Last year the state of Michigan took over the struggling school district in Muskegon Heights. With a promise of "dramatic changes" ahead, the state-appointed emergency manager announced, "[W]e're off to the healing process." He then laid-off the school district's entire staff, and hired a private, for-profit company to run the reconstituted charter system.
How's it going there now? Michigan Public Radio reports that as of last month, just over 10 percent of the Muskegon Heights teachers it checked through public records were not certified to teach. That could be costly for the district, which was already broke. From MPR:
A little quick math and salary records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show those fines could add up to more than $100,000 in Muskegon Heights for these eight teachers.
Not only that, but the contract between Mosaica Education and Muskegon Heights’ charter school says the company has to follow state laws, including a specific mention of the need for teachers to hold a valid certificate. If it doesn’t, it could be grounds to revoke the 5-year contract worth at least $8.75 million dollars.
But it’s not at all clear that’s something the charter school board, that’s been appointed by Muskegon Heights Public Schools’ Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon, is considering.
With the old school board long sidelined, the people of Muskegon Heights have no immediate means of weighing in on what happens there anymore.
A couple of state lawmakers have jumped in with statements of concern. "What's going on in Muskegon Heights proves the dangers that come with recklessly expanding the state's authority over local schools," state Representive Collene Lamonte tells reporters. "The state contracted with a company that was looking to make a quick buck, but it's our children who are really paying the price. As a certified teacher myself, I know all the hard work, dedication and training it takes to be a qualified educator. We should never settle for less when it comes to our kids."