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Posted on Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 6:13 a.m.

State education leaders promise to help with Ypsi-Willow Run merger; Rep. Rutledge to introduce bill declaring moratorium on new charters

By Danielle Arndt


State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan praised Ypsilanti and Willow Run school district leaders for being trailblazers: "I think you can be a model for the rest of the state."

Danielle Arndt |

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan had nothing but words of encouragement for the leaders of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts as they voted to join their two districts Wednesday.

He and two legislators from the Michigan House of Representatives, Rep. David Rutledge, D-Ypsilanti, and Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, attended a joint board meeting at Eastern Michigan University Wednesday to voice their support and vow to help in any way they could, if voters pass the consolidation proposal in November.

The two local school boards approved placing the question of merging their districts, which both are running a deficit, on the general election ballot Nov. 6.


David Rutledge

Flanagan reiterated his promise to restructure the repayment of the new district’s debt, which would total about $12.4 million, and Rogers and Rutledge talked about a new bill they've been working on to put a moratorium on new charter schools in the new district if it's ultimately approved.

Rutledge said he plans to introduce the bill during the legislative session next week.

The bill, if passed, would call for a three-year moratorium on any new charters starting in a district that had an approved consolidation plan.

“There needs to be a time period where (these districts) can concentrate on pulling all of their resources and programs together and get the new district up and running,” Rutledge said. “I think a three-year time period would serve that purpose.”

Officials with Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools have cited an increase in the number of charter schools in their community as a huge detriment to their districts and a major contributing factor to their declining financial situations. There currently are three charter schools in the Ypsilanti area, with two new academies slated to open in the fall.

Flanagan said the seriousness of the financial uncertainty for both districts “basically forces serious change.” He commended Ypsilanti and Willow Run school leaders for taking it upon themselves to conclude a merger is the best solution for students.

“The positive outcomes you have identified are overwhelming, in my opinion,” the state superintendent said. “…You really are trailblazers… I think you can be a model for the rest of the state. We can’t — at the expense of the education of our kids — afford to have 500-some districts anymore, quite frankly… You can set a positive tone for the other deficit districts in the state.”

Flanagan said the innovative alternatives being discussed for the secondary level of the potential new district are spot on with the “anys” that are emerging in education — the concept of "any time, any way, any pace, any place" learning.

“Teachers are feeling beat up right now,” he said. “There are a lot of new accountabilities in place… I think the balance to that accountability is to give new options to school districts to get the results any way that they can.”

Flanagan also said although the emergency manager law was suspended by the Michigan Supreme Court, "dire consequences" for the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts do loom in their current financial states. What exactly those consequences could include are a little less clear.

“I have the legal responsibility to deal with deficit districts, with or without an emergency manager,” Flanagan said.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Stan Hyne

Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

Some thoughts. The merging of two bankrupt school districts is not great model for the rest of the state. People don't normally change things that are working. The bank you use, where you shop, how you get your lawn mowed, don't change until there is a need. Charter schools aren't the problem. The problem is already there or no one would be seeking another answer.


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Ignatz wrote: "I foresee a situation where charter and other privately educated children will go to college and or successful lives. Publicly educated students, especially those in urban areas, will end up on the dole or, worse yet, in prison." Response: How sad for you to make this comment...... you need to think about this and reflect on how negative, offensive and untrue this comment is. Very SAD and disappointing! There are very successful publicly educated children, as well as those in urban areas. I graduated from a public school and I have a bachelor's degree from U of M and a Master's degree from Law School. I challenge those who are writing these negative comments… .what is your educational background ?-post compulsory education. Why do you think you are better than someone who is from an urban area, public school? In addition, why would you imply that the parents do not care? Of course, you are superior to those you are writing about – Think about what you are saying!!!!


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

The U of M is a PUBLIC SCHOOL rated one of the best in the nation. Public schools are not all bad!!

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

This does not restrict people's choices. There are always "uncles" you can live with in Ann Arbor.

Monica R-W

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 5:01 a.m.

Reflect for a minute on what is the true purpose of "Charter Schools". To ensure that "profits" are made on the backs of children for privatized resources. With such, its' amazing that we hear and read "frequent lame talking points" on how Public School Education is BAD and Charter Schools provide "THE ANSWER FOR ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS". Sorry, this is straight hogwash. So let's flash forward another 10-15 years. In this scenario merged Ypsilanti/Willow Run School District is eliminated. Lincoln Consolidated School District is on the brink of elimination and Ann Arbor Public Schools have cut and cut until they can't cut no more. In a effort (although misguided) Van Buren and Milan Public Schools, seeking to protect what enrollment they are left, close "schools of choice" selections for children within their school district. All that will be left under a future like this is Charter Schools in Ypsilanti/Ypsilanti Township area....who now (charter schools that is) say that they are suffering from a lack of financial resources available from State Resources. With that, they decide to charge first a small fee, then increase said fee each two years to ensure their "stability" to provide education for all students. That's how the capitalism model works right? There goes "free public education" right out the window. Key word..."Public" education. Where is any guarantee that "Charter Schools" will continue to provide education for FREE into the future? There is none.


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

Dear "Snapshot": Just curious. Do you have children in the district, or do you just enjoy pontificating about what's best for public education and insulting others behind the cover of anonymity?


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 8:28 a.m.

Wow, talk about hogwash.......A higher percentage of revenue reaches the classroom of charter schools and that's with much less funding than union dominated, admin top heavy public schools that demand 85% of revenue for wages and benefits. I can't help but feel you are engaging in fear mongering to keep union powers entrenched in a failing education process and eliminate any competition for those precious taxpayer dollars. Hogwash? You are stuck in the pig pen.


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 1:36 a.m.

"…You really are trailblazers… I think you can be a model for the rest of the state. We can't — at the expense of the education of our kids — afford to have 500-some districts anymore, quite frankly… You can set a positive tone for the other deficit districts in the state." Nice bromides Mr. Flanningan, but please explain to me how a merged Ypsi/Willow district is supposed to become a "model for the rest of the state" with LESS per pupil funding than Ypsi currently receives? What the agents of the State are NOT telling us is that in the event of a merger, the per pupil funding of each district will be "melded" which means that since Ypsi kids receive around $600 more in per pupil funding than Willow Run kids, the per pupil funding for a merged district will be LESS than it is for Ypsilanti currently. Rep. Routledge, instead of placing a moratorium on charter schools (which seems pointless since we will have two more next year in any case), why don't you and your colleagues on both sides do something REALLY substantive, and guarantee that per pupil funding in the merged district will match or EXCEED (now THERE's an incentive) the current funding levels of the higher resourced district. The consolidation task force has set out an ambitious plan, one that may really turn the district around, but they can't do it with LESS money. Also, for all those who are bashing teachers (suggesting that the merger is an idea somehow hatched to protect teacher salaries and benefits) , please attend more WISD sessions and get yourself informed. In a newly merged district all bets are off for teachers. Their negotiated contracts are null, and they will have to reapply for jobs in the district, under entirely new terms. Teachers will no doubt have to make huge sacrifices to stay in this district and join the ambitious effort to make it a world class learning environment. Lets pray that the great ones stay with us through this process, they will be desperately needed.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 8 p.m.

The unions are trying to prevail again in suppressing competition in education to protect their precious power base and political influence. This district is being praised for their "trailblazing" innovation when they should be penalized for their mismanagement but they continue to be protected from accountability, given extended time lines to attain sub par performance results through forced attendance to maximize revenue. Even now, leadership doesn't "know what the consequences are for their dire financial state" but they know they don't want any competition from charter schools that would hold them accountable for results.

Geo Hickey

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

If the consolidation plan passes, all the teacher contracts will have to be renegotiated. Some (many?) won't be rehired.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

The article says there are three charter schools in the Ypsi area, with two more slated to open in the fall. That will be five other choices parents have to choose from. Mr. Rutledge is protecting the community from additional charters (besides those FIVE that are already there) setting up shop, hoping to make a quick buck by playing on the fears of parents in a newly designed district. This legislation attempts to give the new unified district a chance to demonstrate they have changed. If, after three years, things haven't gotten better, then more charter schools can come in and "save the day."

Martin Church

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 5 p.m.

Let see two failing school districts come together to form a new district ( I Support this) and my state rep wants to block parents in those districts from seeking alternatives for three years. No crime here except to those kids who may not get the education they deserve when they need it. let's see the new district prove themselves. In the mean time don't tie the hands of the parents. It is the parents that are responsible for educating their children. the teachers union have failed to require any education of students or live in the environment the students live in. So mr. Ruthledge stick your bill in the dumpster and let the parents determine where their children will be educated.

Monica R-W

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 4:48 a.m.

Geo Hickey, Thanks for the facts, despite the "frequent lame talking points" raised above~

Geo Hickey

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.

Parents can still leave. No charters would be closed. And charters outside the district can still open and expand....


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

"There needs to be a time period where (these districts) can concentrate on pulling all of their resources and programs together and get the new district up and running," No, they should have been trying to run their districts more efficiently before their backs were up against the wall by competition. You can't legislate poor management.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.



Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

But, apparently, you CAN legislate a 1.7 billion dollar tax break to corporations at the expense of the School Aid Fund.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Remember when you vote "Rutledge talked about a new bill they have been working on to put a moratorium on new charter schools in the new district if it's ultimately approved." State run schools want to eliminate the competition with MEA behind them, this is pure hogwash. Compete or do not survive, that is how the system should have always been built. They had their chance to turn things around, but failed miserably. It is sad as I myself graduated from Willow Run, but the City is Detroit as we know it is gone. Some things are just meant for "change".

Monica R-W

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 4:46 a.m.

No, they have not. They had to deal with competition for "for-profit" charter schools (and please don't tell me that Charter Schools are not for profit....ask Victory Academy what's led to their recently announced shutdown), decreased funding from the state and frankly an exit of those who desire not to send their children to school in a true diverse environment. So no, they have NOT had true opportunities for success in this surrounding atmosphere of the last 5-10 years.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

Monica R-W "Ypsilanti/Willow Run Public School DESERVE an opportunity to succeed ..." Haven't they had that chance every single year?

Monica R-W

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Schools are not a BUSINESS nor should be the mode of the Crazy Capitalism model Republicans love so much. Instead schools are about educating our next generation of leaders. I applaud Rep. Rutledge for introducing this bill. Ypsilanti/Willow Run Public School DESERVE an opportunity to succeed and if a joint school district is one way for both school districts to do so....then everything, including a moratorium on new charter schools in the district, should be legislated for them to do so.

Dog Guy

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Rep. David Rutledge, D-Ypsilanti, could send Tom Loker to round up charter school students and return them to district schools.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Charters are good for students who can attend them. Most attend because their parents care. Caring parents take an interest in their children and as a result, are often easier to teach due to upbringing. Those remaining in the district are made up with an increasing percentage of troubled youths, who are not there to learn. The result is mounting classroom disruption that makes teaching and learning almost impossible. Don't blame the teachers or their unions! I foresee a situation where charter and other privately educated children will go to college and or successful lives. Publicly educated students, especially those in urban areas, will end up on the dole or, worse yet, in prison. Charters are a good solution for the few. They are a poor solution for society.


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Ignatz wrote: "I foresee a situation where charter and other privately educated children will go to college and or successful lives. Publicly educated students, especially those in urban areas, will end up on the dole or, worse yet, in prison." Response: How sad for you to make this comment...... you need to think about this and reflect on how negative, offensive and untrue this comment is. Very SAD and disappointing!


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

aquarius - quit whining, it sounds bad. I know people who actually walked a long distance to school, rode buses, hitch hiked, catch a ride with a friend, and in other words figured it out without any expectations for someone to do it for them. Everyone expects everything to be taken care of for them, put in some effort, use your head, and figure it out. I worked with a guy who took a taxi to work because he didn't own a car. He would rather work and spend the money on a taxi that collect welfare. Today it's the other way around...............


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

Really, Aquarius? You don't think the local charter schools have produced superior results over Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools? I beg to differ. The failing school district/charter schools issue is a downward spiral, to be sure, but what are parents in those school districts to do? I don't want to send my kids to Willow Run for years while things get "turned around." Nothing has gotten "turned around" since I sent my oldest there for kindergarten in 2006.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Charters do not provide transportation and this results in a resegregation of schools. The kids from greater means will end up at the charter and the poor kids will ride the bus. These parents tend to be more affluent and value education. But as a taxpayer it sickens me that my local schools are being gouged by the for profit system that has not shown evidence of producing superior results.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

"Rogers and Rutledge talked about a new bill they have been working on to put a moratorium on new charter schools in the new district if it's ultimately approved" Status quo, turf protection legislation - typical reaction to people choosing not to participate in your poor school system. Is this about educating our children or protecting teacher jobs? The answer for Mr. Rutledge is to take away the choices of parents who are not happy with the school system? What country is this again? If these charters are nothing more than money making schemes and don't do a good job educating the children then parents will flock to the public school option. There is a problem with the existing system and until someone within public education stands up and gets the guts to change it the charters will continue to win out. Students are forced to take classes with teachers they don't like, who are poor teachers, and who have lost (if they ever had it) the love of teaching. Many count the days for the early retirement. New teachers are let go first while the old ones who underperform and the kids don't like know they are safe from being let go. Teachers need to be kept because they are good teachers, not because they've beeen around longer than someone else. You want to improve the schools and grow? Then use performance as a metric. You want more flight from the schools? Then continue on as you have done for years and pass laws to limit peoples choices. I don't see how the uniopn leadership cannot see this and members don't demand this. They're hurting themselves and letting their membership down..............

Geo Hickey

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 12:05 a.m.

The legislation is not taking away choice. Existing charters will be able to continue on just fine. The proposal is put a hold on NEW charters or expansions of existing ones, but ONLY for three years.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

Greg too - it always amazes me that the first thing someone who doesn't agree with you does is call you a hater or a racist. In that regard you did not disappoint. What I am disappointed in, and you have helped to bolster my assertion, is that there is a union that represents teachers who has more pull than you or I and they allow the current education model to continue. My son who recently graduated had to read three books on the plight of black people in this country for one english class. I think his reading skills would have been better served to read a more diverse selection of books than three with the same theme and purpose (indoctrination).Let's start with eliminating things that are taught with the sole purpose of pushing an agenda, like classes on tolerance, and begin teaching the basics along with encouraging critical thought. History is glossed over in this country, mostly teaching all of the bad things we did to others while ignoring what a great country this is and what happens to societies that move towards socialism. The news media doesn't cover anything unless it is agenda driven so kids are even less informed than in the past. Critical thought is not allowed, you are taught things and told that's the way it is - period. You want a metric - do the kids like you and are they learning from you? Do you teach them to be critical thinkers or drones? have the parents and students evaluate the teachers and you'll quickly see who to keep and who to suggest another line of work. I wish I would have taken a teaching job because I know I could have did it well, enjoyed it, and been a favorite of many students and had a pension and great benefits paid for by my neighbors. Don't lecture me, I pay your salary in one way or another. You need to listen to the taxpayers, we are your bosses. By the way, I am probably more educated than you are and I don't think you are a hater or a racist; just a little bigoted (look it up).


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

Mike, I totally agree great statement!

greg, too

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

Well thank you Mike for your expert analysis of the woes of the education system. Where did this hatred of teachers come from? Arm chair education experts like Mike here are just simplifying very complex problems with our education system. Teachers are failing because the current education model is flawed and forces people to teach to tests, not teach our children how to learn. As person who teaches recent high school grads, this becomes more and more evident every day as I get students who cannot form a coherent thought or take a test that is not multiple choice. What is this performance that should be our metric? Test scores or graduation? Test scores sure aren't working as a metric as teachers are now forced to worry about how their kids test on these tests that have little or no pedagogical use instead of teaching them what we were taught as children. Finally, as evident in the 35 people that attended the most recent meeting on the discussion of merging two local schools, parental assistance is mandatory. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my parents, both of whom worked full time jobs, working every night. Without dedicated parents, no education system can succeed. So get off the teachers backs unless you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and get into a classroom and take their place.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.

I know about Work Skills, but what is the "second new academy" that is slated to be opened this fall?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Heather, the other new academy coming to the Willow Run school district is South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy. It is being authorized by Northern Michigan University and will be managed by National Heritage Academies. Here is a link to the story wrote when the announcement of the new charter was made: Thank you for your question and thanks for reading!


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.

Michigan has the highest percentage of for profit charters in the nation (80%). This has only enriched the predatorial charter operators such as NHA while depleting funding to community schools. Our children are being used as pawns in this money grab over taxpayer dollars. As a taxpayer I resent my dollars going to an obscenely wealthy CEO like JC Huizenga, the operator of these machines of educational greed. Our schools belong to us and our children and not to some businessman out to game the system and turn education into free market entrepreneurialism. I would propose an additional bill to ensure that all charter schools are non-profits and lets give the capitalists some other casino to go and play in. I'm tired of being gamed.


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

I recently had a conversation with a person who knows a charter school operator. He owns a For-Profit EMO (Education Management Organization) that manages schools for profit. He told this person that he does not have a background in education but he is a businessman and he said that there is lots of money to be made. How much! He owns 15 vintage cars and lives in a 4 million dollar house. When aked where his kids go to school he said he sends them to regular public school so that they can play sports. Filthy rich! Privitization of education -- big business.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 2 p.m.

How much is obscenely wealthy? I'd say $250,000 for part-time work for an out-of-state retiree. 4 days a week, 35 weeks a year is part time. And then add in extra payments for not taking the health insurance (which most people would not qualify for working less than 1200 hours a year) Now who's gaming the system?


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

By Michigan law, Charter schools are non profit. The Public Charter Schools may hire a for profit management company to hire teachers, janitors, vendors, etc. But to say that charter schools are for profit is misleading. How much is "obscenely wealthy?"