Lansing School District Battles Deficit And Enrollment

By: Meaghan M. Norman Email
By: Meaghan M. Norman Email

A tough challenge is ahead for the Lansing Public Schools. It's trying to promote itself to prospective students while it looks to close some of its schools to reduce a $30 million budget deficit.

The Lansing School District needs to recruit students. A new advertisement by the district show a dedication of teachers trying to turn out quality students. But with dwindling enrollment and a gaping deficit, it seems they need to close schools almost as much as they need students.

"What we're dealing with, with small population schools, which is the case in our middle and high schools when you look at facilities, the cost per child is going up because you're not able to fully utilize every classroom section," said Jerry Swartz, president of the Lansing Schools Education Association, or the teachers' union.

Lansing superintendent T.C. Wallace Jr. presented his budget Tuesday night, saving the district about $1.6 million, which is $28 million short of the deficit. He proposed a number of options including closing a middle school, elementary schools and later down the line, a high school. Swartz believes a high school should close sooner than later.

"I'd like to look at the analysis as to why we did not more seriously consider a high school because there are substantial savings, millions of dollars in savings, when we look at consolidating a high school," said Swartz.

"We're looking at programs, we're looking at staffing, we're looking at wage concessions, we're looking at reducing our cost for benefits. When we put all that together as a package we'll come close to meeting our target," said Wallace.

Otto Middle School could potentially close.

"We had excess capacity at the middle school level so that's what caused us to zero in on a particular middle school. As we analyzed our four middle schools, we found that Otto was the one that had the most capacity and the fewest students in one of the oldest facilities," said Wallace.

Swartz says that meeting that target require change and sharing.

"In the Lansing School District we're going to see shared services with our neighboring schools," said Swartz.

Enrollment is just one variable, along with a finalized state budget that will determine how many schools will close.

"As we look at enrollment trends, if they continue the way they're going, it's quite possible that you'll see a recommendation to close a high school in the near future," said Wallace.

When asked if he felt that an emergency financial manager would be needed to help the district, as is happening in the Detroit Public Schools System. Wallace said for the time being he's confident that Lansing can handle its financial problems on its own.

"As I look at the legislation, [regarding the need for an emergency manager,] it's intended only to help districts before they get into trouble. So I will continue to look at it and see if that's something that the Lansing School District needs to look at in a proactive way. We don't want to wait and be reactive once we're not able to solve our problems," said Wallace.

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  • by jameila Location: bushart on Apr 18, 2011 at 05:14 AM
    First of before you come to our schools and shut us down you need to revise your plan i mean all these charities to save our education and you guys put that ability to its test like you don't responsibility for it so do,t close us down because this is a lot of stress for young teachers and students and parents OH YEAH get your math straight before you come talk to us about closing us down!!!!!! :( :( :(
  • by Ricardo Location: Lansing on Apr 14, 2011 at 04:04 AM
    What does it take to open peoples eyes to the fact that there are too many fingers in the financial pie these days. Way to much overhead in the higher levels are bleeding what little money that is available to dedicate to actual education. Slash the administrative staffs, and reduce wages and benefits to reflect the true value in today's economy. Thank you. Ricardo
  • by lansing623 on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:49 PM
    OMG $30 MILLION DOLLARS in cuts. And what's going to happen to the level of education that as tax payers we expect higher standards of eduction, and the children deserve much more than they now receive. It's time for new members of the school board, local government that is responsible for the budget's. If THE STATE LOTTERY GAVE 700 MILLION TO THE STATE FOR EDUCATION LAST YEAR, WHERE IS THE MONEY, HOW WAS IT SPENT, These are answers that need to be answered. There is clearly ABUSE OF POWER AND MONIES...
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