by Félix Pérez
It’s been two days since students and teachers in Buena Vista, Michigan, were sent home and shut out of their schools indefinitely. And barring a plan by the school district and the state department of education, 400 students, their parents and teachers are left holding the bag for “gross financial mismanagement.”
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Buena Vista’s 27 teachers voted Monday to work through Friday to give district and state officials time to keep schools open for students while they developed a plan. The local board rejected the offer that evening.
“As teachers in the Buena Vista School District, we find ourselves, along with our students, pawns in a high-stakes game that we did not choose to be a part of,” said Joe Ann Nash, an elementary school teacher and Buena Vista Education Association president. “Our first priority is making sure our students get the education they deserve, and we’re committed to working with the state and the district to make sure that happens.”
It’s not the first time Buena Vista teachers have sacrificed. They have agreed to freeze their pay four consecutive years.
Steve Cook, an education support professional and president of the Michigan Education Association, blamed local and state officials. “These dedicated educators wanted what is best for their students — to give their school district and the state the time and assistance necessary to work out a plan to keep school open for this final month of the year. But [Monday] night, we yet again saw proof that politicians, administrators and other so-called ‘leaders’ consistently put money first and our kids last,” Cook said. “Faced with a selfless offer of help from their employees to continue working, without the guarantee of a paycheck next payday, Buena Vista’s school board and administration gave up on their students and employees and laid everyone off.”
Cook also placed responsibility for the school district’s financial meltdown — and the financial straits of other school districts — on Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder has cut $1 billion from school funding.
The state Department of Education cut off funding to Buena Vista to recover more than $400,000 in overpayments for a program in which the district no longer participates.
In the meantime, Buena Vista students, parent and teachers are left with an uncertain future. The last day of school is June 13.