There was no school in Buena Vista, Michigan Tuesday or today because of an ongoing budget crisis. The tiny district—it had 27 teachers and about 400 students, as of the fall—laid off most of its staff and will not reopen for the rest of the school year unless the state intervenes, the district’s website says.
The district has been in dire financial straits since 2011, but recently, Buena Vista, near Saginaw, took about $580,000 from the state for a program that students were no longer attending, according to mLive.com. The state department of education is withholding payments to Buena Vista to recoup that sum—which means the district will be unable to pay employees in the meantime.
Students and parents in the district say they are upset and confused. A statement on the district’s website says that the Buena Vista does not plan to rehire staff to finish the school year. School was supposed to end on June 13.
Earlier this week, teachers offered to work without pay for the week, but the district’s website says doing so would present legal problems.
Superintendent Deborah Hunter-Harvill is meeting with state officials today. The Associated Press reports that Buena Vista is in the process of declaring a financial emergency, which could lead to a state-appointed emergency manager coming to Buena Vista to help solve the budget woes. The district could also merge with a nearby school system.
In Michigan, three other school districts—Highland Park, Detroit, and Muskegon Heights—already have state-appointed emergency managers.
The district’s crisis isn’t just financial: None of the students in the district achieved proficiency on eight of eighteen of the state’s 2012 standardized tests, local news reports say. The district’s enrollment has also dropped from about 900 in 2010 to less than half that this year.
The Chester Upland school district near Philadelphia stopped paying its teachers last year, and a district in York, Pennsylvania has also been considering drastic options in the face of a budget crisis, the Huffington Post reports.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.