Association Stands Up for Teachers in Failing District
After a financially strapped school district announced it didn't have the money to pay its teachers—and laid them off even after they offered to work for free—the Michigan Education Association spoke up for the interests of both its members and the students.
A struggling Michigan school district is at the center of a major public education battle this week.
The Buena Vista School District, which has remained closed all week to both students and educators, is in dire straits. However, a state teachers’ association is helping educators who find themselves in a challenging situation.
More details below:
What happened: In recent years, the Buena Vista School District, located in a township just outside of Saginaw, has struggled both financially and educationally. It is one of the state’s lowest-performing districts based on standardized test scores. This week, as a result of ongoing financial woes caused by a $400,000 debt the district owes the state, administrators were forced to lay off the district’s 27 educators. The layoffs came despite an offer by the Buena Vista Education Association, which represents the teachers, to have them work for free until the situation was resolved. A funding hold was also recently placed on the district due to $580,000 in costs related to the closure of a juvenile detention center that the district no longer runs, according to the Associated Press.
An association speaks up: After news of the closures and layoffs broke, Michigan Education Association (MEA) President Steve Cook said in a statement, “Yesterday, we again saw proof that Michigan’s educators put their students first, with the decision by the teachers of the Buena Vista Education Association to continue working this week. These dedicated educators wanted what is best for their students—to give their school district and the state the time and assistance necessary to work out a plan to keep school open for this final month of the year.” While the association cannot financially support the laid-off teachers, who will receive their last paychecks on May 10, it plans to offer other support.
Next steps: MEA has threatened legal action if steps are not taken to resolve the financial issues affecting the district, which the association partly blames on Gov. Rick Snyder and the state legislature. “It appears to be a deliberate attempt to defund public education,” said MEA Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz, according to MLive. “We’re fearful there is going to be more.” Meanwhile, the district could find itself run by an emergency manager from outside the region—an arrangement allowed by a controversial Michigan law that is currently the subject of a lawsuit. Alternatively, the Buena Vista School District could merge with another nearby district.
The school district’s enrollment has declined significantly in recent years, falling from 900 students in 2010 to 400 in 2013. That decrease partly led to the current financial crisis due to overpayments by the state. The district’s funding has declined by nearly $3 million as a result.