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Posted on Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Could school closings be next as Ann Arbor district balances budget?

By Paula Gardner

Editors note: The dollar amount the district could cut from next year's budget has been changed to reflect accurate information.

How much will Ann Arbor value its neighborhood schools when the community starts its 2013 version of “what do we cut from next year’s budget?”

That’s a question that’s been on my mind frequently over the last few weeks.

The reason is a “perfect storm” of school information and musings that touch a deeply personal aspect of what the Ann Arbor Public Schools mean to me: They’ve been a core of my family life for 9 years now.

I’m feeling the neighborhood school question as I recall Superintendent Patricia Green telling the school board in December that rerouting transportation brings up the obvious corollary: how buildings play into that.

That’s accented by a recent conversation with school board leadership, when Deb Mexicotte and Christine Stead presented me with historical data on where AAPS fares in school funding. The bottom line: In real dollars, the district received $9,020 in state funding per student in 2012, or about the same as in 2001. It's more than some districts, but not aligned with what voters were told when we passed Proposal A in 1994.

And I’m feeling it as we get ready for a freshman year of high school at Huron, making the choice that it’s an excellent fit for our family even as other options in the AAPS and across Washtenaw County beg for our attention. Today the district faces making an estimated $17 million to $20 million in cuts for fall, following a year when the district trimmed $3.84 million and used $6 million in savings to fund a shortfall.

This community is getting hints that the district is ready to look at how it uses buildings. It compiled data on capacity, including trends over recent years. And the superintendent, in drawing the connections from building usage to transportation changes, is preparing all of us for the next step.

As I look at the district’s capacity numbers, it’s easy to conclude that it’s worth looking at potential changes. There are 975 elementary seats going unfilled among the 21 buildings, the equivalent of three smaller buildings. AAPS has room for about 1,100 additional middle schoolers. Some schools - like Ann Arbor Open - operate at program capacity in a building that on paper doesn’t need to be as large. Other schools exceed official capacity, like Eberwhite.

Yet changes in Ann Arbor schools don’t come easily.

This is a community that demands accountability and excellence. We display passionate loyalty. We’re willing to challenge systems.

I share that passion for the school buildings that have influenced my family. I respect other programs: Community High, Ann Arbor Open and Roberto Clemente come to mind.

But I suspect that AAPS is getting ready to ask me and the rest of the district to make hard choices about district-wide facilities, and I know: I’m not ready to debate the value of other school buildings, and I doubt that people in those buildings are prepared to effectively weigh the value of mine.

We saw last year, that simply moving a program of 100 students raised community ire. Imagine redrawing district boundaries, or closing buildings. Or both.

I don’t want program cuts. I don’t want larger classes. I don’t want transportation or widespread sports cuts. I want music, arts and language classes. I want that for other districts, too, which is an even-broader discussion.

And I want to hold onto the buildings - and the communities - that my family values in Ann Arbor.

I’m trying to move myself from feeling vulnerable about potential change, which seems inevitable in this funding climate. I want to approach the looming AAPS decisions analytically, knowing that some will feel sacrifice but all will benefit, if we do it right.

Paula Gardner is Community News Director of She can be reached by email or follow her on Twitter.

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Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 2 p.m.

We moved here for the great schools - correction, highly educated families in the school system. I don't see anything great happening in the schools; what my kid benefits from is the high quality students in the classroom. But as we see from the acheivement gap, just sitting in the same classroom with students from highly educatated families is not enough for most of the students from less fortunate backgrounds.

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

My children always complained about having to sit next to the student behavior problems as a positive role model, and this was all the way through middle school. It involved the same classmates, and their behavior never changed. Plus, they had to spend their time helping them with their work, not ever being given an opportunity to work with students who were more at their level. Do my children think very much of the experiences they had in AAPS? NO, and I so wish AAPS teachers would wake up and realize that capable students don't want to be assigned as a mentor to struggling students which uses up their class time, they want to be challenged to further their own learning. Yes, they were compassionate about the recognized needs of struggling learners, but not thrilled with the permanent assignment of the class tutor!


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

I looked for data on this but have not yet found it, which is: how does performance compare across schools when we look at specific student populations? For example, a particular socioeconomic group who enroll at different schools, do they show the same performance or not? In other words, are the higher test scores at some schools reflect instructional qualities at these schools, or the fact that these schools simply have more privileged or education-oriented families? My interaction with the families in our school is that some families will bring up great kids whichever schools they choose to go to.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

Time to draw up new boundary lines and work on spreading out poverty pockets and wealth pockets. And what's up with some of the south side schools? Why such low capacity numbers when there is so much housing growth on the south side?

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

Because parents that can go elsewhere go! They recognize that the achievement gap is more prominent in some areas, and that the focus is geared towards those learners.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

As of 2011, the AAPS's per pupil funding has risen only once since 1995. Using : $1 in 1995 was worth $1.48 in 2011, meaning that per pupil funding in 2011 needed to be nearly 50% higher than it was in 1995 in order for funding to keep pace with inflation. Clearly this has not happened, and just as clearly that is the cause of Ann Arbor's budget problems (and those of the rest of the state as well). Who to blame? Three different governors and the state legislature for breaking the promises made when Prop A was enacted; and the public for letting them get away with it. But it's a lot more fun blaming teachers and administrators. That's the favorite pastime of the Snooze's conservative readersnipe. GN&GL


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

The other issue with capacity that is in the numbers are things like the art room, music room, special ed classroom and so on. In the future, these could be used as actual classrooms with kids in them all day. I have heard art and music might be on a cart travelling from room to room to allow kids to have these specials.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 5:25 a.m.

What is "capacity"? Does that mean 30-32 kids per classroom? We're not talking about donuts we are trying to cram into a package. These are children!

Basic Bob

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 10:50 a.m.

For the elementary schools, it is 25 per room. 12 classrooms = 300 students; 16 classrooms = 400 students. If they convert a classroom to a lab or daycare, it reduces the capacity by 25 students.

Elijah Shalis

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

Engler's Proposal A is Communist and takes money from the cities and gives it to the rural districts. Republicans should try practicing what they preach.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

Mr Shalis - Prop A was put in place to equalize the funding for most school districts in the state. One step ahead of the ACLU and the NAACP filing suit against the state and having a federal judge determine which districts got how much. Go back and read your history books. As to where the money goes - it comes from the suburban districts and goes mostly to the urban districts. Detroit is by far the largest benefactor for Prop A, followed by Flint. Yes, some rural districts got more, but if you look the ones that get the largest transfer also have the largest share of the district owned by the state or federal government in state and national parks, forests and wildlife areas.

Basic Bob

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 10:45 a.m.

Spoken like a true progressive. Fortunately it won't stand up in federal court. Something about equal opportunity.

kindred spirit

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:16 a.m.

We've become a school district like all public school districts in MI--we've been told we'll receive less $ but are required to follow new accountability standards created by business people that most educators don't agree with. This is done to force education into a system of for-profit organizations which doesn't have kids as the main goal on the financial spread sheets. We'd need a superint. and a school bd. willing to tell Snyder's gang that it's wrong, and they should do it by teaming up with the superintendents and boards of other districts--except the gang is gleeful at the response by people who care. We'd need to change the make up of the state govt. in order to construct a system from the shambles that is now in place and has been in place for the last 2 years. I attended an informal party 2 Sept. ago with attendees high in the Repub category. I spoke to a person I had not met before. When I revealed I was a teacher, she backed slowly away and ended the conversation. It is a striking moment well-etched in my memory. She knew what was coming. They all did. ALEC wrote the script and wined and dined people to get it passed. And they haven't bothered to discuss it. Unwilling to talk about their plans because they knew there would be opposition--so ignore the opposition and get it passed. We are all getting a new kind of education as to how govt. works. I'm not a fan. Change from this will not come in time for my child to benefit. Lucky for her, her momma knows how to ensure she gets a good education. Her momma, however, can't ensure that for all of the kids. Best wishes for the rest of you. This is going to get ugly, and closing 1 or 2 schools is hardly our most pressing concern. And for those of you who are paid Repub website responders--go away. Don't bother with the name-calling, the false information, the cliched and canned responses, the harassment of folks teaching. Stop pretending that all of this is for kids rather than your 401K. Just stop already.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

I know the feeling. Democrats always run away from me when I introduce facts into a discussion.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

Just look at how eager parents are searching for alternatives to traditional high schools for their kids. Look at how many parents send kids to enrichment programs even at the level of elementary school. Look at how parents themselves build enrichment programs at elementary schools. And look at those who excel at traditional schools in AA, and see how many excel because their parents have the resources and put in the effort to make sure that the kids do well wherever they are. This is a vicious cycle. The more AAPS cuts service, the less they want to try to be accountable to their stakeholders, the more students they will lose. Then they will get less money and will have to cut more programs. The real change that's needed is for the administrators to put students first. In the short term, this is probably unlikely. I remember the article in December about budget cut, almost every item was about reducing services.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

Look the incredible demand for Community. In spite of old facilities, awkward accommodation for athletics and APs, students and parents are beating down the doors to get in. Look at the way AAPS is loosing students to WIHI. AA factory high schools are unappealing, frankly, and smaller schools draw parents who care about their children being more than numbers.

Basic Bob

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 10:41 a.m.

Those "factory schools" are among the best in the country - without resorting to artificial selection of the student population. Eighth graders are counseled on whether the should consider Community, and any with problems, serious interests in sports, music, or challenging classes, limited by transportation and lunch money, or otherwise "different" are discouraged from putting their names into the lottery. Who does that leave?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 2:20 a.m.

Yikes, dotdash, slow down there. Tons of very happy and highly successful kids have come out of your so-called "factory high schools." There are some amazing classes, programs and teachers there. Those factory schools have won incredible, nation-wide recognition for their music programs, for example. There are ways to make larger schools work for you, and it's a valuable lesson to learn before you're off to college. I get that large schools may be hard to navigate for some, but they've been a terrific experience for many more.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

So true.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

I hate to say this, but those % capacity numbers do not ring true to me. When my daughter was at Angell in 2011, classrooms were incredibly crowded and yet the numbers above say the school was at 77% capacity. If that was 77% capacity, then they must have been counting on putting the other 23% in the bathrooms or something.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

I'm amazed at people pointing fingers where is doesn't belong. The problem is the revenue the state allocates for education. This isn't because teachers are greedy or administration is mismanaging money. If anything, the Ann Arbor Schools have done an admirable job in keeping a rainy day account to help balance their budget. Where taxpayers need to look for answers is at the state level. There are many fiscal decisions that are simply out of the hands of our local school districts. I would like to think that if we value public education, then we need to find creative ways to finance their institutions. If not, you'll see more charter and private schools eat away at the number of students attending the public school. In essence, we'll become a less democratic society with bigger discrepancies in opportunities for students. The yearly deficit is also caused because of the amount school districts owe to finance the pension funds. There already was some pension reform that went into effect this February but with the recent Right to Work legislation being passed, I bet the state will come after the pensions in an even more aggressive manner. I didn't hear teachers crying too loudly at these changes, but respecting the fact that reforms were necessary in the current economic climate. In the mean time, I don't envy the tough job local school districts have to do to cut more out of an already lean budget. It's a bit like asking someone if they'd rather keep their left or right hand. (No decision will feel right here and it will be a substantial loss!) I'm worried for elective, vocational, extracurricular, art and music programs. If you want to see pubic education keep their rich offerings, then it's time to speak up... but direct your voice at the right people. I thank the Ann Arbor Schools for the incredible job they have done in educating my children! The teachers, board members, and administrators have my support! Keep up the good work!


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

Taxpayers are not looking at the state, we are looking at the union contracts and the fatcat deals that still exist. You don't fool us a2cat. No teacher should get 12 sick days for 9 months worked, healthcare till they die , retirement available at age 52with a nice pension until you die 40 years later, buyouts at an even younger age. This is simply not sustainable and it is ridiculous to excpect taxpayers to keep paying more and more when they in fact have none of these same benefits that you MEA union workes do. Good Day


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

(*it)... rats!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

The glaring problem school here is Northside and it is not that there aren't enough kids in the neighborhood to fill it, the low numbers reflect the appalling management of the school. Many kids in this neighborhood have bailed on northside for other options.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

AAPS is probably waiting for her to retire. They already moved her from one school, they always move their questionable principals to schools where there will be less squeaky wheels. This way if they destroy the school before they actually leave, it is not as big a problem. Your school isn't the first one they let this happen to, and in AAPS, it won't be the last. They can't just get rid of poor leadership people, they are afraid of lawsuits, especially when someone can use the race card. AAPS philosophy - once hired, never fired, at least at the administrative level.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Current usage and capacity of buildings are important but operating cost/student in each building should be an important. Older buildings even if currently in heavy use could be adding significant cost to the district.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

. . . because study after study show that the more students there are in a classroom, the better the learning environment. Right? GN&GL


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 8:34 a.m.

AMOC and ERM Ghost Comparing class sizes with "learning" is a very contentious issue. There are studies that can be found to support any and all sides of this issue. If the atmosphere and self-discipline of, say Japanese schools, existed in our schools, then I could probably teach, and students learn, in a large classroom. The reality is our students of 2013 are not the same students of the 50s and 60s. I teach a required science course in a semi rural high school not far from AA. More that 50% of my students qualify for Free-and-Reduced meals"; the number of students considered homeless are in the double digits; nearly 50% of my 10-12 graders are ADD or ADHD; at the beginning of the term, I had one student who was pregnant , two others whose mothers had been diagnosed with terminal cancer (no exaggeration here); and, on a daily basis, 20+% of my 3 required science classes are absent. I have 27 students in each of these classes - and 15 laptop computers. When I put together lesson plans, I have to accommodate students who have special requirements for taking notes, having extended time for assessments, etc. Many days I spend as much time addressing behavior issues as I do instruction. There is no normal class room; there highly functional classrooms and there are poorly performing classrooms. Teachers are usually blamed for both, but when the same teacher, teaching the same course, has both, then the dynamics go well beyond the teacher - issues which most people seem to forget. Too many of our community members forget - and probably conveniently forget - that there are two sides to every equation; that there are variables on both sides of the equal sign - just ask any chemistry teacher! The outcome depends on the constraints and criteria of all of the variables. Education is a calculus equation: very complex and very torturous. All of the variables have to be identified.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

Actually, Ghost, study after study, from during the Baby Boom until the 2000's show that there is NO significant effect of class size effect on student learning for grades above 2nd for any class size between 20 and 50. The teachers do have an increased workload with larger classes, but if the material being presented and the assignments stay the same, the kids learn just as much with 44 or 34 others in their class as with 23 others. With labor cost being 80+% of our current school budgets, getting upper elementary, middle or high school class sizes below 20 doesn't seem feasible unless we double school funding. Ann Arbor already spends close to the highest in a state that is in the top quartile for per pupil spending. There's no value to be gained fr om spending that much more money. We aren't getting good value for what we're already spending in Michigan on average, and in Ann Arbor in particular.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

Really, it is time for some extraordinary measures beyond just closing a couple of schools. Where is the City of Ann Arbor in all of this? Take over maintaining the grounds, updates to the buildings, buy some buildings and lease back to the district. Get involved in some way to help ease the financial pain. Don't talk about laws that prohibit it. Figure it out. Get sued if you have to. I'd rather have a great education system than 1% for the arts. Let's have some priorities. Detroit had some of the greatest art in its day, but that did little to preserve the community. Nothing kills a home value or community quicker than a school system that is dysfunctional (well, perhaps crime...). It would be nice having some leadership from the leaders of Ann Arbor.

Chester Drawers

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.

We pay lots of money to the 'leaders' of our school district. Maybe we should be able to look to them for leadership(?)

Laura J

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:47 p.m.

The City doesn't have any money!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

Schools will be closed. Non-monetary compensation, inflexible pay schedules, and pensions are sacrosanct.

Dog Guy

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Skyline is fairly new. AAPS could get almost a million dollars for it.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:35 p.m.

That much Dog Guy? LOL I bet one of the large work out club chains would pay more. Lifetime Fitness or some such organization would probably pay at least 2 million.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

1) Use Huron to house Community, AA Tech, Clement. Add a vocational program linked with WCC, which will also help narrow the achievement gap 2) Sell Community, AA Tech, Clement buildings 3) Close a middle school and 1-2 elementary schools if necessary

Stephen Landes

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

Creative thinking -- probably not acceptable at Balas.

Basic Bob

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Our high schools are designed for over 2000 students each. Their capacities are artificially limited to demonstrate a requirement to keep Community in an obsolete building in a very valuable location. It wouldn't take much to move the program to another building. Of course it wouldn't be in walking distance to downtown restaurants, and it wouldn't give students time off campus to smoke cigarettes and interact with drug pushers during the school day. The administration is trying to be clever rather than smart. Middle school boundaries are way out of whack with the actual student population. The district has effectively segregated certain populations at Scarlett. The "bad school" gossip in town has resulted in socioeconomic redlining and a disproportionate number of students attending charter schools.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Pretty incredible. The schools have said over the years that they never have enough money. Good years, bad years, same story. The rest of us have to live within "our" budgets. How about it, pretend the schools are run by people who can run them within a budget.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

There is no question that they've cried wolf too often, but at some point the wolf did actually come into the village.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

Other people's money, Greg.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

The one cost breakdown I've never seen is administrative overhead. How many people work at Balas and what do they cost? I'd also like to see the cost of substitute teachers - I am astonished at how many days off some of the teachers take. I can't imagine that they're going to come up with $12M without closing schools, charging more for sports, and making class sizes even larger. I wish they would get more creative with the sinking fund, although the state makes it difficult. For example, solar cells could be put on roofs using sinking fund dollars and the general budget would benefit by much lower electricity bills. It's kind of insane, but until state legislators change the school funding laws there isn't much choice.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

When are we going to implement the obvious and close Community? Sell the building.

Stephen Landes

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 11:47 p.m.

Close Community as a stand-alone school and house it at another building. Also assure that Community receives only as much money per pupil as the other high schools.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

It is only ignorance that says that closing an old leaky building won't save money.

Jon Saalberg

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

It is only ignorance that leads anyone to believe closing Community would have any benefit whatsoever to the deficit situation, to say nothing of depriving our city of one of its truly exceptional learning environments.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

@DJBudSonic. Sounds good to me. Think of all the taxes that would accrue to the city from such a place. Think of how Kerrytown would prosper.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

I prefer a Cadillac. Unfortunately, I can only afford a Chevy. Even more unfortunate is that our government is blissfully unencumbered by such restrictions as buying what they can afford. I guess the analogy would be complete if I had to pay for your Cadillac, while I was forced to drive a Yugo.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:07 p.m.

Because Community has an incredible number of students trying to get in? Because it's a successful school? Because people prefer it to the big factory schools?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

Yeah great maybe we can have a 14 story apartment building there instead of a school that exemplifies the Ann Arbor Public Schools success story. Community was doing just fine until they spent all the money on Skyline.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:40 p.m.

Not sure if you per pupil funding numbers are correct but if they are I think you should be grateful Didn't I just read an article last week discussing this years school funding proposal about Hartland schools receiving $6900. per pupil? How can other districts around A2 manage with 2K less per pupil and offer the same programs and outperform A2 schools? just asking

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

We always wish for the perfect schools and our emotional attachment to the somewhat neighborhood school can often tear at our heart. A hidden issue is related to some of the plans the new superintendent is currently implementing, and wants to in the future. One huge hidden issue is the Discipline Gap, which the public has heard of, but might not realize how it is being implemented. The bottom line is that AAPS want to eliminate the gap when it comes to disciplining students of specific races. This will happen on paper, and so it will be presented as a success to the public. You know the outcome here, she will be praised about this success, especially by the school board who hired her, and her contract will be extended, and she will be given a RAISE! But the success is only on paper, not in the actual classrooms/buildings. I realize that there may be some schools that never have discipline issues, but others do, and if you haven't figured out the schools of choice situation, the perfect schools usually are not on that list. As teachers, we are not allowed to discipline other than have the student write a Think About It related to their behavior. The schools are now dividing behaviors into Low level ones, and High Level ones, with only the High Level behaviors being documented in any way. The other behaviors we have to tolerate in the learning environment. These may disrupt your child's learning, or make you child feel unsafe at school, but these behaviors are okay according to the district. We may need to redistrict, because just recently one of my favorite families pulled their children out of AAPS. It seems the children were tired of the behavior chaos in their classrooms, although all were considered low level behaviors. It breaks my heart to see great families leave, but as another poster indicated, those that can make choices due to their own situations, will do what is best for their children related to education.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Wow -- the civility of the comments shows Ann Arbor is as civil and dysfunctional as is the US Congress. You'll never resolve anything arguing like this because you put yourself in a zero sum game, eg, I win, you lose. Except that those who lose only do so temporarily and will strike back at some point. Ann Arbor is better than that, and its children deserve so much more. If the School Board is so bad, why were they voted in place as happened? Someone must like them, and they must be doing something right. So let's get civil, put the issues on the table, have a healthy discussion and resolve things with the primary focus being "Children first" but w/o losing site that Ann Arbor is a heavily taxed community and there is only so much money to go around. Ann Arbor is a special city (if you don't believe that, go elsewhere and see); let's keep that special character. But, oh BTW, it takes people working together and compromising (oops, sorry for suggesting we sin by compromising) and focusing on the key societal goals rather than personal goals.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

jayjay - Up until the last couple of election cycles the board was voted on in a off election. If you look at the number of district employees in AAPS - that number in many cases was more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the school elections in the district. With the district taking the day off to vote, do you wonder how people got on the board. The board has only had a couple of people challenge the incumbents in the last two cycles and little has changed. Add to that when people get frustrated on the board, the board gets to pick the person to replace them with - giving the majority of the board an even bigger majority. This will change over time with the board election moving to November and on in cycle election years. We now just need people with the time and knowledge to run. Then they have to have the serenity to FOAI the information they need to do their job. Since the administration will not provide the information even to a board member without an FOIA request, based on comments the administration has made to the board in board meetings.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

Well said, but the popular understanding of compromise now seems to be I'll cut spending by $50 billion and raise taxes by $50 billion!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

What is the number folks, something like 85% of all the costs go to cover salaries, healthcare , pensions and other benefit costs. How many sick days does a teacher get, how many personal days, professional days etc. As Don Bee said pension costs continue to take a larger bite of the pie every year. How many of you readers will ever get a pension, not many at all. How many of you have MESSA ( read-Cadillace ) healthcare funded at taxpayer expense, not many as it is open only to union educators. Why is it ok that the taxpayers keep funded these ridiculous programs while the taxpayers do not enjoy the same benefits themselves. A2 schools have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. This is not about the kids, it is about the teachers, administrators and taking care of the unions. I for one say it is time to bust the unions. Public unions should be outlawed, period. Good Day


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Sh1 , your 8 grand a year doesn't come close to paying what it costs the taxpayers. BTW, I pay more than that for crappy BCBS coverage.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

You do realize that MESSA costs a teacher $8000 a year, not counting deductibles and co-pays?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Agree that someone needs to do some digging into these "capacity" numbers and give the community a better idea of where these numbers come from. These kind of numbers are going to be used to frame the discussion around which schools get closed, and the numbers need to be reflective of the true capacity of the schools. Eberwhite's capacity dropped by 150 students from 2011 to 2012 (resulting in a utilization boost from 78% to 107%)? That's not just due to a new special education class. Maybe the transition to full-day KG that Don Bee mentioned?? AA Open is 150 students under capacity? I toured the school, and certain don't see how there's room for an additional 150 students (it looked relatively crowded). Northside was looking pretty margin in 2011 (54%), but now is at 67% capacity after a capacity loss of 100. Why? On a separate note, are there any efforts out there to repeal Prop A?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

Sorry to say the families are fleeing Northside, wait until you see next years figures. The administration is unable to do anything about the deteriorating atmosphere at that school due to union contractual constraints. My suspicion is that they are letting it tank so they have an easy 'close it' call next year when this all hits the fan.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

If you're on Facebook and you support traditional public schools in Michigan, please check out the "Save Michigan's Public Schools" page.

Ron Burgandy

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

For true, meaningful cost everyone in the Balas Administration Building and padlock the doors. No high priced consultant required to figure that one out......I'll throw it out there for free.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

We could also sell the building to a tax paying entity and gain tax revenue, too! Administration, everywhere, follows the rule of "work expands to fill the time available." Public school administration is no exception to this rule.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:43 p.m.

The person who raises the point about changing total capacity numbers is absolutely right. How can one compare the data sets when the factors that are supposed to be fixed are, in fact, variable? Also, what is not represented here is the fact that AAPS plays some kind of roll of the dice with 'school of choice' assignments each year. Some years, certain schools are not allowed to be schools of choice so even if parents want their kids to attend those schools, they are not permitted to have them go there. Third, there are kids who are permitted in-district transfers. Is that population figured into all these numbers? How would removing that in-district transfer option impact the populations at various schools? Finally, if neighborhood elementary schools are closed, the fabric of those communities will be seriously damaged. I watched this happen where I grew up. It is a horrible mistake. Whatever ends up happening, I sure hope AAPS does not close any of the elementary schools. Also, it is truly galling that we were told the tech situation with the schools was dire, which in some areas it is, but not all and we were therefore forced to vote for a total package which was flawed. I wanted so badly to vote only for the infrastructure upgrades alone. I would happily pay more taxes for supporting school populations, arts programs and teacher hirings. If Ann Arbor stops supporting its public schools, it will lose a lot of what makes it diverse. Those who can, and there are plenty, will send their kids to private schools. Those who cannot, and there are plenty of those as well, will choose to live elsewhere where they can afford to live and send their kids to good public schools. I know because I represent one of those familes that falls into the latter category. Want to make Ann Arbor exclusive? Kill the public schools and you're well on your way.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

JA School taxes are the same whether you live in the townships or in the city. I guess there could be a mass exodus to Dexter or Saline though.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

When people mention trying to get rid of Prop A, they sometimes forget the flip side of what that actually does for us. I would not be able to afford my home in AA without Prop A, period. And this would be due to the taxes, which are already pretty high in this community with Prop A. I live in what is considered an affordable home here in AA, so I don't pay as much as others. How many other residents would be in the same position as I am without Prop A? Many of us would have made an effort to move to communities on the outskirts of town, where the taxes are much less, while we could still have our children attend AAPS, or not, there are many other good school districts out there, just go check the graduation rates. I wonder what a higher tax rate, one that constantly increases, would do to the population attending our schools. Does anyone else ever consider this flip side of Prop A?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

@A2anon Where was Snyder when Prop A was passed? So asking administration to cut back is not an option?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

We are hamstrung at the local level from prop A. Ann Arbor would happily invest more in our schools, but we are not allowed to. And no, I'm not a teacher, just a parent.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

@A2anon So the answer is to ALWAYS expect Lansing to bail us out? There is nothing we can do at the local level? Are you a teacher by chance?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

jcj, read my other posts. AAPS has a structural deficit. It needs to be fixed. It cannot be fixed locally, only by Lansing.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

@A2anon You might do well do look at some numbers provided by Don Bee instead of repeating unsubstantiated garbage. With the increase in 2012-2013 and the planned increases in 2013-2014, Governor Snyder more than made up for the 3 percent decrease in 2011-2012. Yes, the decrease to schools was a HUGE Three percent. One of the smallest decreases any part of the state government did.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Gretta, I hear you! But the problem is, since Prop A, Ann Arbor is NOT ALLOWED to ask for millages for operating expenses, paying teachers, etc. We can ONLY vote on millages for infrastructure stuff. Snyder and co (who seem to HATE public education) have to fund it. And they are not.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

I'd encourage people to look at the actual numbers on the chart, not just percentages. for example, Wines shows a drop of more than 10% in "change in percent full". The actual difference in kids? Four. The change from half-day to full-day kindergarten changed the alleged capacity, but in reality made the common areas and classrooms more crowded. Lunchtime had to be finessed to accommodate and additional 50 kids (the half-day kindergarteners ate lunch at home last year). I'd encourage anyone who thinks that the school has plenty of room to visit on a winter day and see the rows of drippy boots lining the hallways, the crammed-beyond-capacity coat hooks, the amount of instructional time wasted on the logistics of getting 25 kids dressed and out the door in a room that's just too small. It's not all about fitting in enough desks!


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

JuliaAnnArb - Coats and boots always were on hooks in the hall and it used to be they NEVER came in the classroom, but work only in the hallways. Kids now wear most outside clothing. In my day it was a hat, mittens (on a string thru the sleeves most of the time), a coat and boots that slid on over the shoes. Now we have inside shoes and boots that need to be tied or velco'ed, gloves, hats, vests, ear muffs, coats and snow pants.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

I have no doubt that there were originally more children in each class, but the way the teachers use the classroom, which I absolutely think is better educationally, requires more room. Gone are the days of rows of desks and a book and pencil for each student. Now they have learning stations, areas to work in groups, supplies for all sorts of multisensory learning, and lots and lots of cabinets and shelves for all those supplies. It's a better way to learn, but it simply takes more space. And I'm still not sure how 1950's-era kids kept their outerwear organized. They had boots or overshoes and coats and hats and mittens back then, right? Did the schools have a separate cloakroom that got repurposed somewhere along the line?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

JuliaAnnArb - Those rooms were designed in the days of 30-35 students per room. Over time the district has added cabinets to the rooms and other furniture. The classroom size in the elementary schools was set when class size was much larger than it is today. Go back and check if you don't believe me. It is only since 1990 that the district worked to reduce class sizes, most of the buildings were built before then.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

DonBee, How is it that you are willingly refusing to acknowledge the structural deficit that the AAPS faces, year after year, due to the under-funded MPSERS pension system??? Every Single Year the pension requires a significantly higher percentage of the AAPS budget, as there are fewer and fewer teachers and staff paying into it (larger classes, lay-offs, privatization). So even if AAPS funding stayed flat (never mind increasing for inflation!!!), we would have to cut more and more every single year. This goes on forever. Until something changes. From what I can tell, Democrats don't want to touch this cuz they don't want to upset the teachers. And Republicans don't want to touch it because they really do want the public schools to fail, to replace them with for-profit charters. So nobody is fixing it! We DO have a revenue problem, Mr. Don. AND a pension system problem. And a problem with Lansing not valuing public education, and stealing K-12 funds for business tax cuts.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

@A2anon " It must be fixed, or the AAPS will go bankrupt. Really, really soon." If I were about to go bankrupt The FIRST thing I would do is cut back on spending everywhere I could. THEN I would look for another job ( more revenue).


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

A2anon - I have acknowledged it - it starts with the overhead accounts that are out of whack. Getting the administration - both building and general right sized needs to happen. Then there is starting salary adjustment (downward) for new administrators. Then it goes to the retirement system that is a problem that eats a big piece of the district budget - fixing that fixes a big chunk of the structural issues. Then there are all the redundant athletic facilities at the high schools - most of which Rec&Ed can't use any other time. So there are millions tied up in fields that get used 15 times or less a year between all the sports. We overspent on Skyline by making it a comprehensive school and duplicating all the athletic facilities - instead of letting the Skyline sports play at one of the other two high schools or having Skyline be the magnet school that most of the community wanted it to be (based on votes in the various meetings held by the district). No funds were stolen for business tax cuts, small businesses say their state based double taxation go away. On average they saw a $3000 tax cut, while large businesses like Ford and Meijer saw tax increases from the change. The real change though is that now instead of Ford putting state taxes in escrow for years while they are being disputed the new tax method means the state sees that money in the same year as the tax return is due. Sorry to pop your Big-D bubble, but the changes actually will bring in more taxes as the loopholes in the old tax law expire in the next two years. AND the total given to K-12 per year is now higher than it was when the Governor was elected per student.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

Down votes..... I'm guessing I'm upsetting both "parties?" I'm a big-D Democrat, and a huge supporter of teachers. But the fact is, somehow, the MPSERS system has to be fixed. It's not a partisan issue, it's just a lousy truth. Unless we re-start hiring teachers, decreasing class sizes, un-privatizing services, and fully investing in education, therefore un-doing all the changes in the last decade. Which means a total shift in Lansing. But that's not happening any time soon! And in the meantime, what else can we do? It must be fixed, or the AAPS will go bankrupt. Really, really soon.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Ms. Gardner - The numbers that Dr. Green and Ms. Mexicotte presented you are the state aid numbers with the Proposition-A local funds. They are missing so much from them. Sinking fund money, WISD special education funds, fees for sports and sports admissions (way less than sports costs by the way), title 1 and 2 moneys, grants and gifts, bond funds, tech bond, etc. In total the budget for AAPS is up every year but 1 from 2001 onward. Yes, some of these funds are restricted in what they can be spent for, but in total the money that AAPS has still continues to climb each year with the approval of more and more ways to fund the schools at the local and WISD (almost county wide, but not quite). The per student total of all funds is not the 9 thousand and change that the administration and board want to talk about but closer to 15 thousand, which they don't want to admit to. Millions spent on new construction in the 2011-2012 school year because there was left over bond and sinking fund money - money that could have been spent improving energy efficiency instead went to new structures that will now need to be maintained, and heated. We don't have a revenue problem - we have a mis-allocation problem. But no one is willing to admit it. Administrative spending is out of control, but again no one wants to admit it. Millions of dollars in revenue were not in the budget presented to the board, the board was very unhappy that this money was hidden from them. Mr. Allan continues to hide where money is and where it goes. He is very good at making the district seem poor, but look at some of the administrative salaries before you agree they are poor.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Paula is sounds to me like we would be better served if you get figures from someone else in addition to the administration. That's like asking the fox how many chickens he ate.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

Don Bee, AAPS is planning on using sinking funds in the near future to fix parking situations at some schools. You know all those kids that are now considered walkers? Well, they were added to the parent drive the kiddies to school group, causing huge problems at some schools. So AAPS will be purchasing some homes around the parking lots to solve the problem!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

Time to tighten our belts people. this is gonna be a rough ride.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

In case you haven't noticed the demographics of Ann Arbor have changed. There are a large number of boomers who do not kids in school and have paid their share of taxes to local education. Coupled with the fact that AAPS does not have fiscal accountability to the local taxpayer, these factors will drive decisions in the next decade.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

Whether or not I personally have kids, I'd like the kids in my city to be well-educated, so that they can make change, take care of my elderly parents or my pets in nursing homes and veterinarian office, etc. etc. I'm not so short-sighted as to think that I benefit from public schooling only if I have kids in the classrooms.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

I would like to know how "capacity" is determined. I am a parent at Ann Arbor Open, and that building is seriously cramped! Fitting all the kids K-8 into the auditorium for an event like MLK day etc looks like a fire hazard. I was there, in the back, and the number of bodies pressed together is stifling. The lunchroom is also ridiculous. They've had to split lunch into SIX different periods, meaning each period is so short kids get barely 10 minutes to actually eat by the time they are sitting down, and even then the kids are spilling into other spaces for lunch. The classrooms themselves are maxed out because AAO is able to pull from it's wait-list to keep classrooms as full as possible, and already there are coats on top of coats and kids on top of kids, all over the place. And don't get me started on the band and orchestra facilities! Holy cow, how the instrumental music teachers cram all those kids and their instruments into those small, basement classrooms is beyond me. So I ask again.... who determines capacity? Based on what??? And at what point does the amount of square foot per kid in a classroom start to impact their ability to actually learn? Because I think we are past it. I love AAO's program, and the teachers. But hearing that we are not "at capacity" makes me want to either laugh or cry.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

I'm confused by the chart. Several buildings have capacities that changed from year to year. For example, King's capacity was listed as 400 in 2011 and changed to 450 in 2012. So although the school gained 35 new students the chart lists them as having lost population? Eberwhite's capacity was 475 in 2011 but went down to 325 in 2012. They lost 30+ students but the chart says their population grew by 28% What's up with the chart?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Paula Gardner - The chart is very misleading because of the "carve outs" that the school uses to hide what is actually going on. This is one where a FOIA would be useful for the actual room sizes (square feet), current use, number of students in the room 4 or more hours a day). In some cases the capacity went down because Kindergarten went from 1/2 day (with full day funding) to full day. In some cases a classroom is now out of the mix for a 1 hour a day or a 1 day a week use (e.g. group this or group that). The real numbers are so buried in that chart is it not funny. Want to have fun, go back to the 2005 chart and compare - the differences are striking.

Paula Gardner

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

We're told that some rooms were reclassified in some buildings, like if a room was shifted to special ed (which takes it out of the capacity total due to its specialty use) instead of a "regular" classroom. This chart is a good guide and shows enrollment, but doesn't give the full picture of building sizes and uses.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Again and again, maybe if they started cutting at the top administrators, we could save a ton of dollars. Our schools are falling to pieces little by little--just look at what they did to the bussing with consolidating it, the privatization of the hot lunch program, and now trying to do the same with the noon hour staff, which by the way none make tons of money. Technology, I look around the school I work at and there are many computers and tons of laptops, so what will happen to them. Are they just going to be pitched. Hmmmm. What is the technology funds actually purchasing?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 5:50 p.m.

Carole, I couldn't agree more. as a noon-hour supervisor at one of these schools, where everyone's hours were cut and money taken from a pocket that doesn't have a great deal to begin with, this is absurd. the fat needs to be cut from the top. the sad result is that the kids at this school do *not* have the supervision they deserve and need, it's an accident just waiting to happen. contrary to popular notion, we noon-hour supervisors do not have eyes in the back of our heads, we can't be everywhere at once, and ultimately the kids are the ones getting the short end of the stick. Are you listening, Dr. Green? Do you even care?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

The days of unlimited funds are long over. EVERYTHING needs to be on the table. If buildings are underutilized, redistricting needs to be looked at. Things like taking 4 years to fully open a high school are absurd. Putting AstroTurf practice fields in are ridiculous. Things need to be done differently. Closing a high school when the power goes out because you cannot flush automated toilets or wash your hands? What does it cost the community to close early and have special bus runs?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

@A2comments I missed where you called for any evaluation of the size of administration!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

In several cases changing building administration would raise the number of students in the building next fall. Many parents are staying out of schools with bad administrators. Fixing that would probably bring 80 to 100 students back from charters or home schooling.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Did anyone see the community thing on the comcast channel? The BOE is going to do this whether or not parents like it or not. This is the 5 year plan they are talking about. Phase one already happened. They shut down about 10% of the busing for the hi school students. Phase 2 was how far they now walk to school. Now? Redistricting. This was going to happen no matter what. In 5 years they plan to shut down all the buses and save themselves 5 mill. I hate to say it they need to shut down Balas and automate it. Parents are going to go nuts when they realize they have been bamboozled and the schools don't know how to handle all the traffic dropping off all of the children. Good luck AAPS. You are burying yourselves with this one.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

Are you sure its treatment from Ms. Green and not from some of her 'trouble dolls' that she leaves with people and in their offices?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

J.A. Pieper - Maybe we will get someone who understands what transparent means this time. I have to wonder - will he draw retirement when he leaves? I suspect he will and then draw it again in a few years when he retires from another public job in the Carolinas.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Don Bee, not made public yet, but Mr. Allan is leaving the district to move to one of the Carolinas. Seems he has had enough of the treatment he receives from his boss at Balas.

Chester Drawers

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

jns131, While I agree wholeheartedly that central administrative costs are arcane and far too high, I would like to know what you mean by 'automate' Balas. Can't figure out what that would look like. Robosuperintendents?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

A2anon - I can not agree more with you. Time to change the retirement laws for school employees to match the state employees retirement plans - including age of retirement. No more buying years in the system for pennies on the dollar. Raise the minimum retirement age to 55 for current teachers over 45 and to 60 for teachers between 35 and 45 and to 65 for teachers under 35. And for all new hires tie the retirement age to social security. That would do more to fix the structural deficit than anything else. But, if you look at the total administrative costs, there is a lot to be done there. Overhead (the 4 accounts that are reported to the state - not the 1 account that the administration likes to use) are out of whack. Mr. Allan has moved most of the costs out of the general administration account so that it looks small - the costs did not go away they just got reclassified by Mr. Allan and his staff.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

How can you blame AAPS? They could eliminate Balas entirely and not solve the structural deficit we face, even for a year. Lansing is to blame.

Angela Smith

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

As a parent at the school, I have no idea how Ann Arbor Open's capacity can be reported as 650. I'm picturing closet sized book rooms as the only unused 'classroom' space. I'd love the public to have access to a photo of students at an all school assembly. As cuts are made by state and by district, it's a tough time to manage schools. I agree with your priorities-- class sizes, and arts particularly. Transportation and sports already seem to have been cut lean. I don't envy the shoes our district leaders are wearing, but I do hope that they think long and hard (and ask for tons of community weigh in!!) before making changes that negatively impact the community.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Ann Arbor Open is using fully an old building that would be considered by many districts unsuitable. The AAPS is lucky to have a program like Open willing to work in that building. I don't think that it is under capacity at all. If it was why would there be such a challenge to get in to the few spaces available? Have you seen the drop off in the morning there? It is packed. Look someplace else for your cuts, this is not the place to save.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

The elementary schools were redistricted in the late 90's. It's simply time to do that again.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

People who take their living from others ( ie: taxpayers ) be it city council , the dda , the school board, board of commissioners, politicians, aata etc etc etc ..all express great concern for those that keep them in existance...but the the bottom line is truly that... it's called just cover my own ass....

Dan Ezekiel

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:31 a.m.

The School Board is an unpaid position, I believe, and a thankless one, as reference the comment above. Trustees are also taxpayers, as are school employees. I for one am grateful for the work the trustees do. I know several of them and have found them very conscientious and hardworking as they seek to balance the myriad influences that affect our kids' schools.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Here we go again. Time for the next plan to squeeze more money from the taxpayers by threatening to close schools. The citizens of this city are not an endless source of funds. The school board need to learn to live within their means.

Susie Q

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 2:43 p.m.

DonBee, You are wrong. The 2% increase that Snyder talks about will not send a dime to AAPS. The state says they will cover some of the pension contribution ( about $250) increase that would have happened for 2013-2014. AAPS is operating with $9020, which IS approx what they rec'd 12 years ago. Prop A has not worked. The districts like AAPS, no longer receive the promised "hold harmless" or 20J funds that they were promised in Prop A. That feature encouraged citizens in places like Birmingham or AAPS to support it in 1994.

Jack Panitch

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3 a.m.

In addition to ERMG's perspective, consider the following: This is a link to an article published in the Detroit News on February 15, 2013, authored by Chad Livengood. The title of the article is "Michigan's school aid increase may actually leave districts with less."

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

As of 2011, the AAPS's per pupil funding has risen only once since 1995. Using : $1 in 1995 was worth $1.48 in 2011, meaning that per pupil funding in 2011 needed to be nearly 50% higher than it was in 1995 in order for funding to keep pace with inflation. Clearly this has not happened, the, and just as clearly that is the cause of Ann Arbor's budget problems (and those of the rest of the state as well). Who to blame? Three different governors and the state legislature for breaking the promises made when Prop A was enacted; and the public for letting them get away with it. But it's a lot more fun blaming teachers and administrators. That's the favorite pastime of the Snooze's conservative readersnipe. GN&GL


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

sh1 - LOL - reading the union paper now I see. With the increase in 2012-2013 and the planned increases in 2013-2014, Governor Snyder more than made up for the 3 percent decrease in 2011-2012. Yes, the decrease to schools was a HUGE Three percent. One of the smallest decreases any part of the state government did. The addition of $250 per teacher in retirement funding in the 2013-2014 school year will allow the system to continue to let teachers retire at as young an age as 47 (with great planning on the part of the teacher) and receive life long retirement benefits with cost of living increases. This is the most broken part of the public school system - and it needs to be fixed. It is not negotiated into contracts - it was not won by bargaining - it is in state law. The state laws need to change.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

barzoon? We need to shut down Balas by 50%. There is a lot of waste in there. I just heard one district automated half their systems. Can't remember which. AAPS needs to do this as well.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Snyder has taken away so much money from K-12 schools as business perks that "living within their means" has become structurally nearly impossible. Other school districts are closing schools, going to a four-day work week, and passing teacher pay cuts of 10%. Where will it end?


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Didn't the folks in A2 just pass a big millage tax ? or was that for a certain " bucket "


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

tdw? That was to keep Balas open. Close all the spokes and privatize them. AAPS is trying to save the hub. Guess what AAPS, the titanic is sinking and there is nothing you can do to save it.

Paula Gardner

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

The $45.8 million technology bond passed in May 2012:

andy kelly

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

I agree that necessary decisions that change the construct of the system are imminent. These changes will not be comfortable, but are mandatory. Yet, Mrs. Gardner's assessment of the Ann Arbor community is a little troubling. She states that Ann Arbor is "a community that demands accountability and excellence. We display passionate loyalty. We're willing to challenge systems." I believe that Ann Arbor WAS a community that held these attributes in high regard. That has unfortunately changed. We are now a community that is perfectly fine with teaching to the test standards, overpaying a Superintendent that has done very little except take up space and resources, and elected a school board that cannot hit water if they jumped out of a boat. We are no longer a community that demands excellence. We are no longer a unique eclectic town of mom and pop stores that watch for each other (think Shaky Jake). We are an economically divided society run by sycophants and fixated on the status quo. And, as far as loyalty, it is only as good as reciprocity. How loyal was city hall to the community when they commissioned an outsite artist over an Ann Arborite? We can change this and recreate a school system that we can be proud of. We can buck the state requirements and show what is possible with local efforts. We can challenge our students by educating their head and heart. We can become proud! We just need GOOD leadership. Are you out there?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

Andy, very well said. the Fat needs to be trimmed from the top, not the bottom.