Perseverance is putting forth effort through difficult times. Last month, Whitmore Lake students focused on the character trait of perseverance. They learned that perseverance is important throughout life.
Perhaps unknown to these students, their own school district is trying to persevere in providing high-quality, sustainable education despite continued inadequate funding from state government. Whitmore Lake is not alone. The Ann Arbor public schools struggle to maintain excellence in the face of state reductions to support classroom teaching.
These two school districts are proposing an innovative, joint approach in their tenacious battle. Both districts support the annexation of the Whitmore Lake public schools into the Ann Arbor public schools.
Annexation will be on your ballot Tuesday as the Ann Arbor Schools Proposal. It deserves our support. The future of our children depends on a “yes” vote.
For the last eight years, I have had the pleasure of teaching Whitmore Lake children. As an Ann Arbor resident of 12 years, I compare the resources at our Ann Arbor neighborhood school to the limited Whitmore Lake offerings: no elementary art, limited AP courses, only Spanish in high school. How is it that students, only a few minutes north of Ann Arbor, are the casualties of a political decision made before their births?
Proposal A, implemented in 1995, centralized control of school funds at the state level. A foundation allowance, or the appropriation per pupil, was allotted based on enrollment. The foundation allowance of each district reflected its spending prior to Proposal A. Ann Arbor students currently get $9,100 per student while Whitmore Lake students receive only $7,126 because of the patterns and policies of over two decades ago.
Annexation is a local, proactive solution that benefits students in both districts. After annexation, all students in the expanded district would receive a foundation allowance of $9,095 per student. This allowance includes an ongoing annual state appropriation of an additional $100 per student to districts choosing annexation. With the nearly 18,000 students in both districts, the added $100 per student would yield $1.8 million annually.
Each district must, by law, have its own superintendent and board of education. Each district must also have central administrative services such as business services and human resource departments to fulfill its educational and fiduciary responsibilities. Annexation would lead to the elimination of a superintendent and other duplicative services. The consolidation of central administrative services would cut costs by $500,000. These savings would dwarf the $5 decline noted above for the Ann Arbor foundation allowance.
The sum of the $1.8 million in recurring revenue and the $500,000 reduction in administrative costs yields a total of $2.3 million of new annual support for instruction. In addition, the state is offering a one-time grant of $1.4 million to offset costs related to the annexation.
The annexation of Whitmore Lake would attract students back to the Whitmore Lake schools and attract School of Choice students from a broader geographic area. It would further lower central administrative costs per student and increase the proportion of the state appropriation devoted to instruction. The Ann Arbor superintendent and the Board of Education are pursuing this policy now. Incorporating Whitmore Lake into this plan would open up possibilities of new educational programs, such as language immersion, STEAM, magnet schools and International Baccalaureate programs, which benefit students as well as attract them. The Whitmore Lake District would become a neighborhood attendance area analogous to those of Huron, Pioneer and Skyline. The geographic area of sustainable, excellent public education would increase.
The ability to think creatively allows people and, in this case, districts to persevere. The current system of funding schools is broken. If we wait for elected state officials to fix the problems, more students will have gaps in their education. Instead, this annexation proposal allows two districts to take a stand and work through the funding situation so the education of our students will not suffer. Together, Whitmore Lake and Ann Arbor will be a model of strength, unity and perseverance. Our community will model the traits we teach our students. Vote yes on the Ann Arbor Schools Proposal for annexation.
Caroline Semrau is an Ann Arbor resident and a teacher in the Whitmore Lake Public School district.