Michigan district closes all schools, fires all teachers

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com  |  May 9, 2013 at 8:44 AM
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The academic school year was cut short for the 435 student in the Buena Vista School District in Saginaw, Michigan. Amid budget shortfalls, the district closed its three schools and laid off its entire teaching staff.

“Our analysis of the District’s cash flow demonstrates to us that, absent an extraordinary situation, we will not be able to make payroll for staff on May 24,” according to a letter on the school district’s official website.

Part of the immediate crisis is that the district wrongfully received $400,000 in state funds for the Wolverine Secure Treatment Center for juvenile offenders, but the facility had cut ties with the district in 2012. The district brought it to the attention of the state, which demanded the return of the funds.

Because the district is running a deficit, the state is withholding aid for April, May and June to recover the losses of the erroneous payment. The district didn't discover this until they didn't receive payment in April.

On Monday, Michigan Education Association members in the district voted to continue teaching students for free so they could finish out the academic year. As of Thursday, school remained closed.

MEA President Steve Cook said the move is “proof that politicians, administrators and other so-called ‘leaders’ consistently put money first and our kids last.”

The MEA contends that students are "innocent victims of gross financial mismanagement by district and state administrators, as well as Governor Rick Snyder’s reckless $1 billion in cuts to school funding." Buena Vista teachers had agreed to freeze their own pay for four years running, and the number of teachers has dropped by more than half since 2009, down to 27.

May 3 was the last paid work day for employees, and the district is considering having an Emergency Manager take over. Local Emergency Managers are appointed by the state and given authority to overrule the decisions of mayors, city councils, school boards and superintendents.

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