Lessons in Survival
To see how local districts are weathering the storm, we interviewed officials at the Chelsea, Dexter, and Saline schools. To find out what funding challenges may be in the schools' future, we also interviewed state representatives Gretchen Driskell and Adam Zemke. Together they paint a dark and stormy future for local schools.
After a decade of pain from rising costs and falling enrollment, the Chelsea area schools are financially stable. "My predecessor and the board have been very careful on budget management," says new superintendent Andy Ingall. And very clear-sighted about what had to be done to balance their budget: they closed an elementary school and reduced staff and administration to match.
Just as importantly, the district's unions agreed to reduce health insurance premiums by 25 percent, and put a hard cap on insurance spending years before the state mandated it. In addition, Ingall says, "we've cut [staff] through attrition, so we've stayed out of crisis without asking for massive layoffs or cuts across the board."