Highland Park Schools Get State Bailout — Already Receive $14,000 Per Student

State pays $4 million more for same teachers in same buildings

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(Editor's note: This story was revised since its initial posting to reflect the role of the Detroit Public Schools in the disbursement of money keeping Highland Park school classrooms open.)

Highland Park public schools will receive an additional $8.2 million in extra funding from the state this school year to keep their doors open.

That translates to an extra $8,000 per pupil, which is more than most districts receive for students for an entire year.

In a deal brokered with the state March 2, Detroit Public Schools will receive $4 million to pay Highland Park's bills, and Jack Martin will take over as the Highland Park district’s emergency manager. As part of the deal with the state, any students who leave Highland Park would have a $4,000 per-pupil allowance follow them to their new districts to pay for their schooling for the remainder of the year.

The 969-student district previously received $4.2 million in the summer of 2011 as part of a hardship loan.

By contrast, Livonia Public Schools and Northville Public Schools each received $8,019 per pupil from the state this year, or about the same per-pupil that Highland Park needed in its $8.2 million bailout.

“If nothing else, it just highlights how poorly managed this school district was financially,” said Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s director of education policy. “They are getting the equivalent of two school districts worth of funding just to make payroll. If ever there was a fiscal emergency in a public school in Michigan, this would be it.”

Highland Park’s teachers had gone a week without a paycheck before they got paid March 2, said Jack Bauman, Highland Park’s director of human resources.

Since Jan. 13, the state has given Highland Park advances of $188,000, $261,000 and $178,000 so it could make payroll.

“The bottom line is that HPS was leveraged to the hilt,” said Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, in an email. “The state went out of its way to give them the opportunity to cut expenditures and right size the district. They never did so and the crisis kept building.  The state’s acting and acting swiftly because HPS didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t.“

But Bauman said that surrounding districts have told Highland Park they wouldn’t take their students. Bauman said Highland Park hasn’t had many students leave.

“If it hasn’t happened yet, I’m hoping it won’t,” Bauman said.

Highland Park has seen an exodus of its students in the last six years. The district had 3,179 students in 2006 and now has 969, according to the state.

Highland Park has had an operating deficit five of the last six years despite receiving $14,165-per pupil in state funding, which ranked it 40th highest out of 777 districts and academies, the state said.

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See also:

Local Government Bankruptcies May Become Reality

School District: Spending Up, Revenue Up, Red Ink Up — Wants More Money: Highland Park blames governor, Legislature for fiscal problems

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