School & District Management

More Than 50 Michigan Districts Operating at Deficit

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — June 07, 2013 1 min read
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In Michigan, the budget woes of school districts in Detroit and other urban centers in the state have become infamous: Detroit, Highland Park, and Muskegon are all being run by state-appointed emergency managers. But many other districts in the state are also running at a deficit, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Fifty-five districts in the state, including suburban districts, are running a deficit this year, which is the most the state has ever seen, according to State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, who described the issue to the state House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on Thursday.

There’s a combination of reasons for the woes, he said: Some districts are suffering from pure mismanagement, others from enrollment declines, others from boards that are overly ambitious. Flanagan has said he would be interested in proposing countywide school districts that could dissolve districts with ongoing deficits, but has not officially proposed such entities.

The Free Press has a list of districts currently running a deficit.

These budget deficits can have very real consequences for kids. In Buena Vista, there was no school for more than a week this spring, though school did reopen and seniors graduated earlier this week. reported on graduation at Buena Vista High School and the valedictorian’s moving speech. From

Class Valedictorian Rae'Onna Barabino, 17, said in her address she had a hard time finding the right words to say. ... "I don't know any other school that's gone through as much as we have. When others said we wouldn't see this day, we did."

We published an update earlier this week on an experiment in Muskegon Heights, Mich., where a private company is running the school district.

Michigan is not the only state where districts have been struggling with budgets. In Mississippi, the situation is also dire—partly because the state has underfunded public schools more than $1 billion since 2011, the Clarion Ledger has calculated. Even districts in towns with wealthy tax bases are struggling.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.