Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor Lansing districts all get failing grades
[Please note: Shortly after this news release, Show Michigan the Money received new information from several school districts. See updated news release here. The Ann Arbor Public Schools had just begun to participate at the time of this release. The current known list of schools is located here: www.mackinac.org/9329.)]
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Contact: Ken Braun
MIDLAND — Nearly one in four Michigan public school students attends a district that regularly posts its check register online where parents and other taxpayers can see it, according to Ken Braun, director of the Mackinac Center's Show Michigan the Money project. This includes 10 of the state's 20 largest districts, five of its 10 largest, and better than one of every nine districts statewide.
Two years ago this week, to mark Sunshine Week, the Mackinac Center began promoting transparency at all levels of Michigan government and has been providing encouragement for every school district in the state to take up the challenge of posting spending online, Braun said.
At that time, just one district was known to be providing this information. Today, there are 65.
Ravenna Public Schools is an example, having begun to post its spending in July of 2009.
"We're doing this in order to be as transparent financially as possible," said Superintendent John Van Loon. "Anytime we can keep the public informed, we are more than happy to do so."
The vast majority of Michigan school districts, however, are still failing taxpayers by staying secretive about their spending. All 551 school districts in Michigan have been contacted by the Show Michigan the Money project in the last two years, and nearly all have had more than a year to respond to at least one request.
"After two years, we know who cares most about telling the taxpayers where their money goes," Braun said. "All of the 'A' students in the transparency class have been identified, and the rest are apparently celebrating Sunshine Week 2010 by skipping class."
Grand Rapids, Warren Consolidated, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Flint and Detroit are some of the largest districts in the state still unwilling to post their spending online.
While districts in southeast Michigan have been overwhelmingly receptive to the project — more than half of Oakland County districts are among the 'A' grades — the big disappointment is in the Grand Rapids area, where there appears to be almost no participation. Not one district located in Allegan, Kent, Ottawa or Barry counties has stepped forward to be placed on the list.
Ravenna, in nearby Muskegon County, is the first district from that area to provide a check register. Greenville Public Schools, just across the border in Montcalm County, has also been doing so since last spring.
"If you grade by region, then the Grand Rapids area gets an 'F,'" noted Braun. "It's as if they had a meeting and decided to set themselves apart by ignoring the Internet and seeking to maintain Michigan's most secluded school spending data."
The list of all participating schools is available at www.mackinac.org/9329.