Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Reasons I Support the Annexation of Whitmore Lake Schools by Ann Arbor

I support the annexation of Whitmore Lake schools by Ann Arbor schools--at least, conceptually speaking. I haven't seen all the details yet, but here's why I think it's a good thing.

1. I believe it will offer many more opportunities to Whitmore Lake students and teachers, without harming Ann Arbor students and teachers. For instance, do you know that Whitmore Lake High School students don't get a single AP course offering?

Whitmore Lake Elementary School sign
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

2. I have thought for a long time that the Whitmore Lake school district is too small. Whitmore Lake's total school population last year--K-12--was only around 1,000 students. Whitmore Lake has been operating with the lowest level of per-pupil amount of funding, which has made things very difficult for them, and the size of the district means there are few efficiencies to be found.

3. If Whitmore Lake were to continue down this road we might find them with an emergency manager, and I don't want any of the school districts in the county to be taken over by emergency managers.

4. I am not interested in a single-county district or in growing for growth's sake, but I feel a lot better annexing a district and keeping it as part of the public school economy than I do with siphoning off their population as "schools of choice" students--that weakens Whitmore Lake, and at the same time, those students of choice only bring with them to the Ann Arbor school district the Whitmore Lake students' per-pupil funding balance.

5. The "weighted average" of the per-pupil amounts means that the per-pupil amount for the Whitmore Lake school district students will increase by about $2,000 per pupil. I believe that many students in Whitmore Lake who have opted out of the district will come back, and if additional development takes place outside of the Ann Arbor city limits, there is a good chance it will happen there.

P.S. I've been asked by someone why Ann Arbor schools didn't make this same offer to Ypsilanti. Well really, that's looking at things the wrong way--because to my knowledge, Ypsilanti did not ask to be annexed by Ann Arbor, and Whitmore Lake approached Ann Arbor about being annexed. I think the Whitmore Lake school board is brave and open-minded for asking, and being willing to give up their seats.

P.P.S. Now you'll notice that I said, "Conceptually speaking." There are a gazillion details to look at, but for right now I think I'll be a strong supporter.

Read some stuff from Whitmore Lake about the proposed annexation.

Read some stuff from Ann Arbor about the proposed annexation. (Have you used Board Docs? Go to the 7 p.m. meeting on July 30th, then view the agenda. If you click on an agenda item on the left-hand side, the resolution or document will come up on the right-hand side. At least, usually it will.)

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  1. The benefits to annexation all seem to favor Whitmore Lake but, according to the discussion at the school board meeting, Ann Arbor's millage would go up by about .5 mills while Whitmore Lake's would go down by about .2 mills. I'd really need to see some tangible benefits for Ann Arbor schools to be willing to support annexation.

  2. Extremely important hypothetical: Whitmore Lake votes down school millages, We support them. Let's say we are successful in either rolling back Prop A or otherwise finding a legislative way to once again allow communities to support thei own schools. Now we need WL voters approval too? This is a very real scenario, I believe, and I am not OK with that. I moved to AA in part for its progressive policies, and I don't want a community that is not willing to invest in their schools to be put in a position where they get to weigh in on ours.

  3. A2Mama makes a good point. I found out about the possibility of this vote from someone who lives in Whitmore Lake. We didn't talk about it extensively, but I got the impression that he and his neighbors are against it. Maybe it's because they think of Ann Arbor as full of people who've never turned down a millage! Not sure he's in favor of their district getting closed down, though - i didn't know enough details to know how to discuss it. Now I will, if it comes up again.

    But at the same time, how does the annexed WLPS voting population compare to AAPS's? Will it be enough to change outcomes? That would be good to know.

    Ruth, your point #5 is eye-opening. I know a Whitmore Lake kid who is attending Clague under schools of choice - I didn't realize that brought in a lower amount of funding! If someone from AAPS went to WLPS, would they get the higher per pupil allocation? Or does a receiving district only ever get (the same or) less money?

  4. So if Whitmore Lake decides not to fund its own fire department or street repairs, should Ann Arbor taxpayers be expected to pick up that tab as well?

    1. The school district boundaries do not align with (and have no effect on) the boundaries of the townships that cover the various parts of the Whitmore Lake school district. So the taxpayers of Northfield Township are going to decide about Northfield Township roads and fire department service, and the voters of the Ann Arbor school district (which is not the same as the voters of the City of Ann Arbor) have nothing to do with it.