It would appear that the financial situation at Ypsi Public Schools is even more dire than we’d been led to believe, and the State is demanding that immediate, drastic action be taken. The following comes from AnnArbor.com:
…Ypsilanti was anticipated to have a combined two-year $6.38 million deficit at the end of 2011-12. However, in March, school officials said Ypsilanti faced a deficit of about $9.4 million, including the district’s original $4.9 million from 2010-11…
The problems stemmed from figures provided by the former chief financial officer, David Houle. The board voted not to renew Houle’s contract in November.
“We had to recast the entire budget… When we figured out it wasn’t a couple hundred thousand dollars (short), we self-reported the problem to the state,” (Superintendent Dedrick) Martin said, adding that Michigan officials were willing to work with the district to set the May 8 deadline for remediation.
However, district business manager Kelli Glenn said the state’s patience with YPS is wearing thin. She added school officials were told there could be no more delaying of the DEP as Ypsilanti has done in the past.
She said the consequences of not submitting a plan would be the state withholding Ypsilanti’s state aid, in which case the district could not issue payroll due to its lack of funds…
Local control and employee paychecks could be at stake if the Ypsilanti Board of Education fails to approve a new deficit elimination plan (DEP) by May 8.
Ypsilanti Public Schools has until Tuesday to overhaul its DEP and submit it to the state, after botched figures and projections voided the plan the board passed in December…
The preceding story was written last Wednesday night, after an emergency meeting of the Ypsilanti Board of Education. My friend Maria, who has written here in the past on school-related issues, attended the meeting, and just sent the following report, in hopes that it might encourage others to show up tomorrow (Monday) night, and speak out on behalf of Ypsilanti students, who are clearly going to be adversely affected if the Deficit Elimination Plan (DEP) being considered, which calls for closing three more schools, and firing as many as 93 educators and support staff, is passed… Here’s Maria’s letter:
Last Monday, our Board of Education representatives attended a budget presentation that focused on the Administration’s recommendations for the revised Deficit Elimination Plan. As you know, because of accounting “anomalies,” the deficit that we thought we had ballooned into a much larger number (from $4 million to over $9 million projected).
Apparently, at last Monday’s meeting, the board was not given materials in advance, so they had very little idea of what to expect, and they could not adequately discuss the DEP without additional materials, which they received a few hours before a second meeting on Wednesday. At that meeting the administration presented a DEP that can only be described as draconian. It called for the closure of Adams, Erickson, and New Tech high school, and the creation of a system that retained Perry as a K-2, created one elementary school (K-6) and one 7-12 high school.
It also called for closing Estabrook pool, as well as major reductions in staffing — 11 elementary and high school teachers, 50 + para pros (counselors, psychologists, nurses, special ed, etc) — transportation, and athletics.
What followed was a ridiculous exercise in which Board of Ed members who resisted further building closures (Fanta, Berman, Champagne, Devany) were asked to come up with cuts in other areas of the budget. I say ridiculous because the administration was essentially asking the Board to do (on the fly, after just receiving the new DEP) WHAT IT SHOULD HAVE DONE over the last 6 months. The Board, realizing (after 3 hours!!) that it was being asked to do the impossible, recommended some substantive changes and requested that the administration go back to the drawing board and come up with a new DEP that preserved our core mission (educating kids in a safe environment), and found efficiencies elsewhere. The administration will present this revised DEP this coming Monday (tomorrow) at 7:30 at the High School (on Packard).
There is no way this District can survive additional closures – even one closure would be damaging to our reputation, and our ability to continue to provide high-quality education to Ypsi’s children. I feel very strongly that we should be at this meeting in force to represent the district’s key stakeholders: families.
What are the implications of more school closures for the overall health of the district? How do these plans for our DEP interface with the plans to consolidate with Willow Run? I am really, really tired of dealing with an administration that constantly operates in a reactive mode, and that accepts everything that the State says. Our Board President, David Bates actually said that he was told by the State Board of Education that if he and other board members didn’t accept the DEP, he could be arrested. I broke decorum and stated from the audience that it was the State legislators who should be arrested for what they are doing to our children. It truly is a crime. We need to be there and to voice ourconcerns about the future of our district, and we may even need to break therules regarding “community input” time. The meeting is tomorrow (Monday) at 7:30 pm in the High School. I will be there.
I’m not sure what can be done at this point. According to AnnArbor.com, if the DEP isn’t approved, school employees won’t be paid, and an Emergency Manager will be appointed by the Snyder administration to take control from our democratically elected School Board. And, as David Bates apparently noted, members of the School Board run the risk of being arrested if they choose to stand up and fight on behalf of the families that they were elected to represent.
I have other things that I need to attend to this evening, but, before I go, here’s one last thought. This comes from something I wrote a little while ago, upon hearing that the Philadelphia School District was being forced to disband. I think it’s relevant here as well.
…I don’t want to go off on a conspiratorial tangent, but I think it’s worth considering that none of this is an accident. It’s quite possible, I think, that the Bush tax cuts, which were extended under the Obama administration, were never solely about allowing those with the most power in America to keep an unprecedented amount of their accumulated wealth. I think an argument could be made that these tax cuts were more about, in the words of conservative operative Grover Norquist, “starving” the U.S. government to the point that social programs, like public education, would be forced to collapse. Norquist, as you’ll recall, was quoted once as saying that he wanted to shrink government, “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” (I also like this quote, “My ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit. Because that person doesn’t need the goddamn government for anything,” but we’ll have to save that for another day.) And, I think that’s what we’re seeing play out right now in Philadelphia. We’re standing by, passively watching, as public education being drowned in the bathtub…
So, we’ll all stand by and watch this happen. We’ll all watch as teaching ceases to be profession that can support a family, a generation of kids loses the chance at a better life that education provides, and for-profit companies, who are accountable only to their shareholders, swoop in to extract what little money there is left. It may not be registering in your brain yet, but we’re watching the country that our ancestors gave their lives for be dragged to the bathtub and killed. And we’re all complicit.
Here’s hoping that, if the adults don’t stand up for them, the kids of Ypsilanti rise up and start fighting back themselves, demanding the educations that they deserve as American citizens, like the young people currently gathering in Detroit’s Clark Park… I’m not one to instigate, but, if any Ypsi high school students are reading this, I think that Water Street would make a great, very visible, campus for a Freedom School.