State Demands: Smaller schools hit the hardest 2015.03.18

As state officials exert more control over Michigan’s local school districts, it quickly becomes obvious that the attention is directed to the larger districts—larger, wealthier districts in particular.

Demands from Lansing often lead to new spending requirements that cut school districts’ dwindling resources even further.

An example of the governor’s focus became apparent when Morenci and Waldron school officials recently looked at cooperative efforts.

When most Observer readers went to high school, chemistry was considered a higher level class that college-bound students took. Today all students are required to complete chemistry—and all students are expected to go to college despite the lack of a skilled workforce for industries in the area. 

Larger school districts can offer two different chemistry courses: one for students who don’t have the academic skills to master a traditional chemistry class and another for those who need to understand the material for college work.

Smaller district don’t have the students or the teachers to take that route. What’s the option—end up with a lot of failures or ease up on the traditional chemistry class curriculum?

There’s not much good news coming from Lansing for public school districts. The governor is moving the office of school reform from the education department to the capitol building for his staff to be in charge. A quarter billion dollars in school money was transferred out to cover a shortfall in the general fund after business taxes were reduced.

The emergency manager assigned to the Detroit public school system recently resigned and, despite continuing problems there, was given the remainder of a $50,000 performance bonus.

Morenci superintendent Mike McAran wondered what the bonus would mean to the this district. Divide it by the number of local students and you get $75—the same as the governor’s proposed increase in per-pupil funding for next year. Decreases in other areas of school funding will likely erode the $75 payment as costs continue to increase. 

It’s getting tougher and tougher for many districts to survive as the state continues to ask for more but offers less.