Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. This is a road that Willow Run could be going down as well, as I described a few days ago. Just a few short weeks ago Highland Park got an emergency loan from the state to cover payroll.
According to this Detroit Free Press article,
The [emergency financial review] team found that a financial emergency exists based on factors including ending the school year on June 30 with an $11.3-million deficit, a 51% increase from the previous year.
The district had an operating deficit in excess of revenues for five of the six years evaluated and an average operating deficit of $2.3 million over seven years, [Michigan Department of Education Deputy Superintendent] Wolenberg said in her presentation on behalf of the review team.
The district saw a decrease in enrollment from 1,858 students in 2010 to 1,331 in 2011. There are currently 969 students enrolled, and about 40% of them live in Detroit, Wolenberg said. (1/21/2012)
Based on this determination, Governor Snyder sent out a letter to parents of students in the district. According to district officials,
the letter sends a deceptive message and could be taken as a warning to parents to get out of the district.That's not the governor's perspective.
"If you were a parent this would be intended to scare you," said Highland Park school board secretary Robert Davis. "This is unprecedented communication with the parents. Why wouldn't you notify district officials?"
Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said the letter was meant to address the anger, fear and frustrations of the district's parents.(Both quotes taken from a 1/24/2012 article in the Detroit Free Press, Highland Park schools 'in jeopardy of closing,' Snyder tells parents.)
Do you even know where Highland Park is? It is a small, impoverished urban community (fewer than 12,000 people) completely surrounded by the City of Detroit.
And the city of Highland Park itself has been under emergency management for most of the decade of the oughts (as the 2000s can be called).
Do you even know where Kalkaska is? It is a small, poor (but not as poor as Highland Park) rural community with a population of under 2300, located in Kalkaska County in the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula. The school district is geographically (and populationally--yes, I know that is not a word, but I like it anyway) larger than the village of Kalkaska, with something closer to 13,000 residents. (I'm not sure of the boundaries so I can't be too exact.)
So in some ways, Kalkaska is a mirror image of Highland Park. But they also have a lot in common. This article from the Ludington Daily News of March 6, 1993, "Kalkaska system on brink of early closing as funds run out," explains it nicely.
Kalkaska (and other districts, too, like Ypsilanti!) was under a lot of financial stress--and the district famously closed three months early, at the end of March, in 1993.
And this "shot heard round Michigan," (if not the world) created a lot of impetus for the development of Proposal A. And as we see now, Proposal A solved some problems, but it created a whole host of others.
In 2012, Highland Park is not the only school district faced with the possibility of closing. Only this time, rather than the decision being made by the people who live there, the decision would be made by the state.
And I wonder, will any of this be the necessary catalyst for change? And if not, why not? Would race have anything to do with it?