Stories indexed with the term ‘school transportation’

Column: Disparate Impact of AAPS Cuts?

Editor’s note: This marks the launch of a new column in The Chronicle, focused on Ann Arbor Public Schools and other educational issues. Readers might know Ruth Kraut from her commentary on Ann Arbor Schools Musings, where she’s been writing about these issues for several years. For recent background on The Chronicle’s coverage of AAPS, see “Milestone: Why You Keep Running a Marathon.”

Ruth Kraut, Ann Arbor Public Schools, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ruth Kraut

Next week, the board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools will need to cut about 5% from the district’s budget. That’s a reduction of about $8.6 million. Teachers have already taken a 3% pay cut.

Per-pupil funding for next year ($9,025) will be less than the per-pupil funding of 12 years ago in 2001-2002 ($9,034). So it’s no surprise that we’re at the point where cuts are painful. Cutting teachers, cutting programs – none of it is happy news. There will be consequences. The question is, what kind of consequences?

In the civil rights world, a “disparate impact” occurs when a policy is non-discriminatory in its intent but affects a “protected class” of people in a disproportionate way. In Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, for example, these protected classes include race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, and marital status.

AAPS is a district with a large achievement gap – between white students and African American and Hispanic/Latino students. And this gap has persisted for many years. Although in state civil rights law, income is not a protected status, income is highly correlated with race, age, and marital status. District-wide, there is also an achievement gap that is related to income: Poor kids are more likely to do poorly in school.

So it’s important to consider the AAPS budget from a perspective of potential disparate impacts. On the surface, the proposed budget cuts treat all students equally. But if we look deeper, would we find that certain budget cuts worsen – or perhaps improve – the achievement gap?

Three proposed budget cuts have raised a significant amount of opposition this year: (1) eliminating high school transportation; (2) cutting reading intervention teachers; and (3) cutting seventh hour or making it a tuition-only option. Together, these three account for just under $1.5 million of the $8.6 million in cuts. Do these cuts, in particular, have a disparate impact on any groups? [Full Story]

AAPS Mulls Redistricting to Save Costs

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (Dec. 19, 2012): The board opened its final meeting of 2012 with a reflection offered by board president Deb Mexicotte on the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and a moment of silence to honor the families and community affected by that tragedy.

Robert Allen, deputy superintendent Ann Arbor Public Schools

Before the meeting started, Robert Allen, deputy superintendent Ann Arbor Public Schools, distributed spiral bound copies of the report from a transportation working group.

The board received two informational reports — one from a cross-governmental working group charged with assessing the viability of continuing to provide non-mandated school transportation, and another one on the district’s partnership with the University of Michigan Depression Center (UMDC).

The transportation report generated significant discussion, as the board examined the working group’s recommendations and considered the impact of making significant reductions to transportation. Even if the district were to eliminate all except mandated transportation for students, that would save only about $5.5 million of the roughly $17 million gap projected in next year’s budget.

A key element of the transportation discussion was a suggestion to consider redistricting – that is, reassigning some students to different school buildings based on where they live. Trustees discussed redistricting in the context of possible steps like eliminating some or all busing and closing schools.

The board directed administration to begin looking into a redistricting process. [Full Story]

School Board Mulls Millage, Proposal A

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole meeting (Oct. 3, 2012): Trustees focused their committee meeting on the possibility of changing the district’s overall structural financial picture. They took care to contrast that effort with a different kind of discussion – about the budget. The topic of improving larger financial picture had been identified as one of the two goals for trustees at their August retreat. The other top goal was strengthening trust and building relationships among the board members.

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte. (Photos by the writer.)

The board’s committee discussion centered on four main topics: vision; revenue enhancement; action needed by the state legislature; and communication.

Discussion of revenue enhancement was highlighted by the possibility of asking voters to approve an enhancement millage through the Washtenaw Intermediate School District – which would entail a countywide vote. Voters in 2009 rejected such a proposal, which would have resulted in a 2 mill tax for five years, starting in 2010. It was projected to raise $30 million annually, to be divided among the 10 school districts in Washtenaw County. The AAPS share would have been a bit over $11 million. Board discussion at the Oct. 3 committee meeting acknowledged the need to generate support for such a proposal in other districts in the county besides AAPS.

Discussion of possible lobbying efforts directed at the state legislature was highlighted by the possibility of amending Proposal A, passed in 1994, which limits the ability of local communities to levy increased taxes to support schools. [Full Story]

In it for the Money: School Transportation

Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. Sometimes it’s later, like this month.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

Over the last couple years school busing has been drastically altered in most Michigan districts. As a consequence most schools – including my son’s school, Bryant Elementary, which is only K-2nd grade – expanded their “walking zone” (kids that get no busing) to 1.5 miles. Do you know how long it takes a five-year-old to walk 1.5 miles? [1]

If you live at the far edge of the “walking zone,” you aren’t going to be walking – especially once our autumn rains arrive – you’ll be driving your kid to school.

Spoiler alert: Bryant Elementary was built in 1972 and renovated in 1983. So it’s not designed to have dozens of cars drop off individual children each morning – it’s designed for all of the kids to arrive at once in four big buses. An efficient set of buses has been converted to a frustrating, time-gobbling traffic jam. [Full Story]

School Board to Use Savings to Bridge Deficit

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (May 23, 2012): The majority of AAPS trustees have agreed to spend down roughly $7 million in fund equity to meet projected expenditures for fiscal year 2012-13, beginning July 1, 2012. That decision came after suggestions by trustees Glenn Nelson and Christine Stead to restructure Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and to fully eliminate transportation, respectively, again went nowhere. The May 23 meeting included much discussion about the effect that spending down fund equity this year could have on the district’s ability to weather another projected deficit of $14 million to $18 million in FY 2013-14.

The board is expected to vote on the FY 2012-13 budget at its June 13 meeting.

In addition to the budget discussion, trustees moved quickly through a number of other items of business at the May 23 meeting: (1) directing administration to create a transportation committee; (2) approving the sale of tech bonds; (3) supporting the Washtenaw Intermediate School District budget with some suggested reporting improvements; (4) the approval of two property easements with the city of Ann Arbor; and (5) the approval of a number of policies, including an anti-bullying policy as newly mandated by state law.

Trustees also heard from 20 people, most of them speaking during general public commentary in support of the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, which had originally been proposed to be closed or restructured as part of the budget. Many thanked the board for taking Clemente “off the chopping block” for this coming year, but expressed concerns about the board’s process, the district-wide achievement gap faced by African-American students, and the board’s “lack of respect” for Clemente students.   [Full Story]

AAPS 2012-13 Budget Begins to Take Shape

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole (May 16, 2012): Although they showed mixed sentiment on some issues, trustees tentatively expressed agreement on a total of $4.8 million in budget cuts, and just over $6 million in revenue enhancements.

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte led the trustees in their budget discussion at the May 16 committee meeting. The formal budget presentation from the administration will come at the May 23 meeting.

That still leaves a $7 million gap to be addressed as the district faces a $17.8 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1. There was general agreement on the board to use some amount fund equity to meet the budget targets, but no agreement about how much to use. Hypothetically, the entire $17.8 million shortfall could be covered by drawing on the fund equity the district has to start FY 2013, which is $18.73 million.

But without some cuts and revenue enhancements, that fund equity would be close to just $1 million by the end of the year, which is a half percent of the district’s currently proposed  expenditure budget for FY 2013 – $194 million. In addition, it would leave insufficient reserves to manage cash flow through the summer. And by the end of the following year, fund equity would be projected to be negative $23.5 million.

At the May 16 meeting, most trustees expressed support for leaving Roberto Clemente Student Development Center in place in its current form for at least another year, while evaluating the program’s educational effectiveness. Much of the board sentiment on Clemente was reflected in an exchange between trustees Simone Lightfoot and Glenn Nelson near the end of the three and half hour budget discussion. Lightfoot asserted that Clemente’s parents are “not caught up in test scores – they are just happy that their children want to go to school” and that their students are getting “some basics in place – social and mental.” Nelson responded, “I’m willing to grant that in that part of education, they are doing a good job, but for $18,000 [per-student cost], I’d like both the academic and social/emotional learning.”

The administration’s budget proposal called for the elimination of between 32 and 64 teaching positions, but trustees were in broad agreement that there should be no cuts to teaching positions, if at all possible. Nelson suggested that by hiring less-experienced new teachers to replace retiring teachers, the district would still be able to save roughly $960,000, without incurring any rise in class sizes. Trustees expressed support for that approach, which board president Deb Mexicotte dubbed the ”Nelson model.”

While trustees showed a consensus about maintaining teaching staff levels, they were divided on the issue of transportation. Lightfoot suggested a “hold harmless” approach to transportation this year – as the districts forms an administrative committee with broad stakeholder participation to develop a sustainable transportation plan. Taking almost an opposite view on transportation was trustee Christine Stead, who advocated several times during the meeting that all non-mandated busing should be cut. Based on the board discussion, busing for Ann Arbor Open will likely be preserved via a cost-neutral plan that relies primarily on common stops at the district’s five middle schools. Also likely is that the 4 p.m. middle school bus and the shuttles to and from Community High School will  be cut. Some board members also indicated an interest in “phasing out” busing to the magnet programs at Skyline High School.

The board took no formal votes during their committee-of-the-whole-meeting on May 16. However the board’s consensus on various issues, convey to the AAPS administration, will inform the final budget proposal. That final proposal comes to the board for a first briefing and public hearing on May 23.

In addition to the budget discussion, the May 16 committee meeting included four and a half additional hours of discussion on: discussing gifted and talented programming in the district; outlining the superintendent evaluation review process; and creating a framework for a broad-based committee to study the sustainability of transportation in the district. [Full Story]

AAPS Families Challenged By Busing Changes

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Sept. 14, 2011): The main topic of discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of the board of education was transportation, specifically cuts to bus service that the district has made this school year.

The full 45 minutes of public commentary time was used at the meeting, and it was almost exclusively devoted to the transportation. Public commentary was bookended by pleas from administrators to view the transportation cuts as necessary in the context of severe state funding decreases. Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent Patricia Green warned, “Although we have had a lot of pain, be aware that this is not the end of the budget reduction cycle.”

Later in the meeting, Brit Satchwell, president of the local teachers’ union, jettisoned the remarks he had prepared for his regular report to the board, and instead made an openly partisan, passionate speech echoing the outraged sentiment expressed during public commentary, and imploring the community to unify in opposition to Gov. Rick Snyder instead of blaming each other.

Describing Snyder as “the man whose finger hit the first domino,” Satchwell argued, “The Republicans have taken $1 billion from students and the elderly and turned it into corporate tax breaks … We are dealing with ideologues who will not compromise and will not be moved by facts … We have to step back and look at the source of the problem.”

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved the district’s choice of auditors and financial institutions, and the recently ratified tentative agreement with the AAEA-P, the union representing the district’s paraprofessionals. It also reviewed two bids under consideration – one for the publishing of the Rec & Ed course catalog, and one for the contracting of therapeutic services needed to meet the needs of special education students. Both bids will return to the board for a second briefing and vote at its next meeting. [Full Story]

Interim Superintendent: Allen to Lead AAPS

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Sept. 15, 2010): As part of a full agenda during its first meeting since the start of the school year, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education appointed the district’s deputy superintendent of operations, Robert Allen, as its interim superintendent.


Ann Arbor Public Schools outgoing superintendent Todd Roberts, left, with Robert Allen, right, who'll be interim superintendent. (Photos by the writer.)

The transition to Allen from current superintendent Todd Roberts will occur on a date between Sept. 30 and Oct. 11. This will make the next regular board meeting on Sept. 29 Roberts’ last before he leaves to take his new post in North Carolina.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley was named as the next deputy superintendent of instruction, and Ruth Williams, a recently-retired AAPS principal, will be hired to fill Dickinson-Kelley’s current role as administrator of elementary education.

In other business, the board approved offering two alternate paths to a high school diploma: the Early College Alliance or the WAY Washtenaw program. New computers were approved for the district’s food service program. And the board set parameters for the interviews it will hold next Wednesday with five consulting firms it is considering for help with the superintendent search. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Nears Final Approval

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 26, 2010): Though no one took the opportunity to speak during the public budget hearing, the board formally considered the proposed 2010-11 school budget and accompanying millage rates, with final approval expected at a meeting in June.

AAPS board member Christine Stead at the May 26 board meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Concerns about state school aid funding emerged throughout the budget discussion, as well as during the rest of the meeting.

In its business for the evening, superintendent Todd Roberts sought input from the board on granting 32 retirement extensions. Four sinking fund projects were approved as part of an extensive consent agenda. A new textbook was suggested for AP biology.

And multiple awards were presented to both AAPS staff and students. [Full Story]