Lansing, Mich. – State Senator Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, today called on the State Board of Education to exercise better oversight of the state’s financially distressed public school districts.
At a meeting Tuesday, the board approved a resolution dealing with charter school lease agreements and other charter school finance-related minutiae, while ignoring the swelling deficits in school districts across the state.
“The State Board of Education needs to stop their partisan obsession with charter schools and focus on the problems they are responsible for. Where has their oversight been in Pontiac and Buena Vista schools?” said Pavlov, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “The board should be working to find preventive solutions to the mismanagement and fraud in these districts where local boards have misspent millions of taxpayer dollars and cost thousands of children the education they deserve.”
According to the Michigan Department of Education, Pontiac School District finished 2012 with at least a $30 million deficit, and Buena Vista Schools has a projected deficit of over $1 million for 2013.
Recent news reports have detailed serious mismanagement by these local boards, including the acceptance of state aid payments for discontinued programs in Buena Vista and a former Pontiac assistant superintendent sentenced for embezzlement of school funds.
Michigan’s Constitution clearly defines the duties of the state board to exercise leadership and general supervision over all public education – not just charter schools. Consequently, the board has a constitutional obligation to monitor the financial health of school districts and act sooner to prevent these financial crises.