The Buena Vista Education Association held an emotional meeting early this week to inform teachers the school district had run out of money, and, as a result, would be unable to pay instructors.
According to the Huffington Post, despite the fact district administrators warned teachers they wouldn't be able to pay them past mid-May, the district's teachers said they would stay until the end of the 2013 year - currently slated to conclude on June 23rd.
"We stick together,” explained Joe Ann Nash, president of the teachers’ union. Nash, a third grade teacher at Buena Vista, said students were very sympathetic in regards to the issue.
“They told me, wherever we go, they’re going to go with me,” she said. “They’re sweet.”
Buena Vista – a small, mostly black township located in central Michigan – has been experiencing significant issues for the past several years.
Chief among these include a significant loss of students, poor testing scores, and a burgeoning deficit problem that the district wasn’t able to overcome.
Since the recession, America’s educational system in particular has taken a significant beating – class sizes are rising, teachers are fired, and extracurricular activities have been slashed completely.
Although some districts find ways to overcome these issues – such as dropping certain sports or cutting club activities – the effects on Buena Vista were crippling.
"There were a lot of teacher layoffs. State and local governments got hit badly on the revenue side," said Michael Podgursky, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who specializes in school finance. "They’re down to only 471 students.”
And even the district’s own teachers, including Nash, knew dwindling student numbers would lead to significant issues down the road.
"We've said for two years now that we need to consolidate," she said. "We have less than 500 students and two of our buildings can hold more. It's a tough decision, but it should have been made long before now. We've been cut to the bone."
In June of 2011, Buena Vista reported a $55,000 budget deficit. Just one year later, that deficit had almost doubled – reaching $1 million. Although the district had submitted a deficit plan to the state, it was ultimately shot down.
Sources: Huffington Post