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Posted on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

School districts in east half of Washtenaw County see drops in student enrollment

By Janet Miller

Pounded by the double-whammy of the bad economy and increased competition from magnet and charter schools, school districts in the eastern half of Washtenaw County saw declines in student enrollment this fall.

Ypsilanti, Willow Run Community and Lincoln Consolidated school districts all lost more students than expected when the official state count was taken Oct. 5.

Lincoln Schools suffered the biggest loss with a fall enrollment that was 293 students short of projections, said Superintendent Ellen Bonter. The loss was across all grade levels, Bonter said, and will cost the district $1.8 million in expected revenue from the state.

The fall count is used by the state to determine funding levels for each district. The Oct. 5 fall count day will be worth 90 percent of state aid, while a winter count in February will be worth 10 percent. All of the enrollment numbers are preliminary and won’t be certified until Nov. 9.

For now, it appears Lincoln Schools enrollment is 6 percent below projection, and 8 percent short of last fall's enrollment. Lincoln counted 4,343 this fall, compared with 4,738 a year ago, a 395-student decline. They had projected 4,636 students for this fall.

“We’re looking at our budget and how to adjust at this point in the year,” Bonter said. “We are fortunate that we are still have enough room in the budget to keep the cuts away from the classroom. It won’t impact the classroom this year,”

Ultimately, she said, it will be a board decision.

Much of the decline resulted from families moving out of state, Bonter said.

“At the middle school especially, there’s been a great movement out of state, with students moving to Missouri, Texas, Arkansas and California. This tells me parents are seeking jobs.”

Another 20 middle school students left for publically funded East Arbor Charter Academy, Bonter said.

The Ypsilanti School District had predicted a 1/2 percent enrollment loss for this fall, but the numbers came in closer to 2.6 percent, creating a $510,000 loss in anticipated state funds. Instead of losing 22 students, the district lost 95 students this fall. General education enrollment this fall stands at 3,547 students compared with 3,642 last fall. The district had projected enrollment at 3,620, said Emma Jackson, district spokeswoman.

Almost all of the enrollment decline came at the secondary level, Jackson said, with Ypsilanti High School hit hardest. At least part of the explanation, Jackson said, lies with the growing number of high school alternatives in the area. Other options in front of parents include Washtenaw International High School, the Early College Alliance at Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Technical Middle College, W-A-Y Washtenaw and charter schools.

The economy also continues to take its toll on enrollment, Jackson said, with families moving out of the state to look for work.

And there’s the issue of a re-designed high school that debuted this fall. Ypsilanti Schools overhauled the high school this year, eliminating the traditional model in favor or two, smaller academies within the school. Some families, Jackson said, may have been scared away by the change.

“We knew we’d lose some students because of that,” she said.

The district will need to adjust its budget to reflect the $510,000 loss in anticipated revenue, she said, but no decisions have been made at this point.

Willow Run’s enrollment is down 1 percent from a year ago, counting 1,640 students this fall, compared with 1,657 a year ago. The district had projected enrollment to remain unchanged, said Bert Emerson, interim finance director.

The loss will cost Willow Run more than $120,000 in expected revenue, but will partially be made up for with relatively small one-time incentives in state aid the district now expects. Still, it impacts the budget, Emerson said.

“Even though enrollment is down only a little bit, everything is already so tight, this is going to be another challenge.”



Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

You can continue to blame the teachers, the administrators, the unions, the governor, the sun, moon and stars, the bus drivers, but in the end it comes down to the parental involvement and discipline as it is associated with their child(s)development which includes among other things the child(s)education and behavior.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

I'd like to see the graduation rates of all the charter schools in Washtenaw County and see if they are all the same. I'd also like to see the statistics of Ypsi charter schools versus Ypsi public schools to see if charter schools are all that


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 10:43 a.m.

If anyone thinks charters deliver for special ed kids, well, I got some swamp land to sell you in Florida that will do nothing but appreciate...that belief comes under the category there's a sucker born every minute. Of course they don't. They get rid of them, unless they are really easy kids anyway.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 10:23 a.m.

While this is interesting 'bout a little digging so the speculators here will have more to work with. Where'd they go? Specifically? No vague "I think", get some numbers. Your fingers won't hurt from the dialing. The reason I ask for this is because there is a common complaint that schools get funded on head count but after the counting is done, only one set (charters) gets to 'reject' some students and they end up back at the public school without the appropriate state funding. this is an opportunity to document those moves. btw...I think merging 3 'bad' districts only concentrates the problem and makes it worse. If you really want to change the results, take the schools to the county level and merge them ALL in Washtenaw County. Yep, all of them. No more silly titans of the schools in each little community - take advantage of the whole county and the whole county's talents.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:33 a.m.

cuts in cash subsidies, food stamps, what did they think would happen to all the "poor kids"? They're leaving town with their parents. It's a trade off in the state budget. It's 8 grand a kid for the schools. that's "trickle down economics". Or the popular term today is "unintended consequences". I call it shortsighted leadership.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

It would be a great service of ann to get the charter school numbers, and follow how many public school out-transfers come back after count day. This year 90% of the years funding is based on the October count day, whether the child stays through the year or not.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

Do these publicly funded charter schools have to offer enrollment to any child that shows up at their doorstep, including children with disabilities and those requiring special education? Do they get to pick and choose who attends? Are we really comparing apples to apples when we talk about public schools and charter schools in the same breath?


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

I'd like to see the graduation rates of all the charter schools in Washtenaw County and see if they are all the same. I'd also like to see the statistics of Ypsi charter schools versus Ypsi public schools to see if charter schools are all that.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

Is that lottery like Jim Tressel's raffle's for jerseys at Buckeye football camps?


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 4:29 a.m.

In a word, YES. To all your inflammatory straw-man comments. In a slightly more nuanced answer, since all the charter schools in Washtenaw that I am aware of are over-subscribed, admission is by lottery. And I am personally aware of at least 4 students with disabilities who are and have been attending charter schools, which provide special education services appropriate for those students, as required by law.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:51 a.m.

People are free to martyr their chidren I willnot


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:22 a.m.

No, I think it's a legitimate argument. Public schools have to work with whoever comes in the door. At some districts, that means lots and lots of middle class kids from two-parent households with college educated parents and plenty of resources at home. In other districts, it means lots and lots of kids from homes where it's a struggle to get just the basics of food, clothing, shelter and medical care, where kids aren't well supervised because parents make low wages and work long hours to make ends meet, or where kids aren't well supervised because the parents have addiction problems or mental health problems. If charter schools get to kick out whoever they want to kick out for whatever reason they want to kick them out, it's not apples-to-apples. Force charter schools to keep and educate whoever comes in the door, even the children who are difficult to educate and who require a lot of resources to educate, and then it might be a fair comparison.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:22 a.m.

And businsesses receiving public funds should be obligated to follow the state and federal constitutions and the laws that go along with them.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:40 a.m.

Red herring Parents should be able to pick the bet school for their child Only the mea makes this argument

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

We really need to have clarification on this topic of the publicly funded charter schools. It is my understanding that if a child causes a problem while attending a charter school, they are asked to leave. Once they leave, these students might end up right back at the public schools, or at another charter school.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

It's sad that Willow Run and Ypsi are often underperforming schools as a whole. The issue in my opinion has more to do with poor leadership and poor fiscal management. Overworked and undertrained teachers (who unfortunately have to deal with unengaged parents, poverty, drugs, crime, etc). And because kids shouldn't suffer at the hands of adults, their parents should have choices. I would go as far as to say I would support voucher programs if I saw a plan that made it possible for all kids to go to quality schools. My fear with vouchers is that the worst schools become even worse.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

There is only one way for "all kids to go to quality schools": Make all the schools quality schools. As long as there is inequality in the system, parents will do what they can to get their kids into the "good" schools. You're right in that vouchers would only make the struggling schools sink further. Imagine if any parent from any socioeconomic level could send their children to the schools with the most resources, in the nicest parts of town, with the most accomplished teachers. What parent would NOT "choose" to do that? Right now the only way to "choose" to do that is to buy a home in an expensive part of the county. If you can't afford that, too bad, your kids get to go to the schools where the per-pupil allowance is smaller and the population is smaller, so they have older textbooks, more students per class, fewer electives ... all things that the "poorer" districts have to do to stretch their education dollars further. Because schools are largely segregated by neighborhood, and neighborhoods are largely segregated by income level, there is inequality built into the system.

Life in Ypsi

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

The teachers at WR are amazing. That being said they have their hands full.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

This feels like 1/2 of a story -- what are the numbers for Milan, Saline, Ann Arbor, and the remainder of the districts in the county? Are the publicly-funded charter schools required to report their numbers? If so, what is the trend with them? What is the real trend?


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

Instead of allowing more and more Charter Schools to start up, why not put those $$ into fixing the schools already out there. Do these Charter schools have to adhere to the same rules as public schools or do they have free reign? Of course the public schools and students not lucky enough to have access to a charter school will suffer because badly needed funds are being taken away. I'd like to see MEAP scores, attendance, $$ per student for charter schools, accountability. Who do they answer to? Do parents pay tuition? Can anyone go there? From my perspective, they're private schools getting public funding.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

I, too, would be interested to see take this a step further, and investigate where the students attending the new Charter schools came from. I'm sure that info is available. I think it's naive for Lincoln adminisration to say that "much" of their losses cam from people moving out of state...


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

The other thing is this. Ann Arbor has school choice. And if you know the law like I do, under Tittle I and NCLB you can intra district your child into a non failing school. I agree, I would never send mine to WR or Ypsi. Too many problems and too many fights. Parents need to do what they can to keep their children engaged. I am surprised by Lincolns numbers though. As for heading out of state to find a job? No surprise there. I am still curious as to whether nor not Ypsilanti and WR are going to consolidate.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

Our Grandchild was moved from Lincoln to school of choice, to the Milan School System. Kindergarten was a disaster. Would not let the K-5 kids go to the bathroom when asked and ended up wetting them selves, because they couldn't wait. Bus forgot to drop child off more than once. You wonder why you are loosing students. Lets see: Gangs, bulling, poor teaching, poor bussing. Kids have a right to learn in a positive enviroment. Parent should not have to worry if their child will be the next child pushed to far. All because of a school system that can't provide a safe and healthy enviroment for our children. Clean up you schools and make your Teachers and Bus Drivers more accountable.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

Themselves, losing,bullying,busing, your...there, now your post is corrected. I wouldn't post that my 5th grader wet themselves...


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

I would not go there with the bus drivers. Some I agree might need to be accountable, but it goes far deeper then a bus driver dropping off a child. Might be the routing sheet, new driver, sub driver and the list goes on and on. As for the teachers? O yeah. I do hold them accountable for the bullying and fights that go on there. With the anti bullying laws already in place everyone is being looked at. Schools I do agree need to do more. Bus drivers are just trying to do their job while the problems spill out from either home or from the schools.

Sandy Castle

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

What makes a school more likely to suffer from the bullying, gangs, etc. is the school staff. We switched our daughter from Ypsilanti High to Milan and there is a world of difference in the degree of supervision at Milan High. That said, they don't have alot of the riff raff there causing trouble like they have at Ypsi High. But perhaps Ypsi wouldn't have it either if they had a zero tolerance policy, which they don't.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

DO u really think Milan or any other schools are immune to "gangs", bullying. etc?? Open your is everywhere. wake up.....


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

School of choice gives poor parents the ability to move their children from a public school monopoly. Why should caring poor parents who want only the best for their children be doomed to go to horrible schools? Why should they have to martyr their children? School of choice helps poor parents by giving them the ability that wealthy parents have.... the ability to choose the best for their children. I would say that is a good thing. (except for teachers unions)


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

I agree with you braggs, were not getting paid to further the discussion here, so why doe it matter if there are some typos and grammatical inconsistnecies.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

Nice spelling argument Last resort when you have lost the argument


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

It's spelled assistance and want...good educational post.

Life in Ypsi

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

Thank you Braggslaw. I took my kids out of WR. I gave so much energy to that district, but at the end of the day they just were not able to keep my children safe. I will always have a soft spot for WR as I think the teachers were great. I had to do what was best for my children though.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

cinnabar, thats exactly what it sounds like jns131 IS doing. stop blaming the victim and try some empathy and compassion. Or is that too difficult to wrap your little mind around? jns131 is correct. School choice does not offer transportation. It is the responsibility of the parent to get their child to school. And many parents "on public assistance" do this every day. It's not the fault of the parent or the child, that the school in their neighborhood is terrible. We can all be as fortunate as you are.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

jns131 Mommy and Daddy just might have to get off public assistants and do something positive with their lives, if they wont more then scraps.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

The problem with school of choice for the poor is transportation. How is the child going to get to school? School choice offers that, school choice. Not transportation. If the parent can get them to school great. But if not then they are stuck. We are utilizing school choice and putting ours on a public bus that gets ours there on time.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

Just a result of school of choice. One district just steals from another. Helps them but hurts the other. What a shame school of choice is allowed in this state the results are devastating and wrecks some districts. The rich get richer.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

if you feel sorry for these children. do something simple. vote. politicians are the reason for the suffering. creating jobs is their job not playing party politics. destroying public education is the goal of republicans. it is time to strip them of their power. as for how do districts know where the kids went? when a family enrolls the child in a new school it sends a request for records, hence they know exactly where the families went. i'm glad it was not worse for these districts but others have been devistated. our governor cares less for the public school children. he even educates his child in a fancy expensive ann arbor private school. they have small class sizes and parent to student ratio is low. this is attractive to public school parents also. what's good for snyder's kids is good for all. if snyder created jobs for parents at least we would have a start. it isn't too much to ask to properly fund our schools too.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

Don Bee I don't think Greenhills has to spend much of that $15,000 on special ed and Title I, the two big money sucks of the public school. It's just not comparing apples to apples, no matter how you spin it.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

DonBee you and your pesky facts. We all know the dollar amount has little to do with how good of an education one gets. Just look at home schooling. My kid also goes to a private school, because I care.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

baitm - As has been stated here dozens of times, the Governor was a strong supporter of Huron and his oldest graduated from there. His daughter wanted to go to Greenhills, so he let her. As to expensive. AAPS (when you add up all the sources of funding) costs about as much as Greenhills ($15,000 a year each per student).


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

I would love it if all public schools had as low student-to-teacher ratios as the private schools, but the fact is that voters won't go for it. In AA, we're tied to the rest of Washtenaw County for millages, which means we are being dragged down the tubes with everyone else. I don't fault Gov Snyder for paying for something better for his kids. That's what we all want, and what AA public schools should provide, but we can't get it because voters don't value education highly enough.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

10dz - Getting to 1 district for the whole county would be the only way to be fair to all students. I can hear the screams now from a number of families who would not want their child in a district that spans the county. The reduction in overhead would more than pay for the consolidation. But.... It will never happen. Not in our children's lifetimes. Too many people are vested in the past. And many of the liberals in the county are not really that liberal when it comes to their children.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:33 a.m.

dotdash? I could not agree more. After driving children in Ann Arbor and now in Detroit, I see huge differences between the two. I have more fights there then I did in Ann Arbor. Huge differences. The only way for the system to change is to either change the parents or change the childrens environment completely. The later being more doable. Very sad to see this but it happens.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

"Your point about liberals is especially true about people in A2. NIMBY? We would love for the kids in the surrounding districts to have great schools. Just make sure those great schools are "over there"." Really? You mean Saline, Dexter, and Chelsea are opening their doors to students from Ypsi, Willow Run, and Lincoln?


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

DonBee, I agree with you 100%. Your point about liberals is especially true about people in A2. NIMBY? We would love for the kids in the surrounding districts to have great schools. Just make sure those great schools are "over there". Most people won't admit this. The idea that we would have a county school system, organized and operated by one school board, with all administrative duties handled by one group is far too cost efficient to dismiss. But you are right, some people are more committed to self preservation than they are to doing what is best for all.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

I thought your point was a snarky comment about liberals, DonBee. Obviously, from the article, the parental concern that keeps people out of those school districts is shared by rich and poor, local and non-local, conservative and, yes, liberal.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

thank you dotdash for proving my point!


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

There are problems in poorer school districts that no one wants their kids exposed to, whether the parents are liberal or conservative, Ypsi or AA. Those problems have nothing to do with school funding; they have to do with unemployment, poverty, family systems of violence, and chaotic communities.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

>> For now, it appears Lincoln Schools enrollment is 6 percent below projection, and 8 percent short of last fall's enrollment. You have got to be kidding me. I wonder how well the person(s) that created these "projections" scored on the MEAP, because everyone saw this coming.

average joe

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

Interesting that Ms. Bonter highlights that 'Much of the decline resulted from families moving out of state'. In other words, she is saying there was nothing lincoln schools could do about that, and it wasn't because some parents thought their kids could get a better education through the alternative schools in the area. If they know which state these students moved to, they surely know if these students are still in the area and simply went to these new alternative schools. Their student (loss) projection was off by almost 300?, or 4X the projected numbers?


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

Time for those three districts to merge. Old comment, I know. But seriously, it's time. They simply cannot AFFORD to do it any other way. Families who can flee these districts already have, and those who can't are stuck in a failing school where their kids are suffering. I feel bad for the kids. They didn't ask for this and certainly do not deserve it.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

While I realize that the districts which lose students and the state funding that goes with them are having a difficult time, I think that the growing number of publicly-funded alternatives for high school students in Washtenaw County is a reason to celebrate. The new programs provide students and parents with much-needed options for both high-achieving students who might not be challenged in their home-district's high school program and those who struggle with academics or the environment of a large high school. In particular the WTMC at Washtenaw Community College and the EMU Early College Alliance provide a wonderful opportunity for students to earn college credits for free, while they are still in high school. Now if we only had decent county-wide bus service, so more of the bright students whose parents are not able to drop them off and pick them up could take advantage of these educational opportunities. Schools have got to stop assuming that every household includes a stay-at-home or flexible-job-schedule parent when designing their school days and their parental support programs.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 11:15 a.m.

I feel bad for the kids, because it isn't often there fault. Parents who aren't vested in their kids continue to struggle in the classroom and school environment regardless of where they go to school. Parents who choose to take their kids to other districts are showing the investment because they have to drive them to and from school and from. These schools on the east side could be better, but parent involvement is low, thus the schools get a bad name because students struggle.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 10:47 a.m.

What parent would doom their child by allowing them to goto Ypsi or Willow Run? The kids from Lincoln are now fleeing to Milan or Saline. This is what happens when public education becomes a public worx project.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

It's interesting to me that braggslaw thinks I am "rolling the dice" with my children and that they are "doomed" and being "martyred." I thought I was just sending them to the public schools near our home, like most parents do. My children tell me they are happy at Willow Run. Judging by their homework, they seem to be learning a lot. My son is in their Wings program for gifted students. My daughter begs to go back to school on Thursday evenings for the accelerated reader nights. Their test scores are high. So I think this belief that I am "dooming" them and "martyring" them and "rolling the dice" does not jibe with the actual facts of the situation. Only when middle-class parents stop pulling their kids out of the public schools will the public schools improve. I am not dooming my children, I am contributing to the success of my local schools by giving them two great students who are setting examples of success at school for some other kids who might benefit from seeing an example of that. My children are learning to be leaders. And they are learning that not everyone is white, not everyone is middle class, not everyone has two parents, and not everyone has a stable home life. Rather than "doomed," they will be well-prepared for the "real" world, which is an important part of what school is all about.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2 a.m.

Yes, I am still dealing with elementary-age kids. I have no experiences at the high school level to speak of yet.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:37 a.m.

Never had a kid at wr But they are one of the worst districts in the state for test scores I would not roll the dice with my child


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

We are getting our information from a teacher who is also our neighbor. He is leaving at the end of the year. The stories he tells will make everything curl. The teacher is thinking of heading west to where the children want to learn. Heck I've even considered Muskegon and Traverse City. Sad to say, the ones who have gone? End up with problems including dropping out. Glad to hear yours is doing great. Let us know when hi school hits how things go.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

"Just playing the odds" sounds like a synonym for "no first-hand experience."


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 12:15 a.m.

Just playing the odds The odds say if you are at wr you will fail Stop playing the card


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

I wonder if they people who say they would never send their kids to Willow Run have any recent experience with the district. Both of my children are having very good experiences at Willow Run – second grade and sixth grade. But they are lucky enough to come from a home with two parents, who are sober, college-educated and fully employed. So they are going to do fine no matter what school they go to. And their test scores are going to be fine no matter what school they go to. If these people are judging Willow Run by test scores, well, all the test scores reflect is how many kids come from low-income homes with single parents, and/or addicted parents, and/or unemployed parents, and/or uneducated parents. Test scores mostly reflect the demographics of the population, not the quality of the schools or the competency of the teachers. That's why the schools in richer areas have higher test scores and the schools in poorer areas have lower test scores. As a white, middle-class parent who sends two children to Willow Run schools by choice, I would tell people, "Don't be afraid of Willow Run. There is nothing to be afraid of. It has been my experience over the past six years that it's a fine place to send your children to school." Unless you are afraid of poor people or black people. In that case, you should stay away, because there are a fair number of those in the district. And I have to wonder if THAT is what really concerns the people who say they would "never" send their kids to Willow Run.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Some are even flocking to Ann Arbor. I think they posted some data on that one as well. I agree, WR and Ypsi are not a school I would choose mine to go to either.