Now that Ann Arbor is going to be operating a school within Ypsilanti, maybe it’s a good time to broach the subject of our two districts working together, instead of against one another


On August 18, just a few weeks before classes were set to begin at Ann Arbor’s Allen Elementary, a water main broke beneath the school resulting in serious damages that parents were told would take several months to repair. Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Superintendent Jeanice Swift assured Allen families at the time that, in spite of the school’s temporary closing, she and her staff would find alternate arrangements for the several hundred students set to begin their school year in September. And, now, thanks to a 5 to 1 vote by the Ypsilanti Community School (YCS) Board of Education, it looks as though that temporary solution will entail bussing Allen students to Ypsilanti, to what we once knew as West Middle School (seen above), one of the half dozen or so public schools we’ve had to close over the past several years, as an increasing number of Ypsilanti families have chosen to move their children to charter schools and AAPS under the Michigan Department of Educations’s Schools of Choice program. [AAPS began accepting Schools of Choice students during the 2010-11 school year.]

According to a recent report by MLive, 671 students who live within YCS district boundaries attended Ann Arbor public schools last year. “YCS has struggled with a nearly 15 percent drop in its enrollment to 3,868 students over the past three school years,” the article said. Meanwhile, as the article went on to state, “AAPS has seen a nearly 4-percent increase in enrollment to 17,234 over that same timeframe.” And this, as you might imagine, has had an incredibly negative effect on Ypsilanti Community Schools. Not only have we lost those 671 students to Ann Arbor, but our district has lost the state funding associated with those 671 students. And it very well might get worse. In September, the AAPS Board of Education, as I understand it, is set to vote on a proposal that, if passed, would allow for Schools of Choice students to commute to and from their adopted Ann Arbor schools by way of AAPS busses. [Right now, Ypsilanti students, if they’re attending Ann Arbor schools, need to arrange for transportation to and from school themselves. Soon, however, depending on how the AAPS board votes, these students will be able to be dropped at designated bus stops at the Ann Arbor border by their families, and ride the busses along with other AAPS students, significantly lowering the bar for Ypsilanti families considering a change of district.]

It’s also worth noting that not all Ypsilanti children who apply for Schools of Choice are accepted. More often than not, I’ve been told, children dealing with the most serious issues, who require the most in-class support, are not chosen to participate, the result being that YCS is increasingly left with the students who cost the most to educate. [You can find the Schools of Choice criteria here.] It’s also worth noting, in the interest of fairness, that this Schools of Choice system isn’t just negatively affecting Ypsilanti. Accoring to numbers published by the Ann Arbor News, AAPS lost “about 6.9 percent of the public school-age children residing within the district’s boundaries” during the 2010-11 school year, as AAPS families chose to pursue other options, like sending their children to Saline or Milan schools.

Schools of Choice, to put it simply, is essentially a mechanism whereby parents who have the ability to navigate the application system and the wherewithal to provide daily transportation, can send their children to the best schools available, and school districts with greater resources can balance their budgets by pulling additional students from other districts, charters, and private schools. Sadly, according to Bridge Michigan, the long term results aren’t good. Most kids don’t’ stay in an out-of-home-district school for even three years, according to their analysis. “It’s not a program that kids make an academic career out of,” according to Joshua Cowen, associate professor at Michigan State University. “It’s a pattern really similar to general mobility within an urban district. It’s the same kids who are bouncing around.” So children of means essentially shuffle from school to school looking for the best programs at each grade level, as everyone else just accepts the hand they’ve been dealt.

So, with all of this as background, what’s happening right now at West Middle School, if you think about it, is really somewhat perverse. Not only did Ann Arbor, by opting into Schools of Choice, take a significant percentage of our students, thereby contributing toward the closing of several of our schools, but now they’re going to be coming back and taking over one of those very schools. So, it’s conceivable that, when school begins in September, we’ll have Ypsi kids educated in an YCS building, with all of the state money that’s been earmarked for their education going directly to AAPS, minus, I guess, whatever they’ll be paying in rent to YCS for the use of the building. And, to make matters worse, the teachers working in the building may very well be former YCS teachers who have likewise been poached away, which I’m told happens quite often. [Speaking of poaching, I’m told that members of the YCS board were concerned when this idea of renting West Middle School to AAPS was first discussed, that, if Allen were indeed to move in, people living in the immediate vicinity of the school might choose, under School of Choice, to move their children over. I’m told, however, that Superintendent Swift assured the YCS board that the School of Choice window had already closed for Allen, so the school would not be accepting any further transfers.]

For what it’s worth, I don’t suspect many Ypsilanti students are currently attending Allen, as most students who opt to participate in Schools of Choice are attracted to other, more in-demand AAPS schools, like A2 STEAM, Burns Park, Tappan, Huron, Skyline, and Carpenter, as opposed to a Title I school like Allen. [Carpenter is apparently popular with Ypsilantians as it’s the closest AAPS elementary school.] There may, however, be some… Regardless, it raises another interesting question. If Allen wasn’t one of the poorer of Ann Arbor Schools, would it be moving to Ypsilanti? If it were, say, Burns Park Elementary that had flooded, would the solution be to send those children to Ypsilanti? I suspect not. My guess is that, in that instance, members of the Ann Arbor community would have stepped up and rented a building for them somewhere in Ann Arbor, but that’s a different conversation for a different day.

With all of that said, I’m not against the idea of renting the school to AAPS. I agree with Ypsi Community Schools Superintendent Benjamin Edmondson, who said a few days ago, “This is about (the) kids.” As he pointed out out the time, “If we have a facility that’s available, it doesn’t make sense to me to sit there and say no.” With that said, though, the irony of it all still doesn’t sit well with me.

I don’t know if I ever 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 their credit, they were incredibly open and honest with me. To sum it up succinctly, they told me that, as things stood now in Lansing, it would not make economic sense for them to merge with Ypsilanti, under any circumstances. [If we were to merge our districts, they told me, they would not only take in fewer dollars per student from the State than they do now, but they’d also inherit our district’s considerable debt, which, according to Superintendent Ben Edmondson, costs us approximately $2 million per year.] Furthermore, they said they would continue to accept Ypsilanti students, if it meant that they could keep from closing AAPS schools and firing teachers. They said they didn’t like the idea of poaching our students, but it was something they had to do to keep their district solvent in light of the funding realities established by Prop A in 1994. If they didn’t do this, they said, their district would start to contract and weaken. So, as much as they knew it was hurting us, they said they had no intention of stopping. Their hands, they said, were tied.

I should also add that I know the decision as to where one sends their child is an incredibly difficult and personal one. We all want our children to have the best opportunities possible for success, and I don’t necessarily blame the families of those 671 Ypsilanti students who have chosen to send their children to Ann Arbor schools in hopes of giving them a more positive educational experience. We can’t ignore, however, the effect it’s having on our community, as more and more of our students are heading west across 23 for their educations. Schools are the very foundation of a community, and we can’t afford to just sit by any longer, passively watching as ours are systematically dismantled.

And, it’s worth noting, this isn’t just about YCS. All public education in the state of Michigan is under fire. It’s just that, here in Ypsilanti, we’re further along the path to destruction than better funded, more fiscally stable districts like those in Ann Arbor. [For more on the Michigan assault on public education, click here.]

So, how, given all of this, do our neighboring districts better work with one another to stop this destructive cycle that we’re caught in, and start fighting together to change things in Lansing, so that we can provide quality educations for all students, and not just those with the wherewithal to jump from district to district? Instead of pursuing furtive efforts to increase student counts each year, what if we were to explore bold policy initiatives together? What would happen if the Ann Arbor Board of Education advocated, for instance, that the State of Michigan forgive some or all of YCS’s considerable debt, so that the district was on more of a level playing field when competing with surrounding districts and charters? Or what if we were to explore the possibility of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) stepping in and consolidating operations for all Washtenaw County schools? Would that help our schools become more fiscally stable, and how would it compare to Ann Arbor’s move to privatize services in order to save general funds? Or what if we formed a new parent group across the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti border to begin advocating for a more fair and equitable system of public education?

In a recent Facebook discussion on how we might move forward with a discussion on how districts might better work together to stop this destructive cycle, YCS board member Maria Sheler-Edwards had the following to say.

I can’t talk about this issue without recognizing some of the larger issues that are contributing to the decline of urban districts in general. First, charters are a continual drain on all of us. There are some good ones, but there are also some pretty lousy charters out there that just aren’t fulfilling their promises. It would help immensely if the state would reinstate the cap, and hold the ones that are open accountable. We also need to revisit Prop A. These are hard issues that we in YCS (or AAPS) just aren’t in the position to solve ourselves. But – if there were going to be a local conversation about a merger, it would need to be facilitated by a third party, as the ISD did for YPS and WR. Also, I’d go big and bring all 9 Washtenaw Co districts to the table for a discussion about shared services to start, or what 3 or 4 larger districts would look like. “Local control” is relative.

So, with all of that said, I’m wondering how we initiate a fair, open, honest dialogue about our school districts and how they work with one another, while, at the same time, pushing for state reform relative to the way our districts are financed and our charter schools are licensed. These are some of the most difficult problems we face as a community, but they could also have the greatest positive impact for all of us. As our friends in Ann Arbor have to realize, they can’t stay afloat forever by pushing Ypsilanti Community Schools further down. At some point, we’re going to have to work together to find a solution. Why not begin that conversation today at West Middle School?

One last thing to keep in mind… Let’s all remember that, according to a recent study by Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute, the greater Ann Arbor region is the 8th most economically segregated metropolitan area in the United States. Like it or not, this isn’t just about our competing school districts trying to remain solvent. This is about race and class. And we need to acknowledge that. We also need to face the fact that these decisions that we make relative to education policy are not just driving inequality, but jeopardizing the future of our entire region.

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  1. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    “…it would not make economic sense for them to merge with Ypsilanti, under any circumstances…”

    You have nothing to offer as an incentive to a merger. If you care about your kids education, get involved and fix YPS. Volunteer. Demand after school tutoring and Saturday morning programs. Mentor fatherless children. Take an interest in their education and provide opportunities to practice reading, writing, and math skills. Promote abstinence and stop providing incentives for young unmarried women to have children out of wedlock. Smart kids from wealthy families do well in any school. Poor kids from broken homes are behind when they start and fall further behind each year.

    Parents are the primary educators for their children. If you’re too busy to participate in their educational growth, they will flounder. Even if you feel that you can’t homeschool your kids, you can supplement the meager education provided by the local public school system. Make them read books and write book reports. Make them do online Math modules. Teach them how to budget and balance a checkbook. Make them read articles and summarize the main points. Discuss current events. Take them grocery shopping and make them calculate the best deals. Have them plan good, nourishing meals. Stay involved with their lives and keep them from choosing an inappropriate peer group. Know what they are doing when they are out with their friends.

    Or, you can tell them when they are older and working at menial, low-paying jobs it wasn’t your fault and that you blame Prop A.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Mark lays out the systematic structural issues facing the district, and EOS responds by suggesting that we stop complaining about the state and begin teaching abstinence. Brilliant.

  3. site admin
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    YCS Board Member Maria Sheler-Edwards addressed the AAPS Board of Education on July 13, 2016. Here’s her statement.

    Superintendent Swift, President Mexicotte, Trustees, and Colleagues,

    My name is Maria Sheler-Edwards and I am coming to you as a trustee from your neighboring district, Ypsilanti Community Schools. I am here to make you aware of some of our painful realities that are the direct result of your decisions, and to ask you to reconsider your policy to allow school-of-choice students to ride your buses.

    A few years back, you opened your doors to neighboring districts, and we experienced the beginning of an exodus. We know that about 400 students (note: I was low!) with Ypsi addresses are enrolled in your schools, and we are forced to plan accordingly. 400 students represent more than 10% of our enrollment. This means an anticipated loss of $3 million out of our budget. Imagine how you would feel if you knew that 1700 of your kids were bailing out of your district. Every. Single. Year. You’d be worried right? We are more than worried. We now have about 3800 kids. You do the math. If the current trend continues—or accelerates, and it will if you offer busing—then we’re looking at closing our doors inside of 10 years. What happens then? It’s not difficult to envision a future where our district is divvied up among the neighboring districts—or simply annexed to yours. And it won’t be up to your voters to say no, just like it wasn’t up to Wayne-Westland, Taylor, Westwood, or Romulus, when the state shut down Inkster.

    But we are trying really hard to avoid Inkster’s fate. As you know, our district is newly formed from WR and YPS. With our consolidation in 2013, we accomplished something that no other distressed district in Michigan has —we avoided an emergency manager and re-formed ourselves into a new public district governed by an elected board. We have taken courageous measures to deal with a funding system that is stacked against urban districts like ours. We are doing everything we possibly can to stay afloat while still educating every child in our care—we’ve cut staff, we’ve closed and leased out buildings, and we have consolidated about everything we can (starting with two districts!). At the same time, we have hired a dynamic new superintendent, aligned our new curriculum from K-12, and put new processes into place. We are offering best-in-class programs like our IB middle school and our STEMM middle college that I honestly believe will break the cycle of poverty that entraps many of our students.

    But your decisions continue to compromise our efforts. It’s a shame that this is the situation we are all in. I’m not blaming you—entirely. Your district is also suffering from the competitive environment that Lansing has created. I’m sorry that our governor and his supporters seem to have their sights set on pitting all of us against each other, while paving the way for the growth of charter schools. In this scenario, there are winners and there are losers. So I ask you to think more broadly. Please understand that we are all in this together. You might not feel the implications of your actions now, but it’s inevitable that you will. I ask you to please vote no to bussing our kids, and please reconsider your school of choice policies so that our families can give us a try. We have a lot to offer! If, however, your situation is such that you need our 400 students a year to survive and thrive, then let’s start an open dialogue. Let’s refuse to participate in the dogfight that Lansing is goading us into, and instead look for ways to work together to ensure that every single student in Washtenaw County has the same opportunities—no matter what their zip code is. Right now your decisions are feeding into the problem. But you can be part of the solution. We are leaders in Washtenaw County. Let’s show the rest of the state how it’s done.

  4. Brainless
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Sorry Mark, but this is pretty whiny:

    “Not only did Ann Arbor, by opting into Schools of Choice, take a significant percentage of our students, thereby contributing toward the closing of several of our schools, but now they’re going to be coming back and taking over one of those very schools.”

    1) Ann Arbor didn’t do a goddamn thing to Ypsilanti. Ypsi did it to itself. You act like some cadre of evil Arborites are out to steal our childrens’ souls when maybe, just maybe, they wanted some good fucking schools and were willing to work for it. Stop blaming them for being good.

    2) Ann Arbor isn’t “taking over” anything. They made the best use of what was available to them. It’s business, good business, to do what was done here.

    Instead of bitching – YET AGAIN – about Ann Arbor vs. Ypsilanti, maybe you could focus on the fact the our public officials actually made a very good decision about how to use public facilities. Yes, you hit on it in this piece. But I can’t navigate your bitchy little attitude to get to the good stuff. Give it a rest and stop acting like you speak for Ypsi. You and the 20 people who read this site hardly represent the city.

    “I’m wondering how we initiate a fair, open, honest dialogue about our school districts and how they work with one another…”

    Yes, please let’s talk this shit to death some more. That’ll fix it.

  5. Alice
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I personally know Ann Arbor students going the other direction to attend Ypsi schools such as WiMA, WiHi, WTMC & ECA. These schools even have waiting lists and lotteries for Ann Arbor students wanting to get in.

  6. DL
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    This has been what has needed to happen for years. I think unless the funding structure changes we really need to switch to an all county district. This would take care of the poaching for students problem.

  7. Jack Andrew Gillard
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Let us hope. My cousin is a lobbyist for education in Lansing. He thinks mega districts are inevitable. But Ann Arbor didn’t want to join with Whitmore Lake. Sadly, I think there would be more push back with regards to Ypsi. I know several families who moved their kids out of the Ypsi schools for whatever reason.

  8. Dan
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Brainless is spot on. To Mark, it’s always Ann Arbor’s fault when things are shitty in Ypsi.

  9. Meta
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    In related news:

    “Michigan spends $1B on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable”

    Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools — but state laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest, and the state demands little accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent and how well children are educated.

    A yearlong investigation by the Detroit Free Press reveals that Michigan’s lax oversight has enabled a range of abuses in a system now responsible for more than 140,000 Michigan children. That figure is growing as more parents try charter schools as an alternative to traditional districts.

    In reviewing two decades of charter school records, the Free Press found:

    Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them.

    And a record number of charter schools run by for-profit companies that rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it, saying they’re private and not subject to disclosure laws. Michigan leads the nation in schools run by for-profits.

    “People should get a fair return on their investment,” said former state schools Superintendent Tom Watkins, a longtime charter advocate who has argued for higher standards for all schools. “But it has to come after the bottom line of meeting the educational needs of the children. And in a number of cases, people are making a boatload of money, and the kids aren’t getting educated.”

    According to the Free Press’ review, 38% of charter schools that received state academic rankings during the 2012-13 school year fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all schools in the state performed better. Only 23% of traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile.

    Advocates argue that charter schools have a much higher percentage of children in poverty compared with traditional schools. But traditional schools, on average, perform slightly better on standardized tests even when poverty levels are taken into account.

    In late 2011, Michigan lawmakers removed limits on how many charters can operate here —opening the door to a slew of new management companies. In 2013-14, the state had 296 charters operating some 370 schools — in 61% of them, charter boards have enlisted a full-service, for-profit management company. Another 17% rely on for-profits for other services, mostly staffing and human resources, according to Free Press research.

    Michigan far exceeds states like Florida, Ohio and Missouri, where only about one-third of charters were run by a full-service, for-profit management company in 2011-12, according to research by Western Michigan University professor Gary Miron, who has studied charters extensively.

    Read more:

  10. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The Charter School in Ypsilanti Township is one of the best performing in the state. Arbor Preparatory High School excels while the Public Schools in Ypsilanti have 10% or less of their students meeting minimal academic standards.

  11. Lynne
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    It always cracks me up when someone tries to fix some systemic problem or another, there will always be people who accuse them of whining or bitching unnecessarily. Oh well. I guess the trick is to just ignore them as much as possible and also to get involved to keep them from having too much of an influence in the voting booth. *shrug*

  12. Kira Berman
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    For those who know and understand the state’s funding system and the systemic racism it supports, Mark’s analysis and suggestion for further conversation are not “whiny.” With a difference of about $4K per student, the state says Ypsilanti children do not matter as much as Ann Arbor children, “for whatever reason.” Continuing to speak up on this issue is not whining but a matter of the responsibility we all have to move towards social justice. Schools are not “businesses” where we can afford to have some win and some lose – these are children’s lives that win and lose and there is no place for Malthusian competition and loss in social services such as education.

    Despite this lack of equity, our Board made the right decision for children to house an Ann Arbor school. Despite this lack of equity, and through the efforts of many parents in the district, great things are happening in Ypsilanti schools, and yes, we have some A2 students. The suggestions here to begin a conversation with county and district leaders about further collaboration are good ones, and the critique is a necessary one. Those who engage in blaming parents and students who are already overcoming many obstacles are (perhaps unconsciously) supporting systemic racism. I for one would rather try to be part of any of these discussions.

  13. Dan
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    These kinds of whiny “It’s their fault” posts are so annoying. You constantly do this shit whenever discussing how the surrounding communities have something better than Ypsi. It’s always someone taking advantage of you.

    Maybe, just maybe, decades of horrible management have led to despicable schools in Ypsi. And no one wants their kids in them. it’s a GREAT thing for families in Ypsi to be able to have a choice and give their kids a better education. It should actually be a selling point for the city. If you love the hipster “realness” of ypsi, you can still buy a home there and not have to put your kids in their horrible schools.

  14. Ted
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    How is it “whiny” to state facts? You criticize Mark for blaming Ann Arbor, but, if you actually read the piece, you’d see that he said Ann Arbor was suffering as a result of this system as well. He also went out of his way to say that he didn’t blame parents for seeking out what they considered to be better options for their children. I don’t read this as an article looking to cast blame, but, then again, I actually read the whole thing.

  15. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Ann Arbor Schools get $6500 per pupil from the state and has a total of $14,233 per pupil to spend. Ypsilanti gets $7662 per pupil from the state and has a total of $15,304 per pupil to spend.

    Ypsi gets about $1000 more per student. Where does this $4000 deficit figure come from?

  16. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    When my comment gets moderated, you’ll see that Ypsi has higher per student funding than Ann Arbor. Prop A has reduced the difference spent between rich and poor districts.

  17. Maria E Huffman
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    So, the basic fact and problem with making a student school of choice is that the parent can not cast a vote to support or defeat a Board of Education member. They owe you nothing, unless you pay them something. So just remember, that is basic structure and they will quite honestly let you all know that is absolutely correct.

  18. iRobert
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Mark, have you ever considered just turning this blog over to EOS?

  19. Posted August 29, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Timely MLive article today looks at the headcount impacts of school of choice + charters on local districts across the state.

    Their numbers, for Fall 2015 enrollment — 7,350 students lived in the Ypsi district, geographically, and attended some form of public school. The YCS district enrolled 289 non-residents, saw 1,395 residents enrolled in other public schools districts, and 2,558 enrolled in public charter schools. A net loss of 3,664 students, or 50%. (Lincoln saw a 28% net loss, A2 a 2% net loss. Only Manchester, Milan, and Saline saw net gains vs. resident population.)

  20. Posted August 29, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    How about a link, then:

  21. Gillian
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Let’s just step 10 years into the future, if our dear Governor and the “school choice” advocates had their way.

    It’s two weeks before school starts, and Allen School parents receive a letter saying “Flooding happened, we’re closing the school. Good luck finding another place to send your kid. Sorry Not Sorry.” leaving parents with zero recourse and no time to plan, because charter schools have no accountability.

    Sounds crazy but it just happened last week in Detroit:

    The Supreme Court of Michigan declared that the state has no responsibility to educate our children (see: Highland Park.) If a school closes and there aren’t enough seats elsewhere, parents are just screwed. Do you drive an hour and a half to the district that would take you, or quit your job to watch and homeschool your kid when you’re not qualified to do so? Perhaps the state can save on your kid’s per-student funding by simply not sending your kid to school.

    Rich, powerful people are trying to systematically destroy our country’s education system and our public schools are battling over the scraps. That’s what you’re voting for when you choose a “pro school choice” politician. That’s what you’re voting for when you send your kid to a charter school. Already, many parents are forced to make that choice because their public schools are already past the point of no return, we’re lucky that that is not yet the case in Washtenaw County. AAPS and YCS both have some excellent schools and teachers. They also have struggles. We’re not gonna get out of this unless we figure out a way to work together while also defending education at the state level. If we allow good education to belong only to the rich, we all lose.

  22. anonymous
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    EOS, I know you’ve done your research and you’ve discovered that “Ypsi has higher per student funding than Ann Arbor,” but let’s just say that weren’t the case? If Ypsi’s schools actually had less per-student funding, would you change your mind about the fairness of the current system?

  23. Gillian
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    On a somewhat more hopeful note, I do have one suggestion for what people can do to get started.

    After the inequality survey came out last year, Chuck Warpehoski and Nancy Shore, who live in Ann Arbor and send their kids to Ann Arbor public schools, made a public pledge to make matching donations to the Ypsilanti Schools Foundation for all that they spent as parents on AAPS. Every $10 they spend on a field trip or $50 for an after-school club, they donate the same to YCS to give a kid here the same opportunity.

    I love this idea. It’s hard to educate kids when the only kids left in your district are poor. It’s shitty to think of a class that can’t go on a field trip because the parents can’t afford $8 for the school bus. Or a teacher leaving because they’re sick of spending their own money on school supplies. A couple hundred bucks from you could fund a field trip, or school supplies, or professional development for a teacher. I know that all parents have to make the best decision for their kids on where to go to school, but this seems like a good way to support YCS even if you don’t have kids there. Because our community needs for our schools to succeed.

  24. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink


    Is anyone arguing that the funding is unfair to Ann Arbor? Look at the state figures for Detroit. The state gives far more to Detroit than to either Ypsi or Ann Arbor. Is that unfair? Are people flocking to Detroit to take advantage of the increased funding? The amount of funding has little to do with educational outcomes.

  25. Posted August 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Parents working multiple minimum wage jobs are to blame for their kids’ academic failures because they don’t make their kids do book reports and home and online math modules to make up for the shitty schools in their district..

  26. Lynne
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I would argue that even if the state is giving more money to Detroit than Ann Arbor, it isn’t fair. There is equality in funding and equality in outcomes and they are not the same. I submit that if the state ever has to take over the running of schools, they should be required to spend as much money as it takes to get the school’s students performing as well as any other district.

  27. Kira Berman
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The numbers from the Mackinac Center are twisted. They include both federal and state funds earmarked for special education and at-risk social services, which Ypsi receives more of as we have more need than Ann Arbor for social services. Those funds are not part of the foundation per pupil allowance and incidentally do not cover the full additional needs, leaving Ypsi to continue to spend more general fund dollars on special ed and social services. Mackinac also often includes building money which cannot be spent on teachers, and excludes money spent on retirement and debt services. If you are interested in comparing funding available for teachers and students, it is important to compare apples to apples. I applaud the donations and other efforts by Chuck and Nancy, but until funding equity (different from funding equality, incidentally) is institutionalized, such efforts are symbolic protests.

  28. Jcp2
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Then you need to either change state governance, or challenge the state in court.

  29. John Galt
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I say we allow these children to experience the freedom of making their own way in this world. Abolish government schools and replace them with factories. Give children the same opportunities their great, grant grandparent had to lean inside textile mills and coal miles. No book can teach you as much as you learn on a factory floor. Sure you might lose a finger or an eye, but it doesn’t take two eyes and ten fingers to pull yourself up by the bootstraps!

  30. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    The the Mackinac Center lists the funding from the state separate from additional sources of funding. Ypsi gets more from the state.

    The problem is that no amount of money would enable Ypsi to perform as well as Ann Arbor. Student performance is not correlated with school funding. A few years back a judge ordered Kansas schools to do just what you said. Although many millions were spent, the educational outcomes were no different.

  31. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Kansas City, MO – my mistake

  32. Maria Huffman
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    So Mark Maynard, my best advice to you is stop talking to the AAPS board members. They have explained how they operate. write to them if you choose to communicate,but understand with them,it is them first, then everyone else.

  33. Maria Huffman
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    At some point…nah I am not going to read any comments from people who do not leave their own names, except Frosted Flakes..EOS lost me and ticked me off with his nasty little comment about the DuPont Paint plant in Flint.
    Which he never worked in, and I did.
    Of course AAPS will be poaching students from Ypsilanti, of course they will…they have to pay for Allen and one million dollars will never be enough…just watch.

  34. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Huffman,

    I’m sorry if it ticked you off, but I still don’t believe that DuPont could dump large vats of paint into the sewage without being discovered. The floor drains had to divert the material into a collection vessel for proper disposal. You keep promising to stop reading my comments but you won’t stop posting rude comments about them.

  35. Dirtgrain
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    “When my comment gets moderated, you’ll see that Ypsi has higher per student funding than Ann Arbor. Prop A has reduced the difference spent between rich and poor districts.”

    Ann Arbor Public Schools Foundation Grant (per pupil) 2014-16: $9170
    Ypsilanti School District: $7335


  36. Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Good to have you back, Dirtgrain. You’ve been missed.

  37. EOS
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink


    The “Foundation Allowance” is based on a formula. School Districts that had higher tax milliages historically are able to continue to increase the millage to a higher level than those districts who had lower rates, albeit at a lower rate of increase than they had in the past. The formula takes the rate that citizens voted to fund education into account, but puts limits on the increases. Gradually, over time, inflation will raise the revenues of all districts to the level of funding that existed in the highest taxed districts. Even though Ann Arbor could potentially raise their rates so that the per student funding is $9170, they don’t. They get $6500 per student from the state, taking into account their current level of taxation. The formula didn’t “cut” the funding immediately for the richer districts because they had contractual obligations that would have been hard to change immediately.

  38. Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Can we change the name of this blog eo

    More online math modules.

  39. Westside
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Wait Jcp2 – what was it you said in a previous post about what determined a child’s success in school?

  40. soggywaffles
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Is there any actual incentive for the districts to merge? Mergers are possible, obviously, but I don’t know of any carrot from the state side to incentivize districts in such disparate circumstances to merge. Not to bash Ann Arbor, but I don’t see them doing this for altruistic reasons, and I don’t really know of any examples of other communities doing anything similar. I’ve heard that over time as costs grow faster than the increases in funding schools will need to do it to survive, but that assumes that nothing will be done at a state or local level to address those shortfalls. Even if funding continues to stagnate, you’re basically hoping some accountants from Ann Arbor will be politically persuasive enough to turn long term costs into a hot button issue. Accountants from Ann Arbor make terrible politicians…

    Without major state incentives to regionalize school districts, there just doesn’t seem to be any motive. And I think it is unfair to simply expect the Ann Arbor district to regionalize for the sake of being a good neighbor. This needs to be a state driven process oriented towards systematically improving struggling schools.

  41. Jcp2
    Posted August 29, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I think there are two overlapping issues that discussions about school funding mix together. For Ypsilanti to attract higher income families, and thus possibly raise real estate values, and consequently city tax revenue, it seems important to improve YCS to attract such families. However, I’m not so sure that this will result in substantial benefit to individual students that are already doing poorly in school, as there are so many other factors outside of school influence. While school district performance measures will likely improve over time, how much of that is because of true improvement in any one student’s outcome as opposed to a substitution of better off students for poorer students? It would seem that measures addressed directly at alleviating poverty would have the direct benefit of improving school outcome at the individual level, and be meaningful, while measures directed at the primary and secondary school experience helps only a subset of students.

  42. Westside
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Jcp2 could you say that again but in a way that might be more easily understood by those of us who were poorer students?

    Are you and EOS in agreement? It’s not the schools, it’s the families?

  43. MikeB
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Updated numbers or maybe these are the same that you used.

  44. Lynne
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Re: “The problem is that no amount of money would enable Ypsi to perform as well as Ann Arbor. Student performance is not correlated with school funding.”

    I think jcp2 has addressed this well, fwiw. He or she is right that perhaps the money could be better spent in other ways besides directly as school funding. The issue is that the outcomes are not equal and there are many reasons why but one of them is that poor children have hurdles to overcome that others dont. There have been successful programs where money is spent on things other than direct education (although fwiw, I am pretty sure that money spent on things like smaller class sizes for poorer students are beneficial). It is things that I mostly would never have thought of but small things like providing students free breakfast in addition to free lunch, having enriching field trips that don’t require money from the students, and enriching summer programs, having a washer and dryer available for students in the school, etc. Better social welfare programs would likely help too if they increased the stability of the student’s home life.

  45. Dirtgrain
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Another source for EOS:


  46. EOS
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink


    The foundation allowance is not the per student funding that a district receives. For wealthy school districts, it reflects the amount that they could receive if they taxed their citizens to highest level allowed under the current law. I see how the mlive story can mislead someone.

    Because they used to have one of the highest rates of taxation for schools, the law today would allow them to raise their taxes to an amount that would equal $9,170 per student. But they don’t. The taxes raised under their present rate equals $7440.83 per student. They get the $6500 from the state and then a little more from the Feds.

  47. Jcp2
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 11:59 pm | Permalink


    The foundation allowance is not just what local school districts can levy in taxes. By the very formula, it also includes a share of the state education fund, which includes a 6 mill tax on homestead and nonhomestead properties within the local district. The state will then return $6500 back to the school district as part of the foundation allowance, regardless of what the properties in the school district paid in. The district is then allowed to make up the difference between the foundation allowance and the state contribution in the form of additional local millages, as well as with a local 18 mill tax on nonhomestead properties. To see if a district is not at its maximum allowable taxation for school operating funds, you need to see if the local expenditure category in the Mackinac Center ledger is less than the foundation allowance minus $6500.

  48. Jcp2
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    I meant Michigan senate site.

  49. EOS
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Do you have a link to a state site that lists the local contribution by district? All I can find are lists of foundation allowances. The Mackinac Center was the only site I found that listed local funds and state funds separately.

    Additional taxes levied in Ann Arbor would reduce the amount the State contributes. The proportion they can keep is dependent on State regulations. There are some school districts in the state that receive nothing from the state.

  50. Westside
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    So the two people who don’t think there is a correlation between amount spent and outcomes are spending time exploring how much is spent?

  51. Jcp2
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    All school district must contribute 6 mills on taxable property to the state education fund. All district receive a per pupil payment back from the state. There are no districts that do not receive this payment. However, there are a minority of districts where the total value of the tax revenue sent to the state is larger than the total value of the per pupil grant paid back from the state. I think this is where the statement that some districts receive nothing from the state comes from. I believe that AAPS is one of these districts. The total value of the 6 mill tax paid into the state education fund from the AAPS district area is about double the total value of the per pupil grant received back from the state. So yes, AAPS shows a state contribution accounted for in your referenced websites, and yes, the net gain to the district from the state as compared to the total contribution from the district is negative, so AAPS is receiving nothing from the state.

  52. EOS
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink


    They were small school districts in outlying areas – I think one was in the UP. Less than 200 students total in the district. They use local funds to spend about $13K per student and get nothing back from the state. If I find the link again, I’ll post it. But I agree with what you wrote about Ann Arbor, paying more in than they get back. And if they try to increase taxes to reach their foundation allowance, the “return on investment” is even smaller.

  53. Lena Jordan
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Politics of education are always interesting and nearly always heartbreaking. I’ve seen some fantastic charters that really work to help students, but that’s not the rule so much as the exception.

    The more I find out about the public school systems here the sadder it makes me. The systemic segregation and discrimination is tragic. We need to do better. Our kids deserve better, regardless of who their parents are or their socioeconomic status.

  54. Oliva
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Allen would be our first choice for an Ann Arbor school of choice, and we live in Ypsilanti. (Sample size of one . . . again. But I love Allen School and know some really great kids who go there and a fabulous grown-up who works there. Was so sorry about the very destructive water main break.)

  55. Jcp2
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    EOS, I don’t believe you. At all. Westside, what Lynne said.

  56. EOS
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 7:03 pm | Permalink


    Please refer to slides 10, 14, and 19 – three School districts of about a dozen in the state that receive no state funding

    Whitefish Township Schools. $11,001
    Mackinac Island Public Schools. $11,337
    Boris Blanc Pines School District. $15,616

    You should believe me. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it and apologize.

  57. EOS
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    WEMU had the superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools on All Things Considered today. They asked her about attracting students away from Ypsi Schools. She claimed the district loses about as many students each year as they attract and all public school districts are fighting against private schools and charters. It seemed as if the person interviewing her had read this blog.

  58. Posted August 31, 2016 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Everyone reads this blog.

  59. Jcp2
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink


    While it is true that districts can voluntarily use millages for various capital improvements, the amount that all districts can use for operations, which is the teaching component of the school, is capped at the foundation level by law by the state. It may be true that the 18 mill nonhomestead tax for these small districts exceed the foundation grant because of a high value for these properties as compared to the number of students, but the state still contributes to the school budget. For example, if you look at the actual budget statements of the Whitefish school district, easily available on their website, for the final approved budget for 2015-2016, they had total revenue of about 1.35 million dollars. The amount from local sources was about $960,000. The amount from the state was about $310,000.

  60. Jcp2
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Mackinac Island reports state revenue of $220,000 on a budget of $1.7 million dollars. Bois Blanc Pines reports $4000 from the state on a total budget of $120,000 (for 3 students). Do no, it’s not true that there are school districts in Michigan that receive no state funding. Just because you saw something on the internet doesn’t make it true, MLive included. In Michigan, all publish school district budgets are published on their websites as a matter of state laws regarding transparency. You should take a look.

  61. EOS
    Posted September 1, 2016 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    My comments were directed to the foundation allowance distributions for each school district, which had been the focus of our whole discussion. When you include all revenue, then you are correct in that each receives some funding for other specific earmarked programs. When you consider all revenue, the Bois Blanc Pines receives $32,609 from local sources per student and $1654 from the state per student. Mackinac Island receives $23,733 from local sources per student and $3089 from the state per student. Whitefish Township receives $44,035 from local sources per student and $14,687 from the state per student. Because each district exceeds the maximum cap allowed for local taxes, they get zero dollars from the state for their foundation allowance according to the formula. Amounts are actual expenditures 2014/16. By your own figures, each of these three districts are “out of formula” and by necessity must exceed the mandatory caps for expenditures on teaching.

  62. Meta
    Posted September 1, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    MLive is now on it.

    “I can’t sacrifice my children for the sake of supporting my local schools,” said Colleen Brewer, 45, a single mother of two boys who attend South Arbor Charter Academy in Ypsilanti. “My job is to raise kids. I’m going to do what’s best for my kids. Sorry they trump the community, as much as I love the community.”

    Brewer’s sons – now going into eighth grade and fifth grade – started their school careers at Ann Arbor’s Carpenter Elementary School. Brewer felt her oldest son’s needs for extra support in reading weren’t being met, and her younger son had trouble getting along with other students and teachers at the school.

    Three years ago, they transferred to South Arbor, where Brewer says they’ve found a better fit and a stronger sense of community. South Arbor is a K-8 school, so Brewer’s sons will have to transfer somewhere else for high school. They’re considering Ann Arbor Public Schools because the boys’ father lives in the district, or Brewer thinks a middle college program where they can earn college credits while in high school is attractive.

    At the time she pulled her sons out of Carpenter Elementary, Brewer considered transferring her boys to Ypsilanti Community Schools, but after reading about the consolidation of two struggling districts to form YCS, she didn’t think that was the right choice for her family.

    “It would have been different if my kids were at level or exceeding, but they were already behind. I can’t see taking my kid who’s already struggling and putting them in a struggling district,” Brewer said, adding that she felt pressure from other parents to enroll her children in their home district. “Why not go to one of the best schools in Michigan? It’s right there. It just made sense.”

    Enrollment at YCS has been hit especially hard by nearby charter schools. In 2015, 7,350 public school students lived in the Ypsilanti school district, but only about half of them attended YCS. The district drew 289 non-resident students, but lost 2,558 of its residents to charter schools and another 1,395 resident students to other traditional public school districts.

    Losing 50 percent of its potential student body ranks YCS No. 8 in the state for largest net loss to school choice. In 2009 – before Ypsilanti public schools merged with Willow Run – Ypsilanti schools lost 13 percent of its student body to other school districts.

    Read more:

  63. anonymous
    Posted September 1, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the link, Meta. I was struck by the last line of the article.

    “I do question … if we didn’t have school choice if we wouldn’t have stayed and advocated for changes in our own school district.”

  64. mytatom
    Posted September 1, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I believe that both of the following are true:
    1) Ypsilanti Community Schools needs more $ to pay off its legacy bonds
    2) YCS needs to be more transparent about how it is spending the money it receives

    Given that avg YCS teacher salary is roughly 2/3 the county avg, why aren’t there more teachers and why aren’t teachers aides paid more than $12/hr? The need to pay bondholders is part of the problem.

    YCS payroll is not as burdened by special ed teachers as you might think because the federal government provides some $. On the other hand, high student turnover due to lack of affordable housing means YCS teachers and special ed staff have to sacrifice teaching and prep time to write up assessments and plan. The good news is the special education levy passed, but oversight is still needed as in all districts (and charters).

  65. wobblie
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    Mark, we have school board elections coming up. How about inviting some of the candidates onto your radio program. Steve Gray would be a great interview. He brings a fresh perspective.

  66. Meta
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    “Ann Arbor Schools to pay 180K a month to use Ypsilanti middle school”

    Ypsilanti Community Schools board of education signed off Monday, Sept. 12, on an agreement for Ann Arbor Public Schools to lease Ypsilanti’s West Middle School for the next few months.

    AAPS will use West Middle School, located at 105 N. Mansfield St., to house Allen Elementary School for five to 10 months, said YCS Superintendent Ben Edmondson. The lease calls for AAPS to pay $180,000 a month, and Ann Arbor will provide its own maintenance and food services, he said.

    “We have done our due diligence in terms of what the building is worth,” Edmondson said. “I think it worked out for (Ann Arbor schools) and it worked out for us.”

    Read more:

  67. Jeff Hayner
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Late to this post on the topic of school mergers, but wanted to get something in here for the record. The Whitmore Lake – Ann Arbor merger was doomed not only because it was a bad financial deal for AAPS voters, but also because it was clearly done in pursuit of name recognition for certain real estate interests in Northfield Township. “More sprawl, now with Ann Arbor Schools.”

    However, the biggest hurdle to overcome IMO with that deal was the simple fact that Whitmore Lake is not located in Washtenaw County, it is in Livingston County. How would WISD work that funding and accounting split out? I’d much rather see a merger of the AAPS and YSD from a WISD perspective.

8 Trackbacks

  1. […] And, as we discussed a few weeks ago, we’re already feeling the results here in Southeast Michigan, where neighboring school districts are aggressively poaching students from one another under the ban…. […]

  2. […] own conclusions as to what all of this means. All I ask is that, before doing so, your read through our most recent discussion concerning the various factors at play between our two districts, which have been pitted against one another by the […]

  3. […] [For our most recent conversation on how Ann Arbor’s school of choice program is impacting Ypsilanti, click here.] […]

  4. […] billboards for fly-by-night virtual charters offering to educate our kids over the internet. And we’ve seen our school districts closing once vital neighborhood schools right and left due to unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that […]

  5. […] just collect the money from the state that would have otherwise directed to a public school.] And we’ve seen our school districts closing once vital neighborhood schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system […]

  6. […] believe me, just look at what’s happened in Michigan, where, thanks to the efforts of DeVos, we’ve seen our school districts closing once vital neighborhood schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system […]

  7. […] just collect the money from the state that would have otherwise directed to a public school.] And we’ve seen our school districts closing once vital neighborhood schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system […]

  8. […] just collect the money from the state that would have otherwise directed to a public school.] And we’ve seen our school districts closing once vital neighborhood schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system […]

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