Leading Source

Michigan among the hardest hit and longest to recover from recession

What says “Vacation’s Over” for the Hardy family? How about driving south along U.S. 23 between Detroit and Toledo, and reading the outdoor signs.

Considering Bankruptcy? asked one. Then, about a mile down the road: Bats in Your Attic? — presumably from the long-foreclosed-on property next door.

The economic problems of Southeastern Michigan are well known. In April, you may recall, I wrote about the Pontiac School District, which decided to close nearly half its schools in an attempt to eliminate a crushing $10 million deficit.

Pontiac’s money problems may be extreme, but across Michigan, school districts are feeling the squeeze as they suffer from one of the worst state economies in the nation.

We were vacationing about 60 miles south of Traverse City, an absolute gem of a town surrounded by gorgeous sand dunes, pristine waters, and wineries that dot the hills above Lake Michigan.

Paradise? Maybe. But the Traverse City schools are also hurting. For the 2010-11 school year the 9,900-student district is considering a “best-case” shortfall of $6 million and a “worst-case” deficit of $11 million, or about 12 percent of this year’s nearly $90 million budget, according to the Traverse City-Record-Eagle.

This month, the school board set up a task force — which includes teachers, administrators, a school board member, and others — to suggest ways to make these cuts.

“I doubt that there’s ever been a crisis this severe since I’ve been employed with the schools” starting in 1974, Seamus Shinners, president of the Traverse City Transportation Association, which represents bus drivers, told the newspaper. 

A hint of good news: on Aug. 14, the Record-Eagle reported that at least 17 of 43 recently laid-off staff members will be asked to return, with perhaps more brought back by Sept. 8.

In snowy December, long after the fair and warm-weather tourists like us have departed, the task force will make its report. It will be another tough day in paradise.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|August 18th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

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