Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Athletics Prevails over Academics

A decision by the Van Dyke Board of Education perhaps best illustrates the point that Michigan is lacking a serious "education culture."

Macomb Daily: School district axes 33 teachers (04/03/07)

In a nutshell, when faced with crippling budget problems caused by out-of-control health care and retirement costs, the district administrators evidently reached the conclusion that cutting athletics was the only option left if they wanted to save academics.

The school board, with the support of some parents, decided athletics was more important. After all, "they've had a successful wrestling team and basketball is on the comeback ".

The parents applauded.

And, in a continuing show of wisdom, the school board is now discussing raising taxes in the community by passing a bond "to renovate buildings and purchase new equipment to help attract new students to the school district."

They must be seeking athletic equipment, and hope to attract athletes. What parent truly concerned about their child's education would give serious thought to this distict after a decision putting athletics ahead of academics?

By the way, there was no mention in the article about why the school board didn't do something to control benefit costs.

==> Mike.

School district axes 33 teachers
Proposal to scrap athletics rejected.

By Mitch Hotts
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

The Van Dyke Board of Education on Monday voted unanimously to eliminate 33 teaching positions as part of a plan to wipe out a $5.6 million budget deficit, but also rejected a proposal to end athletics.

Administrators in the south Warren district had suggested getting rid of all middle and high school sports to save $427,000 from a $41 million budget, but the school board refused to go along with the plan.

School board members felt the sports program -- Lincoln High School has had a successful wrestling team and basketball is on the comeback -- was too important to end.

"Sports is one of the things that draws the kids together and helps promote our district," said board President Richard Carloni. "We're just going to have to find the money to pay for it."

That job will fall to Superintendent Kathleen Spaulding. Van Dyke Public Schools officials will either have to take the money out of the district's $3.2 million fund equity or make more reductions elsewhere.

"We'll have to sit down and consider our other options if we're going to continue sports," Spaulding said.

The vote on athletics came at a special board meeting held at Lincoln Middle School's cafeteria with about 180 parents, students and employees in attendance. The audience applauded the move to save sports but was not happy with other cuts.

Board members voted to issue layoff notices to 52 employees including 33 teachers for the 2007-2008 school year.

Parents upset by the layoffs praised the teaching staff for helping their children learn and expressed fear that the cutbacks would boost class size and make it harder for educators to handle their classes.

"These are the people doing the parenting and the teaching when we're not here," said Jennifer Grabil, who has one son in the district.

And there's more pain on the way for the district, where the enrollment has plunged from 4,154 in 2002 to 3,812 in 2006.

Assistant Superintendent Kay Dankovich said Van Dyke -- like many other Michigan school communities -- has lost corresponding state aid from the loss of students. At the same time, retirement and health care costs continue to soar.

Since 2002, Van Dyke's health care costs have climbed 48 percent while the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System's costs went up 36 percent. The district's revenue has only risen 5 percent in the same time frame.

To try to maintain programs, the school board has eaten into its fund equity -- the so-called rainy-day fund -- to make up budget shortfalls. The fund equity has dipped from $13.5 million in 2003 to $3.2 million this year.

Van Dyke is also eyeing closing at least one of its 10 buildings to further reduce costs later this year.

School officials say they also are considering asking voters to approve a bond issue to renovate buildings and purchase new equipment to help attract new students to the school district.

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