Officials widely condemned for allowing Buena Vista School District to shut down
Local and state officials are facing widespread condemnation for allowing the Buena Vista school district to shut down during the school year after it ran out of money due to gross financial mismanagement.
Until recently, the school district had been receiving and spending state funds meant for a juvenile justice program, despite the program’s leaving the district last year. Upon realizing the error, state officials decided to punish students and school employees for its and the district’s financial mismanagement, and immediately stopped sending school aid payments for April, May and June to make up for the overpayment.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s $1 billion cuts to public education have only compounded the problem for students, school employees and parents — in Buena Vista and throughout the state.
For the sake of their students, teachers voted Monday to work without the promise of a paycheck until officials could find a solution, but the Buena Vista Board of Education voted later that day to simply lay off the district’s 27 teachers. The district then cancelled classes indefinitely.
“We voted to continue working,” Buena Vista Education Association President Joe Ann Nash told MLive.com. “And they voted to lay us off anyway.”
“What a horrible disservice to the students to end the school year this abruptly,” the Detroit News opined in an editorial Thursday.
“Michigan's Constitution guarantees each and every child in Michigan the right to a free education, yet today we watch as the doors to the Buena Vista Township Schools remain closed while the kids in that community are forced to stay at home,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing. “This is the very definition of a crisis and I'm calling on Governor Snyder to use rainy day fund dollars and immediately reopen the Buena Vista Schools and send a message to the students there that their education and their futures are every bit as important as those in other school districts across the state.”
In a letter to Snyder, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, said: “As the governor of Michigan, I implore you to use any means necessary to work with the local school district to swiftly reopen the Buena Vista schools. If the local school district is unable to reopen its schools on its own, the state of Michigan must act to ensure that the students in Buena Vista can finish out the remaining days of the school year.”
Finding a solution “won’t be easy,” the Saginaw News’ editorial board wrote Sunday. “It's never easy when money is involved. But officials owe it to their 400-plus students and their families to see this through in a way that has the least amount of negative impact on them.”
MEA Vice President Nancy Strachan said an interview with ABC-12 that Lansing politicians who voted to slash a billion dollars out of K-12 funding should be held accountable: “I think we’re going to have to talk about the legislators here in Lansing,” Strachan said. “The funding has never been adequate in the schools.”
Christopher Hayes, host of MSBNC’s “All In,” tweeted Thursday, “Gotta say, I'm surprised this story hasn't gotten more national attention.”
“What a way to ring in Teacher Appreciation Week,” the Huffington Post’s Joy Resmovits wrote.