Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mike Hartigan Answers Some Questions

I asked Mike Hartigan, Superintendent at Leland Public School, to answer some of the questions I had after attending last week's presentation on Michigan's school funding crisis.

  1. Mrs. Och: Last week we both attended a presentation “Restore the Promise of Proposal A”, by the Northern Michigan Schools Legislative Association. I was very surprised to hear the prediction that all public schools in Michigan would be in financial crisis in 2 or 3 years. Do you think that prediction is accurate? What makes you think so?

    Mr Hartigan: Almost all schools are experiencing a very tough time financially. Some schools (like Kingsley) are growing, so they have gained because you get financed by the number students you have enrolled. Out of “formula” districts like Port keep all tax monies generated locally so they are doing very well. Northport is spending something like $17,000 per pupil, and this will increase every year. It is another Proposal A glitch. They touch borders with Suttons Bay which gets $6700 per pupil. Go figure. The metro schools that were rich to start with and snuck in an extra payment for themselves a few years back (20j) are also doing well. The 90% that make up the rest of us are in trouble.

  2. Mrs. Och: Leland Public School seems to be doing just fine. We have a new and updated building, experienced teachers, innovative programs, and good test scores. We attract schools of choice students every year and we have a growing student count. Our parent and community involvement is fantastic. We are saving money by consolidating with other schools on things like bus maintenance. We haven’t had to cut any programs. We seem to be doing everything right. Why should parents worry about the future of our school?

    Mr. Hartigan: We are holding our head above water because we have a terrific superintendent….just kidding. The building was paid for by a bond issue that has nothing to do with operational money. Our schools of choice in and out ratios are a wash. We do attract students but we ship out an equal amount. Over 90% of Leland students who go elsewhere have never stepped foot in our doors. That makes me crazy. Football has been a major player in this scenario, along with daycare. We have made significant cuts and have done a couple of “backdoor layoffs” lately by not hiring for retirees. The Leland Education Foundation supported camps, middle school sports, play director, YIG, O.M... and many supplies for the arts and sciences. We have been keeping the cuts as far from the classroom as possible but if things don’t change it is only a matter of time.

  3. Mrs. Och: What would you like parents and other concerned people to do to support our school?

    Mr. Hartigan: Get on board with this movement!

Last week's presentation ended with a call to action. Michigan's legislators are the people who have the responsibilty and ablity to find a solution to Michigan's school funding crisis. Please write or email your state legislators and tell them to support public schools.

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