Student Rolls Topic at Summit
by James Lake, The Mining Journal, September 6,
For more articles on disabilities and special ed visit
The solution for dealing with declining enrollment in the
Upper Peninsula should come from local schools, state
Superintendent Tom Watkins said.
He issued a friendly challenge to U.P. school administrators
Thursday at the U.P. Education Legislative Summit in Marquette
to come up with creative solutions to declining enrollment. He
said he would help sell the solution in Lansing.
“I want superintendents and communities to put together the
best plan and I will help facilitate getting that to the new
governor early in their term,” Watkins said. “All wisdom and
knowledge does not emanate from the state capitol.”
Watkins said he’s confident the U.P. school administrators can
rise to the challenge.
“When you come to the U.P. there’s a can-do spirit,” he said.
“There’s a desire to find a way to solve the problem.”
Watkins praised the concerted effort by U.P. legislators and
educators to reinstate special funding for districts with
declining enrollment, which had been eliminated for U.P.
schools from an early K-12 budget package.
“We are a state. To treat the communities, families and
students of the U.P. differently in a negative way than the
rest of the state, what is that?” Watkins said. “I haven’t
seen cooperation like that since Dominic Jacobetti.”
Watkins said he’s also pleased that the U.P. will still
participate in the new Learning Without Limits technology
program, which was what the U.P.’s declining enrollment
funding was originally shifted to. The U.P. will receive one
$2 million grant for the program, but how that money is
distributed has not yet been determined.
Watkins said U.P. schools may be able to find a way to share
that funding for technology, rather than send it all to one
district or area.
“I’m hoping they can work together,” he said.
But some solutions for schools will have to come from other
places, Watkins said.
The current funding schedule forces many districts to borrow
money to pay bills for the year until the state funding is
disbursed, Watkins said. Simply changing the disbursement
timing could save districts throughout the state millions each
year in short-term borrowing costs, he said.
Watkins said the current funding model, which provides money
based on enrollment, only covers operational costs and not
While the gubernatorial candidates have been arguing about
whether Proposal A, which capped property tax increases and
changed the school funding structure, should be changed,
Watkins said people should be more concerned about solving
these funding problems.
“Nobody wants to take away the gains of Proposal A,” he said.
“To say that we shouldn’t look at
it is patently absurd.”