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Posted on Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Ypsilanti school board warned: Improve finances or face emergency manager takeover

By Kyle Feldscher

When speaking to the Ypsilanti school board Monday, state Rep. David Rutledge issued a warning to trustees and district leaders: Get the district on solid financial footing or face installation of an emergency manager by the state.

Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti) has two school districts in his district facing the possibility of having an emergency manager appointed by Michigan officials, as Willow Run Community Schools is another district on the list of 23 school districts that could face a state takeover.

Rutledge said Ypsilanti school leaders needed to come together and find a way to bring the district out of debt, or else someone else will do it for them.

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Rep. David Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti)

“I just want, at this point, to emphasize to you as a policy making board … that this is at the point that it is beyond serious,” Rutledge said. “We’re at the point where unless in the short-term we can collectively find a way of impacting in a positive way, meaning to reduce the outstanding indebtedness, you will have in your presence a person that’s not identified yet that will be an emergency manager, managing the affairs of this district.”

The emergency manager law, a revamped version of Public Act 72, changes the way the state can declare financial emergencies in public school districts and local municipalities and gives the emergency managers assigned by Gov. Rick Snyder greater power to address them.

To view a list of all districts in the state of Michigan with a deficit, click here. The 23 districts on the list with deficits more than $1 million are the districts facing the possibility of being taken over by an emergency manager.

Joe Harris, the emergency manager appointed to the city of Benton Harbor on the state’s west side, has used his powers under the new law to ban the city commission from doing anything other than calling a meeting to order, approving minutes of past meetings and adjourning meetings. Detroit Public Schools also have an emergency manager in charge but Roy Roberts, recently appointed by Snyder, said he has no plans to expand his authority under the new law.

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Andy Fanta

Rutledge said he had met with superintendent Dedrick Martin for a considerable amount of time earlier Monday discussing the district’s issues.

The warning from Rutledge sparked a statement of defiance from trustee Andy Fanta.

Fanta asked board president David Bates to provide trustees with a list of all the school districts in the state who could have an emergency manager installed. He said it was time to fight back with legal action against the state.

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David Bates

“It’s time to play hardball and we have to communicate with each other,” Fanta said. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It goes to a fundamental principle as to who are all are as Americans, whether do we believe in the democratic process or whether we’re going to follow this model of a czar.”

Bates said he had met personally with Willow Run school board president Don Garrett Jr. to discuss a joint meeting of the two school boards. However, Bates said he had not been able to get in contact with Garrett to follow up on their meeting.

He said he saw the cooperation of the two school districts as vital to each district’s ability to make its own decisions without an emergency manager.

“It’s my great hope that the two boards of education will find some common ground and can find some way to work together for students in eastern Washtenaw County,” Bates said.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Andrew MacKie-Mason

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:52 a.m.

School districts need to get their house in order, and that includes cutting back on administrative costs and closing buildings where necessary. But none of that changes the fact that 2011 PA 4 is unconstitutional in various ways. Also, Ann, "Public Act 72" is not a correct citation. Public Acts are numbered starting at 1 each year, so "Public Act 72" does not identify a specific law. "1990 PA 72" is the citation that gives the necessary information.

Monica R-W

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

See, I guess on this one, I believe the issue is more than "African-American" and "Caucasian". Instead, Ypsilanti Public Schools issue are about a lost 7 to 8 years. From about 1997-2003, Ypsilanti High School gained a reputation. Sadly for YPS, it was not positive in the least and the internal issues inside the school became the talk of newspapers, neighborhood talks and rumors. Parents begun a steady exit of moving out of the school district or not even considering YHS as option for their children 9th-12th grades education. To fix Ypsilanti High School issues, it must first start with positive marketing, verifiable educational results, strong administrative teams whom support teachers in the profession to teach students....and remove the ones that aren't. Parents need to check themselves on the "home issues" that some, are sending their children to school with. Respect of the teaching profession, as a whole, by children of YPS should be excuses. If the parent wants to blame the school district, instead of taking a internal look at themselves to see were they can assist with supporting their child education, then maybe they need to consider moving to another district. School board members should be serving the needs of the entire district, period. It should not be about "brownie points", "self-entitled agendas" or "lifetime seats". Also, experience in the educational field and, with public school financing manners, should be REQUIRED to run for any school board position. I believe in YPS/YHS can take the chances necessary to avoid King Snyder's EFM. My personal hope for the future is that the tough decisions are made to ensure this district remains apart of our community, for decades to come.

David Cahill

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

Thanks for the list of districts under the gun!


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

Here's what I don't understand from this article...if someone could explain a bit better that would be great. Quote from article: &quot;The 23 districts on the list with deficits more than $1 million are the districts facing the possibility of being taken over by an emergency manager.&quot; Doesn't Ann Arbor schools have a 15 millions dollar deficit that they are facing right now? Am I wrong about this? <a href=""></a> and isn't Saline facing a deficit of 6 million? <a href=""></a> Chelsea schools facing 2.8 deficit? <a href=""></a> Adrian schools 4 million deficit <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> There are more, most if not all school districts in Michigan are facing more than 1 million in deficits, so what is so special about the 23 listed? Why aren't these communites on the list of Emergency Manger take overs? What is it about these 23 communites that are listed makes them different? Is there more to the 23 list then just a deficit of money? Is there school performance involved? Just throwing questions out there..


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

Saline and Ann Arbor are currently in the black. If they do nothing, they will be in deficits next year.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

And as for Kyle's reply, all the fund equity of the other districts means is that they put off the inevitable for a year, or two at best.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

I'm not normally so cynical, but I honestly think that no matter how bad things get in the districts named above (A2, Saline, et. ), the state doesn't dare take threaten their independence or sovereignty. They will have no problem, however, seizing the sovereignty of districts largely composed of the poor and minorities. I think the entire thing is -- dare I say it -- racist; or at least &quot;classist&quot; at it's core.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

Thanks for clearing that up Kyle! That bit of information makes the world of difference.

Kyle Feldscher

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

hypsi - Perhaps I didn't explain this as clearly as I should have, but what these 23 districts have in common that they don't share with Ann Arbor, Saline, Chelsea, Adrian is that they all have deficits in their fund balance or rainy day fund. Ann Arbor, Saline and Chelsea all have positive fund balances, which means they at least have some savings that can help fill their deficit for the coming year. Ypsilanti's fund balance is a negative number, which means they do not have any savings whatsoever and every piece of revenue that comes into the district has to be spent in order to balance that amount.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

"I just want, at this point, to emphasize to you as a policy making board … that this is at the point that it is beyond serious," Rutledge said. "We're at the point where unless in the short-term we can collectively find a way of impacting in a positive way, meaning to reduce the outstanding indebtedness, you will have in your presence a person that's not identified yet that will be an emergency manager, managing the affairs of this district." = &quot;I just want to emphasize that it is beyond serious. We're at the point where you will have an emergency manager managing the affairs of this district.&quot; Let's just hope Rutledge doesn't go through money like he goes through words.

Martin Church

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

Not only it time to consider the consolidation of the school districts we need to bring the community boards in to the mix. Their discussions on the types of business will determine the revenue for the school districts. We have lost several plants (Ypsilanti ford, Motor Wheel) which were major contributors to the school districts both in funds and resources. The business in the water street project also have not been replaced this took resources from the schools. It is time for all of our community leaders on all the boards (Library, city council, township, county commissioners to name a few) to sit down with the school districts together and redefine this community. If we don't all of these boards will be replaced by EFM's As the knight said in Indiana Jones, &quot;He choose unwisely&quot; - this is the voters of this community. You did not want to face the truth and now your right to make the determination will be removed from you like a spoiled child throwing a fit in the grocery store becuase mom said NO.

Steve in MI

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

The message from the Republican state government is clear: poor black communities should not be allowed the privilege of self-government. Benton Harbor, you want to prevent a rich developer from taking your best parkland from you? Tough, we'll take away your city council and have an unelected appointee do the dirty work. Willow Run, can't handle the latest round of budget cuts? Never mind that your district has lots of educational needs, growing competition, increasing regulatory requirements, and the state is cutting your budget; if you can't handle an intentionally impossible situation, you don't deserve to elect your own leaders. I'm sure the current Republican leadership wishes that the poor and pigmented were better people, so that they could be allowed the same privilege of self-government that the wealthier and whiter deserve.

Martin Church

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

it's not a race thing. I see several affluent communities on the list also. it is spending beyond your means. Try it your self and see how soon you wind up in brankrupcty. This debt was brought on by the community taxing it self and then spending more then they had, Now the businesses have left and the people have left. so we now have to cut. Stop being a racer and start finding ways to cut the government spending. It's not race it's spending.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

What a brilliant gambit by Snyder! Push districts over the edge by cutting to the bone, and let the local officials take the blame! The sad fact is that our Republican legislature and governor appear to have been planning to balance the budget on the backs of schoolchildren (and old people and poor people) since before Snyder was elected. They would not discuss real prison reform, despite the huge chunk it takes out of our budget. They won't discuss a graduated income tax, despite the wisdom of such an approach. They won't do anything to actually solve problems except cut spending, which is a solution only on paper that actually makes the real-world problems we already have considerably worse. Blaming this on local school board officials portrays an extraordinarily unsophisticated understanding of what is going on at the state level, both politically and economically.

L. C. Burgundy

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 6:26 p.m.

The financial crisis these districts face dates to the Granholm era at least. Rick Snyder has little or nothing to do with it up to this point, other than picking up Granholm's broken pieces.

Basic Bob

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

The sophisticated understanding is that these districts were already over the edge when Snyder took office. I don't know if I would call it blame, but the guys in charge ARE responsible for making things better. If they can't, there is the alternative.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

The kind of poverty and social problems that Ypsi students face won't be overcome by platitudes from anyone. 80% -- that's right, 4 out of 5 -- 5 year olds in Ypsilanti lived below the poverty line in 2009. 33% of everyone in the city. No wonder the schools are failing. Lawsuits are lengthy, expensive, and contentious. On the other hand, fiddling is a time-honored way to pass the time as your city burns... Ave, school board!


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5 p.m.

Martin Church: You know, I agree with you: the schools, no matter how well funded, can't solve problems that start in families and society. That is exactly what I was saying, in fact. We should stop expecting schools to be able to make up all the difference -- it's not fair to the schools. That doesn't mean they shouldn't try, of course, but it means they can't get Ypsilanti High's test scores up to Palo Alto standards, no matter who takes over. The community-wide effects of uneducated parents, lead paint, violent culture, and poverty are too big.

Martin Church

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

Money will not solve the student failing rate. parents solve that by getting involved in the lifes of their kids. The schools are not baby sitters and should stop being considered that. It's time to face the facts education is not free and is the responsiblity of the parents to provide. That means holding the school district and their kids responsible for what they get. Stop blaming the pay levels. Obama came from a poor single mother family and was successful despit the fact. Clinton came from a poor single family and successed. A heart surgeon from detroit from a poor single household became a success. All because their parent and grandparents and the people around them held them accountable. so stop giving excuses and start working on the problem one child at a time. I know I am.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

I don't know if the 33% includes EMU students, but the 80% of 5-year-olds doesn't. Here's the link... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

Does the 33% include the EMU students. I guess I was in poverty when I attended college, although I wanted for nothing.

David Cahill

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:45 p.m., could you please post the list of the 23 districts to which Rep. Rutledge referred?

Kyle Feldscher

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

David- Ypsilanti, Willow Run, Detroit Public Schools, Inkster, Avondale, Pontiac, Clintondale, Covert, Benton Harbor, West Bloomfield, Hazel Park, Oak Park, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Redford Union, River Rouge, Westwood, Southgate, Hancock, Brighton, East Detroit, Mt. Clemens, Muskegon Heights.

Jen Eyer

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

We are trying to locate that information, and will post it as soon as we do.

Monica R-W

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

As a Alumni of YPS, it makes NOT SENSE WHAT SO EVER to merge with Lincoln Consolidated Schools. First, Lincoln is far away, landscape is too large frankly to even consider this option. Lincoln, should stay a separate school district. What has made perfect sense for YEARS is the merger of Willow Run and Ypsilanti. As much as Willow Run Public Schools is trying to stay separate, Van Buren/Belleville New Public High School will continue to drain potential students from the district to the West. Ypsilanti or Charter schools are taking students from WW to the North, East and South. With WW's &quot;new&quot; plan to go to three public schools....Two elementary's, one combined middle/high school...frankly points is a district too small (student ratio population wise) support itself, IMHO. A consolidation with Ypsilanti Public Schools would make both districts larger, have potential students to draws from both areas (with adjoining land space), save on services, resources and is the best plan on the table to save BOTH districts from King Snyder's EFM. One warning....a STRONG Administrative team is needed to ensure the survival of both WW and Ypsi IF the districts are combined. As previously suggested I would add that at least a majority of potential school board members of the new district have both financial management and educational background experience, to ensure maximum success.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

Agreed with keeping Lincoln separate. Belleville became a school choice in the 1990's and was flooded with Willow Run cast offs. I remember back in the 90's parents were screaming because the problems of WR were becoming the problems of Belleville. Belleville was not a nice school to attend after WR sent their cast offs to that district. I heard things are getting better, but not by much. WR is still a babysitting service according to teachers I am talking to now. Glad mine is no where near this area. Good luck parents. You are going to need it. Lincoln? Do not merge with Willow Run.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

Makes sense to merge Lincoln, WR and Ypsi school districts into one larger district. Also makes sense to cut admin and get serious concessions from the teachers unions. Their costs are appx 75% of the districts costs. Until their is pension and healhcare reform, they will continue to falter as they have for the past 30 years. Good Day

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

&quot;Until their is pension and healhcare reform, they will continue to falter as they have for the past 30 years.&quot; &quot;Their&quot; apparently needs to be reform in the teaching of English, too. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

Plymouth Canton did just that. I just talked to a parent out of that district? The entire administration staff was pinked slipped, 259 teachers pinked slip and all the schools will close and reorganize by August. So, according to what I heard? Not everyone will have a job in September. So glad I did not apply there. I would have lost my job, again.

zip the cat

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

Mr Bobb's looking for a new gig. He has a proven track record of cleaning up corrupt incompetent school systems. He'll bring your school back from the dead


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:23 p.m.

A merger of Lincoln, WR and Ypsi could be a good thing IF TPTB don't just move the top layers of bureaucracy into a merged district. The districts have all created their own bureaucracies. That needs to end. Merging accomplishes nothing otherwise.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2 p.m.

That was thought out years ago but it was realized that Lincoln was too far out to be of help to Ypsilanti and Willow Run. Willow Run and Ypsilanti have toyed with the concept of merging for over 10 years and has yet to happen. Willow Run just merged their elementary, middle and hi school into one unit and hoping that balances the budget by closing one or more schools. Lincoln at present is holding their own and doing well. It is Ypsilanti and Willow Run that are loosing students by the masses. I think it is time to merge these two together.

Glen S.

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

Michigan's system for funding public schools has been broken for years, forcing many school districts, such as Ypsilanti, to make ever-deeper cuts, year after year. Now, Governor Snyder and the majority Republicans in the legislature have decided to raid the &quot;school aid&quot; fund for other purposes -- including a $1.8 Billion &quot;no strings&quot; corporate break. Even worse, as districts like Ypsilanti are being driven deeper into debt, they are also being threatened with &quot;Financial Martial Law&quot; being imposed upon them if they don't make additional, devastating cuts that will further reduce the quality of service provided, and drive even more parents to send their children to private and FOR PROFIT charter schools -- many of which are run by some of Snyder and the Republicans' largest campaign contributors. If Representative Rutledge is so concerned about the future of the Ypsilanti Public Schools, perhaps instead of &quot;warning,&quot; districts like Ypsilanti to do a better job of doing Governor Snyder's &quot;dirty work&quot; (dismantling free, public education in Michigan, for the benefit of for-profit charters) for him, he should be spending more time working in Lansing working to fix the fundamental funding crisis.

Sandy Castle

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

Yep, wasting time meeting with another failing school district will certainly help Ypsilanti get out the hole they've gotten themselves into! Way to move forward, screw the kids, protect yourselves instead and try to stop somebody from coming in who might be able to fix what you have broken.

Basic Bob

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

A consolidation of these two districts would not solve their problems, but it would help. Each district has lost half their population. Ypsilanti Township is so chopped-up it makes no sense to continue this way. In every other regard, they are one community. A 3-way merger with Lincoln would be ideal.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

Ypsi, Williow Run, and Lincoln schools should be consolidated into one school district.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 11:24 a.m.

Willow Run is in worse shape than Ypsilanti, both financially, and management. Rather than operating under the current law where both communities must vote to consolidate, the state should make it mandatory, without a vote for those districts in such close proximity and who are in financial deficits. The consolidation of management services, and support services could cause an improvement in the overall operations: especially if the administrators who represent both districts are the most competent possible. Also, like the private sector, Board members should not be selected by a community popularity vote (without any school management skills), but rather through an interview process conducted by a committee professionals who truly what management of all aspects of a K-12 system.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 10:48 a.m.

Sadly while Andy is right, but being right does not matter any more, the bottom line is all that matters. David and Andy should be beating a path between Willow Run and Ypsilanti Public Schools. Cooperation will not only save money, it may help stave off the EFM. And it makes sense to combine resources and cut back on management costs. This is the time for effective action , not waiting for what's next.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 10:28 a.m.

Unbelievable. Here he goes again. It was Mr. Fanta yelling, &quot;Let's sue the State&quot; not too many years ago that prompted the Board and the administration not to deal with the budget crisis rationally. That led us to the current situation. Are they going to listen to him again? Why is he still on this board? Ypsi citizens, we need to show up at the next meeting and demand that this board and administration figure out what to do before we are taken over. Then again, maybe we need to be taken over . . . What a shame.