State education leaders promise to help with Ypsi-Willow Run merger; Rep. Rutledge to introduce bill declaring moratorium on new charters
Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information.
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan had nothing but words of encouragement for the leaders of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts as they voted to join their two districts Wednesday.
He and two legislators from the Michigan House of Representatives, Rep. David Rutledge, D-Ypsilanti, and Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, attended a joint board meeting at Eastern Michigan University Wednesday to voice their support and vow to help in any way they could, if voters pass the consolidation proposal in November.
The two local school boards approved placing the question of merging their districts, which both are running a deficit, on the general election ballot Nov. 6.
Rutledge said he plans to introduce the bill during the legislative session next week.
The bill, if passed, would call for a three-year moratorium on any new charters starting in a district that had an approved consolidation plan.
“There needs to be a time period where (these districts) can concentrate on pulling all of their resources and programs together and get the new district up and running,” Rutledge said. “I think a three-year time period would serve that purpose.”
Officials with Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools have cited an increase in the number of charter schools in their community as a huge detriment to their districts and a major contributing factor to their declining financial situations. There currently are three charter schools in the Ypsilanti area, with two new academies slated to open in the fall.
Flanagan said the seriousness of the financial uncertainty for both districts “basically forces serious change.” He commended Ypsilanti and Willow Run school leaders for taking it upon themselves to conclude a merger is the best solution for students.
“The positive outcomes you have identified are overwhelming, in my opinion,” the state superintendent said. “ You really are trailblazers I think you can be a model for the rest of the state. We can’t — at the expense of the education of our kids — afford to have 500-some districts anymore, quite frankly You can set a positive tone for the other deficit districts in the state.”
Flanagan said the innovative alternatives being discussed for the secondary level of the potential new district are spot on with the “anys” that are emerging in education — the concept of "any time, any way, any pace, any place" learning.
“Teachers are feeling beat up right now,” he said. “There are a lot of new accountabilities in place I think the balance to that accountability is to give new options to school districts to get the results any way that they can.”
Flanagan also said although the emergency manager law was suspended by the Michigan Supreme Court, "dire consequences" for the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts do loom in their current financial states. What exactly those consequences could include are a little less clear.
“I have the legal responsibility to deal with deficit districts, with or without an emergency manager,” Flanagan said.