The annexation of Whitmore Lake schools… Who wins? Who loses?

800px-Whitmore_Lake_Public_Schools_(sign)The Whitmore Lake School District, which presently serves approximately 1,000 K-12 students, is reported to be $60 million is debt. And word on the street is that Lansing might dissolve the entire thing in favor of an all-charter system, unless a way can be found to put the district back on a path toward solvency. Well, in hopes of avoiding an emergency manager takeover, members of the Whitmore Lake School Board apparently approached representatives of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) not too long ago and proposed annexation… And, come Tuesday, the voters of both communities will have an opportunity to vote on the idea.

Although it’s not an issue that I’ll be voting on, I found my interest piqued today by a Facebook question posed by my friend Richard Murphy. Here’s what he had to say.

Ann Arborites: I admit I am a mere curious outside observer of the Ann Arbor Public Schools annexation of Whitmore Lake Schools, but I can’t help but see this as A2 subsidizing sprawl.

The “yes” argument seems to go, “for a mere 0.25 mill increase in A2 taxes, we can give our township neighbors both a high-quality, stable school district, and a 3.7 mill tax break!” Considering that an A2 resident is already paying about 46 mills fully-loaded vs. a Northfield Township resident’s ~36 mills total, I don’t really get the rationale for the A2 voter to take on the financial burden here of giving WL a better school district — and I can virtually hear the township Realtors nailing “Ann Arbor Schools Without Ann Arbor Taxes!” onto every listing they’ve got in Whitmore Lake.

Can anybody who’s looked deeper into this explain how this would *not* function as an anti-greenbelt millage for A2? Is there no Pareto optimal solution here where the folks getting the benefit (the WL district residents) are the ones paying for that benefit?

(And, to be clear, I understand there are benefits to the Ann Arbor *School District* in terms of incentive grants from Lansing, boosting head count, and economies of administrative costs. But that’s a different question than asking about the impact on the City of Ann Arbor’s policy priorities, and the citizenry’s decisions to back those priorities with their tax dollars.)

And, yes, you read that right… If this deal were to go through, taxes would rise in Ann Arbor and fall in Whitmore Lake.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether or not such an arrangement would be fair, or whether cost savings could even be achieved through consolidation, I’d like to focus on the question of sprawl, which is one that I hadn’t really thought about prior to Murph’s post… Would the annexation of Whitmore Lake Schools, assuming the ballot initiative is voted into reality, make it more likely that people would move to Whitmore Lake, exacerbating those problems associated with sprawl? I know the vote is right around the corner, and this issue might not be as central to the debate as some of the others, but I think it’s worthy of discussion.

Screen+shot+2014-10-22+at+9.48.03+PMAs for reasons why Ann Arbor voters might be inclined to vote in favor of such a measure, in spite of the fact that it would raise their taxes, Ruth Kraut, the woman behind the blog A2 School Muse, has done a good job of laying out the arguments in favor of annexation. Among other things, she notes, such an arrangement would bring more State money into the district, and it would put an end to Ann Arbor’s “siphoning off (the Whitmore Lake student) population as ‘Schools of Choice’ students,” which is something that hadn’t really occurred to me.

I just checked, and the siphoning off of students from Whitmore Lake doesn’t seem to be too huge of a factor right now, as only 16 Whitmore Lake students applied to transfer to Ann Arbor public schools this past year under the Schools of Choice program, and it’s not likely that all of them ended up making the move. It is an interesting question, though… What if the Ann Arbor Public Schools, as they look to attract more students from outside the boundaries of the City, in hopes of pulling in more State money, cannibalize those outlying districts to the point of collapse? Again, it doesn’t seem like it’s an issue here… especially as I just learned from Ruth Kraut that 10 Ann Arbor students have transferred the other way, to Whitmore Lake schools… but it makes me wonder if it might be a concern elsewhere. And, if so, I wonder if a district-wide consolidation might be the only fair solution.

In addition to Ruth Kraut, I also just heard from my friend Linh Song, the executive director at Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, who put it like this.

The annexation is motivated less by Schools of Choice and more by inevitable dissolution. Also, Whitmore Lake students would make up a small percentage of our student population of 16,800 students. We would be able to leverage efficiencies, access the state consolidation grant of $1.4M, bring the students in at the A2 state allowance, and add their buildings to our mix. Otherwise those buildings are prime real estate for charter schools…

For what it’s worth, I’d agree that, from the Ann Arbor Public Schools point of view, it makes sense, given the State consolidation grant. (The State wants fewer districts, and they’re willing to pay to see that happen.) I’d also agree that keeping Whitmore Lake from going charter would be preferable. I just have a hard time getting around the sprawl issue noted above. (I don’t like the idea incentivizing people to live in areas where services are more costly to provide by offering subsidies.) And, to be honest, it kind of rubs me the wrong way that the people of Whitmore Lake, many of whom live there because they don’t want to pay taxes at the rate that those of us in cities like Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti do, would be rewarded for that decision… Personally, I’d prefer that we spend the money being used to bail out the Whitmore Lake schools to relocate the people of Whitmore Lake into nearby towns and cities where resources can be more efficiently allocated, but, like I said, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I just find it all fascinating.

And, as long as we’re quoting people, here’s another item that might be of interest to those of you who will be voting on annexation come Tuesday. It comes from a recent opinion piece by Michigan State Representative Adam Zemke.

…It’s not rocket science as to why parents move to a community, and high quality public schools are at the top of their list of reasons. It’s also not rocket science that if a family can’t or doesn’t want to move to Ann Arbor, they may consider driving their children here. In the latter case, AAPS receives the per-student dollar appropriation (called the foundation allowance) from the State at the level of the district from which they came. For example, in 2014-15, a Whitmore Lake student who comes to Ann Arbor through schools of choice brings with them $7,251. In contrast, an Ann Arbor student brings $9,100.

Just north of Ann Arbor, Whitmore Lake Public Schools remain financially solvent today, despite decreasing numbers of students. It is important to note that this population decrease is the result of families that moved during the great recession coupled with a declining birthrate. The issue of declining birthrate will impact AAPS for the foreseeable future too. And while WLPS has a slight positive fund balance today, they have very few financial reserves and it’s likely that they will soon become a deficit district.

…This economic reality is why annexation of Whitmore Lake represents a benefit to both AAPS and WLPS. By annexing Whitmore Lake, the new AAPS will have the ability to generate over $1.78 million in operating revenue above what is generated in the two districts separately. This is due to the difference in foundation allowance between WLPS and AAPS students. Will the per-student foundation allowance decrease by $5? Possibly, but the net increase due approximately 950 new students entering at almost the current AAPS foundation allowance more than offsets that…

One last thing… Here’s an interesting aside from someone that I know who grew up in Whitmore Lake.

…My basic understanding is that Whitmore Lake overdrew the bank account building that new high school for students that never came. (They expected a big development bump in the 2000’s, but the recession of 2008, and the housing crash, among other things, happened instead.) I’d like to see Whitmore Lake align with Ann Arbor, mainly because I don’t want to see it align with conservative Livingston County (Howell, Brighton, etc…), which is ideologically more likely in the long term…

To be honest, I don’t know how I’d vote. It’s a confusing issue, and I’ve yet to even factor in how this might effect Ypsilanti if it passes. (Will more young families who can’t afford to live in Ann Arbor, who might have considered Ypsilanti otherwise, now gravitate toward Whitmore Lake?) Speaking of Ypsilanti, I saw, in one of the stories that I just read, that someone was asked why Ann Arbor was considering the annexation of Whitmore Lake and not Ypsilanti. The response was pretty straight to the point… something along the lines of, “Ypsilanti never asked.” I know we’ve got plenty of other things to discuss without raising the question of Ypsi annexation, but I wonder why Whitmore Lake pushed for annexation and we didn’t, assuming that’s really what happened.

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52 Comments

  1. wobblie
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    As near as I can tell the Washtenaw Intermediate School District managed the consolidation of Ypsi and Willow Run. I think they were looking at Willow Run and Ypsi as natural bed fellows-ie. poor and minority. They never looked at consolidation with Lincoln or Whitmore Lake (white and middle class).

  2. Jcp2
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Whitmore Lake is small with few students, manageable debt, and a superintendent who asked a new more open minded AAPS superintendent before WLPS is insolvent. This idea was never generated at the WISD level. For that matter, AAPS geography is substantially bigger than City on Ann Arbor city limits, so sprawl is not such an issue.

  3. Bob Krzewinski
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I went to a fairly recent Police & Miltarization talk given by the Interfaith Council For Peace & Justice (positive event where the Washtenaw County Sheriff, Ann Arbor Police Chief and local ACLU were panelists) but right towards the end, during the Q & A, there was one person who found a “way” to incorporate the Whitmore Lake school issue into all of this.

    The person, who really didn’t have a question, but more so just wanted to lay her opinion of everyone, stated that while police in schools could be disruptive, so would the inclusion of the Whitmore Lake students into the Ann Arbor school system. She went on how Ann Arbor had worked hard to “raise the bar” in student achievement, but including Whitmore Lake students would lower the standard. Looking around the room, you could hear moans and see eyes rolling. I imagine this person would also like to see gates set up so only certain types of people could be admitted into Ann Arbor too, like this Chicago suburb tried, only to be ridiculed by Michael Moore – http://youtu.be/_vtJ4HJ7UvA

  4. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I know the state is pushing for larger consolidated districts. As I understand it, though, there’s little evidence that cost savings come as a result of such arrangements. Has the state articulated why it is that they’re offering incentives for consolidation, and do they have evidence to support it?

  5. Peter Larson
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    They should drain the lake.

  6. Dan
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    why do poorly managed cities and schools always look to their better off neighbors to bail them out?

    and what is so bad about charter schools? there are obviously millions of parents in michigan that CHOOSE to send their kids to a charter school. I mean, honestly, how does a school district with 1000 kids get into $60 million worth of debt? Maybe, just maybe, the legacy costs of a “traditional” public school are not sustainable? gee, never heard that before

  7. John Gault
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Enough of these parasitic communists we call teachers. Education should be done at home, by parents, with a Bible in one hand, and a switch in the other. And children, if they want to work as doctors, prostitutes and coal miners, should be given the opportunity to do so. Enough of your big government nanny state. The answer isn’t consolidation, it’s radical downsizing. Turn the schools into privately owned neighborhood prisons, creating jobs, and getting the riff raff off the streets. That’s what Jesus would have done. You’re all cowards though.

  8. 734
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I like the idea of a combined Arbor/Ypsi district. I can’t see the voters of Ann Arbor ever going for it, but I think it would be good for both of us. A stronger Ypsi would be good for Ann Arbor and nothing would make Ypsi stronger than access to good schools. If it’s true that no one in Ypsi ever asked about annexation, we should remember that when voting on our school board incumbents next week.

  9. Dan
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    734, how does annexing one of the worst (maybe THE worst?) school districts in the state benefit Ann arbor schools?

    again, why is it your successful neighbor’s job to pay your bills, when you continue to fuck up and make stupid decisions?

  10. anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    By “making stupid decisions” do you mean being poor?

  11. Dan
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    no

  12. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous,

    Whitmore Lake is not a poor community relative to the rest of Michigan.

  13. Posted October 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Since that FB post, I found this mlive piece quoting Realtor Alex Milshteyn on the annexation’s effect on development:

    Milshteyn said developers want to build in the Ann Arbor school district, but he’s never been contacted by developers who want to build in the Whitmore Lake area. … “Developers are going to be all over that land very quickly,” he said. “First time homebuyers have been priced out of Ann Arbor. Whitmore Lake is the first place they are going to be looking.”

    I’m not sure I see development in the Whitmore Lake area as competing directly with Ypsi — I expect it’s going to be more directly competitive with the Pittsfield and Scio Township areas that are already in the AAPS district, or perhaps with the Plymouth/Canton portion of Superior Township.

  14. Lynne
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I can’t say that I would vote for this if I were an Ann Arbor resident but if I lived in Whitmore Lake, I would vote for it in a heartbeat.

    One of the first outcomes of this is that it will make Whitmore Lake properties more valuable since school ratings are very important to people with school aged children to the point where they often become important to people without children due to resale value. It will encourage development in that area to be sure.

    A merger between Ypsi schools and Ann Arbor schools would be similarly good for Ypsilanti. However, it likely would reduce the overall ratings of the Ann Arbor schools. One of the problems with school district rankings is that they are based on student performance and the thing about student performance is that it has very little to do with things like how well run the school district is and a lot more to do with who the parents of the students are. Educated parents tend to have children who perform well in school and uneducated parents tend to have children who don’t perform well in school and this is true regardless of other factors. Any school district with a student body made up of poor and minority students is likely to be ranked lower even if they do everything right.

    People who have a lot of education tend to value education so they tend to seek out districts which perform well. That concentrates the students who are most likely to perform well anyways into certain districts, usually rich ones, where the student body gets to be more homogenized in terms of race and social class.

    Personally, I don’t think that is good for students. I know that the one thing I value the most about my public school education in Detroit Public Schools was the exposure to people who were not like me or my family. My opinion is that a merger between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor schools would be good for everyone but I suspect that it would never fly because people in Ann Arbor would not want their children exposed to poor people or minorities. If that was something they valued, they might not live in Ann Arbor in the first place.

  15. Dan
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I can’t say that I would vote for this if I were an Ann Arbor resident but if I lived in Whitmore Lake, I would vote for it in a heartbeat.

    of course. who doesnt want to pay less and get more?

  16. Dan
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    this again typically ypsi vs ann arbor nonsense. Ann Arbor Public Schools is school of choice.

    ” My opinion is that a merger between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor schools would be good for everyone but I suspect that it would never fly because people in Ann Arbor would not want their children exposed to poor people or minorities.

  17. Dan
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    if someone like EOS were to generalize Ypsi residents as “poor people or minorities”, they’d be bombarded here. but this racist and classist person posting as “Lynne” can say whatever the fuck she wants.

  18. Lynne
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    @Dan re: “what is so bad about charter schools?”

    They sure sound good in theory, don’t they? The main problem with them seems to be with regulating them. As soon as you make profit an incentive for someone, you have to expect that they will do whatever they can get away with to make more profit and often those things are damaging to public schools. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the best solution is to abandon charter schools but certainly they must be watched closely and regulations should be implemented to reduce harm they might cause.

    For example, in Michigan, we have this stupid method of determining school funding based on a single day’s attendance which occurs early in the school year. Some charter schools have been making promises to parents that they can’t keep. The kids enroll in the charter school and are there for the attendance day. Then, after the charter school gets the money, they fail to deliver on their promises to parents who then often put their kid back into the public school where the money that would have been there for that kid is at the charter school but the public school still has to educate the kid. This is especially a problem with special ed kids apparently but I’ve had many public school teachers tell me that it is common to have kids transfer out of the charter schools after the attendance day and when asked, their parents usually have some story about how they were promised things which weren’t delivered. Like it or not, our charter school program here in Michigan gives for-profit charter schools a huge incentive to be really great until count day and then just pocket the money.

  19. Lynne
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Dan, do you not know that the Ypsilanti district has many more poor and/or black students than the Ann Arbor district? I am not making a generalization. One of the things I love about Ypsilanti is that it is more diverse than most other places. I am acknowledging that part of that diversity means that we have more poor and minority students in our district than Ann Arbor does.

    “School of choice” is something of a red herring in that the geographical distance, even with good public transportation, can make sending a child to a neighboring district too much of a hardship for people, but especially poor people.

  20. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    A lot of what Lynne made sense but I think it is unfair for Lynne to make a generalization saying that Ann Arborites do not want to expose their kids to poor people and minorities…Lynne also rightly pointed out that a lot of people move to Ann Arbor because they value education and are educated–I think that is the more important generalization to focus on. That is, people who value education want to shelter their kids from those people, who are perceived as not valuing education, without regard to race and income.

  21. Jcp2
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I’d just like to point out that Ann Arbor has 20% residents who are neither white or black. Ypsilanti has only 10% non white, non black residents. Are these individuals not relative to a discussion of diversity?

  22. Lynne
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    FF, True, there are people who choose Ann Arbor because they value education but there are also people who tell themselves that and maybe even believe it about themselves but really there is still some racial prejudice at play. . It is unfortunately not true anymore but when I was in HS, both Cass Tech and Renaissance HS in Detroit were in the top 10 high schools in the state and yet I know of no one who moved to Detroit “for the schools”.

    Even if no one in Ann Arbor holds even subconscious racial prejudices, which seems very unlikely to me, and they only are well educated people who value education who are making choices based on what they think is best for their children, this still creates a systemic imbalance. We have a system where socio-economic classes get segregated simply because of things like the cost of housing. In this regard, the merger with Whitmore Lake may temporarily bring more economic diversity to the district. Until such people get priced out, anyways.

    jcp2, yes of course you are right. Ann Arbor has a decent amount of ethnic diversity. However in the context of this conversation it matters that Ann Arbor’s largest minority population, Asians, face very different prejudices regarding education than black people face.

  23. Bob
    Posted November 1, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Does anyone still seriously believe that charter schools haven’t largely been a giant failure? Amway education. And John Gault, man your act is fucking stale already. Sorry. Tired satire. Say something real for once.

  24. EOS
    Posted November 1, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Charter schools are no better and no worse than public schools. They just spend significantly less money to achieve the same outcomes.

  25. Posted November 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    EOS, I think you meant to say “they just pay their teachers significantly less than public school teachers while doing the same or worse than traditional public schools”. There. I fixed it for you.

    Sorry Bob, but Galt’s thing about community owned prisons made me giggle.

  26. Posted November 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Actually, the whole Galt comment made me laugh. In my defense, I just woke up from a 2 hour nap…that was a scrumptious nap. I wish you all could have been in that nap.

  27. EOS
    Posted November 1, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    The facts are that paying public school teachers ever increasing salaries does not improve the educational outcomes of students. Meanwhile, the average homeschooled student scores 3 standard deviations above the mean on standardized tests.

  28. Posted November 1, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify one thing–Whitmore Lake’s SCHOOL taxes go up with annexation. Their overall tax goes down because a millage levied by the school district (a recreation millage, I think) would go away.

  29. Lynne
    Posted November 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    EOS, that does seem to be the case in that there are several studies out there which have failed to find a significant correlation between teacher pay and student performance. However, there is a pretty well established correlation between a teacher’s knowledge of the subject matter and student performance. So while you can hurt the unions and force new teachers to take entry level jobs for less pay in the short term, in the long term, when the ROI of getting a college education becomes such that working as a teacher just isnt worth it, you’ll have serious problems finding qualified teachers.

  30. EOS
    Posted November 2, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Lynne, In case you haven’t noticed, we currently have serious problems finding competent teachers and it has been that way for a long time. Sal Khan could teach everybody math, from kindergarten through college, and achieve significantly higher competencies at a much reduced cost to society.

  31. Patrick Rady
    Posted November 2, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m probably going to vote no on this, because it does seem like a raw deal for Ann Arbor. But the way this whole discussion has affected people I know, has me wanting to vote YES out of spite. My friends who are normally vaguely middle of the road liberal sorts have turned into obsessive snarling crusaders due the possibility of another $50 or $100 on their taxes because of this.

    I admit that is a raw deal, but of all the ills we have, this stupid proposal is the only thing I have seen that had led them to become active politically… it bugs me.

  32. Posted November 2, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Please, before jumping to any conclusions of a “raw deal”, review the materials presented by Ann Arbor’s BOE at several public hearings on the proposal (the FAQ is a good place to start):

    http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/aaps/whitmore_lake_annexation

    Briefly, AAPS ends up benefiting economically from this, and averts the lose-lose scenario that sees Whitmore Lake’s school system crumble, and their students end up commuting to Ann Arbor schools of choice anyway – but bringing much less foundation money per student than if they stayed in WL neighborhood schools operated by AAPS (even with AAPS’s higher teacher salaries, more programs, etc.).

    Yes, WL is asking a more well-off neighbor to help out, and the state is willing to help us help them. Yes, there is some risk here, but as a system managing a budget nearly 20x the size of WL’s, AAPS feels the risk is manageable, and the upside to both communities worth it. And as good neighbors, why should we refuse? Because our taxes might increase a few bucks?

    If you support public schools at all, help ensure another community in Washtenaw County still has the chance to keep theirs!

  33. Karl
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I wonder how the conversation might be different if it were Ypsilanti schools being considered for annexation?

  34. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I am not even sure how to characterize the actual conversation going on so I guess I am not prepared to compare this conversation with another hypothetical conversation. Does WL seem likely to be annexed?

  35. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    One big difference between Ypsilanti and Whitmore Lake is the tax rate. Ypsilanti has super high taxes whereas WL has low tax rates. Out of principle, I would lean toward not even considering helping out a community if they were unwilling to raise their own taxes to at least match the taxes of the community that is being asked for help. Ypsilanti tax rates are maxed out and already significantly higher than Ann Arbor’s so I would consider helping Ypsi….

  36. Bob
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    What fucking teacher is getting an ever increasing salary? That’s one of the most ridiculous things EOS has ever said, this week. Medical coverage is a joke compared to what it was even a few years ago for most teachers.

  37. EOS
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    In 1990, the average teacher’s salary in the nation was $32,880. In 2011, it was 56,643. That’s a 72% increase in 21 years. Salaries make up 78% of a typical school districts budget.

  38. Lynne
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    EOS, Don’t forget to count for inflation. According to the online calculator which I haved linked to before, teachers were making $57,163 in 1990 (in 2011 dollars). So that pay raise is actually pretty low.

    This is a nice calculator: http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

    It is really low when you consider certain shifts in the labor market related to opportunities for women. A lot of women who would have otherwise been teachers (because that is one of the few options available to them) have been increasingly choosing other professions. If anything, we should be paying teachers a lot more if we want to get people who are knowledgeable in the subject matter they teach. Since that is something related to student performance, it is something we want. We may have accept that it is time to pay people in traditionally feminine professions more than we do now if we want to continue attracting talent.

  39. Posted November 3, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    EOS, we are never going to agree on this topic, but thank you for being respectful.

    I think you might be thinking we are still getting step increases and for most of us, that is long gone. At my current district, we are frozen in our steps so I will be making what I am making until I don’t know when. People who were hired at Step 1 (I think that is $38k) are still making that, five years later. But yes, back in the day you did get automatic raises. I think EVERYONE should have such a nice system set up, but that’s me.

    Health care has definitely declined. I now pay much more for retirement and health care (and I am getting the same or worse in benefits) and so it shakes out that I am bringing home a little more than I made when I started teaching 8 years ago. (But in all fairness, I do get the long summer break, which is more I got when I was in legal aid and got <$40k, no vacation, no benefits).

    In my mind, the war on teachers is just an extension of the war on women. Some people can't stomach the idea of us girls making a living without a man and being independent (I have a fiance, Ken, and we make about the same but he has been getting small raises since we have been together whereas I have taken about a $5,000 pay cut during that time, not including the increased benefit/retirement costs)

  40. EOS
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Patti,
    Unlike your previous comments, I’ve always been respectful.

    The goal of public education is not to ensure that teacher salaries increase faster than inflation, but to educate. However, there is a large proportion of citizens who will always vote to spend more on education because, after all, it is the compassionate thing to do for our children. They see education as a worthy goal and will always advocate spending increases. Anyone who suggests that we slow the rate of increase is seen as uncaring, greedy, and one who does not have the best interests of our children at heart. But there are many legitimate needs of citizens that all compete to grab an ever increasing share of limited government funds. To provide the greatest good to the greatest number of people we should ensure that each dollar is well spent on effective programs that achieve the desired outcomes. Rather than joining in lockstep with the mantra of “we need to spend more on education”, I suggest that we evaluate how current technologies can use available funds for greater efficiencies and higher levels of achievement.

    The most significant problem with our current system results from the reality that teachers are rewarded with higher levels of employment and larger salary increases when students fail to achieve. Blaming parents, poverty, and environment will result in policies that benefit the individual teacher. Effective teaching resulting in high levels of academic achievement would hinder the probabilities of greater funding.

    We need a new paridigm. Those who throw money at societal problems without insuring that the administration of those funds are effecting the intended results should not be let off the hook so easily. Indiscriminately spending more money is the problem, not the solution.

  41. Jcp2
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    EOS raises some interesting points. It’s true that student performance is not strongly linked to teacher pay and performance, at least not after some threshold of adequacy is met. The strongest predictor of student performance in schools is family income. In that light, perhaps it would be a better use of resources to focus on policies for increasing family income, with increase in student performance occurring as a secondary phenomenon, rather than directing dollars strictly for public education alone. Also, a better defined goal for public education is needed. Public education for education is meaningless. What is a person supposed to do with such an education?

  42. EOS
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    jcp,

    Thanks for your comments. However, there is no evidence supporting the hypothesis that the increased family income caused better student performance, merely that it is correlated.

    Having a large number of books in the home is also correlated with better student performance. Steven Levitt, in his book Freakonomics, speculated that books in the home are indicative of higher intelligence of the parents and that their offspring had better academic performances, whether or not they ever opened a single book, because they inherited the genes for higher intelligence.

  43. Jcp2
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    There could also be non-genetics, but heritable factors affecting intelligence that are correlated to environment, and secondarily to income. Things like lead paint, poor nutritional status, uneducated parents, increased cortisol levels from chronic stress, come to mind, among others. But even if we accept that all intelligence is genetic, what shall be done with those without the gift?

  44. EOS
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Everyone should be educated to realize their full potential.

  45. Jcp2
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Potential for what?

  46. EOS
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    To be a self-supporting productive member of society whenever possible.

  47. Lynne
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    There is a lot of validity to the idea of spending money on things other than education in order to make the dollars we do spend on education go farther. We know that things like an unstable homelife and poor nutrition have pretty dramatic effects on student performance. That is why it is so sad to see MSWs earning even less than teachers do.

    It is also why I support more social welfare programs. I generally liked Bill Clinton but his welfare reforms were really short sighted and are going to cost us a lot more in the long run than we ever hoped to save in the short run.

  48. jcp2
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    EOS, what if being a self sufficient productive member of society is not perceived as possible, whether it be through technological innovation replacing employment or social barriers to obtaining employment? What then? What if the link between education and employment is weakened? What if fewer and fewer people are needed to produce the goods desired by society?

  49. Meta
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Annexation failed to pass in Ann Arbor.

    With 96 percent of Ann Arbor schools precincts reporting, 27,266 or 57 percent of voters had said no, while 20,240 or 42 percent said yes.

    In Whitmore Lake schools, 2,732 or 72 percent of voters said yes, while 1,058 or 28 percent of voters declined the proposal.

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/11/whitmore_lake_school_board_mem.html

  50. Lynne
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    jcp2, as an armchair labor economist, I have a solution to that problem albeit one that is unfortunately not too realistic given American’s current culture of overwork.

    Automation has so much potential for making everyone’s lives easier but only if we can keep the natural forces of greed in check. Market forces will lead those with capital to get the labor they need in the cheapest way possible and often that means automation. I think a good bit of the wage stagnation we are seeing is due to automation. Even the part of the wage stagnation which is due to globalization is possible because of better technology.

    So, what do we do? One shift we’ve seen is movement to a service economy but even those jobs can be automated. The long and short of it is that we have a surplus of labor. One solution that I like is to limit the supply of labor by shortening the work week. The 40 hour standard is arbitrary. Why not make it 30? Sadly, I don’t see this happening because Americans for whatever reason would rather go to the office and pretend to work than have any kind of free time. I know so many people who put in 50-70 hour weeks at the office just because they feel that they have to in order to be considered for promotions. This, even though they spend MOST of their days not working (I assume based on research on the subject).

  51. Old Grump
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Well, the anti-annexation folks are victorious. But so many of them on MLive talked about the fact that it wasn’t about selfishness, oh no, it was just that this *particular* proposal was terribly flawed. They would support a better plan.

    I’m sure they are all busy right now, working on a better plan- because, you know, the kids.

    *hearty derisive laughter*

  52. 734
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    They said the same thing about the tecent AATA millage. We love public transportation, we just want a plan that we like better, they said, not offering any ideas as to how to make it better.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] that Ann Arbor residents this past November voted overwhelmingly against the idea of annexing the Whitmore Lake public schools, I don’t see how a merger of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti’s districts would stand a chance, […]

  2. […] This was the assumption used by the consultants that prepared the impact statement for failed AAPS/Whitmore Lake annexation. It’s no surprise that voters in AAPS would not want to be the losers in a zero sum win-lose […]

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