Muskegon Heights and Highland Park–two of Michigan’s most insolvent school districts–this year are handing their classroom keys over to charter school operators to save money. That’s good news for local taxpayers, but the biggest beneficiaries may be the kids.
Both districts were running deficits that approached two-thirds of their budgets, thanks to the double whammy of rising labor costs and declining enrollment. To help the districts avert bankruptcy, Governor Rick Snyder appointed emergency managers who under a new state law can break collective-bargaining agreements. While such flexibility was essential to get their books in order, it may not have been sufficient.
According to Muskegon Heights manager Don Weatherspoon, the district would have to slash salaries by 35%–reducing hourly wage rates to about $10–merely to break even. That would have likely caused a teacher walk-out. When the emergency manager for Detroit schools last month proposed extending a 10% pay cut for a year, teachers threatened to strike.