Howell Public Schools officials said this week the opening of Parker High School in 2007 is in jeopardy, and school board members hinted at a class-action lawsuit if the state does not properly fund public schools.
"Right now, it would be our recommendation to not open the school,'' said Superintendent Chuck Breiner.
"The bottom line is we can't open that school unless we have the money,'' said school board Treasurer Mike Hall. "But opening that building is the least of our problems - it's keeping it operating.''
I have not been impressed with the fiscal management that goes on at Howell schools. I'm even less impressed with "passing of the buck" to the state that goes on by elected officials. We all knew that the state has had budget problems for the past five years, and will continue to have budget problems for the forseeable future.
The school board members like Mike Hall are elected officials. Their job is to run the schools properly. Mike Hall is the treasurer and is also a businessman. He should understand the need for fiscal restraint when it is necessary. Giving Chuck Breiner and the administrators big raises before asking for a headlee overide and a millage is not smart fiscal policy, especially with Parker High on the horizon. Parker High was approved in 2003, so there has been 4 years to plan for this.
Board Secretary Jeannine Pratt suggested Monday the district consider forming a coalition of school districts to tackle the state funding problem. "Maybe we should consider a class-action lawsuit to sue the state,'' she said.
Hall said he thought Howell should "take the lead'' on such an action and suggested the district could seek a legal "white knight'' to help fund such a case.
That's no plan. That's a Hail Mary pass and a whine. Do I think the state funding needs to be equalized (without tax increases or defecit spending) - absolutely. There's no argument here, but a lawsuit is going to cost money, time, and effort - and probably will fail. The law is the law, and Proposal A was voted in by a wide margain into our state constitution.
The school board members need to stop blindly following administrators (The superintendent, an employee, runs the meeting - not the board) and blaming others. They need to start doing what's best for their schools. That's their jobs. That's what they were elected by the people of their districts to do. The state is important, but the buck stops with the board members themselves.
This May we have an election for school board members. Mike Hall and Sue Swartz are not running for re-election giving us two open seats. Howell's race is competitive with five people running for two positions. The five individuals running in Howell are John Arthur, Wendy Day, Jim Pratt, Phil Westmoreland, and Valerie Webster. As a member of the Concerned Taxpayers Group of Livingston County, we are going to prepare a list of questions for all the candidates before making any decisions on endorsements. As I'm posting this from a Concerned Taxpayers Group perspective, I am taking my partisan hat off for this. Both Republican and Democrat school members deserve blame for the fiscal mismanagement, and both deserve a chance to be heard in the interview process for support.
We will follow the school board races of Livingston County based districts closely and update the voters as things develop.