If Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Public Schools could be joined with no additional cost to Ann Arbor taxpayers, bringing additional resources to Ypsi schools, might voters back it?


A few few weeks ago, I posted something here about the findings of a study on affordable housing commissioned by Washtenaw County. The published report, as you may recall, didn’t paint a very pretty picture. Our communities, according to the study’s authors, are rapidly becoming segregated, with less-well-off people, especially people of color, quickly consolidating in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, where the poverty rate is already approaching an unsustainable 30%. [This, by the way, was recently confirmed by researchers in Toronto who, just earlier this week, ranked the greater Ann Arbor region (defined as the Washtenaw County census tract) as being the 8th most economically segregated metropolitan area in the United States.] And, if not dealt with, the authors of the Washtenaw County Affordable Housing Needs Assessment point out, it’s not just Ypsilanti that will suffer from the resulting instability. This “imbalance in income, education and opportunity between the jurisdictions, along with the segregation that goes with it,” they say, “will hamper the regional economic growth potential of the (entire) area.” And, with that in mind, they made several suggestions.

And it’s one of those suggestions in particular that we chose to discuss here a few weeks ago. The authors of the study recommended, in addition to building more affordable housing in Ann Arbor, that we “create a unified Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti School District,” the thought being that more financially stable families would consider living in Ypsilanti if our schools were under the highly-valued Ann Arbor banner. This one thing, in their opinion, would go a long way toward addressing the growing inequality that we’re seeing develop across the region. Not only would the children of Ypsilanti have access to more in the way of educational resources, but it would also lead to some degree of normalization across our communities with regard to household income, etc. So, we discussed it. And one person involved that conversation, an Annarbourite who posts on this site under the name Jcp2, then went a step further, and began researching the financial side of things, and what a merged district might mean for the individual communities involved… Here’s what he’s found.

I do not believe that any City of Ann Arbor housing policies can address the root cause of rising housing prices in Ann Arbor, as compared to neighboring communities, specifically Ypsilanti. I think that for many people, public school quality is a major driver in choice of residency, such that being within Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) boundaries is very important to them. Reducing the wide discrepancy between perceived quality of public schools between AAPS and Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) will do a lot to alleviate housing price pressure in Ann Arbor, while benefiting housing values in Ypsilanti.

How to do this? AAPS should annex YCS. Annexation and consolidation of districts has been seen as a move of last resort in Michigan, and the typical situation is that of one failed district with the minimum foundation grant joining with another adjacent distressed district with the minimum foundation grant. This was the situation when YPS and WRPS consolidated into YCS, but would not be the situation if AAPS were to annex YCS.

One likely concern of consolidation of a relatively thriving district, like AAPS, with the maximum foundation grant with an adjacent distressed district, like YCS, with the minimum foundation grant, has been a reduction of per pupil funding for students in the extant thriving district in order to subsidize an increase in per pupil funding for students in the extant distressed district. The general assumption seems to have been that total funding is constant, and the combined district would receive a weighted average of the pre-existing foundation grants of each individual district. 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 situation. Who would be?

However, the consultants are WRONG. A close reading of state educational funding formulas would indicate that consolidation of a thriving district with an adjacent distressed district could result in increased funding in the extant distressed district to the same level as that in the extant thriving district, with no impact on the thriving district whatsoever. This is a much different situation that could benefit all parties.

There is a nice presentation from Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency that explains the nuts and bolts of how school districts are funded can be found here.

In summary, the potential amount available to each school district in Michigan is calculated by a 6 mill tax on the State Equalized Value (SEV) of all property within the school district, with an additional 18 mill tax on the SEV of all non-homestead property within the school district. Then this amount is divided by the number of pupils within the school district to reach a certain per pupil amount that is then granted to the school district.

If the school district has low taxable values as compared to the number of students, then the State General Education Fund supplements that value up to a minimum per pupil amount. YCS is such a recipient district. They receive the minimum per pupil amount, about $7100/pupil plus an additional $500/pupil as a “reward” for consolidation of the former Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts, for a total of $7600/pupil.

If the school district has high taxable values compared to the number of students, then the excess over a maximum per pupil amount is given back to the State Education Fund. AAPS is such a donor district. We receive the maximum per pupil amount, about $8800/pupil, plus an additional $300/pupil based on an additional 4 mill hold harmless tax that we are allowed to levy as a condition of accepting Proposal A many years ago.

The excess money that AAPS generates and then gives back to the State General Education Fund is substantial. How much do we wave goodbye to? Well, in an Ann Arbor Chronicle article a few years ago, it was stated by Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for School that AAPS receives only 47% of the generated educational tax revenue back into the district. In other words, AAPS generated close to $18,700/pupil. Since the maximum that the state will ever give back to AAPS under state funding formulas is $8800/pupil, AAPS could literally double enrollment without suffering any consequence in per pupil funding. Where can we find these students? In neighboring districts, like Ypsilanti.

AAPS has about 16,000 students. YCS has about 4,000 students. The combined tax value of the combined districts will more than meet the $8800/pupil maximum threshold set by the state for district funding. In addition, taxpayers in the extant YCS would need to vote to approve an additional 4 mill hold harmless millage, but if they do, their school funding would jump from $7600/pupil to $9100/pupil. Taxpayers in the extant AAPS would be unaffected.

With creative placement of attractive educational programs in schools located in the eastern half of the newly enlarged AAPS, there will be less pressure to live in Ann Arbor and more attraction to live in Ypsilanti. AAPS has already shown that they are capable of this, as evidenced by the rejuvenation of Northside Elementary with an innovative STEAM program, bringing students back to AAPS.

According to my reading of the formula, we could hypothetically extend this annexation to include all neighboring districts up to the point where total educational revenue within the district divided by the number of students within the district is equal to the maximum foundation limit per pupil as set by the state, currently $8,800/student. Why not redirect educational tax revenue that the state is already removing from AAPS to geographic neighboring school districts so that there can be tangible direct benefits to them and the realistic possibility of tangible indirect benefits to us?

So, is Jcp2 right? Would an annexation of YCS by AAPS into a larger AAPS district mean better schools for Ypsi with no additional cost to Ann Arbor taxpayers? And, if so, would the voters of either town go for it? Would Ypsi voters be prepared to cede some degree of autonomy, when we’ve fought so hard to maintain local control in the face of state takeover threats? And would Ann Arbor voters be willing to take on the challenge, even if it didn’t mean more money out of their wallets? It’ll be interesting to see whether those in positions of power have the political will to follow through on the recommendations of those consultants who recently suggested a merger, and put it before voters in both of our cities. If Jcp2 is right, though, I don’t think we can just take the word of politicians who say, “Based on the the recent Whitmore Lake annexation vote, we can’t put this in front of voters.” I think we owe it to our students to at least call together a task force and explore it in greater detail. Do you agree?

UPDATE: The following was just sent to me by someone with intimate knowledge of Michigan school funding legislation and how it works.

The person who proposed a merger is wrong about how funding is distributed. They seem to think that it is somehow tied to the total tax collections, divided by number of students. But that’s not how it works. (Plus, there are lots of things in the School Aid budget beside foundation allowance funding.)

The 6 mill State Ed Tax goes direct to Lansing in its entirety, immediately. The 18 mills on non-homestead stays here. The state calculates what the 18 mills should have raised (thus, the pressure to put it back to its full amount back in 2008 after being cut by a Headlee rollback to 17.something mills), and pays the remainder between that and the district’s official foundation allowance. Or, in our case, the state maximum. Then, we are allowed to tax local homestead property just enough to collect $1234 per pupil, which is the amount we were already above the new state maximum back in 1994.

The new foundation allowance for a consolidated district does not depend at all on local tax collections. It is either the weighted average of the two foundations plus $100, or the higher of the two original allowances, whichever is LESS.

You can find the rules for calculating a consolidated district foundation allowance in the School Aid Act here: MCL 388.1620 (8)

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  1. EOS
    Posted February 26, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    No. In a combined school district, the average test scores will drop. This will reflect negatively in lower value for homes in the former Ann Arbor school district. The former Ann Arbor school district residents pay the same, but some of the funds formerly spent on education are diverted to pay for the social needs of the increased percentage of low income students. As the quality of education drops, those with the economic means leave the public schools, resulting in a larger district experiencing the problems of the current Ypsilanti district and the downward spiral continues until only those with no options remain in the public schools. The increased funding in the Ypsilanti district will have no effect on increasing the educational outcomes, but the buildings will look nicer and the teachers will be better paid.

  2. Joanne
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    They should do a test run if at all possible. Spend four years with some elementary schools or just the high school as a test case. I hadn’t realized that there was a state limit and that anything over that went back to the state. If that’s the case, then why do cities have extra levies?

  3. Posted February 27, 2015 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Ann Arbor and Ypsi should just merge everything.

    Of course, all EOS cares about is how much her house is worth.

  4. Posted February 27, 2015 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    What I can’t figure out is why the parents of kids in districts receiving the minimum finding haven’t sued for a violation of their due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The state controls how much money each district gets, and by funding Ann Arbor at a rate higher than Ypsi, the government is saying that Ann Arbor kids are more valuable than Ypsilanti kids. The argument is that the funding is based on property value; that may have been ok when each individual district taxed itself, but the state has been in control of financing for twenty years now. They CAN and DO adjust the minimum funding whenever it pleases them Further, the law prevents localities from adding supplemental local taxation, thus ensuring that the non-favored kids can never get ahead.

    The citizens of Ypsi and other less-well-off districts (school funding-wise) should band together and sue the state for funding equal to the best funded districts in the state. Anything less is the state telling parents that their kids are not worth as much as other people’s kids.

  5. Posted February 27, 2015 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    On the face of it, I am a fan of this change. It will bring about more equality. I don’t think there is any evidence for EOS’s claim.
    However, I wonder if all these municipal school mergers will prolong our adherence at the state level to “Proposal A” which has been a complete failure for urban municipalities stricken with the slow hurricane of de-industrialization.

  6. Posted February 27, 2015 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    If you need to get caught up re: “Proposal A,” you can read this: http://bridgemi.com/2014/04/a-brief-history-of-proposal-a-or-how-we-got-here/

  7. Posted February 27, 2015 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    First off, I agree with Peter: Ann Arbor and Ypsi should merge everything. When I’m giving an out of towner a tour of the area, I always drive down the Washtenaw Ave. strip and when we pass under 23 and I announce “now we’re in Ann Arbor,” people are surprised about the fuzziness of the border. I’ve never been particularly “Ypsi Proud” (though I’ve lived in Normal Park for over 16 years) and I’ve never understood the whole “us versus Ann Arbor” thing, so making it all one thing would be fine with me. I sort of see it that way as it is.

    Second, this merging of everything and/or school districts will never happen because (correct me if I’m wrong about this) Ann Arbor would have to approve/make it happen and there’s nothing in it for Ann Arbor. I mean, I understand and agree with the overall argument about economic segregation, but that’s a pretty hard sell for individual voters. I think Peter is right about this one too, that EOS is trying to protect her property values. But I have to say that if I lived in Ann Arbor, I’d probably feel the same way.

    Third and from my own life’s point of view, merging the schools makes less difference now than it would have made about 7 or so years ago. That’s when we sent our then entering 6th grade son to private school because we didn’t have a lot of confidence YCS, there weren’t a whole lot of public alternatives available, and we couldn’t afford to move thanks in large part to the great recession/collapse in the housing market. It’s worked out for us and our child, but we certainly would have a lot more options now compared to then. AAPS is now school of choice and there are more alternative/charter options too, including the International school. Now, I realize that it’s not so easy for a lot (most?) Ypsi folks to say “oh, I’ll just drive my kid to an Ann Arbor school every morning” or what-have-you. All I’m saying is there are more public schooling choices now than there were not so long ago.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    If what he says is true, and the citizens of Ann Arbor could vote to make Ypsilanti schools better without increasing their own tax burden, it will be interesting to see how this goes. My gut tells me that the people of Ann Arbor would vote against it anyway, which would be incredibly telling.

  9. Scott Trudeau
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I live in Ann Arbor and I’d likely vote for a school district or even larger scale municipal merger incorporating parts of surrounding townships & ypsi… But I’ve never been a fan of michigan’s policy of so many tiny “municipalities” in what is really a contiguous urban region. It makes regional planning difficult, leads to government redundancy, reduces economies of scale and exacerbates problems of economic segregation .

  10. Jcp2
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The district being annexed, in this case YCS, has to vote in favor of the annexation. This was the case for the AAPS-Whitmore Lake proposed annexation, and is still the case for the proposed Dexter-Whitmore Lake annexation. A part of that vote will be the acceptance of the 4 mill AAPS hold harmless clause. The annexing district does not need to have a general election on annexation unless there is a change in the tax rate incurred because of annexation. This was the case in the proposed AAPS-Whitmore Lake annexation because a WL capital debt would be assumed by AAPS. This is not the case in the proposed Dexter-Whitmore Lake annexation, although there is a desire from Dexter residents to have a referendum. Technically, this is a policy decision at the level of the school board, much like deciding to build a new school, change educational curriculum, and alter busing guidelines.

  11. EOS
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    If the Ann Arbor School Board voted to merge without a referendum vote of the people, there would be a recall, and an abrupt change in policy that would leave Ypsi in a lurch. Each School Board is elected to act in the best interests of their constituents. Ann Arbor doesn’t benefit from a merger and could suffer harm. My home value would probably increase with a merger. As a conservative, I find Ann Arbor politics even more distasteful than Ypsi’s. Even so, I don’t wish them harm.

  12. Lynne
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    We don’t always like to talk about such things. Like it or not, rich people like to isolate their children from poor people and that is especially true if the poor people happen to be black. Because of this, there is a real economic incentive for homeowners in Ann Arbor to keep poorer kids out of their schools. They don’t even want the poor white kids from Whitmore Lake, they’ll never take on the poor black kids from Ypsilanti.

    I know that there are still a lot of people in Ann Arbor who will vote to merge the school districts but unfortunately there are enough of the other sort that it is never going to happen. If it does, I’ll eat my hat.

  13. XXX
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I can sum the campaign up in three words. Fuck. The. Poor.

  14. EOS
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    And then there are a lot of middle class people who work hard and sacrifice so that their kids can attend a school where the majority strive to achieve high academic levels. They are not so worried about reducing the gap between the highest and lowest academic achievers as they are about helping their child reach their full potential. They want high standards of instruction so that their kids can do better than they have and succeed in life. They are willing to pay 40% or more of their income for housing so that their kids know that they place a high value on educational pursuits. They appreciate the opportunity to enroll their kids in a district where 90% or more graduate and the vast majority have attained the educational standards necessary to thrive in college. They want to isolate their children from those whose families never cared whether their child learned to read and subsequently drag down the level of instruction for the entire classroom. They want their kids to form friendships with students of all races and creeds who come from good, two parent homes and who also excel academically so that they won’t form negative stereotypes. It’s not about race, but about preparing your kid to succeed in life. The merger is not a good fit, not because of the pigment of the students skin, but because of their aptitude based on standardized tests of their intellectual abilities.

  15. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    People who value education and make it a priority do not want to expose their kids to the kids from families where there is a lack of emphasis on education. Currently, I think the perception is that Ann Arbor has a higher percentage of families that prioritize education, whereas Ypsilanti families, in general, place less emphasis on education. I truly beleive that Ann Arbor’s resistance to a merger with Ypsilanti schools would have much more to do with the perception of a difference in values rather than Ann Arbor racism as you suggest, Lynne.

  16. EOS
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Thanks FF. Much more concise and clear than my ramblings.

  17. Demetrius
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Lynne took the words out of my mouth:

    “They don’t even want the poor white kids from Whitmore Lake, they’ll never take on the poor black kids from Ypsilanti.”

  18. Meta
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The white kids of Whitmore Lake would have cost the average Ann Arbor home an additional $50 a year in taxes. What Jcp2 is suggesting, if he’s correct, would cost them nothing. Even if he’s not correct, though, it’s something that should be seriously discussed.

  19. kjc
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    “People who value education and make it a priority do not want to expose their kids to the kids from families where there is a lack of emphasis on education. Currently, I think the perception is that Ann Arbor has a higher percentage of families that prioritize education, whereas Ypsilanti families, in general, place less emphasis on education. I truly beleive that Ann Arbor’s resistance to a merger with Ypsilanti schools would have much more to do with the perception of a difference in values rather than Ann Arbor racism as you suggest, Lynne.”

    are you fucking serious? where do you think those so-called values come from? socioeconomic privilege more often than not. i have a hard time believing you’re not the worst kind of racist.

  20. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Don’t be such a goofy goober, kjc.

    My comment represents my opinion about the perceptions Ann Arborites seem to have about Ypsilanti and Whitmore Lake families and their relative emphasis on education–and how that perception will influence their resistance to a merger with said school districts. In terms of voting, if there is a huge racism problem in Ann Arbor, as Lynne suggests, then the kind of racism that is at issue, here, in this little discussion between myself and Lynne, is interpersonal racism. I understand from your comment and past comments here that you understand the difference between interpersonal racism and structural racism and I am happy for you. It is an important thing to discuss but I wasn’t discussing that form of racism and its effect on values and neither was Lynne. Why don’t you try starting a conversation about it? We might all find it interesting and agreeable….

    My opinion is that even if the Whitmore Lake merger would have put 1000 dollars in every homeowners pocket it still would have been rejected. The suggestion that 50 dollars is the tipping point for Ann Arbor voters to begin supporting merger is laughable to me. If money is not the issue, in the mind of Ann Arbor voters, and neither is race, then what is the real sticking point? It is a serious question because I think how Ypsilanti answers that question Will help/ hurt Ypsilanti’s case.

  21. Dan
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    W.R.T. school performance, the only thing this “proposal” would change is per pupil funding, right? So given Marks idea of a merger, that would suggest that the per pupil funding in Ypsi schools is the main thing dragging down the performance in Ypsi schools. If that were the case, then Ypsi schools should perform equal to all other districts in the state that receive the same or less funding.

    According to this table, Ypsi receives more per pupil than Saline Schools.


    If per pupil funding is holding back Ypsi schools, how come it is not holding back Saline schools?

    Obviously, it’s more than just the funding. But why would you think that more funding would fix the problem?

  22. Lynne
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Re: “People who value education and make it a priority do not want to expose their kids to the kids from families where there is a lack of emphasis on education. ”

    The racism here is largely implicit. For most, it is probably not something much thought about. Their choice will be made based on an assumption that poor kids aren’t as academically successful because their families don’t value education. That is, however, largely a racist and incorrect assumption. So even though very few people are sitting around thinking that they don’t want their white kids associating with black kids, they are thinking that they don’t want their kids associating with people who don’t value education while making that assumption about poor black people.

  23. EOS
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Check the test scores of the two districts before you start throwing around the racist label. There are no assumptions being made. Both YSD and Lincoln have less than 10% who are proficient at their grade level.

  24. Posted February 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    So we should turn our backs on the children of the poor, EOS? Are they not worthy of quality educations?

  25. Posted February 28, 2015 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    EOS is a social Darwinist, so, no, they don’t deserve anything.

  26. Posted February 28, 2015 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    ““People who value education and make it a priority do not want to expose their kids to the kids from families where there is a lack of emphasis on education. ”

    I value education, but the most educational experience of my life was going to school in one of the worst school districts in the poorest State of the US. Many people in my graduating class could not read. That “exposure” did me a lot of good.

    But that’s an anecdote. Test scores are more important.

  27. Posted February 28, 2015 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    “And then there are a lot of middle class people who work hard and sacrifice so that their kids can attend a school where the majority strive to achieve high academic levels.”

    I went to one of those schools, too. It was fucking terrible. Full of self-entitled losers.

  28. Posted February 28, 2015 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    The difference was that in one school I went to, motivated kids had to struggle and the stakes were really high and the rewards great. In the other, kids could pretty much sail along, get into a “good” college and be assured that they’d have a guaranteed income and an inheritance when they grew up.

  29. EOS
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    There’s no amount of money that can overcome a lack of motivation to learn. And there is no place in America where a motivated person with intellectual apptitude can fail to learn.

  30. anonymous
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “why bother educating the poor, they’re too lazy to do anything with it?”

  31. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 9:39 am | Permalink


    We agree. Assuming a family does not value education because that family is poor and black is racist.

    My statements have been class and race neutral. EOS also has been making general statements without regard to race and class. Other people are importing the categories of race and class and making correlations based on their assumptions of other peoples assumptions. Do we all realize how far from reality that type of argumentation is? The reality is that in every classroom in America there are kids and all of them have a different desire to learn. Some classrooms have a high percentage of kids that value education other classrooms have high percentage of kids that do not care. For the most part, there are not many classrooms where a teacher thinks to herself “if we could just have a more kids who do not care about education then this would be an ideal learning environment.” Likewise, the vast majority of parents, play the odds and decide to put their kids in an environment where there is a greater number of kids that value education. It cuts across race and class. Most students are not as strong as Peter was–holding onto his desire to learn surrounded by kids who do not care–he should be applauded. I realize it is selfish and even cowardly to shelter children who want to learn from those who do not. Afterall, a good student might be a good influence on some of the bad students, but the vast majority of people, take the cowardly and selfish route, when the opportunity is there, because they want what they perceive to be what is the best interest of their children. I would argue that is good to have a mixture of kids, but every classroom has its tipping point, where the kids who do not care drag down or make it very difficult for others to learn. Like Peter’s anecdote, I have noticed and had conversations that some of the worst influences in Ann Arbor classrooms are some of the upper middle class kids who are skating by, not caring about education, not feeling pressure to achieve because of their belief that things will probably work out for them anyway. conversely I have noticed and had conversations with people and we recognize that some of the best influences in the classroom are children from poorer families that emphasize and value education. Are those the thoughts of racist people? Or are those the thoughts of people who want a good learning environment without regard to race or class? Maybe you are not giving the average Ann Arborites enough credit while you are simultaneously inventing harmful ’causes’ for why Ann Arborites will be resistant to a merger with Ypsilanti. Attempting to make it a racial issue is a huge disservice to Ypsilanti in my opinion…

  32. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Sorry for the confusing sentence. Meant to say “making correlations based upon what they assume to be other people’s assumptions”.

  33. EOS
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Mark and Steven are the only two posters on this link who mentioned they have (or had) children who reside in the Ypsilanti School District. Both chose a different option. Is it because of racism, classism, or because they thought a different environment was in the best interest of their children?

  34. EOS
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Were their decisions selfish and cowardly?

  35. Posted February 28, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I don’t know that it matters, but my daughter attends public school in Ypsilanti.

  36. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink


    I do think it is selfish, cowardly and hypocritical to not put your money where your mouth is regarding your kids education. However, I realize that most caring parents err on the side of caution when it comes to what they perceive as the well being of their own children. I admire those people who are able to put their idealism into practice. Sadly, I must confess I am not one of those high integrity and admirable people when it comes to opting out of a less than ideal school district. So, I totally understand and do not judge if Mark or Steve have opted out of their local schools (at some point)because they did not think it would be a good fit. Right or wrong, they are probably just trying to be good parents.

  37. Maria Huffman
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    If YCS wants to merge with AAPS, it would be wise for parents to join DWBPSSG-District Wide Black Parent Student Support Group- or form some such other group to deal with the current administration and their issues.

  38. Posted February 28, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    holy cow EOS was so first. On speeddial.

  39. Maria Huffman
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    So if YCS asks to join AAPS, I would warn them of a colonialesque quality AAPS will probably have towards them. AAPS might really want the extra money right now…

  40. anonymous
    Posted February 28, 2015 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Mark, why did you leave Summers-Knoll? With taxes higher in Ypsi than in Ann Arbor, it does seem unsustainable to send your kids to private school there, but maybe it wasn’t what you thought it would be?

  41. Posted February 28, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    It’s complicated, anonymous. And it wasn’t an easy decision. But, yes, our daughter did go to private school in Ann Arbor when she was younger. It was a decision we agonized over, but we did it. As for why, it’s a bit complicated, but here are the main points. We had a dear friend who taught there and was enthusiastic about the school community and what they were trying to accomplish. Clementine’s best friend went there and loved it. They had great teachers, small classroom, and didn’t test. And, thanks to tuition assistance, we were able to afford it. And, at the same time, we’d seen some things in the public school system that we didn’t like. Budgets were being cut, good teachers were being let go, and neighborhood schools were being closed. We had several friends who had pulled their kids out of the system in order to homeschool or pursue other options. I think I’ve written about it here before, but was probably the most difficult decision we’ve ever had to make. Personally, as people who very much believe in the public system, we wanted our daughter to do it, but ultimately we decided that it would be better for her if we took advantage of this opportunity that was given to us. And, at the same time, we kept fighting, both here and in the real world, to get increased resources into our public schools. (Every kid should have that kind of experience, and not just the kids with parents who can afford it.) And, I should add, we did also have friends who stayed in the system, and their kids are great. So it’s not like the public system was completely terrible. Still, though, we made the choice that we made. And we continued to watch the public system. And, as soon as Clementine got to an age where we thought she could make the switch, that’s what we did. She in Ypsi public schools now, and we’re happy. There are still issues. Class sizes are big. And she’s dealing with issues that she was oblivious to in her previous school environment. But I think she was ready for it. And I’m happy to be back in as a truly invested parent.

  42. Topher
    Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    As a teacher who has taught in several other states before returning to Michigan, my experience with the Michigan school system and the politics surrounding it has been mediocre to poor.

    The conversations being had in this comment section are important ones, and I would urge all families, parents, and students to get heavily involved in advocating for high-quality public schools. Go to local board meetings, write your State Board of Education, meet with your legislators.

    From my perspective, it feels as though Michigan has stopped listening to its teachers – the only way that things will change is if parents, families, and students actively voice their opinions to legislation that is harmful to students.

  43. Lynne
    Posted March 2, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Frosted Flakes, I have been talking about the sort of racism that exists even if everyone is making race and class neutral statements. I am talking about implicit racism that is under the surface and may not be part of conscious thought. I am talking about structural racism which might exist even if no one is making consciously racist decisions. The best bit of media which explains this concept is on PBS. I highly recommend it as it is a good look at structural racism and implicit racism and pretty much the sort of racism I am talking about. Just because a person’s language or even conscious thoughts aren’t racist, it doesn’t mean that their actions are free of it.


    No matter what, when you have a system which segregates poor and black children into their own school systems which under-perform, it is racist. It is racist even in the unlikely event that none of the actors have any racist beliefs (but research suggests that most people are racist in that they have deep associations of white = good and black = bad. )

    There is a LOT of racism in Ann Arbor that is just under the surface. I first noticed it when I moved to Ann Arbor. It was only later when I realized that it wasn’t as obvious to others. People in Ann Arbor are in deep deep denial about their racism for the most part. Well, some people.

  44. kjc
    Posted March 2, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    The kind of racism that ascribes inequalities to differences in “values”, for example. And says that with a straight face and without any sense of what’s fucked up about it.

  45. EOS
    Posted March 2, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Why are you both fixated on race? I found a source online that showed Ypsilanti School District has 62% white students and 29% black. (2009 data) This closely parallels the racial distribution in the city as a whole. There are 2 poor white kids for every poor black kid in the Ypsi district. I think you are racist for assuming otherwise.

  46. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink


    We do not disagree about the existence of explicit racism, implicit racism and structural racism, but we do disagree about the extent that implicit and explicit racism against black people is a factor regarding the decision to merge or not merge with Ypsilanti schools. It is my opinion that Ann Arbor would overwhelming reject a merger not because Ypsilanti has poor black students but because Ypsilanti has extremely poorly performing schools compared to Ann Arbor. In addition, I theorized that Ypsilanti and Whitmore Lake schools, both of which by the way have higher percentages of white students than Ann Arbor, are perceived by Ann Arborites as having a higher percentage of students that do not care about education. I will add now that it does not require a psychotherapy session to determine why I would come to such a conclusion and in the process somehow prove/ disprove myself as implictly racist, rather, you need to only look at the discrepancy in test scores, graduation rates, college preparedness ratings to feel confident in such a conclusion. Right or wrong, test scores matter and although I think they are way overemphasized in our public school system, I do think they are suggestive of differences when one school system across various measures out performs another school by 500-600 percent.

    My choice to make statements without regard to race and class is not an attempt to hide deeper assumptions about poor black people, rather, I am making race and class neutral statements because I do not think there is a necessary causation between poverty and race and a person’s desire to educate themselves. In previous comments I even pointed out that some of the worst influences on the classroom are those entitled because of their race and class–as they choose to “skate through” because they feel comfortable college and career will just work out for them. Conversely, I noted that I have shared the observation with others that some of the best influences in the class room are kids from underprivileged families, who are motivated to learn. Who is linking poor and black to not motivated to learn? Not Me.

    Further, and this more directed to the ever impulsive name calling that, without any sort of thoughtful self-control always seems to arise out of kjc: Just because someone does not offer a grand theory about structural racism does not mean that they are denial of that kind of racism. It is a difficult and time consuming thing to write about. Why don’t you offer the Markmaynard.com community some of your original writings on race, class and it’s effect on values if you would like to show causal links or tendencies. I have not done that but we might agree! Give us something!

    For the purpose of this conversation, and being limited on time, I feel that is sufficient to simply express the opinion that cuts across race and class: The vast majority of families that value education, want to put their children (without regard to race or class) in classrooms with kids (without regard to race or class) that value education. Why in the world would you import racial categories into a general and meant to be objective statement? Do you disagree with my otherwise non controversial observation?

    I don’t think it is necessary to go into causes when attempting to answer Mark’s question. Lynne and I agree–Ann Arbor does not want a merger. So, where does that leave Ypsilanti? Is it helpful for Ypsilanti to say the reason there will not be a merger is because Ann Arbor hates poor black people? Wouldn’t it be better to try to figure out ways for Ypsilanti to improve Ypsilanti’s school district.

    I do not know where you people came from but I do not consider Ypsilanti very poor and very black and I do not consider Whitmore Lake very poor. In fact, I think in regard to this conversation Ypsilanti is very resource rich, although for whatever reason, as far as I know, there is not a lot of conversation surrounding the idea of tapping into the great potential resource that is EMU school of education to help Ypsi public schools. As far as I know, EMU sends out hundreds of student teachers every year to teach in Ypsilanti and other districts. Is this a resource Ypsilanti might be failing to tap to its fullest extent. It seems to me that a partnership and a mission could be mutually beneficial to EMU and Ypsilanti schools. I really don’t know but a merger with Ann Arbor will not be happening. Maybe instead of calling Ann Arbor racist for not rescuing Ypsilanti, instead Ypsilanti should try to solve it’s own problems and look toward creative solutions that might be right under noses of Ypsilanti residents?

  47. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 3, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I should add: I do not wish to imply that there are not a great number of Ypsilanti parents and community members pitching in and trying to improve things in Ypsilanti Schools. I know for a fact that there are a lot of people going “above and beyond”–trying to improve things–those people are appreciated and deserve to be applauded for their efforts. I, like a lot of people, want to see Ypsilanti flourish!

  48. Lynne
    Posted March 4, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    kjc may not have said it in the most diplomatic way possible but he/she is right on the money.

    Frosted Flakes. I will just address this statement:

    For the purpose of this conversation, and being limited on time, I feel that is sufficient to simply express the opinion that cuts across race and class: The vast majority of families that value education, want to put their children (without regard to race or class) in classrooms with kids (without regard to race or class) that value education. Why in the world would you import racial categories into a general and meant to be objective statement? Do you disagree with my otherwise non controversial observation?

    That opinion does not cut across race and class lines. While I think that your statement that the vast majority of families who value education want to put their children into classrooms with other kids who come from families which value education. The racism/classism comes from making the assumption that test scores in any way measure a student’s values.

    Here is what I know. According to some long going research, especially at Harvard, it is estimated the around 70% of white people have measurable negative implicit associations with black people. I also know based on education research that many things can go into low scores which are largely outside of the student’s or parents control. Things like parental time, family stress, nutrition, tests which are culturally relevant, etc. All things that give affluent students a pretty major boost. So my logic is thus:

    Most white people have implicit negative feelings towards black people. They justify their decisions by saying that they want to put their kids in school with kids who share their value for education. They make a judgement about something as subjective as values based on an objective measure like test scores even though there is little evidence to show that low test scores correlate with values in any way. Therefore, there is a good chance that people are making that leap based on negative associations based on social class and/or skin color.

  49. Christina
    Posted March 6, 2015 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Consolidating with Ann Arbor is not going to make people want to magically send their children to school in Ypsi. Parents will still continue to opt out of schools they feel are problematic and filled with kids from low income households. Even Ann Arbor residents won’t send their kids to some neighborhood schools. It’s no coincidence that open enrollment in Ann Arbor is for Carpenter, Pittsfield, Scarlett, etc. The “undesirable” schools.

    Two of my kids attended Willow Run through 8th grade. The district had the worst reputation in the county. I was a fierce supporter of the district despite many lows when my kids reached middle school. They decided on their own to leave the district for high school. Frankly I was relieved. I was saddened too though. I wanted to proudly say my kids made it through 12th grade in one of the “worst” districts and turned out okay. I once felt as long as I was involved parent everything would be okay and it just wasn’t. I always say the teachers were the best, but the things just got so chaotic in middle school.

    When Willow Run and Ypsi consolidated I adamatly declared I would never send my youngest child to it. I felt we would be going backwards. Turns out my household came back. Because my child started receiving speech therapy his school of choice booted him out this year stating unless Ypsi paid for the special education services he could no longer attend.

    So far I’m happy with his school in Ypsi. The teachers are great and he’s getting the help I requested and I didn’t have to battle for it. Are there things that bother me with schooling out here? Sure. The half can of beer in the school parking lot, witnessing parents display inappropriate behaviors and people dumping ashtrays in the parking lot, outdated buildings and playground equipment are just a few minor things. Of course I know these things can even happen in other districts, but for whatever reason they seem to be magnified out here. Sometimes I’m reluctant to share my thoughts and experiences with those who are fiercely pro-Ypsi because it’s like I am somehow betraying all the good work going on in the city, townships and schools.

    I don’t know what’s going to happen come 6th grade for my youngest. I’m hoping for the best. If it’s not the best I have to look for other options. I want to be loyal and supportive of my district, but my child’s safety and what’s being modeled in his enviroment trump that.

  50. Christina
    Posted March 7, 2015 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    From my experiences, here are my thoughts on some things that would greatly benefit Ypsi schools instead of waiting for Ann Arbor to save us:
    * Free tutoring for all grades
    * Summer school offered on a sliding scale basis that not only offers opportunities to catch up, but enrichment courses for students to earn more credits just because they want to
    * Mentors with a special focus on males
    * No more than 15 kids per class in elementary
    * Longer recess times
    * Programs that actively engage parents to participate in their child’s education and the resources to make that possible
    * Continous instruction in conflict resolution and anti-bullying throughout school. A few assemblies and posters are not enough
    * Funds for more than one field trip a year. Our students should be exposed to the cultural offerings of the world too
    * Taking a look at schools such as Ann Arbor Open and consider modeling our schools after them. There should not be just one or two elite schools in Ypsi. All of our schools deserve to have excellent programs that families can access.

  51. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 9, 2015 at 6:44 pm | Permalink


    Your argument does not work for me. In my opinion you are guilty of grossly underestimating and/ or ignoring all the different forms of evidence a parent collects when deciding on a school for their child. In this case, we are deciding on a potential merger but the information on area districts has been collecting since most of our kids were 4 years old. You are right, test scores do not measure desire to learn but horrible test scores are a huge red flag. It. Is very easy to find out test scores–you can get a general idea of how all the schools test out in your area in a half an hour. Test scores are merely a first piece of easy to obtain evidence when making such decisions…

    Like Mark and Steve, I had a chance to send my kids to Ypsi schools but chose different options. Like Mark suggested, it is a huge decision and it is a decision which requires compiling information: Visiting schools, observing classroom behavior, looking at completed schoolwork and having many, many conversations with friends/ acquaintances. Who happen to be parents of kids at various schools from various districts; and having conversations with friends/ acquaintances who happen to be teachers at various schools and districts.

    Parents do not live in a bubble relying on impulses from their subconscious minds…Parents mingle and have conversations. With extra curricular activities and sports, for about 5 hours a week, I am face to face with the parents of 40-50 families per week–I don’t think I am abnormal in that regard…Conversations. vary, but inevitably, at some point, parents talk about where their kids go to school currently, where their kids have gone to school in the past, where their kids are planning to go to school in the future. These are the things parents often talk about! Those conversations often include reasons as to why their kids are at a certain school, why their kids moved from a school, and/ or why they plan to move to a new school.

    Over the past 5 years I have probably had 2 dozen conversations that fit the exact scenario where a parent has moved their kid from Ypsi to a charter, Ann Arbor or Saline as schools of choice. The reasons for opting out of Ypsi is never low test scores. The reason for opting out of Ypsi is never too many black people. The reason for opting out is never that Ypsi has too many poor people. The reason, if one is given, is always the LEARNING ENVIRONMENT is not conducive toward learning–because the classrooms have too high a percentage of kids who do not care about their own education and do not respect other student’s desire to learn. Their is a tipping point in the classroom–If there are too many kids who do not care about learning it rubs off potentially on the kids who still do care. A big part of a parent / teachers job is to keep the desire for learning alive….Desire to learn is definitely corruptible.

    You can disagree if you want but I think Ann Arbor is progressive in that we not only want our kids in school with other kids who desire to learn but ideally we want our kids to be in school with kids who care AND are from various racial and economic backgrounds so they can form friendships with diverse backgrounds in the hopes that our kids will not grow into racist and bigoted adults….The primary concern however is that our children are in a classroom with children who desire to learn.

    I think you and kjc are guilty of oversimplifying the decision process and are guilty of misapplying your ideas about how you think the world works–by forcing your ideas where they do not fit. I probably agree with you about systemic racism and classism and all the injustice it entails…but I have not been talking about injustice or ultimate causes for inequalities. Rather, from the beginning of this conversation I have only tried to express the main reason a merger will not take place–arguing that such a decision is rooted moreso in the immediate negative impact people believe it would have on their kids classrooms—rather than racism, classism or the political ideals of Ann Arborites.

  52. Lynne
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Really? Considering the research that shows that over 70% of white people have strong implicit negative associations about black people, you don’t think that racism factors into the decision? I mean, have all of these parents interviewed every other kid in the school to determine that the other kids don’t have a desire to learn or do you think that maybe, just maybe, the opinion that these kids don’t have a desire to learn has some racism behind it?

    Look, I am not being critical necessarily of anyone’s individual choices. I get it that every parent must make decisions for their children based on what they think is best for their children and for their families. If I had kids, I probably would not put them in public schools either (I would unschool them if I could). I know that people don’t necessarily consciously make racist decisions. I believe you about the conversations you have had with people and I even believe that on some level, such people actually believe what they are saying and that they don’t see themselves as racist. I don’t disagree with you one bit that people would make the decision to oppose the merger based on the negative impact in the classroom they perceive would happen but I also think that a large part of why they perceive a negative impact is rooted in implicit racism. You are very naive and in deep denial if you don’t think racism is a big reason why people choose to put their kids in Ann Arbor schools vs Ypsilanti schools. Just curious. Did you watch that PBS documentary I posted? Because they really go into the science behind what I am saying.

    You are correct though that peers do have an influence on education and this is actually one of the reasons why concentrating poor and minority kids into segregated districts is a bad idea. If it were up to me, I would make all of the schools, schools of choice and I would require every district to take in any kids who want to come *and* I would start busing from poorer districts to richer ones. I see this mostly as a systemic problem and thus one which requires a systemic solution. Yet, I guarantee such a plan will not happen any time soon because regardless of your protestations, the evidence is that some people will fight tooth and nail to keep the economic and racial segregation we have. And yes, this is true even if such parents are worried mostly about immediate negative impacts they perceive will happen if the poor kids from Ypsi end up in the same classrooms as their kids.

    I will also say that anecdotally, I am not convinced that having peers who don’t test well has nearly as much of a negative effect that people think. As a child, I attended an elementary school with lots of minorities who didn’t test nearly as well as kids in the suburbs. For middle school, I went to a magnet school designed to bring richer kids into the Cass Corridor to mingle with the poorer kids there and it did not negatively affect my education. If anything, it exposed me to people and cultures I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. And of course, for HS, I went to one of the few high schools in our state that actually goes out of its way to make sure that all of the kids who are there want to be there and want to learn. [Funny how you don’t see many Ann Arbor parents moving to Detroit where they could actually ensure their kids are in classrooms with other kids who value education]

  53. Lynne
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I also forgot to mention that there is likely a systemically racist aspect to judging kids on their test scores in the first place. It has been demonstrated that standardized tests are generally culturally biased and put minority students at a disadvantage. Just another thing to consider.

  54. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink


    We agree on a lot of things actually…There are lots of reasons test scores differ and it is often not fair…

    I started to watch the pbs special. I will try to get to it but have been short on time, thanks for the link. I am a little acquainted with the Harvard Bias Test. I took it twice but the results were mixed. My understanding is that the test is controversial–there is disagreement about what it is actually testing. Anyway, even without that test, I do believe associative thinking can have an effect on our decisions but we seem to disagree on the extent that association will overrule our conscious decision making processes–especially in this case–making a decision to merge or not merge.

    The sample size could not be smaller but here is the plan we have for my stepdaughter: in sixth grade she will move from her current public school, which is 3 percent black and 23 percent eligible for discounted/ free lunch. She will move to a charter school that is 35 percent black and 35 percent eligible for discounted/ free lunch. Why? Because our somewhat deep familiarity with the cultures of both schools has led us to believe she will be surrounded by more kids who have a greater desire to learn: Better learning environment!

  55. Lynne
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    And again, I am not questioning anyone’s individual choices although fwiw, I think that putting your kid in a more diverse classroom is likely to have some lasting positive effects that you may not be considering. A very valuable part of my childhood was the exposure to people who are not like myself or my family.

    At any rate, regardless of why the Ann Arbor parents aren’t likely to approve a merger, we do still have a problem. I would like to see Ypsi try to offer more open classroom options as has been mentioned here previously in the hopes that some of the Ann Arbor parents who are on long waiting lists to get into those programs there might opt to send their kids to Ypsi. Also, I strongly feel that such an educational style works very well and would benefit the students already in Ypsi schools.

  56. Posted March 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I went to a high school that was over 90% black and probably also more than 90% eligible for free lunch. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

    I was denied free lunch because I am not black, however.

  57. Lynne
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    The middle school I went to strongly encouraged the parents of the kids who didn’t get free lunch to mail in checks for the lunches so that at lunch time, everyone ate the school lunch. I liked that because at the school I went to before, I had to eat the lunches my mother packed.

  58. carl the meat processor
    Posted March 10, 2015 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    On today’s episode of White Problems, we have Peter Larson.

    “I was denied free lunch because I am not black.”

  59. Posted March 10, 2015 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t say it was a problem, that was just the way things were.

    The thinking was that by simply being white in Mississippi, one already had an advantage over black people.

    Which was true, of course.

  60. Ruth
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    IF the state would get rid of school of choice, many of the problems that Ypsilanti faces would eventually dissipate. Unfortunately, everyone is looking for a “quick-fix” solution to challenges such as this, and when the thing they decide to try doesn’t work they look for another “quick-fix,” without giving the first idea enough time to play through and show results. Sometimes we need to experience rock bottom before our problems can get better, and I think that is the case with our education system. Unfortunately, what seems to occur in our state, among others, is a fear-based and institutionalized segregation that pits rich vs poor and white vs black.

    As an educator, it’s a sorry state of affairs we are dealing with. If we truly valued education, we would value education for all instead of allowing schools to fail based on their location and the SES of their communities. I am not recommending a merger with Ann Arbor – I view this idea as a “quick-fix.” But I do propose that we eliminate school of choice, in order that resident districts have student attendance that more closely represents the community they actually serve. If this were to take place, the demographics in Ypsilanti schools would change drastically.

  61. Jcp2
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink


    I’m calling first on Menzel.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] JO: The recommendation of looking at our education system is an example of the challenges we face. As you have experienced through discussions on your site, education is an area that fosters passion, and more than one or two opinions. It’s also very […]

  2. […] mentioned it here before, but, a year or two ago, in the wake of something I’d posted about the possibility of merging our two neighboring districts, I was invited out for coffee by some folks affiliated with the AAPS Board of Eduction. And, to […]

  3. […] our most recent conversations on the possibility of a merger between our two districts, click here and […]

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