school budgets

"This is why I hate Ann Arbor's bigotry," one Whitmore Lake parent whispered to her neighbor at an information meeting today to discuss whether Ann Arbor schools should annex the Whitmore Lake school district. 

So yeah, things got a little heated towards the end. 

But the first chunk of the meeting was spent tackling parents' questions about how the logistics and numbers would play out.

Ann Arbor Board of Education President Deb Mexicotte kicked off the event with her argument for annexation: right now, the Whitmore Lake district is barely operating in the black.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school board members last night approved a budget for next year.

The district’s superintendent says Flint schools may be close to reaching bottom with its new budget.

Flint schools have been struggling with a declining student enrollment and budget problems for years.

The budget approved last night includes closing four schools and laying off around 150 employees.

Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins says more cuts may be needed, if enrollment slides even further.

Marshall High School
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Albion students are a step closer to knowing where they’ll be going to high school this fall.

Albion High School is closing for budget reasons.    The district will continue to provide K through 8 education. 

The Marshall school board voted last night to open its high school to Albion’s students.  Albion’s school board will vote on the cooperative agreement next week.    

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A community activist is making a unique protest, in hopes of rallying people in Albion to fight the closure of their high school.

With a kiss from one of his supporters, Bobby Holley started crawling.   He intends to crawl, on his hands and knees, the 30 miles from Battle Creek to Albion.   

He says he wants to rally the people of Albion, so they will fight the decisions to close their high school

Chicago 2016 photos / Creative Commons

A Kent County judge has ruled that taxpayers cannot sue school districts and teachers’ unions who agreed not to privatize any employees. The taxpayers say the schools and unions entered an illegal employment contract when the districts agreed not to privatize any employees in exchange for concessions in pay and health benefits. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s new Legal Foundation represented the taxpayers in the case.

The judge didn’t disagree with the Mackinac Center, but ruled only the parties in the contract – the unions or the school districts – had standing to file suit. And state law dictates the Michigan Employment Relations Commission must hear any unfair labor practice claims.

If you had any doubts about how difficult the situation is for local governments these days, consider this. Even before they tackle the budget, our lawmakers in Lansing have been working hard on new emergency financial manager legislation.

Yesterday, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a package of bills designed to make it easier to appoint emergency financial managers to run troubled cities and school districts.  The legislation also gives those managers broad new powers. The Senate is expected to easily approve this as well.

Lester Graham

The way we pay for schools changed a lot back in 1994 when voters passed Proposal A. Before Proposal A, much of the support for the schools came from local property taxes. But voters passed increase after increase and in some districts property taxes got so high that people, especially senior citizens, couldn't afford to live in their homes. Michigan had some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

Lester Graham

School districts across the state have been cutting staff and freezing teacher pay to get through budget cuts made by the state.

Iris Salters is President of the Michigan Education Association, a labor union. She says teachers and other school officials are dealing with the cuts, but it's getting to the point where it's affecting the education your kids are getting.

Lester Graham

Michigan legislators hear from educators all the time about money for schools. But legislators, for the most part, are not hearing from parents and other taxpayers.

Tom White is with the SOS (Save Our Students Schools and State), a coaltion of education managers, the P-T-A and others. He says until the public really pressures lawmakers with protests, phone calls and petitions (what the legislators refer to as blood in the streets'), not much is going to be done about more money for schools.

Lester Graham

Getting your budget cut is no fun, and that's exactly what's happened to schools in Michigan. Generally speaking, educators know why that's happened. Michigan's economy tanked and that's affected the tax dollars coming in for schools.

Steve Carmody

You can hardly find a bar in Michigan that doesn't feature video screens offering you a chance to get rich and help Michigan schools. The lottery has done such a good marketing job of telling players they're helping Michigan schools that people have an inflated idea of how much the lottery money helps.

David Martell is the Executive Director of Michigan School Business Officials. He says it's true the Lottery does help.

Lester Graham

Michigan's schools are required by law to have a budget by June 30th. The legislature doesn't have to complete its budget until September 30th. So for the schools, it's hard to figure out a budget when you don't know how much money you're going to get from the state.

"I mean, that's crazy," said Tom White, Chair of a group called SOS (Save Our Students Schools and State), "We don't know until it's so late in our budgeting year, because every year the legislature appropriates funds, but they don't get around to it in a timely fashion.