With the decline of major auto manufacturing in Detroit and the collapse of the housing market across the United States, Michigan continues to struggle during the sluggish economic recovery years after the 2008 economic recession.
It’s now affecting public schools, as reports emerge that an acute budget crisis has forced the Buena Vista School District to lay off all teachers and close its doors.
District administrators had few answers for angry teachers and parents who packed a meeting Tuesday night demanding classes resume. With no state funding and a sharp decline in enrollment, there are no plans in place to rehire teachers and restart classes for the remainder of the school year.
“I’d be out there taking collections to make sure my kids are getting an education,” said one parent after the meeting.
Buena Vista School District Superintendent Deborah Hunter-Harvill is said to be speaking with representatives from nearby Saginaw Intermediate School District. Hunter-Harvill hopes to send students to the nearby school to finish the year there.
For now, the school’s website only reports that schools across the district will be closed Thursday with no word whether they will reopen in the coming days.
“With very few exceptions, the District has laid off its staff. This step is necessary due to the fact that the District will not receive state school aid for April, May and June of 2013,” the website reports.
With fewer than 30 days of classes left in the year, the cancellation may not immediately affect underclassmen, but could prevent hundreds of seniors from graduating and going to college.
“I’ve had problems through high school, but I’ve turned it around now, and I really want to graduate. It means a lot to me,” said senior Tyrell Bridgewater.
Since 2008, spending for Michigan public schools has dropped 8.8 percent, among the sharpest declines of any state in the nation. According to 2010 U.S. Census Data, the state spends roughly $12 billion each year for K-12 education, or $10,644 per student. Recent cuts to education have been pushed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who has called for overall decreases in public spending as a panacea for the state’s financial woes.
According to an analysis published by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), an organization working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy, 26 states will spend less per pupil in fiscal year 2013 than the year before, and 35 are still spending at levels lower than before the 2008 recession after adjusting for inflation.
CBPP reports that some states have restored partial funding, a decision that researchers believe is inadequate given the need of schools across the nation.
“Some states are beginning to restore their school funding over the past year, but those restorations are, for the most part, far from sufficient to make up for cuts in past years,” write CBPP researchers Phil Oliff, Chris Mai and Michael Leachman. “For example, Florida is increasing school funding by $273 per pupil this year. But that is not nearly enough to offset the state’s $569 per-pupil cut over the previous four years.”