Dollars and Sense: Closing Lansing Schools to Save Money…

By    Isaac Prince,
SPAI Scholar

    The object of our affection is education or the access to education.  It is the key to the gateway of life.  We as Americans have fought, slaughtered, and shivered for the access to education.  Sometimes we get confused and view education as a privilege rather than a right.  In so many ways we have taken for granted that which is necessary for the future growth of our world, our economy, and our lives.
     The history of our nation in which we thrive on as our essence to succeed and grow is in the process of tainting our greatest and our weakest flaw,
hope.  The hope to succeed and the hope to grow is being put into question. 
     Five schools on the chopping block would cut the 10-million dollar budget shortage in half by closing five schools in Lansing.  The five schools set to be cut-Allen Street, Verlinden, Walnut, and Maple Grove elementary schools and the Communication Arts Magnet Middle School are the proposed targets.
     The idea that students consider school their home away from home has not affected the Lansing’s School District decision to delete these schools. 
     After all it’s difficult to figure sense of community into budget proposals. Many of these schools have detached their title of being a building appropriated towards higher learning.  They have become parts of the community in which many community members have attended over the years. 
     These schools have become parts of families and withstood the tears of time.
    And at one point Lansing residents and officials knew and understood the impact these schools had on the community it represented.  They understood it through the test of time.
    Limiting the access to education can have long-lasting effects.  This will be the small event that alters statistics and lowers ratings.  This is the event that causes confusion, disgrace and sorrow.  It is the quick and easy way out of this situation and the immediate consequence does not match up to the problem it is proposed to solve.
     Solutions that short change  community members have been the first option since Proposal A was first initiated in 1994.  The proposal upgraded Maple Valley Public Schools with the help of added computer labs, advanced placement courses, art and music classes.  These “luxuries” have somehow fallen under the privileged category and fallen short of becoming the norm rather than the exception in our school’s curriculum.  Is it ironic that wealthy school districts criticize Proposal A and argue cutting educational programs and laying off staff is substantial reason enough to complain about Proposal A?
    Schools have been living with these conditions and are still standing.  Some of these schools are the schools up for closing that have resided here 25 or 50 years.  And on the 10 year anniversary they still debate its success. Longevity seems to have no affect on the decision-making process.  Schools have struggled to maintain in an ever-changing and ever-evolving society. School property taxes have been the cause for “almost” closing schools and have been decided by the voice of the people, tax-payers, to eliminate the threat of school property tax by eliminating it completely.
     The solution was to switch from local property taxes to statewide sales tax guaranteeing all schools a minimum payment.  The amount that stands now is a little over $6,000.  The richest school districts continue to get more than that usually around $12,000 per pupil but this means nothing if the student is not enrolled.  School districts with declining enrollment mean fewer students and less state funding.  It would be in the best interest that city officials listen intently to the concerns of residents who have attended these schools and whose children are now attending these schools. The message is clear: we will not die.  Statistics matter no more than the sentiment and emotion of the people.  As residents, we must brace ourselves for the consequences that arise with which ever decision is made.  Student achievement must be considered and should be the high focus when deciding what is best for our community.
     The Social Policy Advocacy Initiative (SPAI) is a joint advocacy effort of African American Scholars at Michigan State University. Through organized and strategic action, SPAI will capitalize on the social capital and expert power of scholars to promote and campaign for social policies that empower disadvantaged communities. Additionally, SPAI will contribute to system-level social changes by advocating social policy based on empirical evidence, inclusive dialogue, and critical thought.