One of Michigan’s lowest performing — and highest spending — school districting is turning over its three schools with nearly 1,000 students to a for-profit charter company, reports the Wall Street Journal.
In Highland Park School District, adjacent to Detroit, “only 22 percent of third graders passed state reading exams last school year and just 10 percent passed math,” reports the Journal. Only 10 percent of high school students were proficient in reading and none in math. Phoenix-based Leona Group will run all three schools.
Highland Park decided to privatize its schools after years of enrollment decline, poor fiscal stewardship and allegations that a board member stole more than $125,000 by submitting false invoices; the charges against the member are pending.
During the 2010-2011 school year, the district spent $16,508 per student. By comparison, Michigan districts on average spent $9,202 per pupil that year. In the process, Highland Park ran up an $11.3 million deficit over its $18.9 million school budget.
Joyce Parker, appointed emergency district manager by Gov. Rick Snyder, ruled out merging Highland Park with a nearby district. “The financial problems were immense and we had to look at nontraditional ways to get the district back on track,” said Parker.
Under Leona’s management, the schools will receive $7,110 per pupil in state funding and an undetermined amount of federal funds for low-income and special education students.
Under the state emergency law, all the district’s professional staff has been laid off. Teachers can apply for jobs with Leona, but the company “has budgeted about $36,000 a year for Highland Park teachers on average . . . compared with almost $65,000 a year the teachers received in the 2010-11 school year, reports the Journal.
So Leona will have much less money per student, inexperienced teachers and students who are way, way behind academically. It doesn’t look promising.