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Editorial: Bleak picture for area school finances

August 17, 2012
The Alpena News

The start of school now is but a few weeks away, and everyone - from administrators to students - are gearing up for it.

While we wish the start of this school year looked bright and positive, recent reports from board meetings around the region portray a bleaker picture.

In Alcona County this week the board of education painfully reviewed recommendations from Superintendent Shawn Thornton to reduce staffing. By the end of the meeting two teachers and eight support staff had been laid off, although the decision was by no means easy, and the final vote was a divided one.

"We haven't heard any updated information from the state at this point about increased revenues for schools, so until we get the word on that, we're pretty well having to proceed as we've described earlier - with making approximately $600,000 of budget reductions in order to have one month of operating expenses in the fund balance," Thornton told her board.

In Alpena this week administrators made it clear that (A) finances are not getting better, and the only way it will get better is through changes in state funding, (B) there is no way Alpena can make enough cuts to correct their financial concerns without a change, and (C) education has become highly competitive at the lower elementary level.

With education today, bodies equate to state funding, thus every student enrolled in a district is valuable. That is why schools like Alpena, for instance, have school buses parked in strategic locations around the county with banners promoting "Alpena Schools: The Best Choice." Yard signs around the region also convey that same message.

Faced with charter schools, home schools and competition with other districts, today's school district faces far different challenges than schools of years gone by.

It used to be when we talked about education, it was the three R's -reading, writing and arithmetic.

Today the three R's still pertain, but the R's now stand for revenue, regulations and more revenue.



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