School Chief Offers a Few Common Sense Ideas
Watkins' paper moves education community beyond simply
demanding more revenue.
The Detroit News, December 24, 2004
For more articles like this
A call to action
by the Michigan Board of Education ought to get some attention
While the board has mostly been in the business of protecting
the education status quo, the outline submitted by state
Superintendent Tom Watkins contains some well-timed warnings and
useful suggestions for restructuring the state's public schools.
Watkins is correct in noting that the current operating system
for schools is broken. Michigan spends $12 billion on K-12
education, and still most school districts in the state are in a
constant state of financial crisis.
It's significant to note that Watkins is not asking for more
money for the schools, at least not at this time.
Instead, he recommends a thorough examination of how the current
finances are spent, and how more bang can be achieved for those
He warns that even a significant increase of $300 per student in
the state foundation grant of $7,100 would have little impact on
what happens in the classroom, since $250 of that would be eaten
up by sharply rising pension and health care costs for school
Since a $300 hike isn't likely, the districts will have to cover
those rising costs with additional cost-cutting.
Watkins rightly notes that neither revenue increases nor
year-to-year spending cuts are a long-term solution unless they
are part of an overall structural change in the way schools
He puts on the table the idea of school district consolidation,
so communities like St. Clair, for example, with 8,500 students,
aren't served by three different school districts, with three
superintendents and other administrative costs in the
Another option is to have the state's intermediate school
districts assume more of the administrative tasks for the local
districts, freeing up more classroom money.
Watkins note correctly that many school districts haven't made
the hard decisions to close unneeded school buildings, and very
few have had the will to address employee health care and
The final answer to Michigan's ailing public schools is probably
much more complex than this.
But the paper is a good starting point, and at least gets the
education community thinking beyond simply demanding more
revenue from taxpayers or a shrinking state treasury, and
starting to think about how it can do its business more
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to