Saturday, May 18, 2013

Michigan school district goes broke, lays off all teachers

Cash-strapped Buena Vista School District in rural Michigan cannot guarantee parents that students will be able to return to school to finish the rest of the school year.
A school district in Buena Vista Township in rural Michigan has laid off its teachers and is not sure whether students will be able to finish the current school year.
Buena Vista School District in Saginaw, Mich., has run out of money and won't be able to pay its teachers anymore, prompting anger and concern from parents whose children are currently enrolled at the school – especially those who will be graduating this year.

At this point I don't know – I don't know what's going to happen to them," board member Randy Jackson told Michigan's

The school continued to be closed Thursday and there is no guarantee as to when students will be able to return, either for the current school year or the 2013-2014 school year.

"Front doors are still locked … the superintendent couldn't even get into the high school ... Is the school year ever, ever, ever going to resume?" asked a WNEM reporter standing outside Buena Vista High School.

Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer called on Gov. Rick Snyder to provide emergency funding to the district, saying that "Michigan's Constitution guarantees each and every child in Michigan the right to a free education."

The school currently owes about $1 million to the state and the federal government, The Detroit News reported.


More than 300 parents and teachers showed up at a special meeting Tuesday night, but left with more questions than answers, WNEM reported. The district is holding a school board meeting tonight to ask the state for emergency funding and talk about consolidation plans, a move that has been witnessed in other school districts – most recently in Chicago – struggling to cope with budget cuts and declining enrollment.

Chicago Public Schools announced in April that they plan to close 54 schools next year and shut down 61 school buildings.

Besides budget woes, Buena Vista School District's enrollment has also been shrinking and is currently down to 400 students.

The state cut off funding to the district after it was discovered that the district was mismanaging funds. According to the state, the school district, which serves a poor, mostly African-American community, continued to receive money for an alternate education program from the state even after severing ties with it in 2012.

Buena Vista School District Superintendent Deborah Hunter-Harvill – who is reportedly looking for another job herself – did not immediately return calls for comment. Her office told MSN News that she was busy preparing for tonight's meeting.

Angry parents are lashing out on Facebook about why the 27 teachers, who agreed to work for free until May 10, were let go.

"The people of BV... need to go wake these people up … bang on their doors, show up at the schools, their homes, park in their driveways, whatever it takes, to make these people accountable for this. Sitting on the sidelines would not work for me," wrote Michigan resident Peggy Mikac on WNEM's Facebook page.

The district said on its website that they couldn't allow the teachers to work without paying them: "We thank the teaching staff for their dedication, and understand their frustration. However, we must follow the law."

The district's statement says that it will continue to work with state officials to try and come up with a plan to continue educating its students, but does not go into any specifics.

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