Grand Rapids district parts ways with school board associations

Board saves $17,000 by forgoing memberships

The Grand Rapids school board voted this October to forgo membership in the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and the National Association of School Boards (NASB), saving over $17,000 in district funds.

The MASB is the state's largest organization of school board members. Membership in the MASB allows school boards to obtain membership in the National Association of School Boards. The Grand Rapids district is one of the few districts in the state to opt out of MASB and NASB.

The close 5-4 vote came after board member Jeff Steinport voiced his concern over sending taxpayer funds to an organization that did little for the board, especially in light of last year's $1.6 million school budget deficit.

"It is wrong for the board to spend this money while the district cries poverty," Steinport told Michigan Education Report. "There are better uses for $17,000."

However, opposing board members felt the association memberships benefited the board by providing services such as legal assistance and by offering networking opportunities. They also worried that the decision might damage perception of the district, since the majority of Michigan school boards participate in the associations.

Board President Jim Rinck told the Grand Rapids Press he thought the vote was "amazingly short-sighted" adding, "I can't imagine how it will help us to make us look like isolationists. This is going to cost us a heck of a lot more in terms of reputation and effectiveness."

But Steinport disagreed, saying membership in the associations provided few useful services to the board and constituted an irresponsible use of school funding that could be spent in the classroom.

"Our legal title is 'Trustee,' and we're entrusted with taxpayer dollars," Steinport said. "This is one of the line items the board spends on itself, and I don't see the benefit when all the association lobbies for is status."

The MASB is one of many resource organizations open to school board members around the state. One alternative is the Michigan School Board Leaders Association (MSBLA). MSBLA dues are $25 per school board member.

For more information on MASB, visit www.masb.org.

For more information on MSBLA, visit www.msbla.org.