Emergency Managers, Michigan — January 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Suttons Bay school district fights back against imposition of an Emergency Manager


Emergency Managers: Not just for black cities anymore

As I wrote last week, tiny Suttons Bay in the “Pinky” of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is facing the imposition of an Emergency Manager for their school district. This past week they held a community budget forum to discuss the issue. Here is video of the 90+ minute forum:

You can see the Powerpoint Presentation made by Superintendent Mike Murray. One slide stood out from the rest for me. It’s the per-pupil funding levels in Michigan over the past few years:

Click to enlarge

Interesting statistics considering the Governor Snyder made a big deal about supporting education and educators in his State of the State address this week.

Suttons Bay schools aren’t taking this lying down. They have a letter template that they have prepared for district residents to send to Governor Snyder.

Gov. Rick Snyder
PO Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Governor Snyder,
I care about the Suttons Bay Public School system and urge you to use your influence to solve the inequities of school funding both within Leelanau County and in the state as a whole. Because of the way that our state allocates school funds, Suttons Bay must compete on the following unequal playing field: our neighboring “out of formula” school in Northport receives $23,829 per pupil, Glen Lake $9,500 per pupil (also out of formula), Leland $7,780 per pupil whereas Suttons Bay receives $6,846 per pupil. (Source: Senate Fiscal Agency.) In addition, both Leland and Glen Lake also receive considerable “Impact Aid” funds from the federal government (between $1,500,000 and $2,000,000 per year, compared to Suttons Bay’s $350,000.) Meanwhile schools in Birmingham receive more than $11,774 per pupil and report a fund balance of almost $50 million, thanks to years of receiving generous funding. This is not even close to a “level playing field” in terms of resources. This year’s budget cuts to education have been especially hard for Suttons Bay to bear because we are already getting the short end of the stick. If the game were changed, we wouldn’t be in our current financial predicament and facing a deficit in our school system. Because Lansing has yet to fix these gross inequities, we have been forced to cut costs in every way possible:

  • We have cut our teaching staff from 79 to 42 teachers.
  • We have eliminated our middle school principal position.
  • We have eliminated the superintendent’s secretary and the payroll clerk.
  • We eliminated one high school and one middle school secretary position.
  • We eliminated our receptionist position.
  • We discontinued our transportation system.
  • We privatized our custodial operation and transferred our food service operation to TCAPS.
  • We cut all but our required aide positions and cut our special education staff in half.
  • We have eliminated single grades at the elementary.
  • We discontinued our contracted snow removal service, moving the operation in house.
  • We changed our insurance policy to a less costly plan.
  • Our teachers are in year three of 0% increase in salary.
  • We retired our more senior teaching staff.

Through it all, despite being the proverbial underdog, Suttons Bay consistently manages to excel against all odds. In recent years we have achieved the second highest test scores out of 16 schools in the TBA. This is pretty incredible considering the fact that we serve a higher proportion of at-risk students than other schools. Parents work their tails off fundraising to keep programs alive, but it is never enough.

Ironically, our Superintendent, Mike Murray, has done the very things you have asked schools to do: cut costs and work with the teachers union to secure concessions. But our budget deficit woes mean that he could be replaced with a state emergency manager. Such a move would be a travesty and certainly not in the best interests of our school or our community. I urge you to provide the leadership for our state to level the school funding playing field and to allow us to keep the school system we treasure in Suttons Bay.


H/T Eclectablog reader Kevin