Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Ypsilantian Discusses the Possible Schools Consolidation

I asked, "But Ypsilantians, what do you think? Would you vote for consolidation?" and YpsiAnon answered. Here's a guest post.

Would I vote for consolidation?  My thoughts on this have evolved from “What’s the point?” to “It might be good but it will never happen,” to “I can see the benefits.”  Actually, I am one step beyond that now, thinking, “We really need this, and I hope it’s not too late.” 

Most of us could see the path the school districts’ budgets were taking (and I don’t just mean Ypsi’s or Willow Run’s).  In the last two years, the increase in the rate of speed of hit upon hit, coming from all directions, could not have been foreseen, even to the most cynical. Ypsi has tried to live up to the promises of its deficit elimination plan, which is all about cutting the budget, while at the same time trying to bolster its academics, which is all about adding new costs.  There is a constant conflict between these two demands.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the state would push “pause” on the debt repayment, while the district could establish the new educational programs that could retain and even draw in pupils?

What the state seems to be offering, instead, is the chance to slow down the repayment of the debt, extending it from two years to possibly twenty.  It is offering a three-year moratorium on the establishment of any new charter schools in the area so that the new, combined district has a chance to get established before competition increases.  (Unfortunately, two or three new charters started last year, and one or two more are coming this year.)  It is dangling up to $10 million (likely much less) in consolidation funding (and it will surely be a costly endeavor).  These things could delay or, hopefully, prevent a takeover by an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM).  (By the way, to those who like to say that an EFM is a satisfactory solution, I remind them that EFMs are only about the budgets, not the academics.)

In exchange, our new “unified” district (the term the WISD uses) needs to develop a new educational model, which is going to include students from birth to age 20.  We are already in the process of changing our systems in order to improve student achievement, and need to expand this anyway so as to avoid a takeover by an Educational Achievement Authority (EAA).

Those are the basics.

Obviously, both Ypsilanti and Willow Run districts need make big changes, and they need to make them soon.  Do we want to undertake these efforts separately, with no support from the state, or together, with state support?  We have common needs and common goals.  To me, it makes sense to join forces, combine the resources we do have, and throw ourselves into solving these problems in a unified way.  Long shot?  Maybe.  But I’d prefer to go out with a bang rather than a whimper, if we do, indeed, have to go out.

- YpsiAnon

1 comment:

  1. By the way, Ruth, you have listed in the top right column the meeting times and dates for the design review sessions. There is actually one more of these, and it's this Monday, July 30, 5:30-7:30. It includes the task force meeting, but is open to the public. It's at the Willow Run High School Cafeteria, 235 Spencer Lane.

    Lastly, the final meeting of the series is Wed., August 8, at 7:30, in the EMU Regents Room on the second floor of Welch Hall. This is when the 2 school boards will vote on whether to put the issue on the November ballot. I'm told that State Superintendent Mike Flanagan will be here for this.

    - YpsiAnon