"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Open Letter to Superintendent Schulte in Janesville

After I read the April 13 edition of the Janesville Gazette (I have to read the competition), I was greatly disturbed to see that the board directed the district to actively advertise open enrollment to their district in an attempt to poach area students and increase revenue. My relatives in Michigan are a year ahead of us in the negative economy and a governor that has declared war on teachers. They tried that tactic last year and have decided it's pretty uncivilized and didn't really solve the problem at all. Here's a copy of the letter I sent Ms. Schulte:

Dear Ms. Schulte:
I have provided a link at the end of this note to show you the end result of the plan for the Janesville School District to actively seek open enrollment students from neighboring districts. I don’t know how familiar you are with the economic plight in Michigan and the resultant war on public schools that has ensued. I am a free-lance journalist for the Evansville Review covering the school beat and a former school board clerk. I am very familiar with school finance. Several of my relatives are teachers in Michigan and they have had a much tougher time of it under their governor than we’ve had here in Wisconsin. Their battle is ahead of ours because there was no lag time between the governor’s pledge to wage his war and his implementation of the war. Last year my home county of Lenawee responded to the cut in state aid by a full-out ad campaign to poach neighboring students, just like your district is planning to do. Every dollar you spend in advertising is one your board swipes from a student in need of education. I simply ask that you provide this link to your board members to give them a crystal ball view of things to come if they go down this path.
Our former Board President Michael Pierick likened the idea of increased incoming open enrollment students to the factory where it costs a dollar to make a widget but sells it for only fifty cents. The product is selling like hotcakes but they can’t figure out why they keep losing money. The latest data provided in your website indicates that your cost of educating each student is $10,639. Your state aid is only $6,971 for the same year. If the state transfers to you $6,971 for every incoming student but it costs you $10,639 to educate said student, you’re losing $3,668 on every OEI student “transaction.” This problem is compounded if the student seeking open enrollment to Janesville has special needs, where the true cost of educating can be much higher than average and not fully covered by High Cost Aid transfers, which cost a great deal of administrative costs to recover from the district of origin. Open enrollment does provide an outlet for students whose needs aren’t being adequately met in their home district. It is not a revenue enhancer any more than 4K is. Once your initial bump to the budget has passed, you will find yourself in the same bleak situation as before. Rate of decline will continue at the same pace as before without actually solving the problem. 
I hope this helps in some way to navigate these difficult financial times all districts are facing. Robbing your neighbor for a temporary uptick in revenue is no solution at all.
Melissa Hammann

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