Last week we discussed briefly legislation that has passed both the House and Senate that would allow the state superintendent and the state treasurer to dissolve certain school districts if they are not “financially viable” and are unable to educate students. I want to explore this further this week to help those interested in contacting their legislators. As I often do, I am using information provided by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB).
Here are some key points in the bill that are cited by MASB:
The bills would require consultation with the local Intermediate School District (ISD) before determining if the district should be dissolved.
This would only apply to districts with fewer than 2,400 and greater than 300 students.
To be eligible a district would have had a 10 percent decline in enrollment between the most recently completed school year and the one immediately preceding it.
To be eligible the district would have to be in deficit and expect that deficit to grow,
The dissolved district’s territory would be divided and reassigned to one or more receiving districts within the ISD.
Receiving districts could choose to operate the buildings of the dissolved district or to integrate students into its own system.
A financial concern in this plan is that it would create an even greater burden on the school aid fund. It would impact all districts in the state because the 18 mills homestead tax of the affected districts would be used to pay off their outstanding debt and not put toward the per pupil foundation. The 18 mills are intended to be used to help fund per pupil spending.
The school aid fund would have to make up the shortfall in the amount for per pupil funding leaving less money to pay per pupil funding to all other school districts.
These are only some of the points of interest in the bills. I would agree that there have been improvements made during the legislative process. I also agree that there are problems to be solved. Still I am concerned whether this is just a foot in the door that could easily be expanded. Why are these districts in this situation? Also I question whether all the possible solutions have been explored. Was some plan for earlier intervention closer to home studied? Have we asked whether this is the best solution for students?
More on the Common Core
A separate issue to consider is the fate of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
As has been discussed here previously, Michigan’s participation in this program is in jeopardy unless legislators act before October 1. The budget for the Department of Education (MDE) as passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor prohibits any CCSS spending unless it is specifically approved in future legislation.
Millions of dollars and many hours have been invested by educators to prepare for the implementation of this program that was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of State School Officers and adopted by the Michigan State Board of Education in 2010. Michigan joined 45 other states in adopting this plan.
A new sub committee has been formed to discuss Michigan’s participation in the CCSS during the summer months. Concerned constituents need to make their views known to their representatives. A good question is how they justify this action so late in the game. Where has the opposition been for the past three years?
Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.