Ingham County judge has voided decisions made by a review team whose recommendations led to the appointment of an emergency manager in the Highland Park public
school system.

The decision Wednesday by Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette says the review team violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

The suit was filed by Robert Davis, a Highland Park school board member. Davis said the ruling means that Gov. Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager for the district last month is wiped out.

Messages were left with the Snyder administration seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said the ruling would be reviewed.

Collette has ruled that the state-appointed review teams should be subject to the state's Open Meetings Act.

Snyder's administration disagrees.

Associated Press

An Ingham County Court Judge has ruled that the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances must meet in public.

The ruling is a victory for opponents of Public Act 4, the state law that strengthens the powers of emergency managers in fiscally-distressed cities.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette ruled this afternoon that state-appointed local financial review teams are public bodies that must comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

State-appointed financial review teams are part of a process in determining whether a city or a school district is in a state of financial emergency.

If a financial review team declares a "financial emergency," then the state can appoint an emergency manager to run the school district or municipality.

State officials have maintained that these review teams do not have to comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Judge Collette agreed with the plaintiff in the case - Robert Davis, the board secretary of the Highland Park School District.

Davis said the state's financial review team violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act by holding private meetings, failing to post public notices for the meetings, and for failing to keep minutes of the meetings.

The Associated Press reports that Judge Collette said he was issuing a preliminary injunction saying any future state-appointed financial review team meetings must comply with the act.

Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network is following this story and will have an update later.

Governor Snyder has appointed a team to review the Muskegon Heights School District's financial records. That puts the west Michigan school district a step closer to getting an emergency manager.

The Muskegon Heights school district asked for a state review of its finances back in December.

The preliminary review found the school district was in ‘probable financial stress’, due to the district’s $8.5 million deficit.

That set the stage for the governor to appoint a state review team to scour the school district’s books. 

If an emergency manager is eventually appointed in Muskegon Heights schools, it will join school districts in Detroit and Highland Park. Emergency managers are also running things in four Michigan cities.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

On Friday, Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager to oversee the Highland Park School District. Emergency Managers are also in charge of Detroit Public Schools and the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor.

Highland Park and Detroit are in Southeast Michigan, but districts across the state are facing dire financial straits mainly because of declining student enrollment and cuts in state aid. Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley speaks with Michelle Herbon, a Senior Consultant at Public Sector Consultants, about the possibility of more emergency managers being appointed to financially struggling school districts across the states.

U.S. Dept. of Ed.

Governor Snyder named an emergency manager, Jack Marin, for the Highland Park public schools. today. His appointment will be effective on Monday, January 30.

Update 4:00 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder says it’s "unacceptable" that that Highland Park School District may not have enough money to finish the school year. Snyder made the comments following a tour of a factory in West Michigan Friday afternoon.

Highland Park Schools has already borrowed money from the state to make payroll. The district will need more money in order to pay teachers and other employees next month. But Snyder says it’s unclear where that money will come from.

“I can’t give you the answer other than to say I want to make sure these kids finish the school year and we’re going to work with the legislature or other places to see if we can really make that happen as quickly as possible," Snyder said, following the tour. 

Update 3:54 p.m.

The Highland Park school district is the sixth public entity in Michigan to be placed under the control of a state-appointed Emergency Manager.

That’s after Governor Rick Snyder concurred with the findings of a review team that the school district is deep in debt with no credible plan to fix its finances.

Jack Martin will assume the role of Highland Park public schools emergency manager on Monday. Miller is a certified public accountant and the former chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Education.

Martin said his first task will be to determine how quickly Highland Park is losing students, and how that will affect the district’s finances in the coming school year.

"We want to get an accurate forecast, as best we can, of what the student population’s going to be; try to match the expenditures to what the revenues will be; and we’ll make adjustments to expenditures as we feel are necessary to sustain the district and manage the deficit," said Martin.

Martin will have 45 days to submit a preliminary plan for addressing the deficit to the state treasurer.

3:03 p.m.

Here's more about Jack Martin from a Department of Treasury press release:

Martin is founder and chairman of Martin, Arrington, Desai & Meyers, P.C. and has 40 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. Martin was chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Education after serving as CEO and managing director of Jack Martin & Co. Certified Public Accountants and Consultants and acting CEO of Home Federal Savings Bank of Detroit.

2:03 p.m.

Michigan will have six emergency managers operating in the state.

Governor Snyder has just named an emergency manager for Highland Park public schools.

More from MPRN's Capital Bureau Chief Rick Pluta:

Governor Rick Snyder has affirmed a state of financial emergency exists in the Highland Park public schools and named an emergency manager to run the district.

The governor has named Jackie Martin to be the emergency manager.

The neighboring Detroit public school district is also being run by an emergency manager, as are the cities of Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Flint, and Ecorse.

Governor Rick Snyder says he will decide no later than tomorrow whether to place an emergency manager in charge of the Highland Park public schools.

Snyder says he understands that parents are concerned about what could happen to the school district if it is taken over. But he says it’s important the school district is able to stay open to students for the rest of the year.

"Well the main answer on all of this is let’s make sure that kids can finish the school year because Highland Park got themselves in a situation where they couldn’t meet their payroll," Snyder said.

 Snyder’s office has received phone calls from about 100 concerned parents in Highland Park since a financial review panel determined there is a financial emergency in the district.

Detroit Public Schools is the only school district in the state currently run by an emergency manager.

The governor says he wants families to be assured that Highland Park students will be able to finish the school year.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Highland Park school officials are battling to keep their school district from a state takeover.

But many parents there say they just want to know whether the district will last through the next month.

An audit shows the Highland Park school district is running an $11.2 million deficit—mostly because it’s lost more than two-thirds of its students.

In 2008, the district had 3419 students. Today, they have fewer than 1000.

Governor Rick Snyder has put Highland Park schools parents on notice that the district is in danger of closing next month.

The warning came in a letter Snyder sent to parents. It says the district’s finances have reached a crisis stage, and that Highland Park might not be able to finish the school year without state intervention.

"We were hearing lots of concerns, lots of frustration" the governor's spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, said of the letter. "And so we just wanted to make sure we were communicating directly so they could hear from the governor, and he could begin to help answer those questions as best we can at the time."

But Highland Park school board secretary Robert Davis says the letter serves little purpose other than to scare parents, "and in turn may cause some parents to take their kids out of the district, which will further cripple the Highland Park school system."

The district's cumulative deficit is more than $11 million. Two weeks ago, the state had to front the district money to meet payroll.

A state review team has recommended that Governor Snyder appoint an emergency manager to run the district. Governor Snyder is expected to make a final decision once he receives a report from the state Treasury Department from a hearing held last week, at which district officials opposed state intervention.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Highland Park school district officials are trying to convince the state not to appoint an emergency manager to run the district. A hearing today in Lansing may be their last chance.   

A state review panel says the Highland Park School District is in a ‘Financial Crisis’.   The district is $11 million in debt.   It’s student population has plunged from more than 3000 students in 2006 to less than a thousand today.    

A review panel member says the school board’s efforts at reducing their budget deficit have been “going in the wrong direction”.    

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update 4:58 pm:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon says the district’s money problems are deep and troubling. He says the state will advance the school district $188,000 so it can meet payroll tomorrow. 

"I have no comfort that the district has a handle on their finances," said Dillon. "The numbers move hourly. We have three people down there today trying to get a handle on how much they actually need for payroll. And I’m very uneasy about it, because I can’t tell you in the middle of February that they’re going to make payroll."

But school board member Robert Davis says the state has contributed to the district’s financial woes by requiring that it close a career academy that enrolled 1,500 students.

"Their plan and intent is to fold the Highland park School system into the Detroit Public School system," Davis said. "That’s what this is all about."

Highland Park Schools' student population has declined 58% percent since 2006. 

State officials say their objective is to keep the district’s doors open through the end of the year. But they say that will be difficult. The district needs a cash infusion of at least $3 million to get through the school year. But the maximum the state is allowed to advance under hardship cases is $2 million.

The district's cumulative deficit is $11.3 million. That’s about $10,000 for every student enrolled.

12:56 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a financial emergency in the Highland Park school district, Rick Pluta reports. The district will have a chance to challenge the finding at a January 17th hearing before the governor names an emergency manager.

In a statement released today, the Governor says:

“It is critical that students in the Highland Park School District get the education they need and deserve. For that to continue, the Highland Park School District must have stable finances. Through the comprehensive reviews that have been conducted, it is clear the district faces monumental financial challenges.”

On January 4th a state review  panel recommended the governor appoint an emergency manager to fix the school district’s "financial emergency." The financial review team had been looking at the Highland Park School District’s books since November. Earlier this month, Steve Carmody reported:

The panel’s report to the governor finds the school district is $11 million in the red. That works out to about $10 thousand for every student enrolled.  The school district’s deficit has grown by $3 million in just the last year. The school district’s debt has grown, as its student population has fallen. Nearly 3,200 students attended Highland Park schools in 2006. This year, fewer than a thousand students are enrolled.

Emergency managers are already running the Detroit public schools,  as well as the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. Financial review teams are also looking at Detroit and Inkster's books.

Highland Park schools could be Michigan’s second school district to get an emergency manager. The state moved a step closer to that scenario today.

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a 10-member team to comb through the troubled school district’s finances – and maybe help it avoid a state takeover.

A preliminary review of Highland Park Schools’ books wrapped up late this summer. It found “probable financial stress,” with recurring deficits, and a current deficit of more than 15 percent of the district’s general fund revenues. The state schools chief recommended the second review.

The review team has 30 days to report its findings to the governor.

Right now Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac – along with Detroit Public Schools – are under emergency managers. A secondary review of Flint’s finances just got under way.

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