Ann Arbor City Council’s Chuck Warpehoski, acknowledging the discrepancy between Ypsi and Ann Arbor schools, says he’ll begin donating to the Ypsi Community Schools Foundation

On this past weekend’s edition of The Saturday Six Pack, during a discussion on the growing economic divide betweeen Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Avalon Housing’s Michael Appel brought up the idea of merging the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school districts. This, he said, echoing the findings of the County’s recently issued report on affordable housing and economic equity, would both help to stabilize Ypsilanti’s economy and go a long way toward reversing the negative trend we’re seeing with regard to social mobility among our poorest citizens. While I don’t recall whether or not Ann Arbor City Council’s Chuck Warpehoski, who was also on the show that evening, agreed with Appel on the idea of a merger, he was clearly sympathetic to the plight of Ypsi’s youth. And, last night, he took to Facebook not only to make his feelings known, but to pledge his financial supports. [Thanks, Chuck.] Here’s hoping that others follow his example.


[For information on how to join Chuck, and give to the Ypsi Community Schools Foundation, click here.]

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  1. Peter Larson
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Why is this a good thing?

    Municipalities should be funding schools, not donors. Efforts like this effectively let local governments off the hook for funding their schools. Why should governments pony up money for services if people are just going to come around and pull it out of their pockets?

    Seems like a poor long term strategy.

    Ypsi should be embarrassed that this is even necessary.

  2. Peter Larson
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    It is my opinion that Ann Arbor and Ypsi should merge completely, but that will never happen. Even merging schools or convention bureaus is politically impossible.

  3. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks Chuck!

    Who said it was a long -term strategy?

    I would challenge everyone in Ypsi who feels like their hands are tied because of prop a to just think about what the maximum millage increase you would be willing to vote yes to if it came up.Calculate how much money that would be for your household and donate that amount to the foundation. You should also do the easy math to determine the amount you should give to Ypsi city if you wanted the City income tax to pass.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    “Ypsi should be embarrassed”… Are you serious, Peter? Why should Ypsi be embarrassed because of the state funding situation, and the fact that, unlike Ann Arbor, we are not in a “hold harmless” district? Do you think before you post your comments? If anyone should be embarrassed, it’s our legislators.

    As for this being a long term strategy, no one said that it was. What it is, however, is a good first step. Recognizing the problem is important.

  5. site admin
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Elviscostello posted the following on another thread last night:

    On the topic of education funding and resources, I happened to stop in at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor the other day, and found that they have a LATIN class, a freaking Middle School LATIN class in Ann Arbor. I don’t ever want to hear about failing districts, or class sizes, or equity in the system and how all children get an opportunity to learn. When our local districts have 35 in grade school classes, and Ann Arbor can have LATIN, LATIN at the middle school level, there’s something realy really wrong here.

  6. Jean Henry
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I just wrote on another thread that we should stop blaming Lansing, and now I’m going to blame Lansing. The public schools are choked out by Lansing. Snyder funneled a big old pile of money to community colleges instead. So no WCC has a better graphic arts and digital photo set-up than U-M. Cool! Meanwhile, to maintain basic services, the public schools need to raise funds via millage AND donations. AAPS under Linh Song has become very very good at raising funds. She taps the Tech sector– people who have transfered here with kids and were paying private school tuition. They pitch in to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and– voila! STEAM programs in all middle schools. I think Ypsi people are beginning to see that a fully functioning foundation is a great way to supplement school funds. Foundation funds do not support regular expenditures– teacher salaries, building maintenance etc– as I understand it. They need to be targeted to specific program areas, building improvements etc. So it’s not really an answer to limited funding. A merger of Ypsi and Ann Arbor would be great but there’s a township in between. Consolidate it all. Unfortunately as state law is now written, if we consolidate the schools only, Ann Arbor’s per pupil expenditure would go down dramatically while Ypsi’s would not improve. The game is rigged. Hard to see it otherwise. I’m all for boosting school foundations as a way to provide a revenue stream and engage the citizenry in the success of our public schools. It’s not ideal, but it helps the schools and teachers keep their heads above water in the short term, and anything that improves the schools helps the kids in the long term.

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    As for the Latin class at Tappan, foreign language programming that didn’t exist previously is one are where foundation funds can help as I understand it. (I may be wrong) If I’m wrong, just take this example as a model of what happens. So state/millage funding for current programming is limited and foundation funds can’t say, hire new teachers for Spanish, but they can create new programming, like for say Latin and so reduce the burden of huge class sizes on Spanish teachers. At least that’s how I understand it.

  8. XXX
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    If our school districts merged, kids would flee Ann Arbor public schools for private schools like Greenhills. Ann Arbor talks a good liberal game, but, when it comes right down to it, they’re no different than other rich people.

  9. Jean Henry
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    That’s baloney XXX. But a moot point anyway as it won’t happen.

  10. Lynne
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I don’t think XXX is all that far off, fwiw. I know that when I grew up, the kids in my neighborhood overwhelming went to private schools and part of that was that the parents wanted the best education for their children and they didn’t think they could get it at public school. I had so many friends at Roeper that I recently went to one of their reunions!

    So if the schools were to merge and the people in AA with the money for private school were to decide that they wanted the “best education” (which sadly often means sheltering their children from people in poorer social groups or keeping them away from people of different races or both) for their kids, they would likely jump ship for private school. Once that happens, you get stronger support for things like tuition vouchers and charter schools which can further erode the public schools.

    In the town where a friend of mine lives in Louisiana, this is pretty much the case. The public schools are seriously underfunded and mostly the black students go there and all of the white students go to really nice private schools with plenty of funding. The parents just take the tax dollars they would have spent and use it for tuition.

    This is the really systemic way that we get to maintain our racial and social class divisions. Even those who would be happy to spend the money to fund public schools and who don’t mind integration end up sending their kids to private schools because it is the parents job to decide what is best for their individual child and going to a good school is perceived as being really important.

  11. Lynne
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    As for the Latin in middle school, that is awesome. FWIW, while it wasn’t middle school, I did learn Latin in Detroit Public Schools. I would love to see more foreign language instruction for all kids in our state but alas, not sure that is going to happen.

  12. Maria Huffman
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Latin class at Tappan is whatcha call bait, site administrator….Tappan is probably the hardest middle school in the district.

  13. Posted November 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Peter, what’s the action you think Ypsi should be taking to remedy this embarrassment? Since Prop A, YCS can’t levy an operations millage outside of the state education fund’s 18 mills on non-homestead properties, which goes to Lansing and is then doled out on a per-pupil basis. (Local districts can go to the ballot for capital funds, but the solution to crowded classes is hardly building a new school with more square footage in every classroom.)

    Ann Arbor gets a higher per-student allocation from Lansing, because they had higher property values back in 1994 when Prop A set in place the current system. Not much Ypsi can do about that without a time machine.

  14. Demetrius
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Peter Larson about this. The more we try to make up for funding shortfalls with community foundations and other private support (however well-intentioned) the more Lansing will be able to back away from its responsibility to provide adequate funding … and the more excuse they’ll have to give even bigger big tax breaks to their rich supporters and friends.

    Public schools should be supported with public tax dollars … and the rich, and corporations (who receive the most benefit) should pay proportionally more.

  15. Demetrius
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to get too far off topic here, but I also think this is an excellent example of how effective the “war on education” has been in this country over the past 30-35 years.

    When I was a kid, I grew up in a small town where almost everyone attended the local public schools. At that time, wealthy and upper-middle-class parents contributed to our community schools both financially and otherwise … running for the school board, making sure millages got passed, running the PTAs, etc. A cynic might say they only did all this was to make sure the schools were good enough for THEIR kids – but the net effect was that the schools were at least halfway decent for all the poor and working-class kids, too.

    Today, thanks nearly four decades of bi-partisan education “reform,” we have private schools, charter schools, private schools, special academies, home-schooling … and public schools … all competing for a shrinking pool of resources, and amid a ever-greater segmentation among students based on income, race, socio-economic status, etc. – and in many places, the “public” schools have become the schools of last resort.

  16. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    It was ok for better off families to contribute financially to your school when you were a kid but parents that have the extra money shouldn’t contribute to Ypsi today?

  17. Demetrius
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    My point is that since – back in the day – nearly all kids attended the “public” schools, the vast majority of the community shared an interest in their success – and funding.

    Today, most wealthy and upper-middle-class parents could give a flying f*ck about the “public” schools, since their kids are all in private/charter schools.

  18. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I understand your point that today there are a lot of different options for schooling and this fact has created many (maybe unintended) negative consequence for funding. But, if parents, who can afford to give extra do not care about public schools, then we do not need to worry about heavy contributions to the Ypsi foundation. So, no problem. I think Peter was right that private donations are not a good long term strategy, but, nobody ever said it was a long term strategy.

    The thing that bugs me is Ypsilanti has a lot of people who could afford a millage increase. Instead of donating money to their local school they act as if they are tied down by proposition a.

  19. Posted November 10, 2015 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth noting that Dexter now has *two* school-related foundations–one to provide the “extras” and one to provide basic foundational support for the schools.

    And although Ann Arbor has about $2,000 more/pupil in funding than Ypsilanti schools, the real solution is not to raise just Ypsi’s funding. The school districts near my parents in New York get between $22,000 and $28,000 per pupil!

    So just try this thought experiment: If ALL of the local school districts got the same amount of money–say $12,000, or $15,000 per pupil, would we feel like we needed to merge the school districts? Would we want to merge them anyway?

    Lansing does not want to support funding for school districts, and they also don’t want to financially support merging districts either…financially a merger would be a disaster, significantly lowering the overall per-pupil funding for the newly-formed district.

  20. Josh
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    The children and subsequent test scores of the affluent and educated are worth far more than cash donations.

  21. Peter Larson
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    Is there any evidence at all that the school in Ypsi would improve given a large amount of cash? I’m not arguing against raising funding (at all), but I think that for many school districts in Michigan, the problem isn’t just money.

  22. Peter Larson
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    “I think Peter was right that private donations are not a good long term strategy, but, nobody ever said it was a long term strategy.”

    Republicans say that quite often. Which is exactly why these sort of funds shouldn’t be celebrated by people who support public schooling.

  23. Peter Larson
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    “My point is that since – back in the day – nearly all kids attended the “public” schools, the vast majority of the community shared an interest in their success – and funding.”

    Really. When Mississippi became integrated, white people responded by sending their kids to private schools so they wouldn’t have to be in the same room with black kids. Even before this, many kids didn’t attend public schools.

    In Michigan, my family all went to private Catholic schools. I was the first person in my family to ever have gone to public school. This wasn’t uncommon, particularly in rural areas.

  24. Peter Larson
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    “The more we try to make up for funding shortfalls with community foundations and other private support (however well-intentioned) the more Lansing will be able to back away from its responsibility to provide adequate funding … and the more excuse they’ll have to give even bigger big tax breaks to their rich supporters and friends.”

    Yes, exactly.

  25. Jean Henry
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Everything Pete is saying makes sense within the MI public school fiscal reality of 20 or even 10 years ago, but anyone who has seen the budgets for local public schools knows they are literally being starved out. I didn’t believe it until I saw the budgets either, but there is nothing left to cut in many schools and the outlay from Lansing is dropping almost every year. There’s been a structural deficit every year since Snyder took office– until last year. So money IS an issue. No question. And foundations are the reach around solution for communities and, mostly, parents who want their kids to go to public schools. Would it be better to let them fail? To lose Community High School– which is on the chopping block every year and now runs night classes to increase it’s per pupil allotment? Bus and janitorial services have been privatized to save money. Music and Art teachers and librarians cover two schools instead of one now, running from one to the other during their lunch break. Almost half of the AAPS foundation funds go for bus service… This is where we are. It’s a stop gap solution until we get someone better in the Governor’s office and until Snyder’s plan to allow private charters to take overs of ‘failing’ schools is finally widely understood as the total disaster it is. Public school foundations are keeping the schools alive and vital. In Ann Arbor, our still great (though struggling) public schools are a big part of the appeal for businesses, especially IT businesses, to move here. There are many communities where MI public schools are failing due to restricted budgets– so whatever point needs to be made about Snyder’s cuts is being made elsewhere. I would highly recommend Ypsi do everything it can to support it’s public schools and new Superintendent. MI public schools are in crisis. Screw how things should be; deal with how they are.

  26. Posted November 11, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius said “and in many places, the “public” schools have become the schools of last resort.”

    As they said in Detroit, we were basically the Board of Special Ed and the Kids Nobody Else Wants. I protested heartily the first time someone said this to me, but I had come to accept it by the end of my time there.

  27. Peter Larson
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    “Screw how things should be; deal with how they are.”

    True, but I don’t think that we should be celebrating a move to a privately funded public school system (is that an oxymoron?). We should be ashamed.

  28. Jean Henry
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Well duh, Peter Larson. Idealism and ideology work great for those removed from direct impact. ‘Celebrating’ Chuck and Nancy’s commitment of resources to Ypsi schools is a way to encourage others to do the same. It’s fund raising. I hope it works.

    One could speculate that the rich contributing to public schools is better than the rich abandoning them (as has been suggested as inevitable here) to struggle. I would suggest that people contributing is a reflection of some understanding of the fiscal bind our public schools are in and may actually work better than just outrage in leading to political change in Lansing.

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