Contents of this issue:

  • Detroit Public Schools shows first surplus in four years
  • Galien district considers shutting down
  • House panel votes to lift charter cap
  • Aviation Academy plans major expansion
  • More students receiving free, reduced-price lunches

Detroit Public Schools Shows First Surplus in Four Years

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools had a budget surplus of $43 million at the close of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, achieved by spending cuts, debt refinancing and additional federal revenue, The Associated Press reported in an article published by the Lansing State Journal. It was the first surplus in four years, according to AP.

The district cut expenditures by about $98 million, mostly due to lower student enrollment that allowed for fewer teaching jobs and building closures, AP reported. It also spent less on support services and debt interest. In all, the district’s deficit has dropped from $327 million to $84 million, AP reported.

“We are moving solidly in the right direction,” emergency manager Roy Roberts said in a statement, according to AP. William Aldridge, the district’s chief financial officer, said the district now is tracking revenue and expenditures monthly, and requires managers to justify all spending, AP reported.

Supporters may point to the district as a positive example of Michigan’s new emergency manager law, AP reported. Roberts used his authority to institute a 10 percent pay reduction and require employees to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums, AP reported.

“I think he qualifies as a good example of how an emergency financial manager would work,” business turnaround expert James McTevia told AP.

Emergency managers also are in place in the cities of Flint, Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac, AP reported, and the state recently announced it will begin reviewing the city of Detroit’s finances.


Lansing State Journal, "Detroit school district able to cut $243M from deficit," Dec. 3, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Mackinac Center Recommendations Found in New Financial Emergency Legislation,” March 17, 2011

Galien District Considers Shutting Down

GALIEN, Mich. — The Galien Township School District might close at the end of 2011 under pressure from declining enrollment and owing the state $500,000 for several years of reportedly miscounting students, according to The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium.

District representatives are to meet with state officials soon on a student count audit that brought the issue to light, The Herald-Palladium reported.

In the meantime, however, the board of education has voted to lay off 10 teachers as of Dec. 31 and 11 support workers as of Dec. 22, The Herald-Palladium reported. The district’s 122 students will receive credit and report cards for their first semester classes, the report said. Galien has a K-8 program and an alternative education program.

Closing the school in December will give students a chance to enroll in other districts during schools-of-choice windows in January, school officials said, according to The Herald-Palladium.


The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium, “Galien schools shutting down,” Dec. 1, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “Britton, Deerfield merger going smoothly, officials say,” Jan. 22, 2011

House Panel Votes to Lift Charter Cap

LANSING, Mich. — The House Education Committee approved legislation lifting the cap on charter public schools, and the committee chairman said a floor vote by the full House of Representatives could come in December, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Supporters said the measure would offer more choices to families whose children attend failing schools, while critics said the state needs a better way to hold charter schools accountable and gauge their quality, The Press reported.

Democrats had proposed more than 15 amendments to Senate Bill 618, the Michigan Information & Research Service said in a separate report, seeking to require charters to offer transportation, requiring prevailing wages and limiting where charters can locate, among others. The only amendment that passed is one that lifts the cap on “Schools of Excellence,” MIRS reported.

State Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, was the only Republican voting against lifting the cap; he said he favors a more gradual approach, according to The Press.


The Grand Rapids Press, “Vote to lift charter school cap heads to full state House, Democrats fear ‘tearing the cap off an experiment,’” Nov. 30, 2011

Michigan Information and Research Service Inc., “House panel lifts charter school cap after angry debate,” Nov. 30, 2011 (Subscription required)


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Charter School Wars” (Video)

Aviation Academy Plans Major Expansion

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A $4 million to $5 million project that will more than double the size of the West Michigan Aviation Academy campus will allow the aviation-themed school to accommodate 600 students,  according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The charter public high school, founded by businessman Dick DeVos in 2010, is located at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and currently enrolls 145 students, The Press reported.

CEO Patrick J. Cwayne Sr. attributed the school’s popularity to a rigorous curriculum and smaller school environment, The Press reported. Students take traditional courses as well as aviation-related classes ranging from robotics to maintenance to engineering, according to the report.

The Federal Aviation Administration, Kent County Aeronautics Board and the school’s authorizer, Bay Mills Community College, all must approve the expansion before construction can begin next year, The Press reported.


The Grand Rapids Press, “Aviation-themed high school plans big expansion as interest grows,” Nov. 30, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Free Press misleads on charter schools,” Dec. 1, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Charter schools begin to specialize,” Sept. 1, 2010

More Students Receiving Free, Reduced-price Lunches

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — About half of the K-12 students in Kalamazoo area schools are signed up for free or reduced-price lunches this fall, a 50 percent increase over 10 years ago, The Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

The increase reflects a struggling economy, but also efforts by districts to make sure eligible students are enrolled and better means of guarding students’ privacy, officials told The Gazette.

Plainwell Community Schools Superintendent Sue Wakefield said that 36 percent of children there are enrolled, up from 16 percent a decade ago, The Gazette reported.

She pointed to downsizing or closing of a number of area industries during the same time period as a factor, according to The Gazette, saying “That huge growth in numbers is not about generational poverty. It’s new poverty, if you want to call it that.”

There also has been a bigger push to make sure eligible students are enrolled, The Gazette reported, because the numbers are used in many cases to determine state funding or grant eligibility. In addition, many districts now issue electronic cards to all students to use in the lunchroom, meaning that those who receive subsidized meals can’t be distinguished from other students, according to The Gazette.


The Kalamazoo Gazette, “Almost half of Michigan schoolchildren now qualify for federally subsidized lunch,” Dec. 2, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “Few happy with proposed school lunch rules,” April 10, 2011

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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