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Struggling school districts can be dissolved under new law

Dwight Burdette
wikimedia commons

Small school districts with big money troubles could be broken up by the state under a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday.

Saginaw County’s Buena Vista and metro Detroit’s Inkster could be the first districts dissolved and folded into their neighbors under the new law, MPRN's Rick Pluta reports.

Governor Snyder says that the review of the districts is proceeding quickly, so students and their families will know where they’re attending classes in the fall. “We’re talking days, not months,” Snyder said.

Earlier this summer, the Buena Vista School District shut down for two weeks, after misappropriated funding from the state was pulled out of the district’s coffers.

Meanwhile, the Inkster School District continues to lose students, and doesn’t have enough money to open in the fall.

Those who oppose the new law argue that dissolving school districts doesn’t address the larger issue at hand: shrinking funds for Michigan’s public schools.

"Our schools are significantly under-funded,” State Representative David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) said. “We’ve consistently slashed and burned the funding that we give to our schools, and expect them to do more and more with less and less."

The governor says he hopes more financially struggling districts will decide to merge without waiting for state intervention. The governor says a formal review of the cash-strapped Pontiac schools will begin very soon. That could result in a consent decree or the appointment of an emergency manager.

The governor also announced a new workgroup that will take several weeks to develop a better system for getting a head start on fixing schools that are headed toward big financial problems.

“The sooner you catch these things, the more opportunity you have to avoid them in terms of having them become a crisis,” Snyder said.

"The goal of starting the work group isn’t to say that it’s crisis management, it’s how do we get proactive to hopefully avoid that crisis kind of situation."

- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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