District remains operational this year but change coming for next year, beyond
If State House Republicans get their way, there won’t be a Highland Park School District next year.
For the rest of this year, a deal was approved that gives Detroit Public Schools $4 million to keep the doors of public school buildings in Highland Park open but under new management provided by Jack Martin, the state-appointed Emergency Manager of the fiscally failed school district.
For next year and beyond, the spokesman for the House Speaker said they’d like all of Highland Park’s students to be in another district. Ari Adler, press secretary for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, said their plans include three options:
- The Highland Park School District could be dissolved. Adler said that’s not likely because the district owes tens of millions to the state of Michigan and to its vendors. Adler said the Republicans are still researching how a district can be dissolved and the consequences of such an action.
- The Highland Park School District could be absorbed by another district.
- The state could appoint a management company — much like charter schools — to run the district or have a neighboring school district run it.
The deal reached March 2 allocates $4,000 for each current Highland Park student to be used for whatever school district they attend through the end of the school year. If the students stay at Highland Park, they will be taught by the same teachers in the same classrooms, said Terry Stanton, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Treasury.
“I'm confident we handled this in a way that ensures none of the money is going to go to the fiscally inept Highland Park School District,” said State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester, in an email. “We were not going to use state taxpayer money to bailout incompetence. The district leaders who were responsible for the mismanagement that created the crisis are the ones who will suffer the consequences. I expect many, if not most, of them will soon be unemployed. The kids, though, will now at least have a fighting chance.”
Highland Park had not been able to meet its payroll obligations three times this year, the latest being Feb. 24, said Sara Wurfel, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder.
The 969-student district previously received $4.2 million in the summer of 2011 as part of a hardship loan.